fbpx

Most Beautiful Castle on Lake Garda? Here’s the best 13 to choose from

Castles are always places that dominate the surrounding landscape. Whether they are built on the tops of mountains or hills or are on the shores of bodies of water such as those on Lake Garda, they always have a unique charm. Ideal to visit even in the low season, when the lake is less crowded, the castles and fortresses of this area recall the opulent medieval past of these lands. Here is a tour around the lake, with a few small detours, to immerse yourself in castle-rich Italy!

Lake Garda Italy

One of the many lakes making up the iconic Lakes District of Northern Italy (including Lake Como), Lake Garda is visited in summer for its beaches and in winter as a base for hiking and skiing. There are several impossibly scenic towns and villages around the lake, and they are most often guarded by a mighty castle.

A popular retreat for Italians as well as global celebrities, it’s only 30 minutes away from towns like Trento, Verona, and Brescia, or an hour from Milan and Venice. There are several airports close to Lake Garda, the closest airport to Lake Garda is Verona airport.

Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian Lakes and known for its many beaches and fun summer atmosphere. The main towns of Lake Garda line the shores of the lake and behind them are the citrus and olive groves and increasingly, the vineyards. The best towns to consider for a Lake Garda holiday are:

  • Sirmione
  • Peschiera del Garda
  • Malcesine
  • Desenzano
  • Garda
  • Limone Sul Garda
  • Riva del Garda
  • Bardolino
  • Lazise

Why does Lake Garda have so many castles?

Some of Lake Garda’s Castles are fortresses and the name “Garda” comes from the German word “Warda” which loosely translates as a place of guard. So as beautiful as it is, Lake Garda had purposes far removed from being an awesome Italian holiday destination!

Like any tiny patch of Italy, the sheer number of countries, Empires, and Republics that fought over Lake Garda are staggering. The Mediterranean-like climate and its location in the middle of the route of dozens of warring parties are enough to understand why the Lake is ringed by fortification. 

But a unique defensive system was put in place here and there’s nothing like it anywhere else in Italy. It’s called the Serraglio.  For 125 years during the Middle Ages, the Della Scaglia family (the Scaligeri) ruled Verona and all the Veneto except Venice. In the 13th century, they took over the eastern shore of Lake Garda and got to work building castles (Sirmione, Riva, and Malcesine) and fortifying existing ports. 

Bu 1355 there was a continuous defensive wall connecting castles and fortresses and guard towers. It stretched from Valeggio Sul Mincio to Nogarole Rocca. It stayed like this until bots of it were taken apart in the mid-1800s. 

That’s just a tiny fraction of the tumultuous history of the Lake, but now you know why there are so many castles on Lake Garda! 

Best Castles on Lake Garda Map

Trip Anthropologist
Map of Lake Garda Castles

1.Fortified Town of Peschiera del Garda on Lake Garda

The Fortress of Peschiera del Garda in Italy is a military complex built to make it an important strategic defense center.

Peshiera-del-Garda-fortress
Peschiera del Garda Fortress, Lake Garda, Italy

The city itself was surrounded by fortified walls to ward off any possibility of attack. These city walls date back to Roman times when Peschiera turned out to be a naval center of great importance.

It was later fortified by the local Scaliger family and later provided with a wall that is still passable today.

These walls were further reinforced around 1400 by the Republic of Venice and then again under Austrian rule. But even the monstrous walls couldn’t withstand Napoleon Bonaparte’s siege.

Brescia-gate-Peshiera-del-garda
Brescia Gate entrance to the Fortress of Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy

To this day it is possible to admire the four entrance gates to the city, the Command Palace, barracks, artillery, and the Rocca Scaligera. The Fortress of Peschiera is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel Garden: A charming three-star hotel where you can enjoy the luxury of a lake view and take advantage of private parking. The hotel books out quickly.

Le Ali Del Frassino

The food, the views, the pool, the rooms, and the view again – just a brilliant 4-star property in the perfect location for swimming and seeing the town, and you can reach out and touch the Lake.

