If you are thinking of visiting Lake Garda with a baby or toddler, you might already know that it is the largest lake in Italy and probably one of the most beautiful. It makes a great base for exploring the great outdoors and you will be able to enjoy a smattering of charming old towns. Everywhere you look there are spectacular mountains that provide a glorious backdrop to whatever activities or sightseeing you are doing.
But is Lake Garda a good place to visit with a baby or toddler? In this post, we will share our experiences and top tips for visiting Lake Garda with a baby.
Is Lake Garda Baby Friendly?
Lake Garda is a very baby-friendly place to visit. There are easy strolls along the shoreline that are pushchair friendly, fun rides on a cable car, boat trips galore and a whole host of beaches.
Toddlers will enjoy a trip to the Gardaland theme park where there is a Peppa Pig land and Legoland water park along with various other attractions that young kids will love.
Are there Beaches in Lake Garda?
There are lots of beaches to choose from at Lake Garda and there should be somewhere that suits everyone. There are busy beaches with all the amenities that you could wish for and quieter spots with unbelievable scenery. You can sit on a beach by a castle, or find a beach where windsurfing and other watersports are popular activities.
Can you swim in Lake Garda?
You can swim in Lake Garda from any of the beaches. The water temperature might put you off though, depending on when you visit. The lake is fed by snowmelt so can feel decidedly chilly in spring. In summer the water reaches around 23 degrees for a more comfortable but still invigorating swim.
Is Lake Garda Stroller Friendly?
Lake Garda is very stroller friendly. Around the lakeside, it is generally flat and most of the towns have nice promenades or boardwalk areas close to the shore that are ideal for short walks with a stroller or pushchair. If you plan to hike up into the hills you would be better off taking a baby carrier.
Is it Safe to Visit Lake Garda with a Baby or Toddler?
Lake Garda is a safe place to visit with a baby or toddler. Like anywhere in the world you should take sensible precautions, but overall Italy is very baby-friendly and Lake Garda is a safe place to visit. If anything bad does happen you will have quick access to good medical services.
Can you get Baby Supplies at Lake Garda?
The biggest shops are at the more developed southern end of the lake and this is your best option for stocking up on baby supplies. Further round the lake you will have to rely on smaller pharmacies and general shops where there will be less choice and availability.
Costs can be higher than in the UK for things like nappies/diapers and in particular baby wipes are way more expensive than at home. You can find baby food, formula, bottles etc in the supermarkets but we tend to take supplies from home.
The Best Places to Stay at Lake Garda with a Baby or Toddler
One of the charms of Lake Garda is that there are lots of lovely towns dotted around the shore. Each of these is an attraction in its own right and well worth a visit on your visit to Lake Garda.
We recommend that you choose one or two of them as a base for your trip to Lake Garda with a baby or toddler, and visit the others by ferry, bus or car on day trips.
Sirmione is located on the south shore of Lake Garda on a small peninsula, it offers mesmerizing views across the lake and is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the lake.
It is one of the most historic villages on the lake with the Scaliger castle and the Roman ruins of ‘Grotto of Catullus’, providing a taste of life in the past.
If you are visiting for the day, your best bet is to arrive by ferry to avoid the hassle of the busy roads and having to find and pay for parking outside of the historic centre and then walk in. It is also much more of an adventure to take a boat around the lake. It was one of the first boat trips our 8-month-old baby had been on.
If you can manage it, it is worth getting there early to beat the crowds that get bussed in.
Not to be Missed in Sirmione
Grotte di Cattulo – These are picturesque ruins of one of the largest Roman villas in northern Italy (my awful Italian skills made me think this was a cave, but it is not). The setting is really impressive and the ruins are well preserved and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in history.
Rocca Scaligera Castle – This well-preserved castle juts out into the lake and has a definite fairy-tale quality about it. Your toddler will be sure to enjoy this, it’s just the sort of place you can imagine knights, princesses and dragons doing their thing.
Jamaica Beach – This rocky beach near to the town is a great spot to while away a few hours. There is a small bar here and the sunsets are spectacular.
If you haven’t already arrived by boat it is really worthwhile to take a short boat trip that will take you around the peninsula to see Sirmione at its most spectacular.
Stay Here if :
You want easy access form other parts of Italy
Are looking for a fabulously scenic and historic setting
Don’t mind the crowds
Where to Stay in Sirmione
Our top picks are:
Hotel Riel – A great option for families, Hotel Riel has clean modern rooms and a lovely swimming pool.
B&B Casa Leone – A lovely, friendly B&B with superb breakfast.
Malcesine is known as the pearl of Lake Garda and is located in a very picturesque setting at the base of Monte Baldo. It is a charming old town with narrow medieval streets, a beautiful harbour and lots of small shops, and cafes.
Like many of the other towns on the shores of Lake Garda, Malcesine gets crowded in the summer months with thousands of visitors squeezing through the narrow streets, we didn’t find this overwhelming and still enjoyed our visit. If you have a choice, try to visit in May-June or in September.
Stay here if:
You love to be surrounded by mountains
Enjoy staying in beautiful medieval surroundings
Where to Stay in Malcesine
There are some great places to stay in Malcesine, we find that the best way to book is through Booking.com.
Our top picks are:
Hotel Villa Orizzonte – Enjoy fabulous views from the terrace.
Torri del Benaco
Torri del Benaco is the ancient capital of Lake Garda and is a lovely town well worth a visit, it is situated about half way up the east coast of Lake Garda where the rolling hills start to grow into towering mountains.
