best lakes in europe

Best Lakes In Europe: The Ultimate Guide

After an adventure fuelled winter holiday, where you conquered the mountains with your epic skiing or boarding skills, you probably dream and long for the next winter to come round quickly. But don’t wish away your summer break, it doesn’t have to be a dull, lazy week sitting by a pool or at the beach for six days straight. We thought the best way to combat the winter blues and have something to look forward to during the summer months, is to find a way to combine water, sports and adventure. Of course, that means exploring the best lakes in Europe. 

Once you get searching, you realise that the potential of lakeside destinations is as vast as ski resorts, so to make things a little easier, we narrowed down some of our favourites. 

best lakes in Europe

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These lakeside destinations genuinely have it all; the surroundings and landscapes are something out of fairytales with vast lakes, quaint towns and snow-capped mountains.

There are the adventure fuelled ones, such as in Finland and Slovenia, where you can do everything from swimming to scuba diving.

There are the glamorous towns in the Italian lakes and unique geographical wonders in Croatia. Either way, these lakeside holiday destinations will make you forget about your all-inclusive to Greece and book one of these secret wonders.

Best Lakes In Europe - Quick Find Navigation

Lake Garda, Italy

Lake Garda

Airport

Verona

Hotel

€€

Food

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Get To Know Lake Garda

What sports are available on the lake:

Wakeboarding, paraskiing, waterskiing, windsurfing, swimming, sailing, canoeing, kitesurfing

Lake Garda is a large lake surrounded by an abundance of beautiful, picturesque and vibrant towns, it makes it difficult to choose just one. Whichever you choose, there is a general theme throughout the lakeside spots,  of sophisticated Italian style and action-packed fun. You can spend the warm evenings strolling the old streets of Riva or Bardolino, and have an incredible plate of pasta, with wine from the local mountains of the Dolomites. Or you can hit the lakeside bars and drink beers on the beach with the chilled windsurfing crowd. Either way, Lake Garda will make you fall in love with lake holidays, and you definitely won’t miss the sea.

To burn off the calories from eating and drinking like an Italian royalty, you can take part in a long list of watersports that will be sure to keep you occupied every day of the week. Then, if you need a break from the glare of the sun on the water, you can hire a road bike and tour around the lake, or hit the surrounding mountains with a mountain bike or your hiking boots.

Ridestore recommends:

Take an evening boat tour to another town on the other side of the lake to experience the different vibe.

Hallstatt, Austia

Austria-Hallsatt

Airport

Salzburg

Hotel

€€

Food

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Get To Know Hallstatt

What sports are available on the lake:

Rafting, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, diving

Hallstatt and its historic town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its long history in salt mining. The town itself is absolute Instagram #goals with rustic alpine-esque buildings lining the calm lake, with a snowy mountain backdrop. In true Austrian style, there is an alpine feel to Hallstatt, so you can imagine spending your days and nights enjoying good beer and hearty meals.

In the summer, the temperatures are definitely at tanning potential but you don’t spend your time in Hallstatt sunbathing, instead, you spend your time hiking in the mountains nearby and making the most of the watersports on offer. There is less of a focus on windsurfing but more on canoeing and rafting, which is a great way to explore the lake. 

Ridestore recommends:

To get a full birds-eye view of the incredible surroundings, get up high on a paragliding trip.  

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Airport

Ljubljana

Hotel

Food

Get To Know Lake Bled

What sports are available on the lake:

Canyoning, rafting, canoeing, scuba diving, kayaking, tubing, rowing. 

Lake Bled is a fairytale destination that combines a magnificent lake, dramatic mountain range and historic buildings to create a magical wonderland. There is even an island in the middle of the lake that is definitely worth a visit, which houses a gothic style church, in which you can explore and learn about the history of the area. Once you have wandered the old streets and, tried the traditional Slovenian cuisine and local pastries, you will be ready to get your adventure on! 

Lake Bled offers an impressive amount of activities, each one as exciting as the next, from kayaking in caves to shooting down waterfalls whilst canyoning. You will be so exhausted after all the activities and watersports, that you may be too tired to try out some of the great nightlife on offer. 

Ridestore recommends:

Black hole kayaking is kayaking excursions exploring the incredible ‘Black Hole’ mines that surround the lake.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Airport

Zagreb

Hotel

Food

Get To Know Plitvice Lakes National Park

What sports are available on the lake:

No watersports as it is a Heritage site, the main activity is hiking through the lakes. 

Plitvice Lakes is a unique choice for lakes and activity holiday, but this is what makes it so special and perhaps less hectic than some of the other top tourist spots. The national park is made up of 16 lakes all connected, and together create a breathtaking site of turquoise and emerald green colours, that will be like nothing you will have ever seen before. The lakes are surrounded by a backdrop of forest and mystical waterfalls, which create an almost tropical vibe. You explore the lakes by walking on the boardwalks that connect the lakes together, where you can choose from lots of different routes and cover up to 18km.

You can also get shuttle boats that can make this experience a little more leisurely, and still see incredible waterfalls and interesting geography. 

Ridestore recommends:

This can be part of a bigger Croatia trip where you explore Zagreb and the nearby Lake of Krka, to swim and relax. 

Päijänne, Finland

Päijänne, Finland

Airport

Jyväskylä

Hotel

€€

Food

€€€

Get To Know Päijänne

What sports are available on the lake:

Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, waterskiing, tubing and paddleboarding

The Päijänne Lakes in Southern Finland is the biggest lake district in Europe with over 200,000 lakes, rivers and canals, a true geographical wonder. The Lake Päijänne is the largest lake in the region and will be your new go-to destination for water sports, sunbathing and long summer days. You could quite easily spend your whole summer here, camping on the sandy beaches or renting a lakeside hut, to use as your base to explore the incredible region. 

