Top Things to Do in Lake Como
Are you planning a trip to Lake Como? With its beautiful landscapes and charming towns, it’s no wonder that Lake Como is a popular tourist destination. But how do you know where to start with so many things to see and do?
Lake Como is situated in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is famous for its crystal-clear waters, charming villages, and luxurious villas. For centuries, it has been a favoured retreat for artists, writers, and celebrities.
If you need help with what to do during your visit to Lake Como, look no further. We have compiled a list of the top things to do in this enchanting destination. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this Italian gem.
1. Explore Historic Towns
Nestled in the breathtaking region of Lake Como, Italy, you’ll find a cluster of historic towns that are sure to captivate your heart. Bellagio, Varenna, Como, Menaggio, and their neighbouring towns offer a unique glimpse into the region’s rich past, combined with picturesque landscapes and stunning lake views.
The must-visit towns in Lake Como:
Often referred to as the “Pearl of Lake Como,” Bellagio is one of the most popular towns in the area. Located at the tip of the peninsula, where the lake splits into two branches, Bellagio offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and the lake. The town is known for its elegant villas such as Villa Serbelloni, gardens, and narrow streets with shops and restaurants.
Read more: Things to do in Bellagio
Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Varenna is a picturesque fishing village that exudes charm and tranquillity. The town is characterised by its colourful houses, cobbled streets, and scenic waterfront promenade. You can explore the medieval centre, visit the Villa Monastero with its stunning botanical gardens, or relax at one of the lakeside cafes.
Read more: Top Things to Do in Varenna
As the largest town on Lake Como, Como is a vibrant city that combines history, culture, and natural beauty. The town is famous for its stunning cathedral, the Duomo di Como, and its charming old town with its medieval walls and narrow streets. You can also take a funicular up to Brunate for panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding area.
Read more: Como City Travel Guide
Located on the western shore of Lake Como, Menaggio is a bustling town with a lively atmosphere. It offers an excellent base for exploring the lake and the surrounding mountains. Menaggio has a beautiful lakeside promenade, a charming old town with narrow streets, and a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. The town is known for its golf course and proximity to the famous Villa Carlotta.
Situated on the western shore of Lake Como, Tremezzo is known for its luxurious villas and beautiful gardens. The most famous attraction in Tremezzo is the Villa Carlotta, a neoclassical villa surrounded by stunning botanical gardens. The town also offers a scenic lakeside promenade, charming cafes, and access to the Villa Balbianello, located on a nearby peninsula and often used as a movie filming location.
Read more: Best Towns to Visit in Lake Como
In summary, Lake Como’s historic towns offer a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether wandering through the cobbled streets of Bellagio, exploring the lush gardens of Varenna, immersing yourself in the historic centre of Como, or marvelling at the views from Menaggio, every corner of Lake Como has a story to tell. So, come and discover the timeless charm of these historic towns for yourself. Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of George Clooney, who famously fell in love with this enchanting destination.
- Consider using the ferry system to explore different towns around the lake. It's a scenic and convenient way to get around.
- Ask for a day pass if you are going to visit a few towns in a day such as Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio
2. Best Villas in Lake Como
Lake Como is renowned for its stunning villas that dot its shores, offering you the chance to enter a world of luxury and beauty. From the grandeur of Villa Carlotta to the tranquil gardens of Villa Melzi, these historic mansions provide a glimpse into the luxury and elegance of times gone by. Whether you explore the lush gardens, take a boat ride to the picturesque villas, or soak in the breathtaking views, visiting Lake Como’s villas is an unforgettable experience.
Villa del Balbianello
Villa del Balbianello is a stunning 18th-century villa located on the breathtaking shores of Lake Como. With its picturesque terraced gardens and panoramic views, it’s no wonder this Villa has become a popular destination for visitors worldwide.
Villa del Balbianello is known for its lush gardens and stunning architecture and holds a special place in Hollywood history. This exquisite Villa and nearby Villas have been a filming location for several movies, including “Oceans Twelve & Thirteen”, “Casino Royale” and “Star Wars.”
When visiting Villa del Balbianello, you will have the chance to explore the interior and exterior of this magnificent Villa. The 18th-century architecture and exquisite decor will glimpse a bygone Italian elegance and luxury era.
