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Lake Como is a picturesque and serene destination renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and luxurious charm. If you’re looking for things to do in Lake Como, this guide has all the answers.
Nestled in the foothills of the Italian Alps, just an hour away from Milan, this enchanting lake is surrounded by rolling hills, flourishing forests, and charming villages that exude old-world charm.
You’ll find the town of Como nestled in the southwestern tip of the magnificent Y-shaped Lake Como. Other popular destinations like Bellagio and Varenna are situated a little further north, where Lake Como’s two distinct branches become one.
With so much to do and plenty of spectawhcular sites to appreciate, it’s no surprise that so many locals and tourists make a trip from Milan to Lake Como. To make the most of your time in Lombardy, here are the best things to do in Lake Como.
Things to Do in Como City and Around
The city of Como, renowned for its stunning backdrop, is one that is steeped in history and culture. While the region is home to several beautiful towns, this city is an essential stop if you’re visiting Lake Como.
Explore the city’s rich history through its many museums and monuments, including the impressive Como Cathedral or Duomo. Or, simply take a stroll along the streets of Como’s Old Town. The city is also known for its excellent dining scene, with many restaurants serving traditional Lombardian cuisine and perfectly aged, traditionally crafted wines.
Visit the Como Cathedral (Duomo)
Constructed between the 14th and 18th centuries, Como Cathedral stands as a testament to the city’s cultural heritage and rich history. Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the magnificent Romanesque-Gothic church sits in the heart of Como.
While it serves as a Catholic cathedral today, day visitors are welcome to explore the structure’s striking facade, statues, and structures, as well as its impressive interior. The cathedral is made up of a series of chapels designed by architect Filippo Juvarra, each adorned with unique frescoes and sculptures.
For breathtaking views of the city, Lake Como, and the Italian Alps, you can climb to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. Don’t forget your camera!
Explore Como City’s Old Town
The best way to explore the history of Como is by wandering the streets of its Old Town. Situated between Lake Como and the remains of Porta Torre lies the oldest historical streets of Como. The cobblestone alleyways and centuries-old, family-run shops and restaurants are a sight to behold, and they’re the perfect spots to stop for a quick coffee.
Como’s historic center is where you’ll find most of its churches, museums, and other points of interest. While you’re there, make sure to visit Basilica di San Fedele, which is thought to be the first cathedral built in Como. This structure dates all the way back to the 11th century.
Take a walking tour of Como to experience the history and culture of the lakeside town up close.
Visit the Silk Museum of Como
You might be surprised to learn that silk plays an integral role in the economy of Como. In fact, around 25,000 people in this small city work in the silk industry.
It all started around the 6th century when silkworms were brought to Italy. It was decided that Mulberry trees would grow best around Lake Como, thanks to the ample water and fertile soils, and thus Como’s silk industry was born.
From the 6th century until today, the industry has grown tremendously. Como is now responsible for the production of around 70% of Europe’s silk. Silk produced in Como can be found in garments and accessories designed by the world’s top fashion houses like Versace, Armani, Hermès, Valentino, and Chanel.
The Museo della Seta Como, or Silk Museum of Como, houses historic equipment like looms and silk pieces, narrating the interesting history of silk in Italy. Anyone with a keen eye for textiles or an appreciation for history will love this experience.
Easily one of Como’s most charming villages, Brunate offers exquisite views of the region’s natural splendor. Known as the “Balcony of the Alps,” the town of Brunate is nestled on a plateau above the magnificent Lake Como.
Summer brings many tourists and locals who enjoy their sunny days between Brunate and Como City. The town of Brunate is dotted with luxurious villas boasting lush gardens, swimming pools, and unbeatable views.
Thanks to the view of the gorgeous lake surrounded by the city and the mountains, the village is a popular choice for international guests and wealthy families from Milan.
Brunate makes for a wonderful day trip from Como, all you have to do is hop on the funicular in Como, and you’ll arrive in under 10 minutes. Alternatively, take this half-day trip from Como to Brunate, which includes a funicular ride, lunch in a typical baita, and a boat trip on Lake Como.
