The Italian Lakes are one of the most famous areas of the country, and Lake Como is the region’s crowning glory. Located in Lombardy in the north of Italy, the lake itself is famous for its distinctive ‘Y’ shape and also for the luxurious nature of the holiday accommodation that lines its shores.
Since Ancient Roman times, Lake Como has been a prime holiday destination for aristocrats, millionaires and celebrities who come to enjoy the privacy of the lakeside villas and high-quality local food and drink. It’s a brilliant historic destination in Italy, with plenty of examples of Ancient Roman architecture around the lake and lots of peaceful little villages that feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Whilst it’s certainly the place to visit if you have the cash to splash, Lake Como isn’t just a location for the rich and famous to come on their holidays. With around 160 km of shoreline, there are plenty of brilliant places to visit in Lake Como for all kinds of budgets, whether you want to stay in a private hotel or a friendly B&B.
The scenery in Lake Como is renowned for being beautiful at all times of the year, with a stunning backdrop of the Alps that line the border between Italy and Switzerland. Despite its northern position, the climate is known as being mild and sunny all year round, with the nearby mountains providing cool relief in the height of summer.
There are plenty of gorgeous towns and villages to visit around Lake Como, so if you’re planning a trip to the area and don’t know where to go, this guide has you covered.
Found right at the centre of where the ‘Y’ shape of Lake Como splits into two, Bellagio is one of the most-visited places in the area. Famous for the picturesque cobblestone streets that wind around the town, it’s known as the ‘pearl of Lake Como’ thanks to gorgeous buildings and stunning views across the lake available from all over.
Bellagio is a key spot for tourism on Lake Como, which means that it is one of the most expensive places to stay around the lake. If you’re after a luxurious experience with no expenses spared then it’s the perfect place to start or finish your trip, but if you’re travelling on more of a budget then you might want to only visit for the day!
If you’re looking for nightlife in Lake Como then Bellagio is the best place to visit, with numerous bars and nightclubs offering plenty of chances to drinks and dance the night away. It’s also a prime location for foodies, with lots of different restaurants and cafes offering classic Italian dishes as well as specialities from the region.
Menaggio is at the top of our list of the best places to visit in Lake Como thanks to its reputation as one of the most beautiful towns in the whole area. It’s the largest location on the western side of the lake with plenty of shops, cafes, bars and hotels, as well as a beautiful promenade beside the water.
There’s plenty to see and do in the town if you’re looking for a laid-back way to spend your holiday, with lots of lovely little places to eat and several pretty churches to visit. It’s also a great place to base yourself for a more active holiday in Lake Como, with the nearby hills and mountains just waiting to be explored on foot.
Menaggio was once a walled medieval city, and there are remains of past architecture found all around the area like the Piazza Garibaldi and Villa Mylius Vigoni. It’s a popular place to stay as a base to visit other parts of the lake, but also makes a great location for a pleasant day trip.
If you prefer to visit more authentic places on your holiday to see new locations without lots of other tourists, you’ll love Varenna. Originally a quiet fishing village, this beautiful spot on the eastern side of the lake still has a very peaceful atmosphere and is one of the best-kept secrets in the whole area.
With colourful houses built back from the shores of the water, Varenna is also one of the most picturesque places to visit in Lake Como. Overlooking the village is Castello di Vezio, an 11th-century castle that offers incredible views of the lake as well as preserved remains of classic architecture. You can also visit the nearby Villa Monastero which has particularly beautiful gardens.
Whether you’re planning a romantic break to Lake Como or just don’t want to share your holiday with crowds of other tourists, Varenna makes a great place to stay as well as just to visit. There’s a little bit of everything on offer in this lovely lakeside village, making it an ideal place to spend your holiday in the Italian Lakes.
Tremezzo is one of the best places to visit in Lake Como if you’re looking for somewhere to stay, as the small town is best known for being a top-rated tourist resort. Located on the western side of the lake, there are plenty of accommodation options suitable for all travellers, and it’s also full of things to do if you’re just arriving for the day.
One of the main attractions in Tremezzo is the 17th-century, neoclassical Villa Carlotta, complete with stunning botanical gardens and 14 acres of grounds that are flooded with colour and scent in the spring and summer. Nearby hills and forests are ideal for hiking trips, making it the perfect place to come and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors.
