Lake Garda attracts tourists from all over the world each year, and it’s an ideal place for those who seek relaxation, tranquillity, culture, and lots of fun activities. Surrounded by the beautiful alpine mountains, this Italian destination is clustered around a stunning crystal-clear lake where people go swimming and sailing in the summer, although the […]
Lake Garda attracts tourists from all over the world each year, and it's an ideal place for those who seek relaxation, tranquillity, culture, and lots of fun activities. Surrounded by the beautiful alpine mountains, this Italian destination is clustered around a stunning crystal-clear lake where people go swimming and sailing in the summer, although the wintertime is arguably an equally perfect time to visit.
Visiting Lake Garda in December also comes with the added advantage of avoiding the summer crowds, allowing you to enjoy its scenic view with no distractions. If you’re planning a Christmas trip to Italy with a difference, here’s our guide to Lake Garda in December.
The Lake Garda weather in December is very cold, with low temperatures that last throughout the entire month, hovering around an average of 5ºC.
Since it's the low season, you can expect the area to be relatively quiet and peaceful, unlike when you visit during the summer months. During this time, skiing, hiking, and sightseeing are very popular since tourists won't have to deal with the excruciating heat, which is often the case in summer.
Despite the fall in temperature, the rainfall is much lower in Lake Garda than in the summer or spring. It only receives 52mm of rain in over nine days, compared to 120mm of rain in its neighbouring city of Milan in the same month. As a matter of fact, there's only a 32% chance of rain in Lake Garda in December.
Although Lake Garda enjoys an average of five sunshine hours each day in December, the chances of a purely sunny day are quite low. Fog is a common occurrence during this time of the year since the warm water from the lake will meet with the cold air above it, so be prepared to wake up to thick mist every morning if you’re staying somewhere near the water’s edge.
Located south of the Alps near the main motorway junction in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is easily accessible from various parts of Italy. In fact, the ease of getting to the place is one of the reasons why the place has enjoyed a significant increase in tourist visits over the past few years.
There are various options to get to Lake Garda for those who prefer to travel by plane. The closest airport is just outside of Verona, the Valerio Catullo Airport, located at the junction of two main motorways in Northern Italy. From here, Lake Garda is only 22 km away or about an hour's drive.
Another airport close to Lake Garda is Aeropuerto de Brescia, which is near the village of Montichiari. It's only about an hour’s drive from the airport to the lake, so if you’re hiring a car on arrival then this is a great option.
Another popular way of getting to Lake Garda is to take the train. There's a train station on the southern shore of the lake, at Desenzano, and another one is in Peschiera. If you're coming from Milan, you can take the train from Milan Central station and arrive right by the lake for your holiday.
You can also travel around Lake Garda on a ferry. A public boat transport service connects the towns and villages along the coast, making it possible to reach any other destination coming from any point within the lake.
The direct line services make a few stops along the way, while some routes stop in every town. There's also a boat service between Toscolano Maderno and Torri del Benaco that ferries both cars and passengers, allowing you to go from one side of the lake to the other with your car.
While Lake Garda is not a particularly popular place to visit in winter, the month of December turns the lake town into an enchanting location, with its colourful decorations as well as fun festivals and events. Here are some of the Lake Garda winter events to check out during your visit.
Natale tra gli Olivi, or Christmas Among Olive Trees, is an annual event in Lake Garda that takes place in the centre of Garda. This year, the event will commence on November 26, 2021, kicking off with an enchanting display of Christmas lights, highlighting the unique beauty of the lake during wintertime.
The most popular attraction in this event is the colourful Christmas market, where wooden stalls, kiosks, and gazebos line the lakefront and the Piazza Catullo, which is close to the port. You will find a wide range of products on display in the market, from Lake Garda-themed souvenirs to local crafts and produce.
The Cribs of Trentino is a cultural event that's worth checking out during your visit to Lake Garda in December. It takes place in Trentino, a mountainous region located in the northernmost part of Lake Garda.
This event showcases a tradition that dates back to ancient times. It is primarily connected to the industry of woodcarving in Italy, which is still widely practised in various parts of Trentino today, especially in the Val di Fiemme valley.
The Cribs of the Trentino features a wide range of crib exhibitions, where visitors can admire more than a hundred displays of handmade cribs, including a large crib at the main square. Take a stroll along the alleys and lanes of the town to admire the different kinds of cribs made by local families diversely and authentically.
Christmas is widely celebrated in Italy, and Lake Garda transforms into a magical town during Christmas time. Thanks to the various Christmas lights, decorations and tiny traditional wooden houses, the old town and the lakefront exude a very festive ambience during Christmas.
