Lake Como is one of beautiful places in Italy to visit, especially when you are in north of the country. Full of centuries-old cities, beautiful views and an unparalleled coastline, this is an area of Italy you can’t miss. And not only that, there are a bunch of the best things that can be done on Lake Como, which are strewn along the entire edge of the lake.
We absolutely loved exploring Lake Como and visited it as part of our trip to Northern Italy. It’s an area where you can easily spend weeks soaking up the vibration and history (which is everywhere).
Although you can try a little on a day trip. In fact, it’s completely easy to visit it if you’re there Milan and are looking for a trip out of town.
So to help you make the most of your time on Lake Como, I share some of our favorite places we loved during my visit. This way, whatever length of trip you choose, you’ll get a bunch of wonderful places to explore!
Check out the best things you can do on Lake Como below. Experience an amazing Italian adventure.
Located right on the southern tip of Lake Como, Como is the largest city on the shores of the lake. If you are driving from Milan, Como will probably be your first port.
Once here, be sure to stop at the cult Como Cathedral (Duomo Cathedral in the city). You see, it is one of the most famous Italian Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals from the 14th century and it is absolutely beautiful.
The high marble façade is marvelous, filling one side of the Piazza Duomo on one side, and features richly detailed statues and stone carvings. Inside you will spot a medieval rose window and a precisely carved main altar. You can even climb the dome of Como Cathedral and have a panoramic view of the city (which is wonderful).
Also, don’t forget to take a look at the neoclassical Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to the work of Alessandro Volta. Tempio Voltiano was erected in 1927 to commemorate Volta’s centenary of death. Today, the museum houses some original equipment used in Volta’s monumental research.
It’s a great place to visit, but even better if you get caught in a bit of wet weather.
After that, head to the nearby villa Olmo, which has the most beautiful gardens, and you can also go inside.
Finally, for some great views head to Castello Baradello. From the medieval ruins you will see the whole of Lake Como. However, one thing to remember is that pitches open and close intermittently. This means that upon arrival you should be ready for the closed castle.
One of the best things to do on Lake Como because of the view, Brunate’s Terrace is a must visit in Como.
Technically, just outside the city limits (although it doesn’t seem like it), it’s a place perfect for sunsets.
Now, to get to the Brunate Terrace resort, you need to take the funicular from the eastern end of the lake shore. At the top you will get an extensive view of the southern part of Lake Como, the villages that surround it and the mountains in the distance.
We liked it! In addition, there are a bunch of small restaurants with beautiful terraces. We stopped at Capolinea Bistrot for Italian treats and coffee.
In addition, you can easily see the Volta lighthouse, another monument dedicated to Alessandro Volta. It is located on top of a hill in Brunati.
About a 50 minute drive from the city of Como, Bellagio is another place you must visit while driving around the lake.
Once parked, spend a few hours exploring the promenade by the sea, the cobbled streets and small roadside catering facilities. It is completely picturesque and here you can easily spend the whole day cooling down (if not longer, if you want slowly).
Now you can rent your own boat from Bellagia and sail along the shores of Lake Como. It’s a great treat in an hour, especially if a few of you have shared the cost.
Speaking of treats, for a great place to stay, check out the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni located right on the waterfront. It’s expensive now, but it totally pays off for a special occasion.
Located on the west shore of Lake Como (and easily reached by boat from Bellagio), Menaggio is a dreamy lake town to visit.
It is now often said that the Menaggio Promenade gives you one of the best views of Lake Como and that you would not go wrong! The whole coast around Menaggio is stunning.
All this said, there aren’t many attractions to explore when you’re already here – but it’s all part of his charm. You can simply take a walk and soak up the Italian charm of this timeless place.
If you want to sleep over, check out the Grand Hotel Victoria concept and spa. Again, this can be expensive at the height of the summer months, but it’s a nice treat.
5.) Villa Carlotta
A visit to Villa Carlotta is one of the best things on Lake Como if you are looking for a lazy day of sightseeing.
Located on the Tremezzina Riviera, Lake Como a favorite of visitors, Villa Carlotta is amazing for its lush gardens and world-famous paintings and sculptures.
Now you can best visit its gardens in May, when the whole landscape is full of colorful camellias and rhododendrons that are so beautiful. I can’t say I’m the best at recognizing flowers, but the scent of the flowers was amazing.
6.) Basilica of Sant’Abbondio
Yes, I know it’s in the city of Como, but I just had to mention this on its own!
Although the Basilica di Sant’Abbondio is predominantly Romanesque in style, this 11th-century church is a stunning combination of all the architectural trends that have helped shape Coma over the centuries. It’s almost like a timestamp to see the different influences that have prevailed in the region.
For me, the historical basilica with frescoes from the 13th century is simply amazing to see. I am just a sucker for churches and religious buildings in Italy. They are all so beautiful.
Now, while the basilica itself is well maintained and in good condition, some items have been removed. For example, the stone carvings previously found on the outside of the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio are now housed in the Civico Museum (if you want to head out).
Varenna is easy to reach by boat from Bellagio or Cadenabbia, it is one of the best things on Lake Como when exploring the small communities around the lake itself.
With picturesque streets and stunning lakeside surroundings, Varenna is a great place to visit if you don’t want to fight the crowds in Bellagio in the busier summer season.
When you arrive here, take a stroll through the completely cold medieval streets and don’t forget to check out the gardens of Villa Monastero. Oh, and of course, the castle (Castello di Vezio), built of walls (complete with majors and drawbridge).
8.) Head to the museums
Another favorite Como, you have to take some time to explore some of the museums that are located around Como itself. The Como Archaeological Museum and the Giuseppe Garibaldi Historical Museum are two such sites.
Exploring ancient prehistory to the Middle Ages, it is a place that museum lovers will completely love. Most of the exhibits come from local excavations, so you will have an insight into the evolution of communities and settlements around Lake Como.
Having said that, you may also notice a few Greek and Egyptian artifacts.
On the other hand, the Giuseppe Garibaldi History Museum will take you through the history of Como, including a collection of handmade lace, exhibits highlighting local Italian traditions and details of the Battle of Risorgimento.
If museums aren’t your thing, you might miss them and stick to exploring the beautiful shores of Lake Como.
9.) Villa Melzi
Located in Bellagio, Villa Melzi was built in the early 1800s by Melzi, which was a total big wig during the first Italian republic (back in Napoleon’s time).
The whole villa is completely cult, but also the gardens and the park.
Now, Villa Melzi itself is usually not open to the general public, but you can walk along the landscaped terraces and wander away from the water garden and the white Neo-Moorish pavilion.
Best of all, for a few extra coins you can buy a two-day ticket which is great if you spend the night in Bellagio.
Approximately 30 minutes drive from Bellagio, Lecco will probably be your last or first stop on Lake Como (depending on which route you drive).
For us, it was our last stop as we moved from Milan, across Como and along the coast via Bellagio to Lecco.
Once you arrive, be sure to stop at the Palace of Fears; a museum with thousands of exhibits with a really cool collection of contemporary art. You can spend hours inside.
Also, don’t forget to visit the cult Basilica of San Nicolò which stands proudly in Lecco. It is said that there is almost some form of religious building on this site for almost 1000 years.
Are you getting hungry? Stop by Trattoria Corte Fiorina located in the city itself. Their freshly made ravioli with fish from Lake Como are delicious.
For an evening out, book tickets to the Lecco Theater, which is absolutely great. It’s amazing to visit, although you may need to prepare your Italian a little.