Perched on the tip of a long, narrow peninsula, Sirmione is a medieval town surrounded by gardens, thermal spas, beaches, and the aquamarine water of Lake Garda. Explore an ancient castle, wander the narrow city streets, tour historical sites, and go on a sunset cruise around the peninsula. Here are the best things to do in Sirmione.
Overview of Sirmione
Sirmione is a small town on Lake Garda. It sits at the very end of the Sirmio peninsula, which is a long, skinny strip of land jutting into the southern end of Lake Garda.
To get into town, you will have to walk across a bridge spanning a moat. How cool is that?!
You are immediately greeted by Scaligero Castle and a visit here is one of the best things to do in Sirmione.
Beyond the castle are narrow streets and alleyways that are a delight to explore. Towards the north end of town, the peninsula is filled with trees and gardens, villas and spas, and on the very tip of the peninsula is Jamaica Beach and the remains of an ancient Roman villa.
If you plan to explore Lake Garda, Sirmione makes a great home base for doing so. From Sirmione, you can also day trip to nearby destinations, such as Verona, Gardaland amusement park, and Santuario Madonna della Corona, just to name a few. Or, if you are based in Verona, you can day trip to Sirmione.
In this guide, we cover the best things to do in Sirmione followed by tips to help you plan your visit.
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Best Things to Do in Sirmione
1. Scaligero Castle
Scaligero Castle, also called Castello Scaligero di Sirmione, is a fortress that dates back to the 14th century. It is one of Italy’s best preserved castles.
The castle was originally built by the Della Scala family, who ruled in Verona at the time. It was used as a fortification up until WWI, when it underwent a restoration project. It wasn’t until 2018 when the restoration project was finally complete (all of the water was removed from inside the castle, other than the fortified port).
Scaligero Castle | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
The Scaligero Castle moat and the entrance into the city center of Sirmione.
On a visit to Scaligero Castle, you will walk the fort walls and climb the tower for great views over Sirmione. From the tower and fort walls, you have an awesome bird’s eye view of the town.
The view of Sirmione from Scaligero Castle | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
2. Explore the Historic City Center
The city center of Sirmione is a maze of narrow streets that is a delight to explore. These streets are filled with cafes, shops, bars, and hotels. It takes about an hour to walk through the city center, longer depending on how much shopping or dining you do along the way.
As you walk through town, don’t miss the Flower House, a small café that is blanketed with purple bougainvillea.
The Flower House | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
3. Step inside the Church of Santa Maria della Neve
Located in the historic city center of Sirmione, this church, which is also known as Santa Maria Maggiore Church, dates back to the 15th century.
Just inside, in the portico, is a column with a Roman milestone with a dedication to Emperor Julian the Apostate. The church is home to frescoes and a wooden statue of the Madonna.
Inside the Church of Santa Maria della Neve | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
PRO TRAVEL TIP: We spent two days in Sirmione in July and it was incredibly crowded. The parking lots fill up fast and the streets were congested with people. For the best experience, tour the town early or late in the day if you will be here during the busy summer months.
4. Cruise around the Sirmio Peninsula
One of the best things to do in Sirmione is to see it from the water. Taking a cruise around the peninsula is a wonderful way to view the entire peninsula and a great activity for a hot summer day.
Cruises typically last about 30 to 45 minutes to circle the peninsula, but you can also combine a cruise with other spots on Lake Garda, turning the excursion into a half or full day activity. Sunset cruises of the Sirmio peninsula are also quite popular.
Here are a few highly rated cruises to choose from:
5. Visit Jamaica Beach
Jamaica Beach is the tip of the Sirmio peninsula. This “beach” is made up of wide, smooth rocks…it’s not a sandy beach that one might expect.
Jamaica Beach | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
However, just inland from the rocky shoreline is a sandy beach that sits under cover of the trees. There are lounge chairs and tables here, as well as a few small restaurants/bars.
This is a great place to spend an afternoon, after touring the town.
