Stretching across northern Italy, and studded with quiet towns and villages along the shoreline, Lake Garda isn’t short of glitz and glam; it’s reflected in the champagne bars, cocktail lounges and even all-day beach bars that dot the shore. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find craft beer pubs and cosy little wine bars tucked down historic alleyways. Discover the best watering holes around Italy’s biggest lake.
This is probably Lake Garda’s most intriguing bar. A striking stone tower juts out of lush parkland; inside is a secret piano bar. Thanks to a vaulted ceiling, the acoustics are perfect for a tinkling jazz number. Seating extends outside to an illuminated garden amid towering trees and shrubs, creating an intimate feel. The bar serves classic cocktails, shaken and stirred by professional bartenders. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place turns into a club, pumping out tunes into the wee hours.
The best (and most dramatic) way to reach this bar is by boat; you can pull up and dock right at the marina. Tables and chairs from the taverna spill out onto the private jetty, jutting out from the secluded San Vigilio peninsula into the pristine water of Lake Garda. Sofa-style seating is also an option under the twisting vines of a pergola. This is the ultimate spot for a sundowner on the lake’s shore – perhaps a classic Aperol spritz or Campari. It’s a little on the expensive side, but the views at sunset are worth the surcharge.
Still in the laid-back town of Riva, this curiously named (or not-named) venue boasts one of the best-value aperitivo offers on Lake Garda. Whether you’re ordering a spritz or a negroni, the drinks come with complimentary snacks and super-swift service. There are lakeside views over a small inlet and an ancient clock tower across the square. It’s right next to the ferry terminus, handy if you’re returning from a day exploring the other towns along Lake Garda.
High on a hilltop overlooking Lake Garda, this former fortress has one of the best views over the water. As the name suggests, there’s plenty of space to park your bike if you’re cycling the ascents and trails of the region. Inside, it’s a cool cavern of bone-white stone and cycling paraphernalia on the walls. The huge terrace has panoramic lake views all the way across to Salò and Desenzano del Garda. Stop by for cold beer, craft cocktails, sunset aperitivi or an intense Italian coffee, and replenish your energy with elevated burgers and antipasti platters garnished with edible flowers.
In a cellar-style room in Desenzano del Garda, this rustic little wine bar has a huge range of local reds and whites to choose from, and a curated selection of vintages from around the world, too. Accompanied with platters of cured meat and cheese piled high, it’s the kind of place where you can linger the whole evening, discussing the legs of the Merlot S. Giorgio or the citrus freshness of the Gavi di Gavi. As night falls, the cocktail menu comes out; while away the hours sipping a daiquiri in place of the pecorino.
Duck under the vine-covered portcullis and enter this cave of wine wonders. Beneath the vaulted ceiling, legs of prosciutto hang from the bar, while rows upon rows of wine bottles let you know the selection is vast without even opening a menu. Pair your full-bodied reds from the neighbouring hills with trough-sized platters of meat and cheese, garnished with fresh fruit and homemade chutney.
Looking for the perfect lakeside getaway? Browse and book the best hotels on Lake Garda now through Culture Trip. After exploring the best things to see and do, wind down with a delicious dinner at one of the lake’s best restaurants. Want to explore more? Why not take a trip to nearby Verona. Make one of the city’s top hotels your base and take a look at all the best things to see and do whilst you’re there.
This article is an update of one originally by Luca Pinelli.
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