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Lake Garda with Kids Or the Best 11 Things to Do at Lake Garda for Families

The harbour with pedalos and the Hydroelectric station - Riva del Garda, Italy -

This is a comprehensive guide to the best things to do at Italy’s Lake Garda with kids. It includes lots of simple insider tips for an easy Italian trip to be enjoyed by the whole family.

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Here is a handy list of the best things to do at Italy’s Lake Garda with kids.

Exploring Lake Garda as a family is a guarantee for a great adventure!

After all, Lago di Garda is Italy’s largest lake and a truly fabulous destination for a day trip or an extended holiday in any season with kids of any age. Easily reachable by plane from abroad and train, bus or car from a number of large Italian cities like Verona, Venice, and Milan, Lake Garda offers a never-ending list of fun activities for the whole family.

Swans on Lake Garda, Italy -

If you have ever wondered if Lake Garda has what it takes to keep your toddler or your teenager occupied for more than a sweet minute, fear not. The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’. This helpful list will give you many ideas as to what you can get up to as a family around Lake Garda in Italy.

There are lots of things at Lake Garda to keep kids and their parents happy and active: Italy’s largest amusement parks, striking medieval castles, gorgeous lakefront towns, exciting kid-friendly museums, centrally located playgrounds. All this in addition to plenty of opportunities for exhilarating hikes, relaxing beach time, visits to caves and waterfalls, and lots of different water sports.

The choice is yours! Or, better said, of your children!

Ferry boat - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy -

All the information in this blog post is based on my family’s experiences at Lake Garda during the six years that we spent living in Italy.

Lake Garda was our favourite destination there in any season and for any reason. We loved exploring its many corners, its hidden gems, its lush nature, its historic sights, the many opportunities to have fun and to relax on its shores. Not to mention the delicious local food! We were always ready to jump in the car and head to Lake Garda even at a moment’s notice.

So, today I am sharing with you everything I learned about Italy’s largest lake and the many wonderful ways to spend time there as a family. I hope that all this first-hand tried and tested information will come in handy during the research stage of your Lake Garda trip or holiday.

At the end of this blog post, you will also find a section with lots of practical tips to make your Lake Garda travel planning an easy and enjoyable experience. From nearest airports, travel times, and transport options to geographical information, weather stats, accommodation, and local tours and activities, it covers all the bases for your holiday at Lake Garda with kids.

Have a look!

Lake Garda with Kids Or the Best 11 Things to Do at Lake Garda for Families

Have Fun with Your Kids at Italy’s Best Amusement Parks on the Shores of Lake Garda

Gardaland - Castelnuovo del Garda, Veneto, Italy -

The southern shores of Lake Garda host some of Italy’s largest amusement and theme parks. Gardaland is the most famous of them all. It is a great place to take the kids to either for a day or two. Gardaland is huge and offers oodles of fun for the whole family. From exhilarating rides to spectacular shows, you can easily spend several days here and still not see it and do it all.

To make it easy on yourself, you can stay in the adjacent Gardaland Resort. It has three thematic hotels – Gardaland Hotel, Gardaland Adventure Hotel, and Gardaland Magic Hotel. As well as thematic restaurants and more opportunities to keep kids happy and active.

I particularly like the Gardaland’s mascot – a smiley green dinosaur with the fetchingly healthy name Prezzemolo (which means Parsley in English!).

The Halloween period and the Christmas season are great times to visit Gardaland at Lake Garda, Italy. Expect lavish seasonal decorations, fantastic entertainment shows, and lots of fun activities. At Christmas, there is also a fabulous Santa’s Grotto where elves bake cookies for the kids and help them write a letter to Babbo Natale (Santa Claus in Italian) and Befana (an old lady who brings presents to the Italian kids on Epiphany).

Inside Gardaland, you can also visit the new Legoland Water Park. Next door to Gardaland, stands the Gardaland Sea Life Aquarium – another point of interest to keep your kids happily entertained for hours.

Two other large amusement parks to have fun at Lake Garda are Movieland the Hollywood Park and Caneva the Aquapark. Both are managed by Canevaworld. You can either visit them both on the same day or dedicate a whole day to each one of them.

You can also find several adventure parks around Lake Garda, Italy. Set up in idyllic forests, this is where your kids can climb trees, slide on ziplines, and have tons of fun. Some of the most well-known ones are Busatte Adventure and Jungle Adventure Park.

If you don’t want to spend any money and your kids need a bit of a run, at Lake Garda you are still in luck. Every lakefront town has a centrally-located playground for kids to play at. For example, the playground in the town of Lazise is right behind the medieval Scaliger castle. The playground in Desenzano del Garda is on the waterfront and has a large old-fashioned locomotive right next to it. Particularly lovely is the playground in the small town of Navene. It’s right next to a nice beach.