Aside from the colourful lights and displays, you will find Christmas markets popping up in various areas selling hot spiced wine, handicrafts, and a variety of local products to satisfy your shopping list. Christmas Day itself is traditionally celebrated with family, but there’s a very festive atmosphere leading up to and on the day.
Lake Garda is also a perfect place to visit for mountain lovers during the Christmas season, thanks to its proximity to Monte Baldo Mountain, where you can go skiing and snowboarding.
Visiting Lake Garda in December means you will have the lake almost entirely to yourself. Tourist-oriented restaurants and cafes will usually close down until the next season, so the shores have quieted down, allowing you to enjoy a relaxing walk along the scenic promenade.
But the off-season doesn’t mean that you’ll have nothing to do on your visit. Even during the quiet season, Lake Garda offers plenty of things to see and do, and here are some of them.
In December, colourful Christmas markets pop along the shores of Lake Garda, where stalls sell all sorts of products, from souvenirs to handicrafts. After a whole day of shopping, treat yourself to a generous serving of thick Italian hot chocolate or sample delicious treats such as the salty Tyrolean pretzels, the posh nougat of Cologna Veneta or the golden pandoro of Verona.
When shopping at these Christmas markets, it's important to remember that haggling is not part of Italian culture and negotiating a much lower price than what is on the price tag is considered rude. Prices are well-visible on the products on display, so you don't need to worry about being charged the premium price as a foreigner, which is a common practice in some other countries.
Italy's northeast region is dominated by the Dolomites; an extensive range of stunning jagged peaks that is a popular spot for skiing.
On your visit to Lake Garda in December, one of the most recommended things to do is to go skiing in the Dolomites, which is about an hour and a half drive north of Lake Garda. This beautiful mountain region is a spectacular winter destination for ski enthusiasts, although there are several other activities to do here when you visit in December.
Snowshoeing is another fun activity you can do in the Dolomite Mountains. Although snowshoeing here is possible any time of the year, it's more magical to do it in winter.
Equipped with a pair of snowshoes, enjoy an exhilarating hike through the mountains where you can soak up the spectacular panoramic vistas, which are only accessible on foot during winter. Witnessing the beautiful region blanketed by snow is such an unforgettable experience.
The Castello di Arco is a ruined castle located above Arco, not far from Lake Garda. Getting to the castle requires walking through a 120-meter-high footpath, from which you can admire the landscape known as the “Prato della Lizza”, which overlooks the stunning views of Lake Garda.
Particularly worth seeing here is the rock prison, the large tower, and the Sala dei Giochi (hall of the games), which has a cycle of frescoes dating back from the year 1380, depicting various games and knight scenes.
One of the most spectacular ways to admire stunning views of Lake Garda is to ride the Malcesine cableway, which rises to 1600 metres in a mere ten minutes and reaches the top of Monte Baldo at an altitude of 1760 meters. During a clear day, you get to admire the full view of the lake, from Riva to Peschiera del Garda.
Marvel at the shades of both the lake and the sky melting into an amazing landscape from above. This breath-taking panorama looks even more magnificent in December as snow-covered Alpine peaks surround the lake.
Here are more tips to keep in mind when visiting Lake Garda in December:
Many attractions in Lake Garda have earlier closing times during winter, so it is best to do your research in advance, especially if you plan on going for a day trip to the nearby cities of Verona and Venice. But since there will be fewer crowds in December, you should be able to enjoy sightseeing even with limited time.
In some cities, museums and other sites will only be open for tourists on weekends. Others may be closed for the entire winter season. Some restaurants in Lake Garda may also be closed in December, but a few will be open.
Stay at a guesthouse run by local families if you want to experience how Italians celebrate Christmas in Lake Garda. Staying with a local family will not only give you an insight into the local life, but it also gives you a chance to get to know the different Christmas traditions practised in Italy.
On Christmas Day, Italians usually celebrate with a massive feast, along with family and friends. You will have the opportunity to experience this if you stay at a local guesthouse or B&B.
As mentioned above, the Lake Garda weather in December can be very cold, so make sure you pack layers of clothing. Since the temperature tends to change during the day, pack a variety of winter clothes so that you can add or remove them as the weather changes.
If you plan on visiting the Dolomite mountains, make sure to pack a waterproof jacket. Bring a pair of sturdy shoes or boots, which you can wear in the snow. Don't forget your gloves, scarf, and a warm hat. Since you can expect rain in Lake Garda for roughly half of December, consider bringing an umbrella as well.
To find out more about visiting Lake Garda in October or planning an unforgettable Italian holiday, explore the rest of our Italian Breaks website for ideas on where to stay and what to do.