Lake Como: Top Attractions in Varenna
Looking for a picturesque destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural charm? Look no further than Varenna. Nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Como in Italy, this enchanting town is a gem that should not be missed.
Varenna is a small, picturesque village that exudes old-world charm and tranquillity. Its more famous neighbours, such as Bellagio and Como, often overshadow it. However, those who venture to Varenna are rewarded with stunning views, historic architecture, and a laid-back atmosphere that is hard to find elsewhere.
If you are planning a trip to Varenna, it’s essential to know the top things to do to make the most of your visit. Whether you are a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Varenna has it all.
On this page:
1. Experience the Breathtaking Beauty of Varenna Waterfront
Located in the heart of Varenna, the Varenna Waterfront is this picturesque town’s bustling hub of activity. Its trio of charming spots – Riva Garibaldi, Riva Grande, and Vecchio Porto – offers a delightful experience for all everyone.
Riva Garibaldi, the main waterfront promenade, is the perfect place to take a stroll while enjoying the stunning views of Lake Como. Lined with vibrant cafes, cosy restaurants, and tempting gelaterias, it is the ideal spot to relax and savour the local cuisine.
If you’re in the mood for adventure, head to Riva Grande. Here, you can rent kayaks or hire a boat for a scenic lake tour, allowing you to explore the beauty of Lake Como at your own pace. The crystal-clear waters beckon, inviting you to immerse yourself in the tranquillity of this enchanting destination.
Don’t miss Vecchio Porto, the oldest port in Varenna. This picturesque spot offers a glimpse into the town’s rich history. The well-preserved architecture and the old fishing boats create a unique and nostalgic atmosphere.
Whether you’re looking for a place to unwind, indulge in culinary delights, or embark on a thrilling adventure, the Varenna Waterfront has it all. So, grab a gelato, sit back, and soak in the beauty of this charming lakeside town.
Want added convenience whilst covering the top attractions? This highly rated day tour covers Varenna as well as other key locations including Bellagio and Como
2. Take a Romantic Stroll along Lover’s Walk, Passeggiata Degli Innamorati
Are you ready for a romantic stroll along the beautiful shores of Lake Como? Then it’s time to walk the Passeggiata Degli Innamorati, also known as Lover’s Walk, in the charming town of Varenna. One of the most unique sights you can experience is the red and heart-shaped fences lining the shoreline. Lover’s Walk is also convenient for connecting the ferry harbour with the old town and Riva Garibaldi.
As you meander along the lakeshore, hand in hand with your loved one, you’ll be swept away by the tranquillity and beauty that surrounds you. The gentle lapping of the waves, the scent of the fresh lake air, and the mesmerising views of the sparkling water will create an unforgettable experience.
During your stroll, make sure to indulge in some local gelato. Treat yourself to a delicious scoop of creamy goodness and savour each bite as you continue your walk. Combining the gelato’s sweetness and the serene ambience of Lover’s Walk will surely put you in bliss.
Remember that during peak season, Lover’s Walk can get quite busy. But don’t let that discourage you. The stunning scenery and the romantic atmosphere are well worth the potential crowds. So put on your most comfortable shoes, grab your partner’s hand, and embark on a journey of love and beauty along the Passeggiata Degli Innamorati in Varenna.
3. Discover the Enchanting Beauty of Villa Monastero!
Villa Monastero is a historic mansion that offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. As you step inside, you’ll find yourself transported back in time, surrounded by the elegant furnishings and charming decor of its rooms. This house museum allows you to explore the rich history and culture of the region while admiring the stunning architecture that has stood the test of time. Admire the exquisite frescoes, the ornate ceilings, and the beautiful period furniture. Each corner of the villa tells a story, and you can almost feel the echoes of its past.
Worth noting that Villa Monastero is more than just a museum and has a conference centre hosting various events and gatherings throughout the year. Its beautiful setting and tranquil atmosphere make it an ideal venue for conferences, workshops, and weddings.