If you are prepared to travel a bit further afield, then give Leolandia a try. This large amusement park is between the cities of Bergamo and Milan. If you have a car at your disposal, you can reach it in about an hour from the town of Peschiera del Garda (on the southern edge of the lake) and in about two hours from Riva del Garda (on the northern edge of the lake).

More Information: Click here to see photos from a magical Christmas celebration at Gardaland.

Hop from Town to Town around Lake Garda, Italy by Car, Bus or Ferry Together with Your Kids

The harbour in the historic centre with a view of Lake Garda - Malcesine, Italy -

From its wide southern end to its narrow northern tip, the shores of Lake Garda are dotted with many beautiful towns to explore at your leisure with your kids. Each of these small towns offers a long list of local sights to keep you busy for hours. Here are only some examples:

  • Sirmione – the ruins of a massive Roman villa and a striking medieval castle with a port;
  • Torri del Benaco – a striking medieval castle with an 18th-century citrus greenhouse attached to it;
  • Malcesine – a picturesque harbour, a hidden beach in the town’s historic centre, and a rotating cable car;
  • Riva del Garda – a fortress on an island in the town’s historic centre, a huge hydroelectrical power plant that is open for visits, and some lovely pastel-coloured buildings in a mix of Italian and Austrian architectural styles (plus, a reptile zoo, if this is your thing).

In addition, Lake Garda’s towns have curious museums, many ice-cream shops with dozens of flavours of handmade gelato, a rich programme of local events, and weekly markets selling fresh local produce.

Each lakefront town has its own character and charm. So, make it your mission to tick off as many of them as you can.

If you have a car at your disposal, go for a drive around the whole lake. Its circumference is around 160 km. You can put aside a couple of days or so to do it. Try to stop as often as you can along the way to take in the lakefront towns and the local sights. To cut some of the driving off, you can take a car ferry between Torri del Benaco on the eastern shores across to Toscolano/Maderno on the western shores of the lake.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a car! You can still easily reach Lake Garda by public transport and then use the local buses and ferries (or even rent a boat) to see as many lakefront towns and sights as you like. Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda have train stations with excellent connections to Verona, Venice, Milan, and many other Italian cities and towns.

A network of public buses serves the towns on Lake Garda and it also connects them to nearby Verona, Rovereto, Trento and several other cities and points of interest. 

Ferries crisscross the lake at regular intervals, too. Thus you can easily get from one lakefront town to another while enjoying stunning views along the way. For more details on this option, see point 3 below.

If you prefer someone else to organise it all for you while you and your family simply relax and take the sights in, then you can join a guided tour. This is a great tour allowing you to see the towns of Salo’, Lazise, Sirmione, and Limone sul Garda on the same day. Or you can take your pick from a number of tours starting from Verona and showing you different corners of Lake Garda over one exciting day.

More Information: Have a look at these two blog posts for detailed information about the best towns to visit around Lake Garda and eight ways to travel around Italy’s largest lake:

Get on a Boat and Crisscross Italy’s Lake Garda with Your Kids

Ferry boat - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy -

The best way to see and appreciate Lake Garda’s beautiful landscape is from the water.

Crossing Italy’s largest lake onboard one of the ferries that connect the different lakefront towns is a great adventure for kids and parents alike. Ferryboats run regularly throughout the day and you can even take your car on some of them.

A nice and easy ferry trip to do is from Limone sul Garda on the western shores of the lake across to Malcesine on the eastern side. This gives you a chance to marvel at the town’s medieval Scaliger Castle with the steep Monte Baldo serving as its dramatic backdrop.

Monte Baldo is the tallest mountain flanking Lake Garda. It is also known as the Garden of Europe for the unparalleled number and variety of botanical species that grow there. Among them are 62 types of orchids!

Another exciting ferry trip to do across Lake Garda is from the town of Torri del Benaco to the towns of Maderno and Toscolano. This ferry crossing is at one of the narrower points of the lake and in about half an hour you can hop from its eastern to its western side together with your car.

The ferry crossing from Desenzano del Garda to Sirmione is another journey that affords beautiful lake views. Plus, it takes only about 20 mins. If you prefer, you can take the ferry from Peschiera del Garda to Lazise. It takes about 25 mins and the ferry then continues to the nearby towns of Bardolino and Garda Town. 

Sitting on the ferry deck together with your kids while taking in the gorgeous blue views of the lake and the surrounding mountains is a moment that memories are made of.

Still, you don’t have to rely just on ferries and their timetables to enjoy a boat trip on Lake Garda.

