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Visiting Lake Como: A complete guide to getting to know a magical place

Visiting Lake Como remains a highly sought-after activity. Lake Como welcomes approximately 1.4 million visitors every year, according to Plum Guide. Located in the beautiful region of Lombardy, Italy, this magnificent lake attracts travelers from around the world with its stunning natural beauty and timeless charm. Over the centuries, Lake Como has been a sanctuary for those seeking serenity and inspiration, providing a unique experience that captivates the senses and nourishes the soul.

We explored Lake Como on a day trip from Bergamo and found it to be an excellent itinerary option. Visiting Lake Como can be costly since accommodations in the area are not budget-friendly. Therefore, staying in Milan or Bergamo, which have excellent transportation networks, allows for an early arrival at Lake Como to enjoy the day and return by the end of the day. However, we cannot deny that waking up to a view of Lake Como must be a unique experience.

In this post, we will explore the wonders of this fascinating destination and discover all that Lake Como has to offer to visitors who wish to explore its beauty.

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How to visit Lake Como

There are several options for visiting Lake Como, with the main access points being Como and Varenna. Both cities are easily accessible by train, with direct trains from Milan and connections from Bergamo, offering a convenient way to reach the lake. Once there, visitors can enjoy relaxing cruises on the ferries and regular boats that sail across the lake, providing a unique opportunity to explore its charming lakeside villages, landmarks, and stunning landscapes. These maritime transportation options allow travelers to enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Como and provide a memorable experience during their visit to this breathtaking Italian region. Trenord offers a pass that includes train and boat travel on Lake Como.

Varenna Train Station, ideal entry point for visiting Lake Como, Italy

Alternatively, renting a car to visit Lake Como can be an excellent way to explore the surrounding region. With a rented car, travelers have the freedom to explore different villages and attractions around the lake that may not be accessible by train. This option also allows for discovering lesser-known places and enjoying stunning landscapes along the way.

How to explore the lake

The best way to explore Lake Como is by using ferries and regular boats. Traveling this way is not only very convenient because the boats stop right at the various villages, but also the tickets are affordable and allow for panoramic views on departure and arrival. One of the most stunning views we observed on Lake Como was arriving in Varenna during sunset.

Vista Lago de Como

For a quicker visit, doing the Varenna, Menaggio, and Bellagio triangle can be an option and takes about 15 minutes. Alternatively, for a more extended experience, sailing the lake from Como to Varenna, for example, can be a good option and takes about 2 hours. Tickets can be purchased individually or there are options for daily passes that allow multiple trips on the circuits. Official information about maritime transportation can be found here. There are boat and train passes that can be advantageous.

Best areas to stay

When planning a stay at Lake Como, it’s important to choose the right area to fully enjoy this stunning region. Some of the best areas to stay offer a charming blend of natural beauty, convenience, and accommodation options for all tastes and budgets.

One of the most popular options is the city of Como, located at the southwest tip of the lake. Como is an ideal choice for those seeking a central base, with easy access to the region’s main attractions, restaurants, and shops. Additionally, the city offers a variety of hotels, ranging from luxurious options to more budget-friendly accommodations, suitable for all types of travelers.

Another popular area is the region of Bellagio, known as the “pearl of Lake Como.” This charming village is located at the tip of a peninsula, providing stunning views of the lake and the peaks of the surrounding mountains. With a romantic atmosphere and a variety of boutique hotels and charming accommodations, Bellagio is a popular choice for couples seeking a romantic getaway.

For those who prefer a quieter and more picturesque experience, the villages of Varenna and Menaggio offer a charming lakeside atmosphere. With narrow streets, quaint squares, and a selection of cozy hotels and guesthouses, these villages are ideal for those looking to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Como.

Regardless of the chosen area, a stay at Lake Como promises to be a truly memorable experience, with stunning landscapes, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality.

What to do when visiting Lake Como

When visiting Lake Como, there is a variety of exciting and relaxing activities to enjoy to the fullest in this stunning region.

