15 Best Things To Do In Lake Como, Italy (A Local’s Guide)

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Boasting beautiful lakeside views, charming small towns, and fantastic nature walks, it’s no surprise that Lake Como is one of Europe’s major tourist hubs. To help plan your trip, I’ve compiled a rundown of the best things to do in Lake Como to help you explore the area like a local!

As someone who grew up in Lake Como, I KNOW that it’s one of the most stunning places in Italy.

From the incredible hikes in nature to dreamy historical villas with manicured gardens, there’s so much more to this area than the historic town of Como.

I’ll be honest – as a kid, I had no shortage of amazing things to do in Lake Como. So, sharing some of my local knowledge on this dream destination only seems fair!

I’ll cover a few classic things to do in the area, but I’ll also mention a few hidden gems that only locals know about.

I hope this list will genuinely help you to plan your trip and discover this magical place,

Is Lake Como Expensive?

Lake Como is often described as a luxury location. Although there are many expensive hotels and villas around the lake, there are plenty of places to visit on any budget.

So don’t fall into tourist traps! There’s so much to see and do here, even if you are not the type of person who wants to spend hundreds of dollars hiring a private boat. 

With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to visit without spending a fortune.

15 Best Things to Do in Lake Como (From Someone Who Grew Up There)


The village of Bellagio on Lake Como  viewed from the lake.

Bellagio is a breathtakingly beautiful city with outstanding restaurants, panoramic views, and adorable pebbled streets.

Locals often call this spot the “Pearl of Lake Como.”

And when you see the colorful buildings, waterside promenade, bustling shops, and huge gardens, it’s easy to see why!

Speaking of gardens, you seriously can’t miss Villa Melzi. It’s usually open between March and October, and these incredible gardens are just 10 minutes from central Bellagio.

Here, you will find towering exotic trees and vibrant rhododendrons and azaleas. You can easily spend all day here for just €8 (yup, it’s a bargain!).

If you get hungry after all that walking, head just outside the city to Ristorante Mella for the best local food in town. Riso with Pesce Persico (a lake fish) is a must-try!

The are a couple of downsides to Bellagio. Everything is incredibly expensive and it’s extremly crowded with tourists during the peak season. If you can, try to visit in low season between mid-May and the start of June for summery weather without the crowds.

Top Tip

If you want to catch some of the most incredible views in Lake Como, walk to the scenic overlook at La Punta Spartivento. It’s about 10 minutes uphill from the ferry terminal, and you’ll see the towering mountains set against Lake Como and Lake Lecco.


Varenna Village in Lake Como, Italy.

A short ride from Bellagio is Varenna – AKA: THE place for a beautiful lakeside promenade.

It’s typically less busy than Bellagio at the height of summer, and it’s a perfect spot for nature walks (I’ll get to that!).

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to check out for local grub (and an aperitif!) around the bay of Riva Grande.

But the famous Lover’s Walk (Passeggiata Degli Innamorati) is one of the top things to do here. The gentle walk curves along the lakeshore and brings you straight from the dock to the historical center of Varenna.

For truly incredible views over Lake Como, head up towards Castello di Vezio. It’s a steep hike to the top, but totally worth it.

It’s filled with sculptures, and boasts restored battlements, a drawbridge, and even medieval reenactments during the summer!

Top Tip

Don’t grab food around the historical center of Varenna. It’s extremely pricey and a complete tourist trap. Stick to gelato or an aperitivo at sunset and head to a cheaper part of Lake Como for dinner.


A colorful narrow street of shops and cafes in the medieval old town center of Menaggio, Italy, on the shores of Lake Como.

Menaggio is less popular than Bellagio and Varenna, but it’s home to charming hamlets and has a bustling town center.

In my book, it’s one of the best places to visit in Lake Como if you want to skip the typical touring crowds at other lakeside spots.

While you’re here, check out the adorable fishing village of Nobiallo or stroll along the lakeside and stare at the colored houses.

You’ll need to recoup after all that walking through the rows of stunning cobbled streets. So, why don’t you pick up an espresso at the Piazza Garibaldi or stop by Bar Gelateria for a scoop of gelato?

Then, you can finish your day by strolling around the many churches in the Old Town.

Top Tip

For the most picturesque walk along the lakeside, head to Viale Benedetto Castelli. Right next to this street, you’ll find a pathway lined with beautiful flowers, sculptures, and short wrought-iron fences.


A view of Cernobbio on Lake Como.

This picturesque old town boasts a vast lakefront promenade with great restaurants.