In many towns around the lake you can hire a motorboat or a sailboat for a few hours, a whole day or a whole week, if you like. This is a great way to feel free as a bird and to head with your kids to exactly the lakeside spots you want to visit, albeit particular towns, beaches, or other sights of interest.

Another option is to join organised boat tours on Lake Garda, Italy. Speedboats take tourists around the promontory on which the town of Sirmione is built all throughout the day. The tours start from the small port by the Scaliger Castle and last around 30 mins. It is a very exciting experience with lots of panoramic views to enjoy. You can book here.

Another short and sweet boat tour is the one from the town of Salo’ to the Isola del Garda – a beautiful island with a splendid villa in the Neo-Gothic Venetian style.

Alternatively, you can join a boat tour taking in several towns and sights on the shores of Lake Garda. This one is a great option as in a full day you will see lots of iconic spots on the lake – from the fortified town of Peschiera del Garda to Punta di San Vigilio which is renowned as Lake Garda’s most romantic corner. This full-day boat tour on the other hand will take you from Bardolino to Lazise and Sirmione and then you can admire Isola del Garda from the board of the boat and have a swim in the vicinity of Punta di San Vigilio.

More information: Click here for details about Lake Garda’s ferryboats and their timetables. There you will also find information about the daily circulation cards and the Happy Family discount for adults and kids travelling together.

Make a Splash in the Water with Your Kids at Lake Garda, Italy

View of the defensive walls - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy -

Make a splash or two during your visit to Lake Garda with your kids. Lovely little beaches – sometimes secluded, other times right next to bustling lakefront towns – are dotted all around its shores.

From May till August, the temperature of the water fluctuates between 20 and 23 degrees Celsius. You may want to bring beach shoes as beaches around the lake tend to be pebbly and/or grassy.

Some of the most well-known beaches on the shores of Lake Garda are Jamaica Beach in Sirmione, Lido Mirabello Beach in Bardolino, as well as the beaches around Riva del Garda – Sabbioni, Pini, and Miralago.

Going to the beach is not the only way to get in the water at Lake Garda. You and your kids can enjoy all sorts of water sports there, too. From boat rental and diving to windsurfing and canyoning, you can get as active as you like. 

For lots of water-based fun in any season and for any age, head to Aquardens – Italy’s largest thermal water park – which is only about 15 mins away by car from the lake town of Lazise. Another option is the thermal park of Villa dei Cedri – it’s open year-round.

In summer, make a splash in Parco Cavour – an aquatic park with many swimming pools and entertainment options. It’s only about 12 km away from Peschiera del Garda.

Lastly, in some of the towns around the lake, you can hire a pedalo to delight your kids. If they are of a grown-up age, you can also treat them to a stand-up paddleboard experience on Lake Garda, too.

Another way to get close to water while at Lake Garda, is to visit the stunning waterfall Cascata del Varone. It’s just a short distance away from Riva del Garda. The waterfall is inside a cave and there are two viewing platforms – a lower and an upper one – allowing you to admire the crashing force with which the mass of water comes tumbling down the rocks.

More Information: For exhaustive information about Lake Garda beaches, have a look at these two blog posts:

Go for Walks and Hikes Around Lake Garda

Punta di San Virgilio, Lake Garda, Veneto, Italy -

With its varied landscape, Lake Garda offers dozens of opportunities to go for enjoyable walks and/or strenuous hikes in line with the physical abilities of everyone in your family.

The easiest and most pleasant form of exercise is to stroll on the smooth promenades that stretch through many lakeside towns and connect them with each other. This way parents and kids can have great family time together both sightseeing and stopping for coffee and gelato breaks along the way.

For example, go for a walk on the promenade between the towns of  Lazise and Bardolino. It offers you great lakeside views and benches to have a rest along the way. It’s about 5 km long and the promenade also doubles as a cycling lane, if you would rather hire bikes and exercise on two wheels. 

For a stunningly beautiful yet very easy walk, head to Punta San Vigilio just past Garda Town. 

Punta San Vigilio is a long strip of land, lined up by cypresses. It separates the southern part of Lake Garda from its central narrower part. There you can glimpse the 16th century Villa Guarienti. It is in private hands and it has hosted some of the world’s most important people. In the low season, there are very few people at Punta San Vigilio and exploring it is a lovely way to spend an hour with your kids at Lake Garda.

Another place to go to for an easy family walk is the stunning Parco Giardino Sigurta’. A short drive away from Peschiera del Garda, this is a centuries-old park where you can easily spend the whole day. Through the years Parco Giardino Sigurta’ has been named the Most Beautiful Garden of Italy, has won awards for its amazing tulip displays and in 2015 took the second place at the European Garden Award. 

