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The best things to do in
Lake Como

Language:   Italian

Currency: EUR

Sales Tax: 22%

Exchange Rate

Lake Como is a far different Italian getaway from the sprawling streets of Rome, art museums of Florence, or the crowds of people in Naples. Situated in Italy’s northern region, the area combines the beauty of the country’s third-largest lake with glorious views of quaint towns and snowcapped mountains in winter. Bordering the lake to the south is Como, which is just 30 miles from Milan. It is easily reachable, allowing travelers to fly into Milan and take advantage of the numerous things to do in Lake Como shortly after arriving.

The city of Como exhibits Roman architecture, allowing visitors to explore its old town and orderly streets. Como isn’t just a town with a rich Roman history; it was the epicenter of Italy’s silk manufacturing. Travelers will find shops around the medieval town center that still sell items made from the material.

The small towns around Lake Como offer places to let time slow down. The tranquility of the area is ideal for tourists seeking a peaceful getaway. There is nothing quite like staring across the water at the Grigna, Resegone, and Legnone mountains. Of course, summertime is the most popular time to visit as lake activities take center stage with travelers. Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Como:

Some of the best things to do in Lake Como

The Lake

The Lake

The biggest tourist attraction in Como is the lake. It is 30 miles long (50 kilometers) and resembles a fjord. The Y-shaped lake is rather narrow, with towns scattered around its shoreline. One of the popular activities is to go town hopping as visitors travel from one the beautiful old town to the next during a trip to the area. The lake is 99 miles around (160 kilometers), and travelers can take their time when exploring its surroundings.

Como is located on the lake’s southern tip, but it isn’t the most popular town to visit. Instead, Bellagio is where many travelers go to stay or visit for a day trip, at the very least. Its cobbled lanes and promenade extend out into the lake, making it one of the most beautiful towns that surround Lake Como.

Brunate

Brunate

Brunate is a terraced settlement up the steep hillside surrounding the lake and is located just above Como. Reaching Brunate is easy thanks to the funicular that takes passengers up the very steep climb. Tourists are offered views of Lake Como’s southern side with mountains in the background that are absolutely stunning. At the top of the funicular is a cafe allowing adventure seekers to stop off for a traditional Italian espresso.

It is possible to reach the top of Mount Boletto after arriving at Brunate. Travelers must disembark the funicular then continue on foot, getting a great leg workout in the process. Volta Lighthouse can also be reached from Brunate and offers a great position to see out across the lake from a new angle.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d'Este

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d'Este

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is a motor show for vintage and classic cars. It has been held the last weekend of May in the town of Cernobbio since 1929. The event doesn’t just show off classic cars. Many car manufacturers attend the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d’Este to show off their latest models.

Usually, only 50 cars are on display with the vehicles' manufacture dates ranging from the 1920s all the way up through the 1970s. Since Villa d'Este is a hotel that isn't open to public tours like other popular Lake Como Villas, the motor show is an excellent opportunity to explore the grounds of the famed villa. You can also choose to book a room at the hotel during your visit as it is a highly-rated place to stay.

Lake and Villa Tours

Lake and Villa Tours

Bellagio

Bellagio

Perhaps the most popular town in the region, Bellagio stands as the quintessential "Pearl of Lake Como." The city has been enchanting visitors for centuries with its timeless charm, boasting elegant villas, lush gardens, and a picturesque lakeside promenade.

It was under the Roman Empire that Bellagio began to stand out for its unique tranquility and beauty. Many Roman aristocrats, including Virgilius, had summer villas in or around Bellagio. Take the time to visit the inspiring Villa Melzi d'Eril, surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking the lake. The neoclassical villa designed in the 17th century showcases beautiful sculptures and artworks.

For an opulent stay in Bellagio, we invite you to indulge in the luxurious Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, which started out in 1850 as a grandiose holiday villa for a noble Italian family. The villa opened in 1873 as a Grand Hotel. It's now under the management of the Butcher family and has been running for over 150 years as a luxurious hotel hosting the likes of Al Pacino, the Rothschilds, and J. F. Kennedy.

At the top of the hill in Bellagio, you'll find Villa Serbelloni, a breathtaking villa with grounds filled with heartwarming shrubs and trees. Not to be mistaken for the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, this hilltop villa is one of many villas worth visiting in the region

Isola Comacina

Isola Comacina

Isola Comacina may seem a small island near Lake Como’s western shoreline, but it has quite the history. The wooded island was invaded in 1169 by soldiers from Como. At one time, it was also fought over by the Romans and Lombards. In 1919, Isola Comacina was gifted to Belgium but was returned to Italy a year later. More recently, it was hoped the island would be a refuge for artists and a place to create.