2. Scaliger Castle in Lazise on Lake Garda

The Scaliger Castle of Lazise was built around the year 1000 on ancient Roman foundations.

Italy, Lazise, view of the Scaligero castle and the city wall
Scaliger Castle, Lazise, Lake Garda, Italy

The city walls were intended to defend the first free Italian municipality, formerly called Lacisium.

The sturdy walls served not only to defend the locals from foreign incursions, but also from attacks by the Veronese Turrisendi family.

Over time the Scaliger castle was also destroyed and then renovated, becoming the residence and seat of the Scaligeri, Visconti, and Venetians. After another period of neglect it was rediscovered and what had become marshy ground became the majestic castle garden.

The medieval castle has five towers and the main keep. To this day a part of the Castle can’t be visited as it is still a private residence, while the crenelated walls are walkable.

There is a beautiful walk within the park that runs along the walls. The well-preserved washhouse bridge is very impressive.

Where to sleep near the castle

TH Lazise – Hotel Parchi Del Garda: Fantastic for families, this is a large hotel that includes a conference center. Everything is big here – it has an oversized swimming pool, big breakfasts, a play area, and simply furnished rooms with contemporary bathrooms. Tickets to the nearby theme parks and kids’ experiences can be purchased onsite or arranged in advance including Gardaland, Canevaworkd, theme parks, Gardaland Magic Halloween, and Gardaland Magic Winter Tickets.

Hotel Corte Valier: A wildly popular hotel right on Lake Garda with a cocktail bar on the Lake terrace, a swimming pool, Finnish Sauna, Turkish baths, modern rooms, and lots more. Books out quickly.

3. Scaliger Castle in Sirmione on Lake Garda – the ‘Sinking Castle’

The Castle of Sirmione opens to the view of tourists as soon as they cross the entrance to the town.

Scaliger-Castle-of-Sirmione
Evening view of the Scaliger Castle of Sirmione and Sirmione Commune, Lake Garda, Italy

The magnificent Castle of Sirmione is a medieval port fortification equipped with a Darsena (Dock) dating back to 1300, which can also be visited.

Sirmione was the domain of the Veronese Della Scala family. It was they who built the Castle of Sirmione in this strategic location close to Lago di Garda in Italy.

The Castle of Sirmione has two drawbridges for access that allowed the Scaliger fleet to enter and these are now permanently open. The three towers of the Castle of Sirmione also stand out from a distance, making it one of the most beautiful medieval fortresses in northern Italy.

To this day it is possible to visit the entire Castle of Sirmione, the Darsena, as well as the dungeons and the remains of the ancient monastery of San Salvatore, dating from the Lombard era.

Going up the staircase of Mastino Della Scala, it is also possible to walk the patrol walkway of the Castle of Sirmione.

Why is Sirmione’s Scaliger Castle on Lake Garda called the Sinking Castle?

Trip Anthropologist
The fortified port of Sirmione Castle, Lake Garda, Italy

This outstanding castle is not sinking! But it does look like one of its courtyards is flooded and so this led to the story that Sirmione Castle is sinking. The flooded courtyard is in fact a fortified internal Port.

The corner towers were watch towers that looked out for invaders coming from the east of the Port. It is called a “Darsena,” and it is the oldest fortified port in Italy.

Eventually the fortified port wasn’t needed and it was filled in and became a garden. Fortunately, in 1920 it was dug out and became again the best surviving example of its kind in the country.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel Pace: Just occasionally I find a 3-star hotel that’s better than most 4-star hotels, and here’s another. Hotel Pace is deservedly popular. Grab a room with a private balcony overlooking the lake, and hang out in the garden or better still, on its private pier.

Hotel Porto Azzurra: a stay in an informal setting with four room types. There is no shortage of rooms with great views of Lake Garda and there’s direct access to major local attractions, such as the Castle of Sirmione. This is another hotel that sells out quickly.