If you want a bit more strenuous exercise for you and your kids, there are many hiking opportunities around Lake Garda, too. The hills and mountains on the lake’s shores are crisscrossed with hiking paths taking you high above the waterline for some great views and clean mountain air. For example, try hiking to the medieval village of Campo di Brenzone following centuries-old mulattiere – stone-covered mule tracks – up the hill.

The Busatte Panoramic Trail is a very famous hike that allows you to enjoy stunning views over Lake Garda. It starts from Torbole – a picturesque town on the northern shores of the lake. The trail has two parts – the first is easy whereas the second one climbs up metal staircases which are fixed to the rocks and take you high above the lake.

More Information: Click here to find out how to reach Campo di Brenzone – a medieval village above Lake Garda. Each winter, the village hosts a large exhibition of Nativity Scenes. Made in a variety of sizes and from many different materials, they are a joy to see during the festive Christmas season.

Spend Time at Exciting Kid-Friendly Museums around Lake Garda

Museo Nicolis - Vilafranca di Verona, Veneto, Italy -

Stimulating your kids’ imagination and expanding their knowledge is a task you can complete while having a fabulous holiday or a great day trip on the shores of Lake Garda.

Several kid-friendly museums are dotted around the lake or are within close proximity to it. Here are a few to stir your and your kids’ interest:

  • Paper Museum, Toscolano-Maderno – an exciting museum in an old paper mill where you can learn all about how paper used to be made in the past and the importance the paper mills around Lake Garda had.
  • Hydroelectric Power Plant, Riva del Garda – take your kids on a visit to a stunning from an architectural and technological point of view power plant at the northernmost edge of Lake Garda. There they can learn how water becomes energy.
  • Museo Foletto,  Pieve di Ledro – a curious museum tracing the history of pharmacies and pharmaceuticals. In five rooms you and your kids can explore how the pharmacists of yore worked and created old-fashioned cures and remedies.
  • Sisan Museum, Cisano di Bardolino –  a small but interesting museum exploring the ornithological, fishing, and hunting traditions in the Lake Garda district.
  • Museo Nicolis, Villafranca di Verona – a museum with a splendid collection of old cars, motorcycles, airplanes, musical instruments, engines, cameras, and typewriters among other things. 

More Information: If you are spending a few days around Lake Garda and you are willing to travel a bit further away from it, head straight to Trento – the capital of the autonomous Northern Italian province of Trentino. There you will find MUSE – an outstanding science museum – where you and your kids can easily spend many happy hours engaging with the multimedia exhibits and expanding your knowledge. For maximum fun, try visiting MUSE on a day when a special event is held. The Aeronautics Museum Gianni Caproni is another kid-friendly museum not to miss in Trento.

Visit Historical Sights around Lake Garda

Roman mosaics in the Roman Villa - Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy -

Use your vacation on the shores of Lake Garda to indulge in a spot of history. From Roman ruins to medieval castles, your kids will love being explorers for a day. So, let them delve deeper into the secrets of the past.

The easiest way to do it is to head to the charming lakeside town of Sirmione. You will find it on the tip of the narrow promontory which juts into the lake waters on the southern edge of Lake Garda.

Sirmione has a medieval castle that was built by the powerful Scaliger dynasty – rulers of Verona in the Middle Ages. The castle nowadays is slowly sinking hence one of its courtyards is covered by water and its crenelated walls seem to rise straight out of the lake. A climb to the top of the castle towers and walls will regale you with stunning views of Sirmione and Lake Garda.

Continue your walk through Sirmione all the way to the other end of the promontory where the ruins of a huge Roman villa wait to be discovered by curious children. Known as Grotte di Catullo and built between the end of the 1st century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD, the villa and the adjacent museum are an exciting place to explore in order to learn how the Romans lived on the shores of Lake Garda.

In nearby Desenzano del Garda you can see the ruins of another Roman villa. It was originally built in the 1st century BC and then it was expanded on several occasions during the next few hundreds of years. Nowadays, Desenzano del Garda’s Roman villa is recognised as the most important testimony in Northern Italy of the Late Antiquity’s mansions.

Of particular interest here are the many very well-preserved floor mosaics. With their rich colours and lavish patterns, they depict hunting scenes, boats surrounded by flocks of fish, and cherubs holding lavish cornucopias.

There are many more historical sights around Lake Garda. Almost every lakeside town has its own medieval castle or fortress with centuries of history behind it. Apart from Sirmione, you can find medieval Scaliger castles in Malcesine, Lazise, and Torri del Benaco, for example.

The defensive walls built in the 16th century by the Republic of Venice around the town of Peschiera del Garda are a UNESCO Heritage Site. Shaped as a pentagon they jut straight out of the water and turn the town into an impenetrable waterway fortress.

