Malcesine’s most prominent landmark is the Castello Scaligero, which has 13th-century fortifications and an older medieval tower in white natural stone. Like the castle of Sirmione at the southern end of the lake, it is named for the della Scala family of Verona who ruled the region in the 13th and 14th centuries, and has the characteristic swallow-tail Ghibelline merlon crenallations. Remnants of an Etruscan tomb have been found within the castle walls. Most of the structures visible today date to the period of the della Scala. The bell of the castle was cast in 1442 and it is still in service.
In September 1786, Johann Wolfgang Goethe was questioned by the local magistrate on suspicion of being an Austrian spy after drawing sketches of the castle, and recalled the incident in his published travel report Italienische Reise (Italian Journey). During the period of Austrian rule, which ended in 1866 after the Third Italian War of Independence, major renovation work took place inside the castle. The Austrians turned it into a military garrison and the munition store they constructed was later used by the Guardia di Finanza of the Kingdom of Italy as a prison. Since 1902, the castle has been a national monument.
Today, the castle contains a small museum on the natural history of Lake Garda (Museo del Garda) and Monte Baldo (Museo del Baldo). One room in the Austrian powder magazine is dedicated to Goethe and his visit.