One of the highlights of Villa Monastero is its breathtaking Botanical Garden. This expansive garden stretches nearly 2 kilometres along the lakefront, offering a peaceful sanctuary filled with various specimens of rare native and exotic tree species. In addition, its terraced gardens, which feature an array of flowers and plants, create a picturesque landscape that will take your breath away.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or want to enjoy some peace away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Villa Monastero’s Botanical Garden will offer you just that. So make sure to add it to your itinerary during your visit to Varenna!
Official website here: Villa Monastero
4. Stay in Hotel Villa Cipressi
If you’re looking for a luxurious and enchanting getaway in Varenna, Villa Cipressi is the perfect destination. This 4-star hotel is near the town centre, offering convenient access to the charming streets and breathtaking views of Lake Como.
But what truly sets Villa Cipressi apart is its extensive terraced gardens that reach the shores of the lake. These stunning gardens are a sight to behold, with picturesque pathways, vibrant flowers, and lush greenery. As you wander the terraces, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the sparkling waters and surrounding mountains.
Even if you’re not staying at Villa Cipressi, you can still experience the magic of these gardens by purchasing a ticket. You can explore the Villa Cipressi gardens and enter the nearby Villa Monastero gardens. It’s an excellent value and an opportunity to soak in the beauty and tranquillity of these magnificent landscapes.
So whether you’re a guest at the hotel or simply a visitor passing through Varenna, take advantage of the chance to immerse yourself in the splendour of Villa Cipressi’s terraced gardens. It’s a true oasis of serenity and natural beauty that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.
Official website here: Villa Cipressi
5. Visit Castello di Vezio (Vezio Castle or Haunted Castle)
When visiting Varenna, take some time to visit the historic Castello di Vezio, also known as Vezio Castle. This medieval fortress is perched high above the charming town and offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. One lesser-known part of this history is that it has been home to a castle known for its hauntingly beautiful ghost stories.
Once inside the castle, you can explore its fascinating underground tunnels and learn about its rich history. Its exposed towers and surrounding walls also provide a great view of Varenna and Lake Como. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning landscape!
One of the highlights of visiting Vezio Castle (in peak season only) is witnessing a mesmerising falconry show, where trained birds of prey perform impressive aerial displays.
If you’re visiting this castle in Varenna with children, there are several activities for kids, such as a mini maze and a secret treasure hunt. Kids can also explore the ancient ruins and learn all about the castle’s long and exciting history. There are plenty of photo opportunities for families and a playground and picnic area.
See more things to do in Lake Como with kids.
To reach the castle, you have two options. The first is to stroll from Varenna Harbor, which will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes along cobblestone paths. This scenic walk allows you to soak in the beauty of the town as you make your way up the hillside.
You can also drive up to the castle, as a parking area is available. Just be prepared for a narrow and winding road on the way up.
A visit to Castello di Vezio is a must for anyone seeking stunning views of Lake Como and a glimpse into its medieval past.
6. Explore the Old Town Centre of Varenna
Wander through Varenna’s old town centre, and you’ll be transported to a charming world filled with narrow alleys, colourful houses, and well-preserved medieval architecture. This picturesque town on the eastern shore of Lake Como is a must-visit destination for its captivating beauty and historic charm.
As you stroll along the cobblestone streets, admire the colourful houses adorned with vibrant flowers, bringing a sense of warmth and cheer to the already enchanting surroundings. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow alleys, each turn revealing a new delightful sight. Plus, you’ll find plenty of shops and cafes where you can take a break and enjoy a cup of Italian coffee or gelato.
Before you leave, visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a Romanesque gem dating back to the 11th century. Step inside and marvel at its beautiful frescoes and ornate decorations. Take a moment to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and appreciate this church’s centuries of history.
7. Visit the Church of San Giorgio
Visiting the Church of San Giorgio in Varenna is essential for anyone exploring this enchanting town. This historic church dates back to the 14th century and is a gem in Varenna’s charming streets.