Boat Trips/ Tours
Another fantastic way to experience the best of Lake Como is by taking boat tours from Lake Como’s towns. Lake excursions provide a stunning perspective of the towns dotted along the lake’s shores. From the glistening blue waters of Lake Como, you can take in the contrast of colors between the lush greenery of the Prealps and the terracotta roofs of Como.
Take a high-speed hydrofoil or a ferry from Como to neighboring towns along Lake Como’s coast and soak up some of the scenery as you travel. Alternatively, book a private boat tour on a speedboat or yacht for a more leisurely experience.
Want a more private experience? Enjoy Lake Como by renting (and captaining) a speedboat for three hours. You can explore the lake at your own pace, and you don’t need a special license.
Famous Lake Como Villas and the Western Side of Lake Como
The western shore of Italy’s Como Lake is arguably its most beautiful. At least, that’s what you’ll hear from locals and seasoned travelers to Lake Como. The region is celebrated for its rugged mountains, verdant forests, and glimmering blue waters that provide the perfect backdrop to the quaint towns along the shore.
Lake Como’s western shore boasts the famous Villa del Balbianello, Villa Carlotta, and the botanical gardens, among many other must-see attractions.
Villa Balbianello, Lenno
You might recognize Villa Balbianello from the Star Wars franchise. It was here in the hamlet of Lenno that scenes from Star Wars: Casino Royale and Attack of the Clones were filmed. Apart from being the perfect location to capture scenes from a sci-fi film, Villa Balbianello is used for private events such as parties and weddings.
You can take a guided tour of the villa’s interior, which features French and English furniture dating back to the 17th century. The villa also boasts ornate glass paintings and a collection of sculptures from around the world.
Book an entry ticket to Villa Balbianello to experience the charm of this 18th-century Italian mansion on the shore of Lake Como.
Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Carlotta is only a short distance from Villa del Balbianello, so it’s a great idea to see both of them in one day if you can. This stunning villa on the western shores of Lake Como is an incredible reflection of European architecture. However, Villa Carlotta is most renowned for the art collection it houses and its spectacular gardens.
Villa Carlotta’s botanical gardens are a must-see when visiting Lake Como. By purchasing an entry ticket, you’ll have access to Villa Carlotta, the botanical gardens, and the museum that holds a collection of art from the 1800s.
Stroll through the tunnels of citrus, enjoy the fresh fragrance of English Roses, and pay homage to Europe’s deep history as you admire the Camellias.
You can purchase tickets to Villa Carlotta directly from the official website. Tickets are valid on a specific date and time, so take note of the ticket details when purchasing to avoid letdowns.
Towns Along Lake Como’s Western Shore
While every location along the lake’s western shore is equally spectacular, there are a few standouts worth visiting on your Italian vacation. Here are a few great stops.
The hamlet of Lenno is a charming town known for its Villa Balbianello. When in Lenno, take some time to explore Chiesa di Santo Stefano e Battistero as well as Abbazia dell’Acquafredda while you roam the town’s streets.
There are also many great spots to enjoy traditional Italian cuisine. Stop by Chiosco Di Venere for lakeside views and delicious pizza or pasta.
Tremezzo is a little further north of Lenno, this town is best known for its impressive architecture and stunning gardens. Here, you’ll find the beautiful Villa Carlotta and botanical gardens.
Tremezzo is also the perfect destination if you fancy a swim in Lake Como, perfect for warm summer days in northern Italy. Alternatively, you can spend your time strolling through the streets of Tremezzo, indulging in some shopping and enjoying Italian wine and pastries.
Venture further up Lake Como’s western coast, and you’ll find the town of Menaggio. This is the perfect location for sundowners and a delicious meal along the shores of Lake Como. Menaggio also has a few beaches worth visiting and a couple of scenic hiking trails. Visit Spiaggia Lerai to enjoy the summer heat with Lake Como’s locals.
Things to Do in Bellagio
Often referred to as the “pearl of the lake” because of its stunning beauty and idyllic vistas, Bellagio is one of the best Lake Como attractions. If you’re seeking cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and plenty of charm, this village in the center of Lake Como is the ideal place to be.
Bellagio is a very small town, so you can easily see its highlights on a day trip during your time in Lake Como, Italy. If you can resist the urge to wander into every shop, bakery, and restaurant in Bellagio, it’ll only take an hour or two to fully explore its streets.
