Insider's Guide: Top 9 things to do in Lake Garda

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Summer is just around the corner, and with that in mind, we’re already making grand plans for our summer holidays!

Lake Garda in northern Italy sits nestled into the base of the Dolomite Mountains and plays host to some absolutely stunning views across the water to the mountains, as well as a particularly balmy microclimate that is perfect for cultivating some fabulous vineyards in the area. We could talk about how fantastic the delicious food in the area is (but that goes without saying!), but when you’re not indulging in Italian cuisine, or relaxing by the lake, there are plenty of things to do in and around Lake Garda throughout the summer.

We’ve pulled out some of our favourite festivals, events, markets and sights to see for this handy Insider’s Guide to Lake Garda.

1 Bardolino Wine Festival

1. Have a tipple at... The Bardolino Wine Festival 

A celebration of the grape harvest, the Bardolino Wine Festival takes place in October in Bardolino and is a major pinnacle event in the Lake Garda calendar. Lake Garda and in particular, Bardolino is famous for its delicious wine production, and produces a variety of delicious wines every year. The town comes to life with the festival, stalls and oak caskets lined up along the lake-side promenade of Bardolino, and it becomes a hearty celebration of food, drink, tradition and music.

Inghams recommends:

Guests staying with Inghams in Bardolino can enjoy the festival from the comfort of the wonderfully located Park Hotel Gritti. Right next to the lakeside promenade, the hotel has some gorgeous views and boasts a sun terrace, indoor swimming pool, fitness room and wellness centre.

2 Villa Dei Cedri

2.Enjoy some 5-star luxury pampering at... La Villa dei Cedri Spa 

Situated in the town of Colà, about 7km from Peschiera (accessible by public transport), the Villa dei Cedri Spa is the epitome of serious luxury. A natural spa in its own right, the stunning man-made lakes in the grounds of this grand Italian country villa are heated by the thermal waters that come from deep below Lake Garda and the surrounding mountains. Thermal waters are legendary for treating a variety of ailments in the body and spirit, but that’s not all that the fabulous Villa dei Cedri Spa boasts of. There are spa treatments to be had inside the house, and the lush green gardens with the Winter Pavilion that overlook Lake Garda are the perfect location to soak up the sun.

Inghams recommends:

For Italian charm, head to the Hotel Bella Peschiera in Peschiera. Ideally located with just a 2 minute walk to the edge of the lake, and a 10 minute walk to the centre of the town, this hotel is a firm favourite with Inghams guests who love the warm welcome and great position. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool with a sunbathing terrace, sun beds and parasols.

3 Isola Del Garda

3. An exciting ferry journey to... Isola del Garda

For a truly marvellous day out in Lake Garda, catch a ferry over to the Isola del Garda. Here on the island you can find some absolutely stunning gardens, as well as the truly remarkable Villa, which is privately owned by the Bourghese Cavazza family but open for guests to enjoy during the summer months. The gardens are manicured and a cornucopia of different flowers and fruits, an absolute delight for the senses to wander through on a balmy summers day. The history of the Villa house itself is deeply fascinating with its Venetian neo-Gothic style architecture and, believe it or not, despite the fact the village looks as though it has withstood the test of time, it was only built at the beginning of the 20th Century! All around the house and gardens are rich parkland occupying the rest of the island. You can book and enjoy an insightful tour locally.

Inghams recommends:

You can see the beautiful Isola del Garda from the Gardone Riviera just across the lake, and book ferry rides locally. Staying in Gardone, you can enjoy one of Inghams’ wonderful chalet hotels, the Chalet Hotel Galeazzi which is run by the welcoming and experienced Inghams team. There is an outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers, and it is only a 5 minute walk from the lakeside promenade and small harbour, and includes a delicious hotel menu.

4 Heller Botanical Gardens

4. Stop to smell the flowers at... The Heller Botanical Gardens  

Designed by the famous Italian artist André Heller, the Heller Botanical Gardens sit above Gardone Riviera and are a modern contemporary take on the traditional manicured gardens, collaboration between art and nature. André Heller, the internationally renowned multimedia artist, made a name for himself as the designer of the Swarovski Crystal World, and the characteristic AFRIKA-AFRIKA circus. The gardens are full of bright and colourful flowers, and with a contemporary approach to the landscaping, they are allowed to grow free and wild with footpaths dipping and diving in between.

Inghams recommends:

The Heller Botanical Gardens are located a short walking distance from the Gardone Riviera. Stay with us at the Grand Hotel Gardone which sits right on the front of the lake, with its own private terrace, swimming pool, promenade and fantastic views.