The Church of San Giorgio has a captivating blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with an impressive bell tower. Inside are beautiful frescoes, stone carvings, stained glass windows, an ornate altar, and intricate details on the columns and arches.
The Church of San Giorgio is a place of worship and an important cultural landmark for the local community. Various religious ceremonies and events are held here throughout the year, offering visitors a glimpse into Varenna’s vibrant traditions and heritage.
Whether you enjoy history or appreciate beautiful architecture, visiting the Church of San Giorgio is a must-do in Varenna. Take the time to soak in the peaceful atmosphere and marvel at the centuries-old craftsmanship that has stood the test of time.7
8. Take a Boat Tour of Lake Como
A boat tour of Lake Como is a must when visiting the charming town of Varenna or any town in Lake Como. This picturesque town, located on the eastern shore of Lake Como, offers stunning views and a serene atmosphere that can be best experienced from the water. You can choose from various boat tours catering to different preferences. In addition, most boat tours come with a knowledgeable guide who can provide interesting facts about the lake and towns.
This popular boat and luxury bus tour from Milan covers Bellagio (located across from Varenna) and Como. This is the perfect way to see three stunning locations in one day. The visit to Varenna can be exchanged for other areas, although we would highly recommend that you visit Varenna.
Alternatively, you can hire a boat with a captain and cover excursions to the famous Villas, including Villa Balbianello, Villa Carlotta or other famous attractions in Lake Como. In addition, you can enjoy a delicious lunch and cocktails on the boat while admiring the breathtaking views of Lake Como.
For an unforgettable experience, try a sailing experience with prosecco, swim in the clear water and sunset views of Lake Como. Watch the town lights twinkle against the dark lake waters and enjoy dinner on board under a starry sky.
No matter your boat tour, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring this breathtaking region by water.
9. Varenna Beaches and Kayaking
Remember to pack your swimwear and adventurous spirit when visiting the enchanting town of Varenna. This picturesque destination on Lake Como offers small rocky beaches where you can soak up the sun and take a refreshing dip in crystal-clear waters.
One popular spot is Lido di Varenna in Perledo, where you can relax on the shores and enjoy the beautiful views of the lake. This small rocky beach is where you can get sun loungers and umbrellas.
You can go to another ‘tiny’ beach (hidden gem) near the town centre – Spiaggia Beach. We found this location following other tourists when we visited last and could see many people swimming or observing the views.
If you’re looking for more than just lounging on the beach, why not try kayaking? Rent a kayak with this tour and explore the stunning lake shores at your own pace. Paddle along the coast, passing charming villas and taking in the breathtaking scenery. It’s a great way to get closer to nature and discover hidden corners of Lake Como.
So grab your sunscreen, towel, and sense of adventure, and make the most of Varenna’s beach and kayaking opportunities. Whether relaxing on the rocky shores or exploring the lake by kayak, you can create unforgettable memories in this idyllic Italian destination.
Below beaches near Varenna, including nearby towns:
10. Sentiero Del Viandante & Fiumelatte
Are you looking to explore the beautiful nature surrounding Varenna? Lace up your hiking boots and head out on the Sentiero Del Viandante. This stunning hiking trail takes you through picturesque landscapes and offers breathtaking views of Lake Como.
As you hike along the Sentiero Del Viandante, you’ll pass through lush forests, meandering streams, and peaceful countryside. After a few hours of hiking, you’ll reach Vezio Castle (one of the things to do in Varenna), an ancient fortress perched on a hilltop. Explore the castle’s underground tunnels, climb its towers, and enjoy panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
One of the trail’s highlights is the village of Fiumelatte, located south of Varenna. This charming village is named after the river Fiumelatte, which flows for a few months in the summer. It is known as the shortest river in Italy, and its name translates to “milk river” due to the white foam created by the fast flow of water.
