Garda and its enchanted gulf

The village of Garda is the soul of the lake that bears its name. Here, history and nature blend, offering numerous wonderful excursions.

Welcome to the lively village of Garda, the soul of the lake that bears its name.
It’s no coincidence that here you find the quintessence of the entire territory: hills, mountains, beaches, streets, and alleys that look like they came out of a painting, excursions of all kinds and for all tastes.

Historical notes

Garda, which also gives its name to the lake, derives from the Lombard word “warda,” meaning “guard” or “elevated place for military observations.” The toponym refers to the fortress built during the early barbarian invasions on the Rocca di Garda, overlooking the village and housing a castle and a church dedicated to San Colombano. Garda has been famous since the Middle Ages for its Rocca, where Queen Adelaide of Burgundy was imprisoned in 947 after refusing the marriage proposal of the son of the Duke of Ivrea, Berengar. The queen escaped and married Otto I, later becoming empress. During Otto’s reign, the Rocca was dismantled for unknown reasons. In the Middle Ages, Garda was the center of the administrative district governing the surrounding rural municipalities. The Corporation of the Ancient Origins was founded in 1452, protected by the Republic of Venice, which conferred fishing rights in the lake’s waters. These rights were respected even under Napoleon and the Kingdom of Italy.

What to see and visit in Garda

The ancient historic center

Garda is rich in villas and historic buildings. The most majestic is undoubtedly Villa degli Albertini (16th century) with its avenue of centuries-old magnolias and the 19th-century Albertini Park. The park is open and can be visited every year from Easter to September 30 – you can find all the information by clicking here.

Let’s continue by immersing ourselves in the colorful alleys of the historic center, where we find Palazzo Fregoso (built in the 15th century above the northern gate of San Giovanni);

and Palazzo Carlotti (with its charming white stone portico from the late 15th century).

On the lakeside stands Palazzo dei Capitani (14th-15th century), a testament to the city’s prosperous past and its ties with the Republic of Venice. This ancient palace, in Venetian Gothic style, is so named because it hosted the Captain of Lake Garda, the magistrate representing Venice’s authority on the lake, tasked with preventing smuggling.

Finally, get lost among the streets of the historic center, discovering local craft and fashion shops, bars, restaurants, and many picturesque views that provide postcard-worthy photos. The secret is: walk with curiosity!

Church of Santa Maria Assunta

This Church, one of the oldest in the area, is dedicated to Saint Mary. The first document officially attesting to its presence dates back to 1056. It was modernized in 1824 and finally restored between 1996 and 2013.
From that primitive church, the 15th-century cloister with a beautiful loggia, the vicarial house, and some fragments of inscriptions in Gothic characters, wall friezes, tombstones, and parts of a Carolingian ciborium remain. The bell tower was built in 1571, and the church was renewed. At the end, there is the Chapel of the Fallen of all wars, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. The church houses a 15th-century fresco of the Madonna and Child, confessionals from the school of the famous Belluno woodcarver Brustolon, a papal bull of Innocent II (1138) carved in marble near the bell tower’s small door, a wooden crucifix from 1500, and an altarpiece of Saint Blaise, possibly the work of Palma il Giovane.

In front of the church is Piazzale Roma, which is home to spectacular, monumental plane trees that are over a hundred years old. Tall, majestic, and with gnarled trunks of rare beauty.

Church of Santo Stefano

The Church of Santo Stefano is located beside the state road that crosses the town, near the SS. Trinità stream. It certainly existed before 1687, a date carved on an external wall. In 1877, it was elevated and restored. Although the exterior is somewhat plain and goes unnoticed, it is absolutely worth taking a peek inside.

The port, the lakeside promenade, and the beaches

The port of Garda, which also serves as a Navigarda pedestrian stop for those arriving by boat from other lakeside villages, opens up the promenade to beaches and lakeshore walks both to its right, towards the north, and to its left, towards the south and the historic center of the town.

The lakeside promenade towards the north and Punta San Vigilio is definitely the least crowded. It starts on a comfortable paved sidewalk, then leads into a beaten path that follows the beautiful and long free beach of Garda. The final part is the most “wild” with typical reed beds where waterfowl nest.

The lakeside promenade towards the south, on the other hand, crosses the center of Garda, dotted with lively bars and restaurants, docks with panoramic gazebos where you can take romantic sunset photos, and then continues into a well-maintained public park (with a monument to sailors and fishermen, a monument to the Alpini, a lovers’ bridge, and a metal dragon). Finally, it reaches both equipped and free beaches, before continuing towards Cisano di Bardolino.

Excursions in Garda

Punta San Vigilio

Punta San Vigilio is a small peninsula boasting to be one of the most picturesque and romantic spots on Lake Garda. Here you’ll find a villa, an ancient inn with a small harbor, and 3 equipped beaches: Parco S. Vigilio, Cala delle Sirene, and Baia delle Sirene.
It’s almost 3 km from Garda. You can follow the lakeside promenade towards the north, but be aware, at a certain point, you continue on an unpaved path and a little further you have to climb onto the paved road, through the vegetation, then watch out for passing cars. You can find further information by clicking here.