The water is clean, safe and refreshing so it is perfect for swimming and trying out all the activities on offer. But make sure you also spend a day on a boat tour to see the other islands, lakes and rivers. 

Ridestore recommends:

Stay in one of the many beach campsites, where you sleep under the stars and enjoy long evenings around a campfire. 

Lake Windermere, UK

Lake Windermere

Airport

Manchester City

Hotel

€€€

Food

€€

Get To Know Lake Windermere

What sports are available on the lake:

Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing

Lake Windermere is just one of the many lakes that make up the famous Lake District in the North West of the UK. The Lake District is a beautiful part of the world and a must-visit destination if you are visiting the UK, with lakes of all sizes surrounded by rolling hills and cute villages. Lake Windermere, in particular, is famous for its vibrant town of Ambleside which is where you should base yourself on your visit, and stay in one of the many beautiful B&B’s that are built with slate, distinctive of the area. Ambleside is a bustling town full great pubs to enjoy a refreshing beer after an activity fuelled day.

Windermere offers a whole range of watersports from kayaking to sailing, so you will be sure to never get bored. Typical with the UK, the summer weather may take a sudden turn, so in that case, put on your walking boots and go hiking on one of the many trails and see a birds-eye view of the impressive landscape. 

Ridestore recommends:

There are many tree adventure parks in the local forests which make for an adrenaline-fuelled day out. 

Lake Constance, Germany

Lake Constance

Airport

Friedrichshafen

Hotel

Food

€€

Get To Know Lake Constance

What sports are available on the lake:

Sailing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, swimming, diving, canoeing

Lake Constance is one of the largest lakes in Europe and spans across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with the largest shoreline is in Germany. As the lake is so big, you have a huge amount of choice of lakeside villages and towns, but if you are looking for a mixture between summer holiday and city break then staying in the town of Constance has it all.

The beauty of this Central European lake is the alpine backdrop and medieval village, with almost tropical weather, which seems to make the perfect combination. Constance can also cater to your many vibes, whether that be one evening enjoying the sophistication of a fresh fish dinner and local wine tour or a bavarian style fondue and beer party- we like a place that can do both. 

On the lake, there are plenty of activities such as sailing and windsurfing, which will keep you occupied for days on end. But of course, make sure to take a cruise to go explore the many islands on the lake and other surrounding villages.  

Ridestore recommends:

If you are wanting to explore the whole of the area, book a week-long cycling trip around the whole of the lake- you can book tours that have boat trips and your B&B’s included. 

Lake Annecy, France

Lake Annecy

Airport

Chambery

Hotel

Food

€€€

Get To Know Lake Annecy

What sports are available on the lake:

Sailing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, diving, canoeing, rowing, wakeboarding 

In the dark winter months driving from Geneva to the French Alps, excited for your winter break, you will probably miss the picturesque Annecy and its stunning lake. If you head back that way in the summer, you will be in awe of what the lake Annecy and its old charming town have to offer. The town of Annecy is referred to as the Venice of the Alps because of the canals and waterways that run through the centre and the buildings built right up to the riverbank. The architecture dates back to the middle ages, with narrow streets and colourful buildings, oozing a very alpine vibe. 

For those who are in the know, Annecy is the perfect base for wanting to mountain bike and hike in the French Alps in the summer,  but don’t forget to cool down in the lake and enjoy the many watersports that are available. 

Ridestore recommends:

Visit the nearby Gorge Du Fier, which is an impressive gorge between two vertical rock faces. 

Loch Ness, Scotland

Loch Ness

Airport

Inverness / Aberdeen

Hotel

€€

Food

€€

Get To Know Loch Ness

What sports are available on the lake:

Canoeing, paddle boarding, rafting, kayaking

Loch Ness is the famous lake in North East Scotland nestled into the Scottish Highlands. Scotland is often overlooked as a summer destination, which is probably due to the weather, but if you make sure to pack some warm clothes and a rain jacket, then you will be in awe of what Scotland has to offer. Loch Ness is famed for its Loch Ness monster stories, but don’t let the tales scare you from the action-packed activities on offer. For those who are brave enough to tackle old Nessie and the shiveringly cold temperatures of the lake, they can enjoy canoeing, paddleboarding and for the adrenaline-junkies, they must try white water rafting in the nearby River Garry. 

Visitors fall in love with Scotland, for its charming traditions and interesting cuisine, and the lovely locals who will provide a friendly atmosphere, ensuring a very casual and laid back summer holiday. 

Ridestore recommends:

There are evening boat cruises where you can explore the lake, whilst winding down watching the sunset over the mountains. 

best lakes in Europe

After learning more about the exceptional offerings of a lakeside holiday, we are absolutely hooked. There are an incredible amount of activities that are available, from hiking in the mountains to canyoning down waterfalls, all within one destination, which is something that a seaside resort doesn’t always have.

Plus, after a long day of water sports and exploring, the local lakeside towns make for exciting bases. The towns are all drenched in history and culture, with tiny cobbled streets and medieval churches on built on sand islands. After a trip to one of these lakes, we have a feeling that our summer holidays will never be the same again. 

best lakes in europe

PS

Hey Riders, note from your gal Angelica here. All information was correct at the time of writing through research and extensive knowledge and experience. However, things change during different periods in the season and some websites offer out of date information and links may change.

Maybe you have some better information to offer or any addendum or changes to make, in which case, feel free to email me on angelica@ridestore.com, and we can consider adding them in! Let me know. . .

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