The towns on Lake Garda may be small in size but they have deep layers of history allowing you and your kids to discover many curious facts about the past.

More Information: Check Day 2 in this blog post for information on how to visit an exciting archaeological site which is an easy driving distance away from Riva del Garda on the northern edge of Lake Garda. Vestiges from the Iron Age and Roman times have been discovered there. More recently, a church was built there in the 8th-9th centuries and it remained functional until 1750. 

Marvel at Medieval Villages Near Lake Garda

A balcony with corncobs in Canale di Tenno - Trentino, Italy -

Lake Garda is a very special place as there you can travel centuries back in time. Apart from the proud medieval castles which dot its shores, around Lake Garda, you can also discover several founded in the Middle Ages villages where people still live and work.

Take your kids and head to one of these little time capsules for a taste of a bygone way of life and for some stunning rustic architecture. Here are four destinations for your interest:

  • Campo de Brenzone – as indicated in point 5 above, you can reach this ten-centuries old village only on foot. First mentioned in official documents as far back as 1023, today Campo di Brenzone has a handful of permanent residents and is a place where you can rediscover the meaning of peace and quiet.  
  • Canale’ di Tenno – poised at 600 m above the sea level, the village dates back to at least the early 13th century. Recognised as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, Canale di Tenno preserves its original architecture. Tall houses made of stone and cobbled-streets converge together to create a dreamy vision of times past. Canale’ di Tenno attracts artists from all over Italy and Europe and the village has a decidedly artistic feel to it. The local Casa degli Artists (House of the Artists) is where painters, sculptors, and other creators take residences through the year. Several festivals and a lively Christmas market are organised annually.
  • Rango – another of Italy’s most beautiful villages and near Canale’ di Tenno, Rango is the perfect place to discover the traditions of the rustic architecture and way of life in this part of Northern Italy. You can easily reach both Rango and Canale’ di Tenno by car from Riva del Garda. 
  • Tremosine sul Garda – a stunning place with vertiginous views over Lake Garda. The area has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. Don’t miss it for its stone houses and fabulous mountain and lake vistas.

More Information: Check Day 2 in this blog post for information on how to visit Canale’ di Tenno and its surrounding area near the northernmost edge of Lake Garda.

Get Close to Llamas and Alpacas Near Lake Garda

A llama and an alpaka - Trekking with alpacas and llamas - Maso Eden, Trentino, Italy -

Hiking through the beautiful forests that surround Lake Garda while leading a docile alpaca or a temperamental llama is an experience to remember all your life. Especially if you are a child.

It is a very special, very relaxing thing to do. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to take some really cool selfies.

There are two places near Lake Garda where you can make this happen. One is a farm called Maso Eden which is just over half an hour away from Riva del Garda at the northern edge of Lake Garda.

At Maso Eden, they rear alpacas, llamas, dozens of varieties of chickens, ducks, geese, and even peacocks. Plus, they have the most impressive maremma-abruzzese sheepdogs. Apart from hikes in the company of llamas and alpacas, Maso Eden also organises several other experiences giving kids and adults a chance to get close to the animals.

The other place where you can see and hike with alpacas as well as buy some lovely items made with their soft wool is the Azienda Agricola Elalpaca. You will find it on the outskirts of the tiny village of Spiazzi and very close to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona (a partly-hewn in the rocks church which is worth it of a visit on its own). Spiazzi is in the mountains above Garda Town – a drive of approximately 25 mins. 

More Information: Read all about my experience hiking with the alpacas Bruce and Adam from Maso Eden under the heading Day 4 in this blog post.

Enjoy a Day Trip from Lake Garda

View of Verona from Castel San Pietro - Veneto, Italy -

One of the best things about Lake Garda is its proximity to some of the most beautiful and historic Italian cities, towns, and places of interest. If you are spending several days at Lake Garda, make sure that you put some time aside to visit one or more of the following cities and towns:

  • from the southern edge of Lake Garda – Verona, Padua, Venice, Vicenza, Brescia, Mantua, or Milan. You can either catch a bus directly to Verona or use the train stations at Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda to travel quickly and comfortably to these cities. 
  • from the northern edge of Lake GardaTrento, Arco, Rovereto, Brescia, Madonna di Campiglio, Levico Terme. You can get to one or more of these places by car or by using the local bus network.

Here are some other places of interest you can visit from Lake Garda: the rock-hewn Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona, Lessinia Regional Nature Park, Adamello Brenta Nature Park

Don’t miss a trip up Monte Baldo – the tallest mountain around Lake Garda which is also known as the Garden of Europe for its unparalleled number of botanical species. You can easily reach its top from the town of Malcesine on board of a state of art swiveling cable car.