Rocca di Garda

The Rocca di Garda is a small mountainous outcrop (283 m) overlooking the town, marking the border between the municipalities of Garda and Bardolino.
From here, you can enjoy incredible views that can teach you, at a glance, a lot about the geography of Lake Garda! You can find all the information to reach it by clicking here.

Cycle-Pedestrian Path Garda – Bardolino – Lazise

From Garda, heading south, starts a spectacular cycle-pedestrian path that crosses the towns of Bardolino and Lazise. If you travel the entire route, it’s about 18 km round trip.
In addition to visiting the charming historic centers of the towns it passes through, which are also dotted with beautiful shops for shopping, you’ll encounter many bars and kiosks, restaurants, and both equipped and free beaches. In some stretches, you can observe enchanting reed beds (typical of the southern Garda area), as well as a rich lacustrine fauna, such as ducks, mallards, coots, seagulls, and swans. You can find further information by clicking here.

Monte Luppia and the Graffiti path

Few people know that the mountainous area between Garda and Torri del Benaco offers a very panoramic but, above all, unique hike.
This trail, immersed in the woods, takes you among rocks smoothed by glaciations, which still today hold rock carvings dating from the Bronze Age onwards. You can find all the information to reach it by clicking here.

Valle dei Mulini

The Valle dei Mulini is one of the most picturesque and interesting naturalistic oases in the entire morainic area of Lake Garda, winding along the course of the Tesina stream. This valley, whose name preserves the memory of the numerous mills it hosted from the medieval period onwards, is ideal for a pleasant walk with the whole family. As a protected area for animal and plant species of significant interest that have preserved their natural habitat here, it also offers many testimonies of the effects of the Quaternary glaciations.

If you want to try all the experiences that Lake Garda offers to fully experience it, visit our experience section. You will discover a world of adventures for all tastes. Click here.

Events in Garda

The colorful weekly market in Garda takes place every Friday. You can find clothing, crafts, fruits and vegetables, lake fish, local salami, and cheeses.

Festa delle Fate

Every year in June, the Festa delle Fate is celebrated to mark the summer solstice on the shores of Lungolago Regina Adelaide. The event is held outdoors and is free to enter.
The entire area becomes filled with artists, acrobats, craftsmen, and authors, hosting a delightful fantasy market brimming with resin fairies and dragons, gemstones, candles, salt lamps, and wax lanterns, as well as incense and books. There are also workshops for both adults and children, performances, and numerous shows. For more information, click here.

Palio delle Contrade or Palio dell’Assunta

Every year on Ferragosto, the Palio delle Contrade is held, a folkloric festival coinciding with the celebrations dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, the town’s patron saint. The nine ancient districts of the historic center of Garda are the main protagonists, offering a spectacle of music and flag bearers.
In the stretch of lakeside between the port and the town hall, at dusk, the typical flat gondolas enter the water, competing for the town’s championship with strokes of the oar. Each crew consists of four rowers who stand while rowing, using alternating oars, following the traditional style of local fishermen.
Before the regatta, the rowers march through the streets of the town, carrying the long oars they will use in the race, one for each member of the crew. The rowing competition, with district members and rowers in costume, puts up the wooden statue of the Assumption of Mary as the prize. This will be kept by the winning district until the following year, according to tradition.
The event concludes with traditional fireworks that illuminate a magical night, during which the town of Garda dresses up for the celebration and evokes the ancient local rivalries.

Christmas Market

From the end of November through the entire holiday season until Epiphany, Garda lights up with Christmas spirit! The weekends come alive with the traditional market, Santa’s house, and lights that decorate the lakeside promenade and the streets of the town. A delightful walk around sunset is a must to enjoy the winter colors of the lake. You can find all the Christmas markets on Lake Garda by clicking here.

For the updated calendar of all events in Garda, we refer you to the Municipality website.

Where to sleep and eat in Garda

We, the Garda Outdoors team, offer you a real gem pieds dans l’eau: the Hotel Restaurant Conca D’Oro. Not only for the absolute beauty in which you will immerse yourself, between the lakefront and the panoramic terrace; but also for the skill and friendliness of all the young staff.
Find all the information by clicking here.

Living Garda offers an experience that truly resonates deeply. Free your adventurous spirit and let the cradle of Garda capture you.
See you next time dear Outdoors!

Silvia Turazza

Silvia Turazza

According to the art of onomancy, the meaning of my name is described as follows: "it lives in the woods, sylvan and wild". Sometimes fate knows the way before you, and forges you with the most akin experiences. I live in the heart of Lake Garda in Castelletto di Brenzone. Passionate about trekking, photography and writing, which I combine in small adventures. If you are looking for me, you will find me in the forest overlooking the lake... with my Roberto and Gea.