It makes a great base to explore Italy’s largest lake, with ferries going to pretty much everywhere.
The town offers lovely views across the lake which can be enjoyed from one of the many lakeside restaurants in the beautiful port area where hotels and boutique shops rest up against the old castle walls.
There is a very small beach here that will entertain your little ones, but the main attraction is the town itself and using it as a gateway to other towns around the lake.
Stay here if:
You want a quaint little town as a central base to visit the whole lake
You prefer to be away from the crowds.
Where to stay in Torri Del Benaco
There are some great places to stay in Torri Del Benaco, you can check availability for your dates here.
Our top picks are
Hotel Al Castello – This is where we stayed. They do a great breakfast, are very family friendly and it is well located near everything (including the bus stop). We enjoyed our stay here.
Residence Ca Del Lago – Lovely apartments with lake views. Has a nice swimming pool.
Limone Sul Garda
Limone Sul Garda is one of the oldest and best-preserved towns on Lake Garda, a charming old town which is home to fishermen’s cottages, narrow streets and open piazzas make it one of the most picturesque towns on Lake Garda.
Limone is famous for the cultivation of lemons. The breeze across the lake creates a special microclimate that has helped the growing of citrus fruits on terraces carved into the hillside.
The scenic road from Riva to Limone takes you through several tunnels, just before you reach the town, you can enjoy wonderful views over Limone.
Limone has a nice waterfront promenade and a very cosy old town with lots of restaurants, cafes, and little shops.
Stay here if:
You like lemons!
Where to Stay in Limone
Our top pick for Limone Sul Garda is
Riva Del Garda
Riva del Garda is a busy town surrounded by steep cliffs and tall mountains. It is on the northern shore of Lake Garda and has a special charm. The town is nestled where the lake narrows between the high cliffs of Monte Rocchetta and the water becomes colder and bluer.
The town was part of Austria until 1918 and retains a distinctly un-Italian flavour. It is a pleasant base for holidaymakers to stroll along winding streets and relax in waterfront squares. There is a great promenade area with a beach and park by the lakefront this is a great spot to visit with a baby and toddler to let them let off steam.
The northern end of the lake is very popular with windsurfers who take advantage of the strong winds caused by the mountains and water.
Not to be missed in Riva del Garda
Climb the Torre Apponale: a tall 13th-century clock tower overlooking Piazza III November, the heart of the town
Visit the Rocca castle and museum
Take an easy walk to Torbole or more find more strenuous options in the hills.
Stay here if:
You like to have all the amenities of a real town
You like to stroll along a flat lakefront promenade or visit the beach
You would like to venture into the mountains
Where to Stay in Riva del Garda
Short on time?
Visit all of the towns described above on this great
or for something a bit different
Boat Trips on Lake Garda
To really enjoy Lake Garda at its best you have to get out onto the lake itself at some point by taking a boat trip around the lake. These can take you between all of the towns that we have covered above (and a few others!), to make for some great day trips.
There is a very efficient boat service that connects the towns and it is an enjoyable way to explore, especially if you sit on the top deck and soak up some sunshine along with the wonderful views.
You can find more detail of the timetables and routes here.
There are loads of different options for seeing the lake by boat, you may like to try the following:
A short boat trip around Sirmione taking in Scaligero Castle and the “Grotte di Catullo“
You can easily combine a visit to Limone with Malcesine or Riva. Leave your car at the paid parking area in Limone and take a ferry-boat from here. Since the distance is not very big, it doesn’t take that long and the ferry fees are reasonable as well.
Walking with Baby or Toddler at Lake Garda
We always enjoy exploring new places on foot. At Lake Garda you will find plenty of options for hiking in the area, you will find everything from family-friendly trails along the shoreline (that you can do with a stroller) to more adventurous treks out into the hills which would involve carrying your little one in a baby carrier.
A nice option is to walk from Garda (the town) to Bardolino. You can explore caves at the top of a lakeside hill, then descend along small roads towards Bardolino through rural olive groves and allotments, a real taste of the countryside.
Cycling with a Toddler at Lake Garda
It is possible to hire a bike with a baby seat on the back at Lake Garda. This opens up various opportunities for exploring a bit further under your own steam.
There is a great cycle route from Ciclo-Pedonale to Lazise-Bardolino that only takes an hour but offers up some outstanding views.
Visit Gardaland with a Baby or Toddler
This is probably one of the best things to do in Lake Garda with a toddler. Gardaland is the best-known amusement park in Italy and has a lot to offer for all ages. Little kids will love Peppa Pig Land and Fantasyland, whilst those looking for more of a thrill will find a huge range over exciting rollercoasters.
It can get busy at the weekend so try to go in the week if you can. They also have a Sea Life aquarium which is perfect for a rainy day and worth a visit at any time. Our toddlers absolutely love aquariums and can spend hours staring at the fish.
Day Trips from Lake Garda
How to Get to Lake Garda
Lake Garda is easily accessible on all forms of transport. The nearest airport is at Verona but you could also consider using Milan or Bergamo airports. There are good train connections to Peschiera del Garda and frequent buses can take you from there to your final destination.
Timetables for buses and ferries around Lake Garda can be found here
Visiting Lake Garda with a Baby or Toddler – Final Thoughts
We think that Lake Garda is a great place for a family holiday and that includes families with very young children. Visiting Lake Garda with a baby and toddler should give you the chance to have a relaxing break whilst also offering a wealth of different activities to keep the whole family entertained.