It’s super popular with the rich and famous from Como and Milan. So, the entire place exudes luxury and elegance (like the romantic 17th-century Villa Pizzo!).

If you want to indulge your cultural side, check out the Villa Bernasconi.

It’s designed in the Art Nouveau style and hosts an incredible range of exhibitions and events throughout the year. But honestly, it’s worth a look for the building alone!

Top Tip

If you want to try delicious food in a magical setting, head to Trattoria Il Glicine. The food is excellent, and I am sure its cozy traditional atmosphere will impress you. 

Villa Carlotta

Facade of Villa Carlotta  at Tremezzo on lake Como Italy.

I love Villa Carlotta with its vast 17 acres of botanical gardens.

This 17th-century villa is home to beautiful gardens, world-famous paintings, and some of the finest sculptures in Lake Como. And the façade? It will blow you away!

Plus, it’s perched right on the shores of the Tremezzina Riviera (meaning you’ll get excellent water views).

The indoor exhibitions are worth seeing (like the one on silk).

But the gardens are what keeps me coming back here. You can spend hours trawling through the Japanese bamboo forest, ancient cedars, citrus groves, and stunning plots of azaleas and rhododendrons.

It’s a nature lover’s paradise!

Top Tip

The Villa has a dedicated ferry station that you can reach from Bellagio and Varenna. It’s easy to get to during the high season, but I suggest arriving early.

Villa Balbianello

Villa Balbianello and its beautiful gardens from the lake, Como.

If Villa Carlotta didn’t scratch your itch for fancy mansions in Lake Como, head over to Villa Balbianello.

What sets the place apart is tall mountains in the background and the garden’s incredible ivy-covered arches.

Did I mention that Villa Balbianello has starred in several Hollywood movies (including Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II)?

Although you’ll spend most of your time strolling through the grounds and admiring the lake, the museum is also worth checking out.

It covers the life of explorer Guido Monzino and his impressive 20 climbing expeditions (he even went up Everest!).

And that’s because Monzino was the villa’s final private owner before he handed it over to the Italian Environment Trust.

Take the traditional ferry

A ferry reaching shore on lake Como.

Many people will explore Lake Como on private boat tours with a travel guide. But taking the ferry is a much more authentic way to explore the lake.

The public ferry connects almost all the major towns around Lake Como and is operated by Navigazione Laghi.

The prices vary depending on where you’re going, and you can quickly grab your tickets online or from any office near the docks. If you need to, you can also purchase tickets on board (although I don’t recommend this for peace of mind!).

If you’re sticking to central Lake Como, you can head to Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, and Cadenabbia. The ferry service also offers circular tickets that let you get off at a destination of your choice (just FYI, it’s valid until you return to the port listed on your ticket).

You will get the same incredible views you’d get from a private boat and save TONS of cash.

Top Tip

To avoid getting stranded, make sure you check the last ferry times of the day very carefully!

Visit Como inside the historic walls

Cathedral of Como and panoramic of the city.

No list of things to do in Lake Como would be complete without mentioning the town of Como itself!

Although there’s much more to this part of Italy than Como, the ancient walls alone are definitely worth a visit. The walls were built under Julius Caesar in the 1st century (yep, they’re that old!) and have been artfully restored over the years.

The historic city is mostly pedestrianized and boasts gorgeous medieval squares, cobbled streets, and striking churches.

The Piazza Duomo is a central selling point as it’s home to the Duomo di Como (which is just beautiful!). The interior contains gorgeous rose windows, a handful of paintings, and tapestries that line the walls.

You want to see the ornate blue and gold ceiling that towers over you from every part of the cathedral!

As you keep walking, make sure you stop by Piazza San Fedele. It’s a bustling market spot that hosts an antique market on most Saturdays (and it’s a great place to stop for a coffee!).

Before leaving, stop by Villa Olmo – a stunning Italian neoclassical building that is free to enter.

You can easily walk here from the town center via Passeggiata Lino Gelpi, which takes you along the lake (a bonus!).

Ride the Funicolar Brunate

Aerial view of Lake Como, Italy seen from Brunate hill.

You can reach the village of Brunate by hopping on the funicular from Como. It’s been running since 1894 and is the quickest way of getting between these two places.

The funicular is a 5-minute walk from Como Lago station and incredibly easy to get to. Plus, you get sweeping views of the coast below on the 7-minute journey to the top.

When you reach the top, head to the Bellavista Boutique Hotel. The restaurant offers sensational panoramas over the lake AND the Italian and Swiss Alps.