If lakes are your and your kids’ thing, then you are in luck. From Lake Garda you can easily access many other Northern Italian lakes. Here are some of them: Lake Tenno, Lake Molveno, Lake Caldonazzo, Lake Levico, and Lake Iseo.

For an idea of travel options and times, please, refer to navigational tools such as Rome2Rio and Google Maps. Or use the official websites of Italy’s train operators at Trenitalia and Italo Treno.

More Information: Click here for ideas for cities to visit in Northern Italy.

Have a Magical Christmas at Lake Garda

Christmas boat, Bardolino, Lake Garda, Italy -

Christmas is a magical time to spend at Lake Garda. With the suffocating crowds of summer long gone, this is a great moment to explore the lake and all it has to offer.  

The small lakeside towns stage beautiful Christmas markets and many Christmas-themed events. Detailed Nativity scenes are arranged in all churches. Some of the towns – like Garda Town and Peschiera del Garda – even have an underwater Nativity scene.

Christmas concerts and ice rinks are the order of the day. The Santa Claus House opens its doors in Riva del Garda. Thus you and your kids can pay a visit to Santa and Mrs Santa, play and work on your own creation in the Christmas workshop, or explore the North Pole and the Elves’ Cave.

Gardaland becomes a veritable winter wonderland for the holidays. There are lavish festive productions, fun rides, and a chance to meet Father Christmas in his magical house where busy elves treat each child to a freshly baked cookie.

Flover – an enormous garden centre near Garda Town – recreates Santa’s village. This is a huge Christmas-themed area with daily festive events, theatrical productions, and creative workshops. Plus, the decorations are to die for. In addition, there is a huge space filled with Christmas baubles, tinsel, and trees which you can buy and take home. You can easily spend the whole day here.

The medieval village of Campo di Brenzone stages a large exhibition of Nativity scenes. Hundreds of Nativity scenes in any possible size and style are placed all over the village – in abandoned houses and underneath olive trees, in stone passages and large gardens. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

On New Year’s Day, don’t miss the traditional Tuffo di Capodanno. This is when the brave men and women of Riva del Garda go for a dip in Lake Garda in spite of it being freezing cold.

On Epiphany – when Italian kids receive presents from Befana – this good old woman with a long nose surfaces from the waters of Lake Garda. This fun event takes place yearly in Riva del Garda on the northern edge of the lake and crowns a day of sweets, music, and entertainment. 

More Information: Click here for 50 fun facts about Christmas in Italy. Or here to read more about the five Christmas gift bearers who bring presents to the Italian kids every festive season.

Practical Information about Visiting Lake Garda with Kids

Where is Lake Garda?

Lazise seen from the water - Lake Garda, Italy -

Lake Garda is in the northeastern part of Italy and within close proximity to some of the most important and well-known Northern Italian cities like Verona, Brescia, Milan, Padua, and Venice. The lake serves as a natural border between three Italian regions – Veneto, Lombardy, and  Trentino-Alto Adige – thus giving you a chance to experience their traditions, food, and history within a short amount of time and distance.

Called by the Romans Lacus Benacus the lake took its current name around the 8th century AD from the town of Garda on its shores. Garda is a corruption of the original Germanic word warda meaning ‘place of guard’ or ‘place of observation’.

What is the geography of Lake Garda?

Maderno's sandy beaches seen from the water - Lake Garda, Lombardy, Italy -

Imagine a long narrow basin of water being held in a tight embrace by tall, powerful mountains to the North. To the South the landscape flattens and the lake spreads out with wild Italian abandon. Vineyards and olive, citrus and palm trees dot the steep rugged slopes and the verdant plains. The blue waters of the lake glint under the hot Italian sun. Cuddled on the shores are picturesque towns, each one with its own character and appeal.

Lake Garda is a glacial lake surrounded by Alpine mountains. One of the most important of them is Monte Baldo which is also known as the Garden of Europe as it is incredibly rich in botanical species, among which are 62 types of orchids.

Which are the nearest airports to Lake Garda?

Sunset over the lake - Lazise, Lake Garda, Italy -

As there are many towns and places of interest on the shores of Lake Garda, I have used the town of Peschiera del Garda as a point of arrival if you are travelling to the lake from one of the six airports below. 

Peschiera del Garda is gorgeous and has a lot of interesting sights. Most importantly, this lakeside town has a well-connected train station served both by fast regional and high-speed trains. Peschiera del Garda is also just a stone’s throw away from such important Northern Italian cities like Verona and Brescia. And, lastly, once in Peschiera del Garda you can get a bus, a ferry or a train to many other towns on the shores of Lake Garda.