  • Enjoying the Views and Breathtaking Landscape: One of the most rewarding activities is simply taking in the stunning views that Lake Como has to offer. With majestic mountains as a backdrop, visitors can enjoy breathtaking panoramas that change with the different times of day.
  • Exploring the Narrow Streets of the Villages: The charming lakeside villages like Como, Bellagio, and Varenna offer a unique opportunity to explore their narrow streets filled with history, picturesque architecture, and charming shops.
  • Sitting at a Café and Enjoying the Aperitivo Culture: A must-try Italian tradition is enjoying the aperitivo culture by the lakeside. Sitting at a café, sipping a refreshing drink, and savoring a variety of delicious snacks while watching the lakeside bustle is an unforgettable experience.
  • Indulging in Delicious Gelato: There’s nothing quite like enjoying delicious Italian gelato by the lake. With a variety of irresistible flavors, this is the perfect time to cool off and treat yourself to a sweet, creamy delight.
  • Beach Time on the Lake: On hot days, take the opportunity to relax and soak up the sun at one of Lake Como’s picturesque beaches. Some of the best beach spots include: Lido di Bellagio, Lido di Cadenabbia, Lido di Lenno, and Lido di Argegno. With crystal-clear waters and tranquil coves, Lake Como is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy a refreshing swim.
  • Exploring the Lake by Canoe or Standup Paddling: For the more adventurous, exploring Lake Como by canoe or standup paddling offers a unique way to experience its natural beauty. Paddling through the calm waters of the lake allows you to discover hidden coves and enjoy panoramic views from a different perspective.
  • Engaging in Extreme Activities: For adrenaline junkies, Lake Como offers a variety of extreme activities such as paragliding, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. With favorable winds and stunning landscapes, it’s the perfect setting for thrilling outdoor adventures.
  • Exploring the Lake by Bike: Exploring the lake by bike is a great option for cycling enthusiasts. Renting a conventional or electric bike can be a fantastic choice to reach more distant locations or simply enjoy quality time in a group.

Regardless of your preferences, there’s something for everyone at Lake Como, ensuring a truly unforgettable experience for all visitors.

Picturesque Villages

Along the shores of Lake Como, we find charming villages that are true pearls of the region, such as Como, Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. These villages are known for their picturesque architecture, narrow streets, and romantic atmosphere that enchant visitors.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, some of the top villages to explore when visiting Lake Como are:

  • Como: A charming village known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and the imposing Como Cathedral, offering stunning views of the lake.
  • Bellagio: Considered the “pearl of Lake Como,” Bellagio is famous for its narrow streets, elegant shops, and lush gardens, offering a romantic atmosphere and breathtaking panoramic views.
  • Varenna: A picturesque village with colorful houses by the lake, cobblestone streets, and beautiful gardens, standing out for its tranquility and timeless charm.
  • Menaggio: Located on the western shore of the lake, Menaggio is a lively village with a welcoming atmosphere, offering a variety of restaurants, shops, and outdoor activities such as hiking and water sports.
  • Tremezzo: Known for its beautiful gardens and historic villas, such as the famous Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo offers a unique cultural experience and stunning views over the lake.
  • Lenno: With a privileged location on the western shore of the lake, Lenno is famous for the stunning Villa del Balbianello and its picturesque scenery, providing a truly memorable experience for visitors.

Alongside the stunning views and gastronomy, these villages, with their picturesque architecture, narrow streets, and romantic atmosphere, enchant visitors, making the visit to Lake Como even more special.

Palaces and Gardens to Visit

Exploring the magnificent palaces and gardens that adorn the shores of Lake Como is a truly delightful experience. Highlighted sites include the Villa Carlotta, with its impressive botanical gardens offering a profusion of colors and scents, creating an atmosphere of serenity and natural beauty. Another highlight is the Villa del Balbianello, renowned for its elegant architecture and stunning views over the lake. These iconic places offer visitors a unique glimpse into the region’s history and natural beauty, making the visit to Lake Como even more memorable.

Villa Carlotta, located on the shores of the stunning Lake Como, is an architectural and botanical masterpiece that captivates visitors with its elegance and splendor. Built in the 18th century, this magnificent residence stands out for its impressive botanical gardens, where visitors can explore a vast collection of exotic plants and stunning flowers. Villa Carlotta’s gardens are a true oasis of serenity, with winding paths leading to ornamental fountains, panoramic terraces, and a variety of exotic botanical species, providing a unique sensory experience.