But if you want the best views? You’ll want to walk to Fonte Pissarottino (here’s a handy Google Maps pin!).

This spot overlooks the lake and gives you virtually unspoiled panoramas over the entire lake.

Walk the Greenway

Beautiful landscape of Lake Como photographed from Civenna in summer.

The Greenway is tough to beat if you’re hunting for active things to do in Lake Como.

It stretches 11.5 km along western Lake Como and follows a gorgeous ancient road called Via Regina.

Don’t worry – it’s not overly steep or taxing, so most fitness abilities can easily tackle it.

You’ll pass through quaint villages like Griante, Tremezzina, Colonno, and Sala Comacina as you walk around. Oh, and don’t miss the beautiful villas like Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello dotted along the route!

If you’re visiting during the summer or early autumn, you’ll also spot beautiful olive groves that are worth snapping photos of.

Top Tip

You should allocate at least 4 hours to this hike if you want to stop at attractions along the way. If you’re going to explore the villas, you’ll need a whole day.

Trekking on Sentiero del Viandante (Pilgrim’s Path)

Lake Como, Colonno and the Greenway track.

One of my all-time favorite things in Lake Como is walking along the Sentiero del Viandante (Pilgrim’s Path).

Back in the day, it wasn’t possible to travel from Lecco to the lake’s northern edge. So, pilgrims had to hop on their mules and head through forests and mountains to get from place to place.

And that’s exactly the route you’ll take on the breathtaking Pilgrim’s Path from Lecco to Colico.

The trek can take days and covers the entire eastern section of Lake Como. But you can easily do single sections that take between 1 and 4 hours each if you’re pressed for time.

It’s totally up to you!

Top Tip

If you adore hiking, trek the Greenway, the Palmenwald Loop, or the Lungolago di Varenna. These trails are perfect for people who love walking in nature (and they all offer fabulous lake views!).

Watch the incredible panorama from Resinelli

Aerial view of the Belvedere Parco Valentino, Piani dei Resinelli, near the Lecco mountain in Como Lake, Italy.

Just 30 minutes from Lecco, you’ll find the Pian dei Resinelli.

It’s a hidden gem, but this collection of walkable paths offers some of the finest views in the Lombardy region.

You’ll want to look out for the panoramic walkway that protrudes from the mountain. From here, you’ll get a breathtaking 360-degree panorama over Lake Como.

It’s free to access along a small dirt road; just follow signs for The Belvedere to get there.

If you’re seriously fit, you can head up Mount Coltigone (which is 20 minutes further on). The views of Monte Resegone and Vassassina are just amazing from here.

Eat the typical Lake food

It’s no secret that Italy is home to incredible pizza and pasta.

But if you want to live as the locals in Como do, grab some regional lake food!

Risotto al Pesce Persico (risotto with perch fish) is Lake Como’s most iconic dish. You’ll find it at almost every local restaurant, and it’s well worth trying.

Another thing that I recommend trying while you’re here is Missoltino. It’s another traditional local dish made with agoni fish straight from the lake. 

The fish are usually scaled and salted before being pressed, grilled, and served with polenta!

Or try Lavarello, another traditional fish from the lake, cooked in many different ways: in butter, with tomatoes, or roasted with breadcrumbs.

Some of my favorite traditional restaurants are: 

  1. Crotto Del Misto: Book in advance and ask to be seated in La Terrazza, a wonderful room overlooking the lake.
  2. Crotto Del Capraio: High in the mountains, it serves typical Lombardy cuisine like pizzoccheri, polenta uncia, and grilled Missoltini.
  3. Tira Mola e Meseda: A small restaurant in Como, so booking is mandatory. Here, you’ll find local cheese, cold meat, and many regional specialties.
  4. Trattoria del Porto: One of the oldest trattoria on Lake Como, the menu here is almost exclusively based on fish from the lake. You can reach it by boat or foot by leaving your car above and then walking through the small village of Careno. 

Abbazia di Piona

Aerial view of Piona Abbery with Lake Como in the background.

Also known as the Piona Abbey, visiting this religious complex on the Lecco side of Lake Como feels like stepping back in time.

It’s perched at the top of the Olgiasca (a small peninsula). So, you get awesome views over the Bay of Piona and Mount Legnone.

As Cistercian monks still operate it, it’s also a tranquil place to explore away from the hustle and bustle of the larger towns.

And hey, you can’t beat the beautiful Lombard Gothic architecture that characterizes the place!

Relax on one of the beautiful beaches

A pebble beach on the shore of Lake come.