Hotel Serenella: One feels at home in this hotel equipped with every comfort. Elegant rooms and a swimming pool make for a perfect stay.

4. Castle in Desenzano del Garda on Lake Garda

Desenzano del Garda is home to another famous Scaligero castle. It was built in the 10th century on what was a Roman castrum.

Trip Anthropologist
Scaliger Castle, Desnezano del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy

Over time the castle was enlarged but retained its main purpose, which was to house the local population seeking refuge.

The main tower of the Scaliger castle can be seen from the entrance. The walls are adorned with dovetail battlements. Within the castle walls, you can visit the village, where houses built during the middle ages, are connected by cobblestone streets that come together in the central square.

Providing a backdrop to the castle is the charming town of Desenzano del Garda in Italy. It is from here that one of the best views can be enjoyed thanks to its strategic position.

Concerts and evocative historical re-enactments are organized in the Scaliger castle in the summertime.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel Oliveto: Ideal for business and vacation stays, the 4-star Hotel Oliveto boasts a prestigious spa where you can be pampered while overlooking Lake Garda beaches.

Hotel Acquaviva del Garda – 4-star Hotel Acquaviva not only has contemporary rooms with balconies, and is set in lovely gardens and has a terrace with lake views, it also has a free 800 meter spa and includes two swimming pools. It’s not hard ot see why it book out quickly.

5. Lombard Fort on Rocca di Garda on Lake Garda

The Rocca di Garda is located in the lake town of the same name. It was the symbol of the ancient power of this town, which alone deserves visiting Lake Garda in Italy.

Trip Anthropologist
Rocca di Garda from the shores of Lake Garda

It is situated on a mountain that emerged from the lake, once part of a glacier, and is now covered by dense local vegetation. It’s a great hiking destination and a lot of interesting stuff once went on here.

Tip: Just be very careful to remain a couple of meters from the edge at all times – and choose a calm and clear day.

The fortress was fortified in the Lombard period, a period in which Queen Adelaide of Burgundy was also imprisoned for refusing to marry her son. She escaped the castle and went to tell Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor what had been going on.

He thought she was amazingly courageous, fell in love with her, married her, avenged her by killing Beregar, and became the King of Italy. (Well, that’s the speed version!)

Frederick Barbarossa managed to conquer the fortress in the 12th century but it was entirely dismantled in 1200. Today one can only imagine what the ancient castle overlooking the lake might have looked like – the archaeology suggests it almost hung over the lake! Only the two courtyards of the monastery of the Camaldolese monks and the Church of St. George remain.

A visit to Lake Garda isn’t complete without walking the Rocca promenade. This is a pleasant hike that starts from the city center and goes into the woods, reaching the Rocca and the ancient monastery of Camaldoli.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel Alla Torre: a historic residence where you can relax by the pool or rent a bicycle to explore the Lake Garda Italy area. Hotel guests are also treated to a special boat tour.

6. Scaliger Castle in Torri del Benaco on Lake Garda

The museum castle of Torri del Benaco is one of the wonders of northern Italy. It is located among local olive groves defending the Gulf of Salò.

Trip Anthropologist
Torri del Benaco and its medieval castle. Italy, Verona province

It is a Scaliger castle endowed with the great protection of Roman fortifications. Situated on Lake Garda, this location was in a useful position to prevent barbarians and enemies from using it as an access point.

This Scaligero castle was the domain of the Scaliger family, but also of the Visconti, Carrara, and Barbarossa families. In the fifteenth century, it became the seat of the confederation of the 10 municipalities of Lake Garda Italy.

One of the most beautiful medieval castles in Italy, whose entrance courtyard houses the ancient well. A history museum is located here, and all kinds of cultural events are held in this wonderful atmospheric venue.

torri del benaco on lake garda
Lake Garda from the shore of Torri del Benaco

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel del Porto – very popular 4-star hotel is 800 meters from the castle. The rooftop terrace has spectacular views and the rooms are modern and stylish with wooden floors.