Obviously, if you are travelling to a different town or place at Lake Garda, then you will need to adjust accordingly the sample travelling times given below. Two of the best websites for this are Google Maps and Rome2Rio.

Now, without further ado, let me tell you that the most convenient airports for Peschiera del Garda on Lake Garda are:

  • Verona Airport Valerio Catullo – you can reach Peschiera del Garda in less than half an hour by car from Verona’s small but busy airport. If you travel by bus or by bus and train, then the travelling time can be from just over an hour. The distance is about 21 km.
  • Bergamo Airport Orio al Serio – you can reach Peschiera del Garda in about 1 hour by car from Bergamo’s very popular low-cost airport. If you travel by bus and train, then expect a travelling time of about 2 hours. The distance is from 93 to 107 km depending on which roads you will choose to take – toll or free.
  • Marco Polo Airport – you can reach Peschiera del Garda in about an hour and a half by car from Venice’s bustling airport. If you travel by bus and train, then the average travelling time is around 2 hours. The distance is 145 km.
  • Bologna Airport Guglielmo Marconi –  you can reach Peschiera del Garda in about 1 h 30 mins by car from Bologna’s nicely appointed low-cost airport. If you travel by bus and train, then the travelling time can be anything between 2 and 3 hours. The distance is about 148 km.
  • Treviso Airport – you can reach Peschiera del Garda in about 1 h 40 mins by car from Treviso’s busy low-cost airport. If you travel by bus and train, then the travelling time stretches to about 2 hours and 30 mins. The distance is from 142 to 154 km depending on which roads you will choose to take – toll or free.
  • Milan Linate Airport – you can reach Peschiera del Garda in about 1 h 20 mins by car from Milan’s bustling airport. If you travel by bus and train, expect to be on the road from 2 h 40 mins. The distance is 124 km.

Please, bear in mind that if you travel by train you may need to change trains at some point during your journey. Also, you will need to get a shuttle bus from the airport to the nearest train station.

For an idea of travel options and times, please, refer to navigational tools such as Rome2Rio and Google Maps. Or use the official websites of Italy’s train operators at Trenitalia and Italo Treno.

Update 3rd October 2020: Click to read 8 Best Airports for Lake Garda or How to Reach Quickly by Plane Italy’s Largest Lake for full information on the most convenient airports for Lake Garda and how to reach the lake from each by public transport.

How to travel around Lake Garda?

View of the old port Porto Vecchio - Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy -

Lake Garda is well-connected by road and railway to the nearby large Northern Italian cities and towns like Verona, Brescia, Milan, Trento, Padua, and Venice. However, please, bear in mind that not all towns at Lake Garda have a train station.

A good road network circumnavigates the lake allowing you to reach both larger towns and smaller villages. Even lake towns like Malcesine which a couple of hundred years ago could only be reached by water are nowadays easily accessible by car.

Public buses connect the different lakeside towns. Regularly running ferries can take you across Lake Garda to adjacent and distant towns. Some of the ferries can also transport your car.  

For an idea of travel options and times, please, refer to navigational tools such as Rome2Rio and Google Maps. Or use the official websites of Italy’s train operators at Trenitalia and Italo Treno. For ferry options and timetables, please, click here and choose Lake Garda further down the page.

Do I need a car to explore Lake Garda?

View of Peschiera del Garda with its defensive walls - Lake Garda, Italy -

You can certainly rely on public transport to reach many of the towns and places of interest on the shores of Lake Garda. Medieval walled towns like Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano del Garda, for example, are only a short train ride away from Verona. Plus, there is a well-developed network of buses and ferries serving many of the lakeside towns.

If you plan to spend most of your time at the same spot, you may be perfectly fine not having a car at your disposal.

On the other hand, if you would rather move quickly and easily around without relying on the schedules of the local buses, ferries, and trains, then it is best to hire a car or arrive by car.

A lakeside road runs all around Lake Garda allowing for quick stops at the places that catch your fancy. Stunning panoramic views abound and more than once you will feel happy just being there and seeing so much beauty in front of your eyes.

At the same time, be aware that at times driving around the lake can be a bit of a challenge. Here and there the road can get narrow and curvy. At peak times there may be quite a bit of traffic.

Keep your eyes on the road at all times (no matter how beautiful the views may be), as your skills as a driver may be put to test more than once. Especially in the tunnels leading from Limone sul Garda up to Riva del Garda where coaches and lorries fly rather close to you.

Parking places can be difficult to come by during the high season. For example, whereas it is very easy to park right next to the castle in Sirmione in late autumn, all winter and early spring, in summer you will be really lucky to find a parking place within a walking distance from the castle.

Before booking accommodation, make sure that you ask in advance if there are parking spaces available for guests.

When is the best time to visit Lake Garda?