Here are a few things to do in Bellagio.
Visit the Town Center
There is no shortage of things to do in Lake Como. The town center of Bellagio is no exception, with its amazing restaurants, gorgeous gardens, and stunning views.
In Bellagio, you’ll find many cafes and restaurants that spill out onto the cobbled streets. These provide excellent opportunities to do as the locals do and stop for a quick caffè and pastry — Bar Pasticceria Rossi is a great option.
While you’re there, make sure to visit the San Giacomo Basilica, which sits right in the heart of the town. The 11th-century structure is undoubtedly an impressive display of Italian architecture.
Shopping in Bellagio
You’ll find a variety of boutiques and stores that sell local artisanal crafts, jewelry, high-end fashion, souvenirs, food, and wine in Bellagio. It’s a perfect setting for a little bit of retail therapy.
If you’re lucky, you might catch the market in the town’s center, which happens every third Wednesday of the month. Here, you can sample fresh local cheeses and cured meats and taste some delightful local wines.
Experience Bellagio from the pristine waters of Lake Como. For a unique perspective of Lake Como’s towns, book a boat tour from Milan or Como. Because these lakeside towns are so small, you can experience so much of Lake Como in one day.
This day trip from Como covers sights like Lugano and Cadenabbia, concluding with a visit to Bellagio and a cruise on Lake Como.
Visit Bellagio’s Villas
Villa Melzi is one of the most popular attractions in this part of Northern Italy. Built in the 1800s as a summer residence for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic, Villa Melzi is nothing short of magnificent.
While the villa is not open to the public, you can still enjoy the lush gardens and the on-site museum. The lakeside gardens feature many exotic plants and flowers and centuries-old trees.
Villa Serbelloni is another must-see attraction in this area of Lake Como. This villa-turned-luxury 5-star hotel is no stranger to opulence and aristocracy, hosting an array of famous names from 1873 until today. Its rooms, common spaces, outdoor areas, and restaurants are the epitome of grandiosity.
If you have a night or two to spare, why not book your stay at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni? >> Check Rates and Availability
Things to Do in Varenna and its Surroundings
Varenna is yet another charming town that you won’t want to miss when visiting Lake Como. The town is a useful starting point thanks to its direct train connection to Milan.
Varenna and the surrounding region offer many exciting activities. From this town on the eastern banks of Lake Como, you can even hop onto a ferry to Bellagio and visit the Balbianello and Carlotta Villas.
Once you arrive, you can explore the town’s narrow alleys and steep staircases, which are lined with cafes, restaurants, and artisanal shops selling local crafts like ceramics, leather goods, and silk scarves.
Below are the top things to do in and around Varenna.
Villa Monastero is a unique display of 19th-century architecture. The villa is open to the public and offers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of the region.
You can explore the villa’s beautiful gardens, which are filled with exotic plants and flowers from around the world. These include American and African Palms, an array of citrus trees, Jasmin, English roses, and wisteria.
After exploring the gardens, take a tour of the villa’s elegant and eclectic interiors, which are filled with original furnishings and artworks from eight centuries.
Castello di Vezio
This stunning castle dates back to the 11th century but was restored many times over the years. Castello di Vezio was once a defensive fortress before being converted into a noble residence. Today, you can explore the castle’s ruins and enjoy the terrific view of Lake Como below.
The castle also hosts a variety of cultural events, such as historical reenactments, medieval festivals, and exhibitions, making it an engaging destination no matter where your interests lie. Look out for the ghosts of Vezio – eerie plaster casts sculptures made each year to be displayed around the castle grounds. You can purchase tickets to the castle from the official website.
Affectionately, and perhaps appropriately, called “Lovers Walk,” this footbridge positioned alongside the blue water of Lake Como is one of the world’s most romantic lakeside promenades.
If you’re looking for the perfect spot to admire the lake and its surroundings with your special someone, take a stroll along Lovers Walk as the sun sets. The waterfront promenade starts from the pier of Varenna and leads to the colorful hamlet of Varenna.
Off the Beaten Track on Lake Como
Besides the popular things to do in Lake Como, there are plenty of sites that lie off the beaten track. If you’re looking for a quieter escape from the sometimes busy towns of Lake Como, here are a few places worth visiting.