This activity is a must-do for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water for the hike. And remember your camera to capture the stunning scenery along the way. So, grab your backpack, hit the trail, and immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of the Sentiero Del Viandante and Fiumelatte.
11. Take a Trip to Bellagio or Menaggio
Are you looking to explore more of Lake Como during your visit to Varenna? A day trip to Bellagio or Menaggio is a must! Both charming towns offer their unique attractions and are easily accessible from Varenna.
First up, let’s talk about Bellagio. The town of Bellagio is a picturesque town with narrow streets lined with charming boutiques and great restaurants. It’s no wonder that it’s a favourite among tourists! And the best part? The ferry ride from Varenna to Bellagio takes just 15 minutes and offers breathtaking lake views.
Once you arrive in Bellagio, explore its beautiful villas, enjoy the stunning views, and stroll along the lake shore. Enjoy the magnificent Villa Serbelloni and the elegant Villa Melzi with their lush gardens. And if you’re a fan of history, make sure to check out the 11th-century Basilica of San Giacomo.
If you have time, consider also visiting Menaggio. Located just a short ferry ride from Varenna, Menaggio is another charming town with unique attractions. Explore the beautiful promenade along the lake, browse through local shops, and indulge in delicious gelato.
So, hop on a ferry from Varenna and travel to Bellagio or Menaggio. You won’t be disappointed with the charming boutiques, great restaurants, and beautiful views that await you in these enchanting towns. Enjoy your day trip, and remember your camera to capture those unforgettable moments!
When planning your visit to Varenna, you may wonder how much time you need to truly experience this charming town on the shores of Lake Como. Varenna can be enjoyed in just a few hours, but it also has enough for a full day of exploration.
If you have limited time, you can easily spend a few hours wandering through the narrow streets, admiring the colourful houses, and enjoying the stunning lake views. You can visit attractions like Villa Monastero, Villa Cipressi, or the Botanical Gardens, each offering unique beauty. This day tour from milan covers the key attractions in lake como.
However, if you have a full day, you can delve deeper into Varenna’s history and culture. Stroll along the lake shore, explore the medieval Castle of Vezio, or hop on a ferry to explore nearby towns. Additionally, there are options for activities such as cooking classes, boat rides, or simply relaxing by the lake.
Ultimately, the duration of your visit will depend on your preferences and the activities you choose.
You’ll have plenty of options if you’re looking for the perfect place to stay in Varenna. The town on the shores of Lake Como provides a range of accommodation options to meet different preferences.
Popular choices are:
Hotel Du Lac is located on the shores of Lake Como and offers stunning views of the lake and the mountains. It has a terrace where you can enjoy breakfast or drinks in the evening.
Hotel Villa Cipressi is an elegant lakeside mansion with comfortable rooms and a stunning private garden that will take your breath away.
Hotel Olivedo is a cheerful yellow hotel conveniently located near the ferry terminal. Its prime location makes it easy to explore the surrounding area and embark on exciting day trips.
Hotel Royal Victoria is located on the shores of Lake Como and has stunning views of the lake and the mountains. This is one of the more luxurious hotels in Varenna.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll be treated to the beauty and charm of Varenna. So go ahead, find the perfect accommodation for your stay and get ready to immerse yourself in the magic of Lake Como.
Getting to this charming town is relatively easy, allowing you to explore its picturesque streets and stunning lake views.
With a tour
With a tour, exploring the stunning shores of Lake Como and the charming town of Varenna becomes even more enjoyable. Boat tours offer the perfect opportunity to relax and soak in the picturesque views this region is known for.
One of the most recommended tours is a full-day boat tour with a walking tour of Varenna. This tour lets you explore this beautiful town’s narrow streets and colourful houses. You’ll also get to indulge in a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, giving you a taste of the authentic flavours of Lake Como.
If you prefer the freedom and flexibility of driving, you can easily reach Varenna from Milan in just over an hour. The scenic roads will treat you to beautiful countryside views along the way. Once you arrive in Varenna, there are public parking spaces available for you to leave your car and start exploring. If you’re looking for a convenient parking spot near one of the top attractions, Villa Monastero, there is a recommended multi-storey car park nearby.