You can walk in the footsteps of movie stars, adding an extra allure to the Villa’s charm. You can imagine strolling through the beautiful gardens and experiencing the same views that captivated actors and directors while filming their blockbusters.
Whether you’re a fan of Hollywood movies or appreciate the beauty of historical architecture, a visit to Villa del Balbianello is worth taking. Soak up the breathtaking views, explore the stunning gardens, and create memories that will last a lifetime at this iconic location on Lake Como.
Official website: Villa Balbianello
Villa Carlotta is one of the grandest villas in Tremezzo, Lake Como. It is a true masterpiece that blends history, art, and nature. Originating in the 17th century, this stunning Villa is now a museum, showcasing its magnificent facade, lavishly decorated interiors, and vast botanical gardens.
What truly makes Villa Carlotta stand out is its expansive botanical gardens. Once owned by Princess Marianne of the Netherlands, the Villa is now a botanical paradise, housing themed gardens that display various botanical species. When visiting Villa Carlotta, you can explore the enchanting Italian gardens meticulously designed with flower beds, statues, and water features. The Japanese gardens offer a serene and peaceful landscape with traditional lanterns and bonsai trees.
To visit Villa Carlotta, you can take a day trip and enjoy ferry rides on Lake Como to reach the Villa. The nearby town centre Tremezzo offers convenient transportation options. A visit to Villa Carlotta is a must for those seeking stunning views, lush gardens, and a glimpse into the rich history of Lake Como.
Official website: Villa Carlotta
Nestled along the picturesque shores of Varenna Lake Como, Villa Monastero stands as a true gem among the region’s stunning villas and gardens. This Villa Offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and architectural grandeur; a historic landmark is a must-visit destination for a unique and enriching experience.
One of the highlights of Villa Monastero is its terraced gardens, offering you breathtaking viewpoints that showcase the mesmerising beauty of Lake Como. These lush and meticulously maintained gardens provide a tranquil oasis where one can relax and soak in the panoramic views of the lake and its surrounding mountains.
The Villa’s more formal garden features meticulously manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds, and elegant statues that complement the Villa’s period architecture. You can stroll through these gardens and genuinely appreciate the impressive craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into creating this stunning masterpiece.
In addition to the gardens, Villa Monastero allows visitors to explore its interior, offering a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the region. The Villa’s rooms are adorned with period furnishings and decor, transporting guests to a bygone era of luxury and elegance.
Whether you love nature, architecture, or history, Villa Monastero offers an unforgettable experience. Its terraced gardens, stunning viewpoints, formal garden arrangement, interior rooms, and period architecture all combine to make this a truly unique destination on the shores of Lake Como.
Official website: Villa Monastero
Situated on the picturesque shores of Bellagio Lake Como, Villa Melzi is an impressive private residence renowned for its stunning gardens. While the Villa itself is not accessible to the public, you can explore the remarkable landscaped terraces and lush gardens surrounding the property.
The highlight of the Villa Melzi gardens is undoubtedly the water garden, an oasis of tranquillity featuring exquisite sculptures, vibrant flowerbeds, and elegant fountains. The serene atmosphere of this area creates the perfect setting for a stroll or a moment of relaxation amidst nature’s beauty.
You can also discover the Melzi family chapel within the gardens, a hidden gem showcasing intricate artwork and religious artefacts. Additionally, the Orangery Museum offers a glimpse into the history and art of the Villa through its impressive collection of artefacts and paintings.
Visiting Villa Melzi’s gardens is an experience to be noticed during a trip to Lake Como. The harmonious blend of meticulously manicured landscapes and breathtaking lake views provides an enchanting backdrop for any visitor.
Official website: Villa Melzi
3. Rent a Boat in Lake Como
If you’re looking for a unique and adventurous way to explore Lake Como, renting a boat is an excellent option. You can experience it from the water with its stunning views and picturesque villages.
When it comes to boat rental in Lake Como, there are two options available:
- The first is to opt for a self-driving option, which allows you to navigate the lake at your own pace. The majority of the boats do not require any particular licence.
- Alternatively, you can choose to hire a boat with a captain. This option is ideal for those who want to sit back, relax, and truly take in the beauty of the lake. With a captain on board, you won’t have to worry about mooring the boat or navigating through busy areas, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking views of Lake Como fully.