Today, a public boat service takes visitors out to Isola Comacina, the only island located on Lake Como. Not only are there stunning views of the surrounding waters, towns, and mountains, but the peaceful walk around the island leads to some extraordinary ruins that can be visited.

Duomo di Como (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

Duomo di Como (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

The towns around Lake Como have some unbelievably beautiful churches and cathedrals. The best of the bunch is the Duomo located in Como. The Gothic cathedral has an interesting twist compared to other churches around it. Visitors will find Pliny the Elder and Younger on either side of the cathedral’s front door. The two were Romans who lived around Lake Como and were not very pleasant to the Christians in the area.

Menaggio

Menaggio

Menaggio is on the western shore of the lake. This beautiful town combines its natural beauty with recreational activities to offer an exhilarating time away from city life.

Boasting breathtaking historic walks along the lake shore and botanical gardens hidden in higher hamlets, Menaggio knows how to win the hearts of nature lovers.

To ensure the available mouthwatering Italian cuisine doesn't stick to your midsection, golf lovers should visit the Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club, the second-oldest golf club in the country. Founded in the early 20th century, the 18-hole gold course offers charming views of the city and the lake.

Menaggio also becomes the scene of a musical event every August with its free international Guitar Festival. This annual event attracts musicians and music lovers from all over the world.

Lugano

Lugano

Despite being in Switzerland, Lugano retains that authentic Italian feel, with a similar sort of vibe to the Lombardy region of Italy. Just 28km from Lake Como, you can visit both Lugano and Como in one day, or spread it across a more substantial trip. If you enjoy a hike, the surrounding mountains offer great walking routes and views across the region. Lugano's piazzas, museums, and ground-level sights are just as picturesque if you prefer a flatter walk. Oh, and don't worry about the border; Italy and Switzerland are part of the Schengen zone, so travel between each is seamless.

Ghisallo Cycling Museum

Cycling is one of Italy’s most popular sports and competes with Formula One and MotoGP as a major racing event followed by fans around the peninsula. Located in Magreglio, the Ghisallo Cycling Museum gives visitors the chance to explore the area’s rich history with the sport. Thousands of cycling fans visit Ghisallo each year, and many take to the hills around Lake Como to ride.

Next to the museum is the Madonna del Ghisallo, a 17th-century shrine with a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The museum contains exhibitions featuring some of the most famous cyclists in the world. It also has information on some of the sport’s lesser-known individuals, such as journalists, athletes, and designers who have impacted cycling. The Ghisallo Cycling Museum is only open from March to November.

Varenna

Varenna

Varenna, a traditional village on the eastern shore, offers a peaceful escape with its narrow streets and stunning lake views. Visitors will love wandering through this quintessential yesteryear village.

You'll find breathtakingly beauty all around Varenna, such as gorgeous walks that blend history and nature around the lake and elegant historic villas.

Villa Cipressi, just next to Villa Monastero, is a 4-star hotel surrounded by historic terraced gardens. The vibrant flora and captivating scenery make it the perfect spot for wonderful holiday photographs and dream-worthy destination weddings.

Castello di Vezio

Castello di Vezio

If you’re willing and able to embark on a 30-minute hike up the hill from Varenna, you’ll be rewarded with what could easily be the best views of the lake and surrounding hills and mountains from Castello di Vezio. The medieval castle was built in the 12th century and has served different purposes while it was functional. These include a military outpost and a dungeon.

Opened year-round with limited access during the winter months (weekends only), it’s worth noting that the castle is closed whenever it rains, so keep this in mind to avoid walking all the way up only to be denied access.

Lake Como continues to grow as a travel destination as local and international travelers seek an escape to Italy’s glorious natural areas in the north, rather than the bustling cities of Florence, Rome, and Milan. Thanks to its natural beauty, quaint towns, slow pace, and outdoor activities, Lake Como is a growing travel destination that shouldn’t be overlooked.


Weather

Polenta

Local Favorite: Polenta

Polenta is a popular dish eaten in the northern region of Italy. It is a common item found on menus around Lake Como and one you will find served as a side dish to a meat or fish meal. Polenta comes from cornmeal and is served in multiple ways from hot to cold, sliced, creamy, or even baked. That versatility of polenta is part of its brilliance. Polenta originated in northern Italy and was mostly eaten by poor families from the peasant and working classes. It was very simple, which made it cheap to acquire, yet it was fulfilling.

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