Albergo Gardesana: a three-star superior period residence where you can enjoy the view of the lake in the luxury of a building that has made local history. Breakfast is served on the terrace overlooking the marina.

7. Scaliger Castle in Malcesine on Lake Garda

The Scaliger castle of Malcesine is one of the best-preserved castles in Italy. Its history is very ancient and is attributed to the Lombard population.

Trip Anthropologist
Malcesine at Lake Garda, Italy

It was destroyed, renovated, and passed into the hands of different families and the Republic of Venice and it’s dramatic location must surely make it the most photographed castle on Lake Garda. Today you can visit it by climbing the majestic steps leading up to the balcony overlooking the east side of Lake Garda.

Located in this Scaliger castle is the Goethe Room, a place that testifies to his passage on Lake Garda through period illustrations. On the ground floor is the fishing museum. The basement of the castle houses a natural history museum where you can embark on a true sensory experience. Here it is possible to smell, touch and listen to what happens in nature within the walls of a castle.

Due to its location near the border with Trentino Alto Adige, Malcesine city is affected by the mild climate even during the summer. Scaliger Castle is surrounded by alpine mountains, including Mount Baldo.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hotel Lago di Garda: always popular three-star hotel is a 5-minute walk from the castle museum and the cable car. Its rooms are contemporary and the best ones have balconies with lake views. There’s a terrace with more of those wonderful Lake Garda views and a Veneto restaurant.

Hotel Laura Christina: is an older-style family-run 3-star hotel with rooms with large balconies that have views of the lake and a big sparkling outdoor swimming pool.

8. Rocca di Riva in Riva del Garda on Lake Garda

The Rocca of Riva del Garda is a medieval fortress located in the village of the same name. Inside is the headquarters of MAG, Riva’s civic museum.

Trip Anthropologist
The Rocca (Medieval Fortress) Riva del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy

The restoration it has recently undergone was aimed at housing the museum in a way that best showcases examples of local history. The museum has an art gallery, a history section, and an archaeology section.

The structure of the castle dates back to the 1100s, and the fortified walls allowed its powerful militia to grow. The castle was wanted by the Trentino prince bishops to defend local trade.

It was a Scaliger castle in the 1300s and, to this day, is considered one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Italy.

Where to sleep near the castle

Grand Hotel Liberty– a grand old 4-star hotel with spa, pools, and elegant interiors and grounds. The rooms are spacious and modern.

Bellavista Hotel Deluxe Apartments: this hotel is on the shores of Lake Garda and from here’s its very easy to get to the town center. The hotel overlooks the pedestrian promenade by the lake.

Hotel Rudy: The ideal place for lovers of cuisine and sports activities. Sleeping at Hotel Rudy also allows you to have all of your activities organized throughout the hotel.

9. Castello di Padenghe sul Garda on Lake Garda

Padenghe Castle is surrounded by medieval fortifications to encircle the military complex within it. The entire town center is protected in the center of the fort.

Trip Anthropologist
Castello di Padenghe sul Garda , Lake Garda, Italy

This whole village can be visited and a highlight is admiring the entrance tower to the castle surrounded by the deep moat. Climbing the tower, it is possible to see the castle of Sirmione and the entire Lake Garda.

You can see the original structure as well as the Castellino, a smaller building added later. The dwellings inside the castle are arranged in three parallel rows, and each of them has a cellar in the basement and an icehouse.

Where to sleep near the castle

Splendido Bay Luxury Spa Resort: A five-star resort on its own private beach, a beach bar and three restaurants, pools, a fitness center, and contemporary decor. A popular and romantic option within easy reach of major Italian northern cities.

10. Scaliger Castle in Valeggio sul Mincio close to Lake Garda

The Scaliger castle of Valeggio is one of the pearls of Lake Garda Italy and was built above a part of the Mincio River that was the safest to cross.

Trip Anthropologist
Scaliger Castle at Valeggio sul Mincio, Lake Garda

It was razed to the ground in 1117 by an earthquake but rebuilt retaining the Torre Tonda or Round Tower, which is the only part of the castle that survives. The entrance to the castle was by three drawbridges, and one still remains.

