Planning a trip to the Lake Como area in northern Italy and wondering what are the best towns to see in Lake Como? In this guide, we share the most beautiful towns and villages along the shores of Como Lake.
Just to be clear – there are many more towns and villages in Lake Como than the ones featured in this article. In this guide, we only focus on the nicest towns that are worth visiting the most. So if you are visiting Lake Como for the first time and want to see the best that this area has to offer, this list will give you a good idea on where to go.
Furthermore, to help you plan, we include a map and list the most famous, most beautiful towns of Lake Como first. So if you only have a day or two in the area, concentrate on the top of this list. If, however, you have more time, definitely try to see all the towns and villages from this list.
For each town, we share some pictures, practical information on how to get there, what there’s to see and do, and how much time you need. In addition, we also include some tips based on our personal experience visiting the best towns of Lake Como. That way, you know what to expect and how to plan your time.
TIP: If you only have a day and want to see the nicest towns of Lake Como in a short time, we recommend joining an organized tour. They use private boats and can avoid the long wait lines for the ferries, thus allowing you to make the most of your day. You also get some free time to explore on your own. This is one of the best-rated and most popular tours from Milan that visits the 3 most beautiful towns in Lake Como in a day.
Below, you can read more about each town, what to expect, and what to see. Take a look!
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These are the most beautiful towns in Lake Como:
While most guides would probably start with another town as #1, I think that Varenna deserves the first spot. In my opinion, this is the most charming town to see on Lake Como. It’s definitely our personal favorite.
Located in the middle of the eastern shore of Lake Como, Varenna is not just one of the easiest towns to get to, but it’s also set in the most stunning landscape. Perched between steep hills and the lake, this colorful town is extremely picturesque.
If you only have time to see one town in Lake Como, you really can’t go wrong with choosing to visit Varenna.
What to see and do: One of the best things to do in Varenna is to simply explore the old town area by the shores of the lake. In addition, don’t miss Villa Monastero and its beautiful gardens. There are many charming villas that you can visit in Lake Como, and this one is right in the top 5 of that list.
If you are fit, make a small effort to walk to the hilltop castle Castello di Vezzio. The castle is fun to visit, but the main reason to come here are the amazing panoramic views.
Getting there: Varenna can be reached by train from Milan, by car, or by boat from many other towns and villages on Lake Como. Some of the most popular Lake Como day tours also include Varenna in their itineraries.
How much time do you need: While you can just walk through town in an hour or two, we recommend planning at least 3-4 hours for Varenna. But if you want to visit the villa and the castle, have lunch, and quietly explore the town deeper, you can easily spend a big part of the day in Varenna.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Varenna
Probably the most renowned destination on Lake Como, Bellagio is another pretty town that you really cannot miss when visiting the area. Located right in the middle of the lake, Bellagio has the most unique setting that distinguishes it from any other town on Lake Como.
Known as the Pearl of Lake Como, Bellagio is the place-to-be for the rich and famous. Dotted with boutique shops, it feels like a more luxury destination where people come for shopping, dining, and to see and be seen. Accommodation and restaurant prices here are generally higher than in the surrounding towns of Lake Como, although there are plenty of exceptions too.
The nice thing about Bellagio is that despite its more luxury appeal, it has something to offer for everyone. There are nice and more local areas where you can escape the crowds of the main town center, and you can find restaurants and shops for all budgets too.
What to see and do: Also in Bellagio, one of the best things to do is simply walk around and explore the labyrinth of streets in the old town. If you take the time to get a bit off the main streets, you’ll discover a totally different side of this beautiful but very touristy town.
Don’t miss Villa Melzi with its extensive gardens with amazing lake views. You can also take a walk to Punta Spartivento, the northernmost viewpoint of Bellagio. You can also take a little tourist train that allows you to hop on and off at different places. This way, you can easily visit the charming Lake Como villages of Pescalo and San Giovanni. And in summer, you can also go for a swim at one of the beaches in this area.
Good to know: In all the main towns of Lake Como, you’ll find local companies offering boat rental/ private boat tour services. If you want to do it, foresee enough time. Also, take into account that all the boats might be booked-up during peak hours, so if you want to be sure to do this, book in advance. This private boat tour is one of the best-value options in Bellagio. It’s a great and relaxing way to see some of the nicest places and landscapes of Lake Como from the water.
Getting there: Bellagio can be reached by car, but by far the easiest way to get here is by boat. If you are traveling from Milan, take a train to Varenna followed by a 15-20-minute ferry ride to Bellagio. Car ferries from Varenna or Cadennabia also stop in Bellagio.