Getting to Varenna from Milan is a breeze with the direct train journey that takes a little over an hour. The train station Varenna-Esino is conveniently located close to the city centre. The most popular train carrier serving Varenna is Trenitalia. It’s a comfortable and hassle-free way to reach this picturesque town on the eastern shore of Lake Como. Plus, with Trenitalia, you can be sure of a smooth and reliable journey.
If you are already in Lake Como, you can travel by boat, and this is the perfect way to experience the beauty of Varenna and its stunning surroundings. Lake Como offers ferry services connecting Varenna to charming towns like Bellagio and Menaggio.
Regular fast ferry services make it easy to hop from one town to another, allowing you to explore the picturesque shores of Lake Como at your own pace. Taking a scenic boat tour of the lake is a fantastic way to enjoy beautiful views and capture memorable photos of this idyllic destination.
During the low season, you also have the option to take a car passenger ferry, which can be a convenient way to explore nearby towns and regions.
If you’re planning a trip to Lake Como and need help deciding between Varenna or Bellagio for your stay, here are a few factors to consider. First, consider the size of the towns. Varenna is a smaller and quieter town than the bustling and touristy Bellagio. Varenna might be your better choice if you prefer a laid-back and peaceful atmosphere.
Next, think about the availability of accommodations. Both towns offer a range of options, from luxury hotels to cosy bed and breakfasts. However, Bellagio tends to have more choices due to its popularity. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive selection of accommodations, Bellagio might be the way to go.
One of the great things about Lake Como is that both towns are easily accessible by ferry. So even if you choose to stay in Varenna, you can easily visit Bellagio and explore all it has to offer. Additionally, Varenna is the closer of the two towns to Milan, making it more convenient for those travelling from outside of Italy.
Overall, both towns offer a unique and memorable experience. Consider your preferences and budget to choose the right one for you!
Absolutely! Varenna is a gem nestled along the eastern shore of Lake Como, and it deserves a spot on your travel itinerary. This picturesque town exudes charm with its colourful houses, narrow streets, and stunning lake views.
One of the main reasons why Varenna is worth visiting is its array of cultural attractions. Villa Monastero, a 19th-century mansion turned museum, offers visitors the chance to explore its beautifully manicured gardens and admire the spectacular lake views. Vezio Castle, a medieval fortress perched on a hilltop, provides a glimpse into the region’s history with its underground tunnels and birds of prey demonstrations.
Another reason to visit Varenna is its convenient location. With its proximity to popular towns like Bellagio and Menaggio, you can easily hop on a ferry and explore the scenic surroundings. Varenna boasts a beautiful lakeshore promenade where you can take leisurely walks and enjoy the stunning vistas.
In conclusion, Varenna is worth visiting. Its picturesque charm, cultural attractions like Villa Monastero and Vezio Castle, and easy access to nearby towns make it an ideal destination for those seeking a truly unforgettable experience on Lake Como.
Are you looking for the perfect romantic getaway? Look no further than Varenna, a charming town nestled on the shores of Lake Como. With its picturesque waterfront, quaint old town centre, and breathtaking panoramic views, Varenna exudes a romantic atmosphere sweeping you off your feet.
The town’s proximity to other romantic destinations like Bellagio and Menaggio makes it an ideal base for exploring the region. Stroll along the Lover’s Walk and enjoy the stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Explore the beautiful villas of Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi, with their elegant gardens and stunning architecture that will transport you to another time.
For a truly magical experience, take a boat tour of Lake Como. Cruise along the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by the magnificent Alps and the charming towns dotting the shoreline. The peaceful atmosphere and breathtaking scenery will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Is Varenna a romantic town? Absolutely. Its idyllic setting, charming ambience, and wide array of romantic activities make it the perfect destination for couples seeking an unforgettable getaway.