The Scaliger Castle is located in Mincio Park, which it overlooks. Today it hosts summer events such as outdoor cinemas and plays. There’s an enormous private villa in the middle of the castle that was built in 1900 but you can see some parts of the Scaliger castle (the Rocca) and the Serraglio defenses which stretched for 16 kilometers (10 miles).

There is a legend that the ghost of the castle’s ancient Castellan still roams the town walls.

Trip Anthropologist
Valeggio sul Mincio, Italy

Where to sleep near the castle

Corte Regia Relais & Spa stands out because everything is exceptional -breakfast, pool, staff, contemporary rooms, and the spa. Great value for a 4-star hotel in an excellent location.

Agriturismo Corte Davini: a three-star hotel in the midst of nature but within walking distance of the city and castle. Comfortable rooms with quality decor.

11. Arco Castle in Arco close to Lake Garda

Whilst not a castle on Lake Garda, I’ve included Arco Castle which is situated in the province of Trento, a short distance from Lake Garda. As you can see, it is one of the most beautiful castles in the area thanks in part to its location atop a rocky cliff overlooking the town and commune of Arco.

Trip Anthropologist
Arco Castle, Trento, Italy

Among the Lake Garda offers are transfer services from nearby lake city to reach this architectural marvel.

Today it is possible to visit the courtyard, garden, dungeon, tower, and rooms inside. Because of its beauty, the castle is also a popular subject for artists who depict it in their paintings and works.

Where to sleep near the castle

Hoody Active & Happiness Hotel – 22 miles from the Castello you’ll find this very popular hotel wiht an intriguing name. A contemporary well designed hotel with up to the minute facilities, large glass walls in the bedrooms and a jacuzzi on the balcony.

Pace 1954 Hotel – It’s hard to believe this is only rated as 3-star hotel – it’s modern rooms and design are a great deal – snap up this popular hotel!

12. Scaliger Castle in Villafranca di Verona, close to Lake Garda

The Scaliger Castle of Villafranca di Verona is of medieval origin. It is also part of history for being the setting for some of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Trip Anthropologist
Scaliger Castle of Villafrance di Verona

It consists of seven minor-sized towers and two imposing main ones. It is speculated that in the past there was an arch dedicated to the Roman emperor Tiberius.

The Scaliger Castle of Villafranca has distinctive swallowtail battlements. Its construction began in the 1200s and was part of a defensive system that included Valeggio Sul Mincio and Nogarole Rocca.

Around the 15th century, the Republic of Venice consolidated the Scaliger castle’s structure, making it a strategic point. Today it is a public place where famous Italian and foreign music artists perform during organized events.

13. Soave Castle in Soave, close to Lake Garda

The Scaliger castle of Soave is a historic fortification in the province of Verona. It was not until 1890 that it was refurbished by an Italian senator, after being used as a farm for decades.

Trip Anthropologist
Aerial view of Soave castle, Soave, Verona, Italy

The castle is a medieval military structure that stands on Mount Tenda and reigns over the Veneto plain. Today it is possible to admire the three courtyards laced with frescoes and votive chapels.

Along the southern shore of the city walls stands the Captain’s House, an ancient dwelling that gave shelter to the garrison. The interiors still breathe the air of yesteryear, with wrought-iron lamps and frescoes along the barrel vaults of the ceiling.

Very impressive is the portrait room, which also holds a portrait by Dante Alighieri, who may have been a frequent visitor to the castle. It is possible to rent the castle rooms for events, parties, and business meetings.

Agriturismo Monte Bisson – a brand new accommodation option with so far, only perfect reviews

Villa di Cazzano- Bioluxury Living – an historic villa with extensive grounds that has been lovingly restored and made into a B&B.

Hotel Roxy Plaza – this popular hotel sits immediately outside the city walls – 4-star elegant and very comfortable accommodation.