How much time do you need: You can see the town center in just an hour, but if you also want to visit the villa and explore a bit deeper, count 3-4 hours. With a full day in Bellagio, take a tourist train and hop off at every stop. It’s a great way to see all facets of Bellagio, beyond the main tourist areas.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Bellagio
Good to know: Because of its central location and great boat connections, Bellagio is one of the best places to stay for exploring Lake Como. In the high season, you can visit most of the nicest towns of Lake Como by taking a 10-30 minute ferry from here. Only the towns at the southern end of the lake (Como, Lecco, Cernobbio) are further away, but also there, you can easily take a boat to see them.
READ ALSO: Where to Stay in Lake Como
Como town is another must-see when visiting Como Lake. And it’s really not just because of its name or the fact that it’s the biggest town on Lake Como. The origins of Como town go back several centuries BC, so it will come as no surprise that this town has a rich history. Today, it’s a bustling place with a charming atmosphere.
While many smaller towns in Lake Como partially shut down in the low season, Como remains lively the whole year round. So if you are visiting the area in the low season, Como is a really nice town to stay in, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and a cozy atmosphere.
Despite being a rather big town, Como city center is compact and really beautiful. It’s also relatively flat and the streets are wider than in the smaller towns and villages of Lake Como, so it’s easy to explore. And since Como has good transport connections via railway, highways, as well as ferries, it’s a popular gateway for exploring the rest of Lake Como.
Como is also world-known for its centuries-old silk industry. Famous designers and fashion brands order their silk from here. It is also the site of the National Institute of Silk, with large workshops, laboratories, and lots of shops selling all kinds of beautiful silk products all over the town. It’s really difficult to resist and the prices are quite reasonable.
What to see and do: Explore the old town of Como on foot, visit the Cathedral and a few churches (e.g. Basilica of Saint Abundius), and pass the Porta Torre, a rather unique 12th-century city gate. You can’t really miss Piazza Cavour, a beautiful square by the lake. Take a walk on the waterfront promenade (the nicest in the whole Lake Como area). You can also visit Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to Volta, the inventor of the electric battery.
If you are interested in museums (or if the weather is bad and you are looking for things to do indoors), you may want to check out the Pinacoteca Civica and/or Archaeological Museum at Palazzo Giovio.
Be sure to take a funicular to the hilltop village Brunate for some great views over the town and the lake. It’s really a must-do in Como!
Next to the lake, just a bit outside the city, you’ll find Villa Olmo. This is one of the nicest villas along the shores of Lake Como, and the best one to visit in this area (you can even walk there from the town center in about 20 minutes).
And finally, one of the best things to do when visiting Como is to take a boat tour. If you are short on time and can only explore the lake from Como town, consider a boat tour – it’s a great way to see the nicest scenery and some of the best villas from the water. This highly-rated 4-hour tour is one of the best private boat tours from Como.
Getting there: Como can be easily visited by car or by train from Milan. It also has great boat connections to all the other major towns on Lake Como. Many organized tours to Lake Como start their day with a visit to this town.
How much time do you need: For a quick first visit, 2-3 hours are sufficient for the town center and a quick trip on the Brunate funicular. If you also want to visit Villa Olmo, have a relaxing lunch, or do some shopping, you can easily spend an entire day here too.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Como
Tremezzo is one of the series of small villages on the western side of Lake Como. It’s difficult to say where one town stops and the other one starts here.
Tremezzo is much smaller and has a very different layout than the other towns of Lake Como. It’s rather narrow and everything is concentrated along one main road next to the lake.
The town is perched between the lake and a hill and the main road is lined with restaurants, cafes, and a few hotels. The luxury Grand Hotel Tremezzo is the most impressive of them all. Even if you are not staying here, it’s well worth passing by just to see it. They also have a nice restaurant/bar by the lake – a perfect place for lunch, aperitivo, or dinner.
But the main reason to visit Tremezzo is its famous Villa Carlotta, a stunning lakeside villa with a huge and beautiful botanic garden.
What to see and do: The main attraction in Tremezzo is Villa Carlotta and its botanical gardens. This villa can also be visited inside and it’s really impressive to see the lavishly decorated rooms of its previous owners.
In Tremezzo town, be sure to check out Parco Civico Teresio Olivelli. This is a small public park right at the lake. You’ll find an impressive staircase here, a beautiful fountain, and some nice old trees. There’s also an area where we saw locals playing beach volleyball and even swimming in the lake. Just near the park, you’ll also find a small church, Chiesa San Lorenzo.
TIP: If you are looking for something different to do in this area, consider walking Greenway del Lago di Como. This is a 10-kilometers long sightseeing path that brings you to some of the nicest places between Colonno and Cadennabia/Griante. You can also just walk a part of the trail, which sometimes follows the main road, and sometimes takes you to a more hilly area just above the towns. You need about 3-4 hours for the entire trail, not including the time to visit the villas.
