Riva del Garda is one of the main towns on Lake Garda and therefore receives a lot of tourism. It is located in the northernmost part of Lake Garda, close to the Dolomites.
In addition to the stunning historic centre that awaits you in Riva del Garda, there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained for days in this town. In fact, the town is an excellent base for exploring the northernmost part of Lake Garda.
So, I decided to write this post with the best things to do in Riva del Garda so you can prepare for visiting one of the largest towns on Lake Garda. Throughout the post, you’ll find tips on what to visit in Riva del Garda, but also information about:
- How many days do you need to visit Riva del Garda?
- Best time of the year to visit Riva del Garda
- Accommodation in Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is a very small town. If your aim is just to visit the historic centre of Riva del Garda, then half a day or a full day (at a very relaxed pace) is more than enough.
However, there are many more activities to do in Riva del Garda, such as some hiking trails or even windsurfing. So, if you choose to walk any of these trails or decide to try windsurfing (more information below), I suggest adding a day or two to your Riva del Garda itinerary.
June to September are the best months to visit Lake Garda and, consequently, Riva del Garda. At this time of year, the days are warmer and there is less chance of rain.
However, you should also bear in mind that these are also the busiest months on Lake Garda. This lake is becoming more and more famous, so if you choose to visit at this time of year, don’t expect to find the towns empty.
In fact, my suggestion would be to try to visit Riva del Garda in June or September when, despite still being peak season, the number of tourists is relatively lower than in July and August.
💡 EXTRA TIP: The roads around Lake Garda can get quite busy in the summer months, which makes the experience of visiting Lake Garda less appealing. This is one of the main reasons why I don’t recommend visiting this region in July and August.
Riva del Garda should be part of any Lake Garda itinerary. It’s a tiny town, full of life and very cute! So, I don’t see any reason not to visit it🥰.
Even if you don’t have the time or the desire to add the trails near Riva del Garda to your Lake Garda itinerary, I suggest you spend at least a morning or afternoon getting to know this town.
There are several airports in northern Italy that are good options for getting to Lake Garda and, more specifically, to Riva del Garda.
So I’ll share with you the distance and travel time by car between each of the airports in northern Italy and Riva del Garda:
- Verona – 1h10, 83 km
- Milan Bergamo – 2h10, 128 km
- Bologna – 2h20, 210 km
- Milan Linate – 2h25, 158 km
- Venezia Treviso – 2h30, 215 km
- Milan Malpensa – 3h, 218 km
💡 EXTRA TIP: If you would like to add other cities in Northern Italy to your Lake Garda itinerary, I suggest you have a look at my posts with itineraries and tips for the following cities: Verona | Milan | Venice.
Another option is to travel to Rovereto by train from one of Italy’s main cities, as this is the closest train station to Riva del Garda. From Rovereto, there is a 40-minute direct bus that runs between Rovereto and Riva del Garda. You can find more details here.
Alternatively, you can also travel to Trento and from there take a bus to Riva del Garda. In this case, the journey takes around 1h20.
💡 EXTRA TIP: The best way to travel between the various points of interest on Lake Garda is by car, as it allows us to have greater flexibility in terms of time and also in what we want to visit.
There are several hotels in Riva del Garda, with prices to suit all tastes. In my case, I chose to stay at Residence La Vigna. It was located about 8-10 minutes from the centre by car, but it was quite a good choice for several reasons.
Firstly, it had free parking – perfect for those travelling by car. Secondly, it was a very quiet and family-friendly place, with an outdoor swimming pool for the warmer days.
Plus, the flat was very well-equipped. In addition to a bedroom and a sofa bed, it had a well-equipped kitchen for those who wanted to cook meals.
Anyway, I’ll share with you other accommodation options in Riva del Garda that might interest you:
Most of the historic centre of Riva del Garda is pedestrian only. It is therefore convenient and recommended to park your car in one of the car parks available for this purpose.
There are several parking options in Riva del Garda, but I ended up always parking in this car park, which is merely a 5-minute walk from the historic town centre.
I’d also like to share with you the other (paid!) car parks in Riva del Garda:
For those who don’t mind walking a little further into the centre, there are also some free car parks, such as these:
Before I start the list of the best things to do in Riva del Garda, I’ll share a map with the town’s main points of interest.
So, it’s finally time to find out all the things to see in Riva del Garda. Some of the sights I’ll mention below aren’t exactly located in Riva del Garda, but I’ve decided to include them because they’re relatively close by and well worth it!
01 |Going through the two gates of Riva del Garda
Due to its strategic location, the town of Riva del Garda has been fortified since the Roman Empire. So there’s nothing better than starting your visit to Riva del Garda at two of its former gates – Porta San Michele and Porta San Marco.
02 | Visit the beautiful Parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta
Take advantage that you are visiting Porta San Michele to visit one of the most beautiful churches in Riva del Garda. Its exterior may not be very pretty, but I can assure you that its detailed interior is worth admiring.
03 | Driving aimlessly through the colourful streets of Riva del Garda
Given its size, one of the best ways to visit Riva del Garda is to let yourself get lost in its streets.
You’ll come across streets that are often narrow and lined with colourful houses. Almost every street in Riva del Garda is quite photogenic 😉!
04 | Admire the many squares of Riva del Garda
There are many squares to visit in Riva del Garda, waiting to be photographed! Firstly, there’s Piazza III Novembre and Piazza Catena, which coexist almost side by side. It should come as no surprise that this is yet another photogenic part of Riva del Garda.
Both squares offer privileged views of the mountains and Lake Garda. So stop here for a while to savour the views!
Although less exciting, I also recommend visiting Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, where the main highlight is the fountain in its centre.