There are also lots of lovely places to eat around the town, many of which look out over the water. Much of Tremezzo is right on the banks of Lake Como, so you can enjoy beautiful views wherever you are.
The city named after Lake Como is often overlooked by many travellers as being nothing but a gateway to the rest of the area, but it’s a standalone location in itself. Found right at the southern end of the water, Como has plenty of cultural and historic attractions that make it a brilliant place to visit either just for the day or to base yourself for exploring the rest of the region.
The Cathedral of Como is a prime attraction, perfect for fans of 15th-century architecture and classic Italian church buildings. The city centre itself is full of other medieval streets and buildings, with cobbled alleys and classic red-roofed houses.
With direct trains to and from Milan, Como is a great place to begin your trip to Lake Como, with plenty of attractions and accommodation options suitable for every budget and interest.
Lecco is another ‘hidden gem’ of Lake Como, tucked away right in the southeast corner of the lake. With the Bergamo Alps right on the doorstep of the town, it’s a wonderful place to visit if you’re planning on getting some proper walking done during your stay.
Travellers who are looking for a quiet, laid-back experience of Lake Como will absolutely love Lecco, which has a peaceful atmosphere and authentic feel to it that tourism hasn’t affected. The food in this area is spectacular, and you can spend your days strolling beside the water, enjoying drinks in local cafes or taking walking and cycling trips around the nearby landscape.
Lecco is situated at the edge of one of the ‘branches’ of Lake Como, so it’s a great place to visit right at the end of a holiday exploring the area before you travel on to somewhere new, with rail links to Milan found very close to the town.
For classic Italian Lakes architecture and a lively atmosphere, the village of Bellano is a great place to visit for a break from the hustle and bustle of busier towns. With a little waterside promenade and quaint, cobbled streets, it’s a lovely part of the area that is often overlooked in favour of nearby Varenna, but is just as lovely as the larger location.
The key attraction for visitors to Bellano is the Orrido di Torrente Pioverna, a naturally formed ravine that is thought to be over 15 million years old. Various viewing bridges have been built to offer brilliant views of the ravine, and you can explore the surrounding caves as well which makes for a fantastic, unusual day trip.
You won’t find the same glamorous elegance in Bellano as you do in some of Lake Como’s larger places, but you will find colour, character and locals who are always incredibly friendly to visitors coming to enjoy their town.
If you’re after Lake Como beaches then Lenno is one of the best places to visit in the whole region, known for its man-made Lido di Lenno. This long stretch of golden sand along the lakeside is partially popular in the summer months with swimmers, sunbathers and holidaymakers who want to spend their days enjoying the warmth and the water.
Other than the beach, Lenno is a much quieter place in Lake Como than some of the other nearby towns, making it an ideal place to escape to in the early spring or autumn. There are lots of classic lakeside villas, terraces and loggias around the lake, along with the Acquafredda Abbey which is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring.
Lenno is also famous for its olive oil, which you should definitely try whilst you’re in the area.
For the ultimate escape in Lake Como, Nesso is the perfect little village. Located only 8 miles away from the busy city of Como, the region adopts a slow-living approach to life which is perfect for travellers looking to unwind.
The village is home to the spectacular Nesso Gorge that divides Nesso in two and feeds straight into the lake. The gorge can be viewed from the Ponte Della Civera for beautiful photos and views of both the waterfall and the rest of the lake.
We’ve mentioned a few Lake Como hidden gems already, but Nesso is the ultimate undiscovered spot on the waterfront. Visit this village if you’re looking for tranquillity and a chance to enjoy Lake Como’s famous scenery.
Right at the foot of Mount Legnone is the village of Colico, known as being an absolute haven for history lovers. From here you can visit the hilltop fortress of Fort Fuentes, the Italian Fort Montecchio-Lusardi and the Abbazia di Piona romanesque abbey to explore plenty of architecture from across the ages.
Colico is found on the eastern shore of Lake Como, and is also a really popular place to visit in Lake Como for windsurfers or boating fans because of the position of the town and the wind that it gets because of this. You can easily spend a sunny morning sitting overlooking the water and watching the variety of boats and surfers enjoying the elements.
Lake Como is the most popular lake for many visitors to Italy for a good reason; with incredible scenery, lots of history to discover and a wide variety of hotels, villas and other accommodation options, it’s the perfect spot for every traveller. For more information on holidays in this famous part of the Italian Lake District, explore the rest of the Italian Breaks website and find out more.