Whether you are planning a laid-back family vacation or looking up destinations for a romantic honeymoon, Lake Como, Italy is the perfect choice for you, in this article we’ll lay out the 6 best things to do in Lake Como for first timers. Located in Lombardy, in the northern region of Italy, Lake Como is a small commune known for its breath-taking landscape. The highlight of the region is its impressive glacial lake, one of the deepest in Europe. Lake Como is a place where you can sit back and enjoy nature, marvel at the architectural wonders or take on adventure with the adrenaline-packed activities it offers.
Where to Stay in Lake Como
Top Villas with incredible views over Lake Como
How to get to Lake Como
The best and easy way to get to Lake Como is from Milan main station (stazione centrale) for a train to Sondrio or Tirano the departing time is 20 minutes past the hour, make sure always to check the time table as it may change throughout the year. Book your train tickets as soon as you know when you will be travelling as the prices go up over time and will be more expensive if you leave it at the last minute, a good time to travel if you can is during the weekend as prices tend to be cheaper and you can get great offers. An alternative route is to go from Milan to Como (San Giovanni station), you can take the eurocity or the regionale trains.
Don’t know where to start and what to do in Lake Como? Keep reading on for the fun part.
Boat Cruise – Don’t give them a miss
Book yourself a lake cruise. It is the best way to explore the majestic lake and its idyllic surroundings up close. There is nothing as soothing as riding the pristine, blue waters of Lake Como.
The lake, shaped like an upside-down Y, was formed thousands of years ago due to the melting of glaciers. It stretches from the North to the South. Also known as Lario, it features in the list of the deepest European lakes; it is also the third largest lake in Italy with the shadows of the Alps looming in the north. There are several beautiful towns and villages bordering the lake. They are populated with historical and regal villas.
When taking a tour on the lake you have different options:
You can take a cruise, a guided trip or a day excursion with a tour operator.
You can take a ferry hopping between the lakeside towns. There are regular boat services. You will only need to check the schedules before you step out.
Book yourself on a Taxiboat Varenna. This is a water taxi that you can book for short and long trips on the lake from Varenna.
Tour The Lakeside Towns
Lake Como, is home to many stunning lakeside towns as Cernobbio, Menaggio, Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo.
Bellagio: The most beautiful town in Lake Como, it sits at the intersection of the two southern arms of the lake. It is bustling with activity during tourist season. The short buildings, tiled roofs, louvered windows, cobbled slopes create an old-world charm. On the promenade, you can drop in at a shop or grab a bite at the local cafés and eateries. There is also a tourist train that will take you around town. Villa Melzi and Villa Serbolleni are popular attractions here; they are two of the prettiest public gardens in Bellagio. The best way to reach Bellagio is by boat.
Cernobbio: It is situated on the Western shore of Lake Como. Tourists flock to this lakeside town to see the magnificent Villa d’Este. It is a palatial estate originally designed for an English Queen, now converted into a luxury hotel.
Menaggio: The town, also on the Western shore of Lake Como, is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. While here, you can enjoy water sports such as water skiing and windsurfing or spend time playing golf or go horse riding. Those are a few of the things you can do in Menaggio if you decide to stay here during your visit.
Varenna: Yet another of the picturesque villages in Lake Como, it is situated on the eastern shore of the lake. Piazza San Giorgio, the town centre and Castello di Vezio, the medieval castle are the main attractions in this area you can’t miss.
Tremezzo: One of the most prettiest villages along the lake, Tremezzo has a higher price point compared to the other villages. Not everyone can afford a stay here. Nevertheless, one can always explore the village to see what luxury stands for. Tremezzo is known for the impressive Villa Carlotta and the opulent Grand Hotel Tremezzo.Villa Carlotta hosts interesting art exhibitions. Tremezzo is close to Bellagio.
Lake Como has also become the go-to-destination for celebrities. You might spot George Clooney’s or Richard Branson’s villa on your visit there.
Marvel at the Churches and Museums
Lake Como is steeped in history with its numerous churches, museums and monuments dating back to different centuries. A must-visit is the Como Cathedral built in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is an architectural wonder built in the 14th century. It is striking in its blend of Gothic and Romanesque elements in its design. The focal point is its dome decorated with gold artwork. Entry into the cathedral is free.
Your next stop should be Basilica di Sant’ Abbondio. The architectural design of the church depicts the history of different periods having been completed in various stages. The highly ornate interior makes up for the church’s plain and unembellished façade. The interior design features beautifully coloured frescoes.
Your Lake Como Itinerary should also include Como Archaeological Museum, Museo Storico Guiseppe Garibaldi and Museum Moto Guzzi. The Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Guiseppe Garibaldi are situated on Piazza Medaglie. The Archaeological museum exhibits an interesting collection of artefacts: jewellery, stonework, pottery and agricultural machinery, that together tell the history of the Como region. A palace-converted-into-a-museum, Guiseppe Garibaldi captures the traditional Italian way of life in its refurbished rooms. Visit Museum Moto Guzzi if you are a fan of motorbikes.
Stop by the Majestic Villas
Lake Como has a number of grand villas dotting its waterfront. The most popular historic mansions open to public viewing are Villa Balbianello in Tremezzina, Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni in Belagio and Villa Monastero in Varenna. These mansions are known for their grand architectural designs, plush terraced gardens and their enchanting views of the lake.
Ride on the Funicular
Brunate is perched high up in the mountains. You can go up there in the funicular train connecting Brunate and Lake Como. It is fast and makes for a fun journey. From the top, you can see Como in all its glory – the mansions, the lake, the city and the alps.
Lake Como’s landscape with its canyons, cliffs and water offers a lot of adventure sports and outdoor activities. If you are brave at heart, you can try canyoning at Lenno or Porlezza. Adventure seekers can also try their hand at hiking, rock climbing, windsurfing and sailing. You can also head to the Jungle Raider park.
Planning to travel to Como Lake for your next vacation? Make sure to plan your trip well in advance to avoid disappointments as the villages get sold out very quickly.
Tip: You can visit Lake Como from Milan for a day trip.