What to Do in Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is one of my favorite places in Italy! It makes the perfect weekend getaway and is less than two hours away from Milan by train. I put together this complete guide on what to do in Lake Como, along with how to get there, where to stay, and what to eat.
Even if you only have a couple days, Lake Como is worth adding onto your Italian itinerary. There’s a reason I included it on my list of bucket list destinations in Italy.
Lake Como is one of the most beautiful and charming places in all of Italy. After you visit once, you’ll want to go back again and again. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting!
Related: The Perfect Two Week Italy Itinerary
Lake Como is an alpine lake in Northern Italy surrounded by mountains. Known for its dramatic scenery, it is nestled in the foothills of the Alps and not too far from the border with Switzerland.
The lake is shaped like an upside-down Y with two arms extending south. At the central point of the Y shape is the famous town of Bellagio.
Many of the towns around the lake are upscale resort towns with luxury hotels and villas. There are also smaller but equally as charming towns with more affordable hotels and inns.
Lake Como is easily accessible from Milan and other cities in Italy by train. There are two train lines serving Lake Como, Trenitalia and Trenord.
Tip: I recommend using Eurail to book your trains in advance. (Or consider getting a rail pass to save money if you’ll be traveling by train enough to make it worth it – check their website for details.)
Unless you are staying in a larger town like Como or Varenna with its own train station, you will most likely need to take a bus or ferry on to reach your final destination.
The bus and ferry timetables change based on season. You can find current routes and timetables on this website for the buses and ferries, as well as the funicular (cable car.)
One other option for getting around Lake Como is by car.
Renting a car is quite popular and gives you a lot more flexibility than having to rely on the local buses and ferries, which often run on Italian time (AKA late.)
However, driving in Italy is not for the faint-hearted, and driving around Lake Como with its narrow twisting roads can be even crazier. So keep that in mind before you decide to rent a car!
If you do rent a car, most hotels offer free parking for guests.
Where to Stay
I have visited Lake Como twice now, and both times I have stayed in the village of Gravedona on the northern end of the lake. I would have never found this hidden gem if my friend hadn’t randomly booked a hotel for us here on my first visit!
If you are looking for a beautiful, tranquil town to spend your time in, Gravedona is a great choice. This sleepy town is dripping with charm and is the perfect base for exploring the rest of the lake. It’s also not very touristy, which is nice during the more crowded summer months at Lake Como.
On both of my visits I stayed at the Hotel Regina, which is the perfect place to stay for almost any traveller. (Families, couples, friends, etc.) Hotel Regina is pretty affordable, family-owned, spotlessly clean, and in the perfect location. Most of the rooms have balconies overlooking the lake, and there’s a pool along with free bike rentals available to guests.
Other places to stay in Lake Como
As much as I loved Hotel Regina (and will stay there again on my next visit!) there are plenty of other highly-rated accommodation options around Lake Como.
Best for budget travelers: Ostello Bello Lake Como
This affordable hostel in the town of Como is the top-rated hostel in the area. Although it’s still not particularly “cheap” as far as hostels go, it’s a great value for your money in pricy Lake Como. Bonus: Como is the largest town on the lake and directly accessible by train.
Best mid-range hotel: Hotel du Lac
This highly-rated mid-range hotel is a great option for travelers who want to splurge a little but not totally break the bank when visiting Lake Como. Hotel du Luc’s prime location in the extremely popular town of Bellagio is a big selling point.
Best luxury hotel: Villa d’Este
If you really want to splash out on your trip to Lake Como, staying at the iconic Villa d’Este is a great way to do so. This five-star hotel located in the quaint town of Cernobbio boasts stunning views and a swimming pool that’s literally in the lake.
Tip: Be sure to check Airbnb too! There are TONS of amazing Airbnbs around Lake Como with breathtaking views, and many of them are much cheaper than hotels. You can also get $40 off your first Airbnb booking when you sign up here.
What to Do
There’s a lot to do around Lake Como. From visiting charming towns to opulent villas, there is plenty to see and do. Here are a few of the best things to do in Lake Como! If you are staying in Gravedona (or any of the other towns on the lake) you can easily access most of these places via ferry or bus.
Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio
These are three of the prettiest towns on Lake Como. If you only have time to visit one, I recommend Bellagio! While it can get very crowded and touristy during the day, it’s very quiet in the morning and evening. Bellagio is known as one of the most beautiful towns in Lake Como.
With narrow, steep cobblestoned streets and breathtaking views around every corner, Bellagio truly looks like a town out of a storybook. You can easily spend a whole day here just wandering the streets and sitting down at a cafe along the lakefront promenade for a long lunch.
Villa del Balbianello
One of the most beautiful villas on Lake Como is Villa del Balbionella. It’s famous for its gorgeous terraced gardens overlooking the lake. It’s also famous for being featured in quite a few movies. Star Wars fans will definitely recognize this spot!
To get to the villa, you will need to take the C10 bus to Lenno and follow the signs to walk to the villa. (It’s about a 20-minute walk from the station to the villa.)
Other Villas to Visit in Lake Como
While Villa del Balbionello is my favorite, here are some other villas you can visit:
- Villa Monastero
- Villa Carlotta
- Villa Melzi d’Eril
One of the best things to do in Lake Como is just wandering around and exploring. Strolling around the promenades of the lakefront towns is a lot of fun. And don’t forget to stop for gelato as you go!
There are plenty of old churches, hidden alleyways, and gorgeous viewpoints to discover. There are also lots of paths along the lakefront which are great for walking or biking.
When to Go to Lake Como
I have been to Lake Como in April and June, and found both to be really pleasant.
April is still the off season, so everything is extremely uncrowded and you will hardly see any other tourists. The weather can be a little chilly though. Early June was still a great time to go in terms of crowds, and the weather was better compared to April.
I would imagine that Lake Como gets more crowded during July and August since it’s peak season, but not too the level of other places in Italy like Venice and Rome.
Lake Como attracts more European tourists than American. You will find a lot of visitors from Germany, England, etc. on their summer holidays.
Other Tips for Lake Como
Here are few more tips for visiting Lake Como:
Learn some Italian before you go. Less people in Lake Como speak English compared to more touristy destinations in Italy. Try to learn a few key words and phrases in Italian before you go to make communication easier.
Don’t miss the last ferry of the day. If you’re visiting a town along the lake and you need to take a ferry to get back to where you’re staying, be sure to note when the last ferry of the day leaves. (Sometimes it is pretty early.) Otherwise you’ll get stuck with a very expensive cab ride!
Lake Como is a good place to rent a car. Yes, there are ferries and buses to get you around the lake, but driving is usually quicker and easier. Most places around Lake Como have free parking as well, making it a great place to explore by car.
Don’t base yourself in Como. The large town of Como, located at the bottom of the lake, is nice but nowhere near as charming as the villages in the central part and northern end of the lake.
Make plans on Italian time. Don’t try to cram a bunch of activities into one day, especially if you are relying on buses or ferries to get around. Things run on Italian time here, meaning the ferry might be thirty minutes late and it will just be shrugged off as no big deal.
Italy Packing Essentials
Here are some commonly forgotten Italy packing essentials for your trip!
- European outlet adapter (I like this one because it also comes with two USB ports so you can charge things like your phone or iPad without having to use the plug.)
- Portable cellphone charger (Charge your phone fully up to two and a half times when it is fully charged.)
- Travel scarf with a hidden pocket (Stylish way to carry your valuables like credit cards, cash, passport, etc. around Italy while protecting them from pickpockets.)
- Reusable water bottle (Eco-friendly and saves you money on bottled water – Italy’s water is some of the cleanest in the world!)
- Travel sized wrinkle release spray (Make your clothes look perfect even if you don’t have an iron or steamer wherever you’re staying!)
More Italy Travel Tips
Enjoy your trip! For more Italy travel tips, be sure to read:
- What Not to Do in Italy: 10 Common Tourist Mistakes
- The Complete Guide to Cinque Terre
- The Perfect One Week Italy Itinerary
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