Most Italians will head to the coast in August to relax on the stunning beaches.

Believe it or not, Lake Como has stretches of sand that are not as beautiful as the best beaches on the Amalfi Coast, but the views can be just as breathtaking.

Lots of Lake Como beaches have pebbles or chunky sands. So, it’s a good idea to carry sturdy sandals or sea shoes to avoid damaging your feet. Also, arriving early to public and private beaches is a must – spaces go FAST.

I recommend checking out any of the following beaches during your visit as they’re less “touristy”:

  1. Abbadia Lariana Beach: A long natural beach with white stones, a beach bar, and easy lake access.
  2. Mandello del Lario Lido: You can rent sun loungers here for just €5.00 a day, so it’s a great budget pick that’s still relatively private.
  3. Spiaggia Riva Bianca in Lierna: This beach’s crystal-clear water and white stones are tucked away near Castello, and you’ll get breathtaking views of Lake Como.
  4. Onno Beach: It’s free to access and invisible from the road, which adds to the feeling of privacy! Remember that it gets super busy, and you should arrive early to secure a spot on the sand.

Top Tip

Be careful if you decide to swim in the lake! Every year, many people die because they are not careful enough. Lake Como is one of the deepest in Europe, and currents can be very strong. Even experienced swimmers can find themselves in dangerous waters. Stay safe, always near the shore, and only in places where signs clearly say that it’s safe to swim.

Where To Stay in Lake Como

A question I get asked all the time by friends who want to visit Lake Como is: Where should I stay?

The best places to stay, whether you are renting a car (the roads along the lake are incredibly beautiful but also relatively narrow – so be prepared!) or moving by boat, are:

Como: Como is the largest town on Lake Como and is easily accessible from Milan. Perfect if you are planning to move using public transport.

Bellagio: Stunning location, but on the more expensive side.  It’s also strategically located at the intersection of the three branches, making it the perfect place to explore the lake. Here, you’ll find some beautiful historical 5-star hotels if that’s your thing.

Menaggio: Menaggio has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere, perfect if you are traveling with children.

Cernobbio: Smaller than Bellagio but closer to Como, Cernobbio is known for its luxury accommodations and elegant villas, making it a perfect choice for a more indulgent stay.

Lenno: Lenno offers a quieter atmosphere than some more touristy towns on this list. It’s also closer to Villa Balbianello, so convenient if you don’t want to miss it.

Argegno: A cute town, usually not crowded, with lots of affordable restaurants and easy connections by road and ferry to the rest of the lake.

Lecco: Lecco provides a more local and authentic experience than some of the more tourist-driven towns. Its lakeside promenade is also a pleasant place to stroll and enjoy the views of the lake.

Best Time To Visit Lake Como

The absolute best time to soak in the beauty of the lake is in spring (May) or autumn (mid-September to late October).

In summer, temperatures are high, sometimes exceeding 30 degrees, but the evenings are cool and pleasant. Just be ready to find crows everywhere, as it’s the season when the lake attracts the most visitors.

In winter, I find the lake always beautiful, a touch melancholic yet undeniably captivating. Temperatures range from 3 to 12 degrees. It’s possible for it to snow, although it’s a rather rare event.

Do keep in mind that between Christmas and mid-March, some of the coziest spots, like hotels and charming eateries, may take a well-deserved break.

How To Get Around

Lake Como is extremely well connected, and there are plenty of options for getting around:

  • Ferries: Ferries connect many towns around the lake, making it convenient to hop from one charming spot to another. They are also the most scenic experience to enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Make sure to check the schedule in advance, as it changes during the various seasons.
  • Public transport: Lake Como has a good network of buses that cover all the area. Depending on where you are, you’ll need to check the local service. The main bus lines from Como are the C30, which runs from Como to Bellagio, and the C10, which connects Como with Colico via Menaggio. On this website, you can see a map of all the buses, and you can find timetables.
  • Trains: If you are traveling from Milan or Rome, you can easily reach Como by train. But once you get there, the train line only covers the eastern shore of the lake. You can check train times on this website.
  • Renting a car: Renting a car provides you with the flexibility to explore the lake at your own pace and venture into less accessible areas. The lakeside roads offer picturesque views, but some can get quite narrow, so make sure you are up for the drive. Also, keep in mind that parking can be a challenge in popular towns. A good trick is to park outside the town centers, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Ready to go?

I am sure you’ll love your time in Lake Como. Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll be more than happy to reply with more information! 

I love this lake and I am always happy to help people discover it.

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