5 Venice

5. Shop 'til you drop in... Verona and Venice 

Italy is undoubtedly famous for its fashions, leather handbags, art... and more! A great opportunity to grab a few items for the friends and family back home during your stay in Lake Garda would be on one of our wonderful full-day excursions to Verona and Venice where you’ll have some leisure time to explore the cities and enjoy yourself. Some classic items to pick up would be Italian leather goods, items for the foodie back home (make sure you can take them in your suitcase!), ceramics, and guide books from museums and exhibitions (of which there are plenty!).

Inghams recommends:

Excursions to Verona and Venice can be enjoyed from any of the resorts around Lake Garda, but in this circumstance we recommend the Hotel Royal Village in Limone. 15 minutes from the centre of the resort, with a shuttle bus available, there are two outdoor swimming pools, gardens and sunbathing terraces at this beautiful Italian hotel.

6 Dolomite Mountains

6. Climb to the highest peaks in... The Dolomite Mountains  

For a real adventurous day out, hop on a coach and take a scenic route up to the nearby Dolomite Mountains. These mountains, iconic in their own right, are characterised by their enormous rose-coloured monolith rock structures that are usually covered under deep snow until mid-April. Stop at the picturesque Tyrolean town of Ortisei for great photo opportunities. Up here there are several popular ski resorts that are open into the summer months with absolutely fabulous vistas across the Alps and surrounding villages.

Inghams recommends:

Visiting the Dolomite Mountains as part of an Inghams excursion is available from all of the resorts on Lake Garda, so we are spoilt for choice with this Inghams recommends! But in this circumstance, we want to spotlight the wonderful Hotel Europa in Riva del Garda. This elegant hotel sits in a superior location on the lake front at the heart of Riva’s old town. There is also a heated outdoor swimming pool and sunbathing terrace overlooking the lake.

7 Lago Di Garda Jazz Festival

7. Finger-clicking and toe-tapping fun at... Lago di Garda Jazz Festival 

In the balmy evenings of August Riva del Garda comes to life with the Garda Jazz Festival. Taking place in a variety of venues and locations across the town including castles and lakeside promenades, the jazz festival really brings together the culture and history in the town and creates a perfect event that everyone can enjoy. The music is best enjoyed while watching the sun slip below the glittering surface of the lake (with a glass of local wine in hand, of course!).

Inghams recommends:

Some of the events of the Garda Jazz Festival take place at the Hotel du Lac et Du Parc, a spectacular hotel in Riva set in its own private park. Situated a 15 minute walk from the centre of Riva, the hotel has a fabulous outdoor swimming pool and expansive gardens on the lake side from some truly indulgent tranquil relaxation.

8 Antique Markets

8. Hunt for some treasures at... Local antique markets

Flea and antique markets are extremely popular in and around Lake Garda in Italy, running frequently throughout the weeks and months during the summer. Some of the best markets can be found in Desenzano, Bardolino and Torri del Benaco. The whole area is steeped in history and was a popular location for the holidaying aristocracy, so rare and immaculately preserved antique nick-nacks can be found if you get stuck in! From simple handmade local items, vintage clothes, to precious jewellery and antique furniture dating back hundreds of years... it is within its own right a real treasure hunt!

Inghams recommends:

Set up base for your antique marketing adventures at the wonderful Hotel Villa Maria in Desenzano. This hotel boasts of extensive gardens and is a short bus ride away from the centre of town. There is also a big swimming pool and beautiful gardens with sunbathing terraces.

9 Verona Opera

9. A night of glitz and glamour at... The Verona Opera 

The Verona Opera is famous across the world. Set in the ancient remains of a Roman arena in Verona, the opera starts late June and continues to the last week of August. You can book tickets to see a variety of fabulous performances of favourite classics including Verdi’s Aida and Carmen by Bizet. The excursion to the Verona Opera is run by Inghams from all of our resorts in Lake Garda, with transport included. A truly unique experience that’ll give you plenty of stories to bring back home.

Inghams recommends:

If you are opting for a night of glamour at the Verona Opera then why not pair that with an equally glamorous stay in the town of Sirmione, a popular destination for its spas. Sirmione sits on the peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Garda and is full of beautiful Italian architecture including an ancient castle. Your stay at the Hotel Olivi Thermae and Natural Spa will be the ultimate relaxing treat, with outdoor pools, spa and wellness area with thermal waters, and a delicious restaurant on site.