Punta di San Vigilio - Lake Garda, Italy -

It really depends on what you are looking for. If it is beautiful views, great hiking, amazing food, and historic towns, feel free to come at any time of the year. The lake is gorgeous in any season.

Late autumn, winter, and early spring are mostly crowd-free and offer many different types of local entertainment like Christmas and craft markets, food and wine festivals and so on. When the weather gets warm though people start flocking to Lake Garda. In July and August, the streets are densely packed while the sun really shines above you making you run for the nearest shadow.

My favourite time to visit Lake Garda with my family is during the low season. Any time from the end of October to the end of April, when we can explore the area in peace.

If you don’t have any other option but to come here during the hot summer months or if you really love hot weather, then, don’t let me stop you. Lake Garda offers many different surprises in every season so summer is a great time to be here, too.

What types of accommodation there are around Lake Garda?

Colourful houses - Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy -

You can find all sorts and types of accommodation around Lake Garda to suit any budget. From five-star hotels to budget camping sites, there is something for everyone. Apart from the traditional hotels and B&B’s, here you can also stay in a working farm (called agriturismo), a glamping site or a luxury villa for a one-in-a-lifetime experience.

Make sure that you book well in advance, as the lake is a very popular tourist destination and prices can rise steeply depending on the season and how little time there is between now and your visit.

Which are the best towns to visit around Lake Garda?

Picturesque curved street - Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy -

There are dozens of charming towns and villages on the shores of Lake Garda waiting to be discovered by curious kids and their parents.

For a detailed list with the 12 best towns to visit around Lake Garda, please, click here. It gives you a detailed overview of the medieval walled towns, the party centrals, the cultural hubs and the hiking grounds you can explore on the lake’s shores.

If I were pressed to choose, then I will tell you that my all-time Lake Garda favourite towns are Malcesine and Sirmione. Yet, don’t miss any chance you have to explore as many lakeside towns and villages as you can while you are there.

In Conclusion

View of the defensive walls - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy -

Lake Garda is a great place for families with kids of any age to visit and explore.

Italy’s largest lake offers a whole host of opportunities for outdoor fun and exciting sightseeing in addition to some fab events. You can focus on just one town on the shores of Lake Garda and spend there a day to remember forever. Or you can easily circumnavigate the lake by car over a few days and spend each night at a different place.

The above blog post gives you many first-hand tried and tested ideas and suggestions for the best things to do around Lake Garda with kids. 

From historical sights dating back to Roman and medieval times to an ultra-modern swivelling cable car, from countless hiking paths to a waterfall in a cave, from peaceful strolls following the outline of the lake’s shores to fun visits to educational museums, your kids will love discovering the beauty and the history of Lake Garda for themselves.

It’s the perfect holiday place to make memories as a family!

Now, get ready quick for your visit to Italy’s Lake Garda with kids!



More Helpful Lake Garda Info for You

Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best Towns, Riva del GardaMalcesineTorri del BenacoPunta di San VigilioCampo di Brenzone
Lake Garda Hiking: Tibetan BridgeRocca di GardaPark of the Waterfalls
Visiting Lake Garda: 
8 Best Airports3 Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda3 Ways to Travel from Venice to Lake Garda3 Ways to Travel from Verona to Lake Garda8 Ways to Travel Around Lake Garda
Lake Garda Beaches: 16 Top Tips3 Unmissable Beaches
Lake Garda Sights: Shortest River in Italy, Sanctuary of Madonna della CoronaLake Garda Castles

More Helpful Italy Info for You

Best of Italy: Italian PiazzasItalian FoodItalian MarketsItalian Coffee CultureRules of Italian BreakfastItalian Breakfast Foods
Northern Italy: 18 Best Cities to Visit11 Major Airports
Day Trips in Italy: Bologna to Venice, Milan to VeronaVenice to VeronaMilan to VeniceFlorence to VeniceVerona to VeniceVenice to Padua
Lake Como: Things to SeeNesso
Veneto: Best Cities to VisitTop 15 Places30 Adventures15 Most Colourful PlacesBeautiful Lakes
Lombardy: Best Cities and Towns
Friuli Venezia Giulia: VenzoneMost Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: BolognaRavennaComacchioMost Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to VisitGradaraFrasassi CavesTemple of Valadier
Trentino: Best Cities and TownsBeautiful LakesLake CaldonazzoViolins’ Forest
Venice: Essential TipsHidden GemsBest AirportsBoats in VeniceHaunted VeniceDay Trips from VeniceArco del Paradiso
Verona: Things to Do in One DayVerona Opera FestivalDay Trips from Verona
 Things to Do in One Day101 Facts About Padua10 Reasons to Visit PaduaDay Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to DoDay Trips from Vicenza

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