Regarding pricing, boat rentals in Lake Como can vary depending on the size and type of boat and the rental duration. On average, prices can range from €100 to €500 per hour. It’s important to remember that rental rates may be higher during peak summer months.
So, whether you prefer the adventure of self-driving or the ease of having a captain, renting a boat in Lake Como is a fantastic way to explore this stunning destination.
Take a look at these highly rated private boat hire that we have found:
4. Experience wine tasting in Lake Como
One of the best things to do in Lake Como is wine tasting. As part of the Lombardy wine region, Lake Como offers a wide variety of grape varieties and an exquisite wine culture.
There are several options available for the wine-tasting experience. You can book tours that combine boat trips on the lake with visits to scenic vineyards and wineries. These tours showcase the beauty of Lake Como’s surroundings and offer the opportunity to taste the region’s finest wines.
Take a look at this highly rated tour with a wine-tasting experience:
Wine tasting in Lake Como
Alternatively, you can visit local wineries and vineyards by land, where you can learn about the winemaking process and indulge in tastings.
Whether you’re tasting wines on a boat trip or visiting wineries on land, you will be delighted by the diverse selection of wines available in Lake Como. From crisp whites to full-bodied reds, something suits every palate.
So, if you are visiting Lake Como, add wine tasting to your list of activities. Immerse yourself in the region’s beauty while savouring the flavours of Lombardy’s exquisite wines. It’s an experience that should not be missed.
We highly recommend covering Fashion Capital Milan during your trip to Lake Como as they are located in the same region and only 1-hour drive away.
See this guide for the Top Things to do in Milan
5. Enjoy Local Food & Cooking Classes
Lake Como offers a delightful array of culinary experiences that perfectly complement its natural beauty. From cosy lakeside trattorias to upscale Michelin-starred restaurants, this area of Italy is a haven for food lovers. Local cuisine in Lake Como is renowned for its simplicity and emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients.
One of the must-try traditional dishes in Lake Como is the delectable risotto with perch fish and missoltini. This speciality dish showcases the rich flavours of the region and offers an authentic taste of the local cuisine. The plate features a creamy white risotto prepared with fresh perch fish, bringing a unique and delicate flavour. The perch is locally sourced from the turquoise waters of Lake Como, ensuring the newest and most authentic taste. But what truly sets this dish apart is the addition of missoltini – a type of dried lake shad. This ingredient adds a distinct smoky and savoury flavour that perfectly complements the creamy risotto – Delicious!
If you want to enhance your culinary skills, Lake Como also offers a variety of cooking classes. You can learn to prepare authentic Italian dishes from knowledgeable chefs who will guide you through the region’s culinary traditions. From homemade pasta to delectable desserts, these classes provide a hands-on experience that will leave you with new skills and a satisfied palate.
Whether you dine in a charming lakeside village or participate in a cooking class, Lake Como will delight your taste buds with its rich culinary offerings. So embark on a culinary adventure and savour the flavours of this enchanting region. Buon Appetito!
Want to try out a few places, from historic eateries to modern restaurants, whilst mingling with the locales and learning about Lake Como's food?
This Walking Food Tour is worth considering.
6. Mountain Climbing and Hiking
Lake Como is a paradise for nature enthusiasts with its stunning views and lush gardens. While the lake is a popular destination for boat rides, water sports, and lakeside promenades, the surrounding mountains offer a different kind of adventure. Suppose you are seeking a thrilling mountain climb and hiking experience. In that case, Lake Como offers trails that lead up to the Grigne Mountains. These majestic peaks provide breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding landscapes. Alternatively, you can head up to Mount Grona, which offers panoramic views of the lake and the Alps.
The Sacred Mount of Ossuccio in Ossuccio Lake Como is a testament to its religious and artistic heritage. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mount is a spiritual oasis that attracts visitors worldwide.
The highlight of the Sacred Mount of Ossuccio is its magnificent avenue, flanked by 14 baroque chapels. As you stroll along the cobbled pathway, you’ll be captivated by the exquisite artwork displayed within these chapels. With 230 human-sized statues, each chapel depicts an episode from Christ’s life, offering a visual narrative that is both stunning and thought-provoking.