Jamaica Beach is located on the tip of the Sirmio peninsula. From the city center, it is a 15 minute, mostly flat walk to get here.
6. Tour the Grotte de Cattulo
In the 1st century BC, a Roman villa was built on the Sirmio peninsula, not far from Jamaica Beach. It was occupied for several hundred years and then abandoned.
In the 15th century, excavations began and this site has been the subject of academic research since this time. The villa gets its name because one of Catullus’s poems describes his return to a villa in Sirmione.
This archaeological site covers 20,000 square meters (two hectares) and it takes about an hour to tour the site.
Grotte de Cattulo | Best Things to Do in Sirmione
Artifacts inside the Grotte de Cattulo museum.
Tickets cost €8 (€14 for a combined ticket with Scaligero Castle). Hours vary by day but most days of the week it is open from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm. Get updated hours and pricing on the official website before you go.
7. Church of San Pietro in Mavino
Just a short walk from Grotto de Cattulus is Sirmione’s oldest church. The bell tower dates back to 1070 and the frescoes on the interior of the church date back to the 12th to 16th centuries.
Church of San Pietro in Mavino | Best things to do in Sirmione
8. Relax in a Thermal Spa
Sirmione is home to many thermal baths. Sulphate rich water bubbles up from an underwater spring and the healing properties of this water provides relief from a wide variety of medical conditions. Some people travel to Sirmione in order to relax in these healing waters.
On the far end of the peninsula, there are numerous hotels that have access to a thermal bath. We stayed at one of these hotels, Hotel Olivi. If you don’t plan to stay in a hotel with a thermal spa, you can visit Aquaria Thermal Spa, which has indoor and outdoor thermal pools, steam baths, and a sauna.
9. Explore More of Lake Garda or Take a Day Trip
Sirmione makes a great place to stay if you plan to explore more of Lake Garda.
Most boat trips start in nearby Desenzano del Garda but the Lake Garda ferries do make a stop in Sirmione.
If you are exploring Lake Garda by car, Sirmione makes a handy home base. On day 1, you can explore the east side of the lake and on day 2, explore the west side of the lake.
There are also numerous day trips you can take from Sirmione:
Gardaland. If you are traveling with kids, this amusement park is just a 30-minute drive from Sirmione.
Verona. Verona is one of our favorite Italian cities. From Sirmione, it takes 45 minutes to drive here. Verona can easily be explored in one day. However, we like this city so much, that I honestly think it would be better to stay in Verona and day trip to Sirmione.
Madonna Della Corona. This beautiful church clings to the side of a mountain. From Sirmione, it is a one-hour drive to get here. Once here, you can either walk to the church (a steep, downhill walk that takes about 20 minutes, followed by a steep uphill walk back to your car) or ride one of the shuttle buses that runs from Spiazzi to the church.
Santuario Madonna della Corona
How Much Time Do You Need in Sirmione?
If you want to explore the city center, take a boat trip around the peninsula, and visit Grotto de Cattulus and Jamaica Beach, you will need almost one full day. If you just explored the city center (skipping the sights on the north end of the peninsula) a half day is all you need.
How to Get to Sirmione
The easiest way to get to Sirmione is to drive here. There are no train stations in Sirmione, due to its location on the peninsula.
If you are traveling through Italy by train, the closest train stations are in Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda. From here, you can take a taxi to Sirmione.
From Desenzano, if you are just planning on spending one day on Lake Garda, you can take a boat tour of Lake Garda that includes a visit to Sirmione.
It is also possible to get to Sirmione by bus. Learn more here.
Parking in Sirmione
Sirmione is closed to traffic in the historic city center, unless you are staying in one of the hotels on the peninsula.
There is a very large parking lot just south of Castle Scaligero and the city center. There is a small fee to park in this lot. Depending on when you get here, you could get a spot close to the castle or fairly far away, making your walking time up to 10 minutes to get to the city center.