On the other hand, Villa del Balbianello is an architectural treasure located on the shores of Lake Como, known for its charm and breathtaking views. This 18th-century villa stands out for its elegant architecture and stunning location, perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the lake. Its meticulously manicured gardens and panoramic terraces offer spectacular views of the shimmering waters of the lake and the majestic peaks of the surrounding mountains. Additionally, Villa del Balbianello is famous for having been the setting for famous films, adding a touch of glamour and fascination to its historic aura.

Local Cuisine

The local cuisine of Lake Como is a true delight that reflects the rich culinary tradition of the Lombardy region in Italy. With an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, dishes from the region are known for their simplicity and authentic flavor.

One of the most emblematic dishes of Lake Como is the risotto alla milanese, a creamy rice dish flavored with saffron, which is a true delicacy. Fresh fish from the lake, such as trout and lavarello, are often found on the menus of local restaurants, prepared in various ways and always delicious.

Of course, being in Italy, there will be no shortage of pasta and pizza options around Lake Como. These classic Italian dishes are widely available, offering an authentic and delicious gastronomic experience.

In addition, artisanal gelato is an irresistible temptation, offering a variety of fresh and creamy flavors that perfectly complement a stroll by the lake.

The aperitivo culture is also an important part of the culinary experience of Lake Como. Lakeside bars and cafes offer a variety of drinks, such as the famous Spritz, accompanied by a selection of delicious snacks, such as local cheeses, olives, and cured meats, creating a relaxed and social atmosphere to enjoy good times around Lake Como.

Safety Tips

When visiting Lake Como, prioritizing safety is fundamental. While the European Health Insurance Card provides basic coverage for Europeans, having comprehensive travel insurance is crucial for dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of weather conditions when engaging in water activities and to follow safety instructions when using water transport. When exploring the charming lakeside villages, it’s essential to keep belongings secure and be vigilant against potential theft. Respecting traffic rules when renting a car and being aware of natural hazards during outdoor activities are also important precautions. We should always act responsibly and cautiously to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience at Lake Como.

FAQs

What are the best ways to travel to Lake Como from nearby cities like Milan or Bergamo?

Visitors can easily reach Lake Como by train, with direct routes available from Milan to Como and Varenna. Alternatively, renting a car offers flexibility to explore the surrounding region.

What are the main attractions and activities to experience around Lake Como?

Popular attractions include exploring the charming villages of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio, visiting historic villas like Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello, engaging in extreme sports, and enjoying leisurely boat rides on the lake.

What is the best time of year to visit Lake Como?

The best time to visit Lake Como is during spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October), when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists. Summer offers warmer temperatures but also attracts more visitors.

What are some budget accommodation options around Lake Como?

Travelers can find budget accommodation options in cities like Como and Varenna, including guesthouses, hostels, and budget hotels. Additionally, staying in nearby cities like Milan or Bergamo and commuting daily to Lake Como can save on accommodation costs.

Are there water activities available on Lake Como?

Yes, visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities such as kayaking, standup paddling, and swimming at designated beaches along the lake shores. Boat tours and ferry cruises are also popular for exploring the scenic beauty of the lake.

What are some must-try local dishes and culinary experiences around Lake Como?

Lake Como is known for its delicious cuisine, including regional specialties such as risotto alla milanese (saffron risotto), dishes featuring fresh fish from the lake, gelato (Italian ice cream), and the traditional aperitivo culture, where visitors can enjoy drinks and snacks by the lakeside.


Lake Como, with its romantic aura, stunning beauty, and rich cultural heritage, captivates the hearts of travelers who visit it. Each lakeside village tells a unique story, while the magnificent palaces and gardens offer a glimpse into the region’s luxurious past. Additionally, the local cuisine, with its traditional dishes and delicious gelato, is a sensory experience that perfectly complements the journey. Whether exploring the narrow streets of picturesque villages, sailing on the sparkling waters of the lake, or simply contemplating the breathtaking views, a visit to Lake Como promises to be an unforgettable adventure. So, dive into this charming destination and allow yourself to be enveloped by the unique magic of Lake Como.

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