05 | Going up the Torre Apponale (Apponale Tower)
Located in the heart of Piazza III Novembre, the Apponale Tower is impossible to miss. Built in the 13th century, this stone tower is over 34 metres high and offers panoramic views over Riva del Garda’s historic centre.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: The entrance ticket to visit the tower costs 2€ and can be bought directly at the tower entrance. As for opening hours, I suggest you check the most up-to-date information here.
06 | Take the funicular to the Bastione di Riva
Speaking of the best views of Riva del Garda, another of the city’s most popular activities is going up to Bastione di Riva. This is one of the town’s symbols and was part of its defence system after it was built in the 16th century.
Although it is possible to get there from the centre of Riva del Garda in a short 15-20 minute walk, there is an alternative option – a funicular.
The funicular has a glass structure that allows you to enjoy incredible views even on the way up to the top. At the top of the funicular station, you’ll also find a restaurant with similar views.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: The funicular runs from 9.30 am to 12.15 pm daily. The adult price is 5€ (one way) or 8€ (return). You can find the most up-to-date information here.
07 | Stroll around the promenade
Another of the best things to do in Riva del Garda is certainly to walk along the promenade by Lake Garda. The path is relatively short, but very pleasant 🥰.
08 | Learn about history at MAG – Museo Alto Garda
Near Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi we find the Alto Garda Museum, located inside the town’s old fortress (Rocca de Riva).
In this museum, you’ll find a gallery of paintings as well as an exhibition of archaeology from the Palaeolithic to the early Middle Ages and another dedicated to more recent history. You can also see Riva del Garda from another perspective by climbing the tower of the fortress.
📝 USEFUL INFORMATION: Admission to the museum costs 5€, and the museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm. You can find the most up-to-date information here.
09 | Walk or cycle along the old Ponale road (Sentiero della Ponale)
If you have some extra time in Riva del Garda, you can also walk or cycle along the old Ponale road, which used to connect Riva del Garda with the western part of the lake. Today, the route can be covered on foot as well as by bicycle.
Although I haven’t done this trail myself, the views of Lake Garda along the way are breathtaking, which is why I decided to include it in this list of things not to miss in Riva del Garda. You can find out more about this path here.
10 | Quick visit to Limone sul Garda
Although it’s not in Riva del Garda, I couldn’t help but include Limone sul Garda on this list. Located just 10 kilometres from Riva del Garda, Limone sul Garda is a real gem (not hidden though!) and probably one of the cutest villages on Lake Garda.
With a rather short list of points of interest, the fun of visiting Limone sul Garda lies in strolling through the streets of its historic centre calmly and without much rush. If you’d like to know in more detail what to visit in Limone sul Garda, I suggest you read the 13 things to do in Limone sul Garda.
11 | Visit the Varone waterfalls
The Varone waterfalls are another of the most popular attractions near Riva del Garda – merely 3 km from the historic town centre. To access these waterfalls you have to pay an entrance fee (7€), and access is subject to opening hours.
I suggest you check the most up-to-date information on opening hours and prices here. I must warn you, however, that this is a very popular tourist activity! If you want a less crowded visit to these waterfalls, I suggest you try visiting in the early morning or late afternoon.
12 | Take a dip in Lago di Tenno
Lake Garda is full of surprises, and Lago di Tenno is yet another! This lake is a 15-minute drive from Riva del Garda and is an excellent addition to any Riva del Garda itinerary.
Access to the lake is fairly simple, which is why it’s also very popular. As for the beauty of the lake, I’ll let the photo above speak for itself 😍.
💡 EXTRA TIP: I suggest parking your car here. From this car park, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the lake.
13 | Travelling back in time in the medieval village of Canale di Tenno
Also nearby is what is probably one of the most beautiful villages on Lake Garda. It’s called Canale di Tenno and it’s a medieval village.
The village is quite small, but its narrow streets and stone houses make it worth a visit 🥰. Wandering aimlessly is really one of the best ways to explore Canale di Tenno.
💡 EXTRA TIP: If you are travelling by car, I suggest parking here. There are only a few spaces, but the village is usually not very crowded either.
14 | Enjoy the beaches of Riva del Garda
On the hottest summer days, you may well want to take a dip in the clear waters of Lake Garda! There are a few beaches available in Riva del Garda and these are some of the most popular:
- Spiaggia dei Sabbioni
- Spiaggia dei Pini
15 | Go windsurf
I know this might not seem like the most obvious thing to do in Riva del Garda. However, the morning winds often make Riva del Garda a popular spot for windsurfing.
So if you’d like to try windsurfing in Riva del Garda, I recommend you visit the official Garda Trentino website.
16 | Walk one of the many trails available
And, to finish off this list of things to do in Riva del Garda, I have to mention the many hiking trails available in the area. If you’re a trail lover, you’ll find in Riva del Garda some of Lake Garda’s best trails. Even though I didn’t get the chance to walk any of these trails, here are a few suggestions of some of the best hikes in Riva del Garda.
I start by mentioning the walk up to the Chapel of Santa Barbara, located in the mountains and with views over Riva del Garda. The route takes about 2.5 hours (3.3 km in total).
We also have the famous trail to Punta Larici, which has spectacular views over Lake Garda. The round trip is about 4 kilometres long, but it is not recommended for those travelling with children or who are afraid of heights due to the lack of safety in some parts.
The path between Bussate and Tempesta also has to be mentioned in this list. This is a route with unique views and the trail is suspended in the mountains, which is kind of cool.
And finally (although the list of options doesn’t end there), I have to mention the trail to the top of Monte Brione. As you’d expect, this is another Lake Garda trail where you’ll find superb views. You can find out more about the trail here.
I hope this post has left you wanting to book that trip to northern Italy to discover this small paradise called Lake Garda!
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