If you cannot find a parking spot in this lot, there are other parking lots near the base of the peninsula. Learn more here.
This is the view of the parking area from Scaligero Castle.
Where to Stay in Sirmione
In Sirmione, you can stay in the city center, on the north end of the peninsula beyond the city center (in a hotel with a thermal spa), or south of the city center.
Since we stayed at a hotel north of the historic city center, we were permitted to drive through the city center. It sounds cool but it was not fun.
For one thing, the streets are very narrow. We had a small SUV and didn’t have any issues, but once you add in crowds of people, this becomes much more challenging. It was a stressful experience, slowly inching our way through the streets, as people stood up against the walls and in doorways so we could pass through. If I stayed in Sirmione again, I would not stay on the north end of the peninsula.
A car entering the city center of Sirmione.
We stayed at Hotel Olivi, which has a thermal spa. It is a 4-star hotel that looks and feels more like a 3-star hotel. The rooms are dated, the air conditioning barely worked, but the staff are friendly and helpful, the breakfast is good, and once you get past the drive to get here, it does have a tranquil location. Plus, from this hotel, it is a shorter walk to Jamaica Beach and Grotto de Cattulus.
If you like the idea of staying out on the far end of the peninsula, Villa Paradiso gets better reviews, although it does not have a pool or spa. And if you are looking for something more luxurious, check out Villa Cortine Palace Hotel.
In the city center, Castello Mavino has views of Castle Scaligero. Hotel Casa Scaligeri is a 3-star hotel that is one of the highest reviewed properties in Sirmione. And if you prefer staying in an apartment, take a look at San Lorenzo Apartments.
If you stay south of the city center, you can avoid driving through the city center. Hotel Vinci gets very good reviews and is a short walk from Castle Scaligero. Hotel Petit Du Lac and Casa dei Pescatori also get wonderful reviews.
The view of the Sirmio peninsula from our hotel room at Hotel Olivi.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sirmione worth it?
Sirmione, with its dramatic setting on the end of a peninsula, its medieval castle, and historic city center, is one of the loveliest towns on Lake Garda. It’s also one of the most popular towns to visit on the lake. During peak season, which is the summer months, expect BIG crowds, particularly midday. Parking can be a challenge. It’s well worth the visit, just be prepared for crowded city streets if you plan to visit between June and early September.
How do you get around Sirmione?
The best way to get around Sirmione is on foot. The city center is a car-free town, so you will have to park outside of the city center and walk in. The city center of Sirmione is small, flat, and easily walkable and can be explored in just an hour or two. If you plan to visit the sights on the northern end of the Sirmio peninsula, it is a 15-minute walk to get here.
Where are You Going Next?
LAKE GARDA: If you plan to spend more time at Lake Garda, read about the Best Things to Do in Lake Garda and our Guide to Riva del Garda,which is a town on the north end of Lake Garda. Learn how to plan your time with our Lake Garda Itinerary.
VERONA: Verona is a beautiful city just a short distance from Lake Garda. One day is all you need to visit the highlights.
VENICE: If you have plans to visit Venice, check out our 1 Day Venice Itinerary, 2 Day Venice Itinerary, and guide on Where to Stay in Venice.
DOLOMITES: We cover important things to know before you go and travel tips in our article How to Plan a Trip to the Dolomites. For ideas on what to do, read our article Best Things to Do in the Dolomites. Learn how to plan your time with our Dolomites Itinerary Travel Planner.
NORTHERN ITALY: Located in northern Italy, spend one day in Milan or learn how to day trip to Lake Como and Bellagio. This 10 day Italy Itinerary includes Venice, the Dolomites, Verona, Milan, and Lake Como with the option to add on Lake Garda.
MORE INFO ABOUT ITALY: For all of our articles about Italy, check out our Italy Travel Guide. We have several Italy itineraries to help you plan your trip as well as more information on Rome, Florence, Tuscany, the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, and Basilicata.
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