Whether you are an experienced hiker or a beginner, exploring the mountains around Lake Como is a must-do activity for adventure and stunning natural beauty.
7. Enjoy Water Sports
Lake Como is the perfect destination for you if you’re a water sports enthusiast. With its crystal-clear waters and breathtaking views, the lake offers many activities to enjoy.
Sailboarding is a popular option for those who love the combination of sailing and surfing. Lake Como’s strong winds make it an ideal spot for windsurfing too. Whether a beginner or an expert, you can experience the thrill of gliding over the water and feeling the wind on your face.
If you’re seeking a more intense adventure, kiteboarding is a must-try. This exhilarating sport combines aspects of wakeboarding, windsurfing, and paragliding, allowing you to ride the waves while being propelled by a kite.
Rowing is a peaceful and calming activity that allows you to explore the lake at your own pace. You can rent a rowboat and leisurely row around, enjoying the stunning views and tranquillity of the surroundings.
Other water sports available in Lake Como include canyoning, wakeboarding, diving, and fishing. Canyoning involves traversing canyons using various techniques such as hiking, climbing, abseiling, and swimming.
Feeling adventurous? Why not try out this Kayaking tour with fantastic lake and Alps views.
And, if you’re a fishing enthusiast, try your luck in the lake’s waters. With its abundance of fish species, Lake Como offers a great opportunity to reel in a big catch.
No matter what water sports you prefer, Lake Como has something for everyone. Whether you’re seeking excitement and adrenaline or a peaceful and relaxing experience, you’ll find it on the beautiful waters of Lake Como.
8. Beaches & Swimming
Lake Como offers a plethora of activities and attractions for you to enjoy. One of the highlights of a visit to this stunning destination is its beautiful beaches and opportunities for swimming.
Varenna and Bellagio are two charming towns with incredible waterfronts and public beaches. They are perfect spots to relax and soak up the sun. Whether you prefer to lounge on the sand or take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Como, these beach towns provide an idyllic setting for a day by the lake. With their picturesque surroundings and tranquil atmosphere, Varenna and Bellagio offer the perfect escape for beach lovers and water enthusiasts alike.
One exhilarating experience you should not miss in the Bregaglia Valley is swimming at the Acquafraggia Waterfall. With a staggering height of over 1800m, this natural wonder is in a stunning nature reserve surrounded by the majestic Alps. Upon reaching the waterfall, its powerful cascades create clear pools that offer a refreshing escape from the summer heat.
In summary, Lake Como is the ideal destination for swimming and beach lovers. Whether you choose to relax on its public beaches, take a plunge into the lake’s crystal-clear waters or swim at the awe-inspiring Acquafraggia Waterfall, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a refreshing dip in this stunning part of Italy.
9. Relax and Unwind
Finally, Lake Como is the perfect place to unwind and embrace the slower pace of life. Find a cosy lakeside spot, enjoy a picnic or a good book, and soak in the calmness and natural beauty surrounding you. Let the spectacular views and peaceful atmosphere rejuvenate you!
Whether planning a short visit or an extended vacation, the time you need in Lake Como can vary depending on the experiences you wish to have and the places you want to explore. Let’s break down the options for your perfect Lake Como getaway:
Day trip (worthwhile)
A day trip to Lake Como is worthwhile if you have limited time and are visiting from a nearby city like Milan or Bergamo. You can focus on visiting one or two towns, like Bellagio or Varenna, rather than exploring the entire lake. Take a ferry ride to enjoy the scenic views and walk along the lake’s promenade. However, remember that a day trip only provides a glimpse of Lake Como’s beauty, so it’s better to plan a longer stay if possible.
Weekend Getaway (sufficient for most)
A weekend in Lake Como allows for a peaceful experience and the opportunity to explore a few towns in depth. You can choose accommodations by the lake and enjoy boat tours of attractions such as Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta. There is also time for sampling local cuisine and enjoying water activities like kayaking or paddle boarding.
Four to Five Days (perfect time to explore)
With a four to five-day stay in Lake Como, you can explore the popular towns and the lesser-known gems, such as Menaggio, Tremezzo, and Nesso. This duration provides a relaxed pace and allows for a full appreciation of the lake’s charm and cultural offerings.