Explore Lecco and Lake Como’s South East Fork
Lecco is a stunning city nestled on the southeast shore of the famous lake in Northern Italy. The city, shadowed by towering mountains, is a fantastic place to be during summer or winter.
In summer, it’s the ideal destination for a less “touristy” escape. It boasts a stunning shoreline scattered with historic buildings. The summer months are perfect for hiking and enjoying water sports. If you’re an avid skier, you’ll find that Lecco becomes a haven in the winter. Its snow-covered mountains are ideal for all sorts of winter sports.
Explore the Northern Branch of Lake Como – Dervio and Domaso
When visiting Lake Como, most people don’t venture as far north as Dervio and Domaso. Here, on the northern branch of Lake Como, lies the perfect blend of natural beauty, history, and some of the lake’s prettiest towns.
Both Dervio and Domaso offer gorgeous terraced gardens and pristine shorelines, and they’re the perfect towns to visit to immerse yourself in local culture. You can enjoy an authentic Italian experience, including basking in the summer sun at Spiaggia di Dervio and indulging in local cuisine and wines.
If you fancy a little more activity, set off on one of many hiking trails in Dervio and Domaso. In Dervio, you’ll even find opportunities for horse riding and mountain biking. Alternatively, head to Domaso to visit the swans and take a walk at Passeggiata Lungolago Domaso Gravedona.
Take this Domaso wine-tasting tour and visit a centuries-old family-run wine estate in Lake Como. Here, you’ll learn about the wine-making process and get to sample a few wines that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Getting Around Lake Como
Ferries, speedboats, scooters, and cars are the most efficient ways to get around in Lake Como. However, it’s important to note that ferries don’t run as often outside of the main season, which is from May to September. Ferry timetables are quite complicated and often not published in their entirety, however this is the official ferry booking site where you can also book online.
The price of ferries and other public transport will depend on how far you’re traveling. In general, you can expect to pay anything from €2.50 to €15 for a ferry ticket. If you’re traveling with a larger group, you might benefit from hiring a boat for the day; this usually costs around €200 to €300.
During the off-season, getting around in Italy by hiring a private transfer or by taxi are good options. And while driving around Lake Como is not impossible, it can be daunting for those who don’t know Lake Como well. Parking can be extremely hard to find in Lake Como, and the narrow streets make driving very tricky.
Where to Stay in Lake Como
Wondering where to stay in Lake Como? Below are some hand-picked suggestions for every budget.
Luxury – Grand Hotel Tremezzo
This stunning 5-star hotel is just a short 3-minute walk from the incredible Villa Carlotta and its gorgeous gardens. Besides outstanding facilities and service, it offers a unique combination of old-world charm and modern luxury. Grand Hotel Tremezzo also boasts incredible views of Lake Como and delicious Italian cuisine from its in-house restaurants >> Check Rates and Availability.
Midrange – Hilton Lake Como
Experience Lake Como and enjoy the comforts of this Hilton hotel just 15 minutes away from the town center. The Hilton Lake Como is a 4-star hotel in the city of Como.
With excellent views of the lake as well as the surrounding mountains, this hotel provides the perfect environment to relax during your summer vacation to Lake Como. All rooms at this Hilton hotel are tastefully decorated and well-considered, offering city, lake, and courtyard views >> Check Rates and Availability.
Budget – Seta Hotel
Located in the charming town of Bellagio, this small 3-star hotel has everything necessary for a comfortable stay in Lake Como, Italy. All rooms at Seta Hotel are spacious and feature modern finishings and tasteful decor.
The hotel has an onsite restaurant and bar that serve global cuisine with an elegant flair and a variety of refreshing cocktails. The hotel’s location in the heart of Bellagio’s town makes it the ideal place to stay for solo travelers or young couples. There are also many restaurants, stores, and attractions just around the corner >> Check Rates and Availability.
Final Thoughts on What to Do in Lake Como
So there you have it, the best things to do in Lake Como. Whether you’re sunbathing in Menaggio or learning all about Lake Como’s art and history, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful time. Hopefully, this guide will help you create the perfect Lake Como itinerary for your vacation to Northern Italy.
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Italy? Have a look at this guide to the regions of Italy to find your next getaway destination.