One or more weeks (opportunity for excursions)
You can immerse yourself in the slow-paced Italian lifestyle for a week-long vacation or more and thoroughly experience Lake Como’s essence.
During your extended stay, you can participate in Italian language and cooking classes, enhancing your vacation experience. Additionally, consider visiting Milan, the romantic city of Verona, or the nearby Lake Lugano in Switzerland for some added variety.
Read more: Day trips from Lake Como
In summary, the ideal time to spend in Lake Como depends on your preferences and available time.
One of the most important decisions when planning a trip to Lake Como is where to stay. Luckily, this stunning destination offers a range of options to suit every traveller’s needs. From luxurious hotels to charming villas and comfortable apartments, Lake Como has it all.
Como City is an excellent choice if you prefer the convenience of being in the heart of the action with great nightlife. You’ll find various hotels here, from budget-friendly options to upscale accommodations with breathtaking lake views. The city is also conveniently located near train stations and attractions like the Duomo di Como.
For convenient sightseeing, staying in any Golden Triangle locations – Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna – is recommended.
In addition, for those looking for a more exclusive and luxurious experience, Bellagio offers many villas. These villas have stunning lake views and comfortable amenities like swimming pools, lush gardens, terraces, and private boat docks.
Varenna is the perfect spot to stay for those who prefer a peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a charming village located on the eastern shore of Lake Como with many beautiful hotels, restaurants, shops, and cafes.
To begin the hotel booking process, it is essential to check rates and availability. This can be done online through various travel websites or by contacting the preferred hotel directly.
Whether seeking luxury or affordability, Lake Como has a wide range of hotels to choose from. Don’t forget to explore the diverse tours and activities available to make the most of your visit to this stunning destination.
Getting to Lake Como is relatively straightforward. The most convenient option for international travellers is to fly into Milan Malpensa or Bergamo airport.
When planning a visit to Lake Como, you can consider several transportation options. One convenient and reasonably priced option is the train. Direct connections from Milan airport to Como, Varenna, and Como Lago stations make it easy to reach the lake. The train journey offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Another option is renting a car, which provides more flexibility in exploring the area. However, it’s important to note that the roads around Lake Como can be busy, especially during the summer months. If you choose to drive, be prepared for heavy traffic.
For those who prefer a hassle-free experience, joining an organised tour is a great option. You can join tours from Milan or the main villages surrounding Lake Como. They often include transportation, guided visits to the most popular attractions, such as Villa Carlotta, Villa Melzi, and Villa Balbianello, and boat rides on the lake.
Whether you travel by train, car, or organised tour, visiting Lake Como is an unforgettable experience. With its stunning views, lush gardens, and beautiful villas, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Getting around Lake Como is a breeze with the various modes of transportation available. One of the most popular ways to explore the lake is by taking advantage of the ferry services. Ferries run regularly throughout the day, stopping at the charming villages and towns along the lake’s shores. You can then quickly hop on and off at different destinations.
Buses are also a convenient option if you prefer to travel by land. Local buses run frequently, providing access to the smaller towns and attractions around Lake Como. However, note that they can extend travelling times to your destination.
You can also take your car around Lake Como to see specific towns and locations, which gives you flexibility. However, the narrow streets and limited parking options can make driving around the lake challenging. It’s advisable to check road conditions and be prepared for limited parking availability in some areas.
The best time to visit Lake Como is from May to September, when the weather is pleasantly warm, and most attractions are open to the public. These months offer the ideal conditions to explore the stunning views and lush gardens that Lake Como’s villas are known for. Although note, the summer months of July and August tend to be the hottest, so it is advisable to check for accommodations with air-conditioning if travelling during that time.
Planning your visit during the shoulder months of April to early May and late September to October is recommended to avoid crowds or if you prefer cooler weather. During this time, you can enjoy the beautiful gardens and charming village without the influx of tourists.
For something extra special, Lake Como becomes a beautiful, serene wonderland in winter. The surrounding Alpine peaks are covered in snow, creating a stunning backdrop for the lake. The lakeside towns, usually crowded with tourists in the warmer months, become peaceful and intimate, allowing visitors to experience an authentic Italian atmosphere.
With its panoramic views, boat rides, and lakeside promenades, Lake Como remains a popular destination all year round.