Also here, you can take a private boat tour to see the nicest places on the lake. The advantage of doing this from Tremezzo is that you’re really close to all the most impressive villas and prettiest towns of Lake Como. So you can see a lot in a shorter time and the entire trip will be very scenic.
Getting there: Tremezzo can be reached by car or by bus. But by far the best way to get here is by boat. You can either hop off at Villa Carlotta or in Tremezzo center; it’s just a short walk between the two harbors.
How much time do you need: Count at least 2 hours for a visit to Tremezzo: 1-1.5 hours for the villa and the gardens, and some time to walk along the lakeshore. If you also plan to have lunch here, you’ll find several nice restaurants and cafes. In that case, you’ll likely need at least 3 hours.
Lenno town might not sound familiar to you, but it’s a place you’ll definitely want to visit. This village is home to the most famous villa on Lake Como – Villa Balbianello. This name might not ring a bell either, but you have probably seen this stunning villa in one or the other movie before.
Its location is so scenic that it will come as no surprise that Villa Balbianello was used as a filming location for Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars or James Bond.
But there’s more to Lenno than the villa, so don’t rush away too soon.
What to see and do: The main attraction in Lenno is indeed Villa Balbianello, located on the lake, just a bit outside of the town center. You can either walk or take a short boat ride to the villa and visit its stunning gardens. However, if you also want to visit inside, be sure to reserve your guided tour tickets on their website. In summer, they usually sell out weeks in advance.
In Lenno town itself, don’t miss the St. Stefano Church and the adjacent Baptistery. The interior of the church is really impressive and well worth a few minutes of your time. In addition, don’t miss the underground crypt. It’s one of the hidden gems of Lake Como.
Further, you can walk along the waterfront area, have a gelato, or sit down for a drink or some lunch. There are also some hiking trails nearby. Lenno is also one of the towns where the earlier-mentioned Lago di Como Greenway passes.
Getting there: Lenno can be reached by bus or by car, but parking here is really limited. We visited by car and all I can say is that it’s really not a good idea. Unless you can get there by 9 am, don’t even think about it in summer. The best way to visit is by boat from Bellagio, Varenna, or from the nearby towns in the Tremezzo – Menaggio areas. Alternatively, you can also find some really nice tours that visit the villa and include a boat ride to see it from the water.
How much time do you need: Plan at least 1.5 hours for a visit to the gardens of Villa Balbianello (including the time to walk/ boat there and back). If you are also visiting the interior of the villa, you’ll probably need at least 2 hours. All in all, I’d say count about 2-3 hours for a visit to Lenno.
READ ALSO: Info & Tips for Visiting Villa Balbianello
Menaggio is one of the most picturesque little towns on Lake Como. It doesn’t have any famous villas or gardens that you absolutely have to see, so here you are really coming for the charming lakeside village itself.
To us, Menaggio felt like one of the most relaxed places in the Lake Como area. It has more of a lakeside resort feel, a place to enjoy a longer vacation. Daytime visitors just come here to walk around, enjoy nice views, stroll through the (rather small) old town, and do people-watching from one of the many restaurant terraces.
You won’t see any tourist groups here, and most tourists seem to come from Europe. I guess this is due to the fact that many overseas visitors simply run out of time and just concentrate on the main villas and most famous towns in Lake Como, whereas Europeans probably come to Lake Como for a longer vacation and have more time to explore.
Either way, if you have an hour or two to spare, I think Menaggio is well worth visiting.
What to see and do: The nicest area of Menaggio is concentrated between the little harbor where passenger ferries dock and the Church of Santo Stefano. The liveliest place to be is Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, a charming town square.
Be sure to also walk on the waterfront promenade (a bit in both directions from the main square). To the south, you’ll reach a tiny walled marina, one of the most picturesque places in Menaggio. And in the other direction, it’s just a really nice walk with trees and benches to sit on, lots of flowers, and beautiful lake views.
Getting there: Menaggio can be reached by bus or car, but parking isn’t easy here either. There are a few designated paid parking areas, but it’s really a matter of luck to find a spot. The best way to get to Menaggio is by boat from Bellagio or Varenna.
How much time do you need: You can explore the center of Menaggio in less than an hour.
Located on the southern end of the eastern branch of Lake Como, Lecco is often overlooked by visitors. This has nothing to do with the town itself, but rather its location and the fact that the competition with the more popular towns on Lake Como is really tough.
There are just so many places you can fit in during a short visit, and so most people concentrate on the western side of Lake Como. This is because there are more top sights concentrated together and it’s easier logistically.
Anyway, if you have some time to spare and are looking for a somewhat less touristy beautiful town on the shores of Como Lake, then definitely consider visiting Lecco. Even if just for a short stroll along the lakeshore to admire the stunning scenery around.
Lecco can also serve as a nice base location or a gateway to the other towns of Lake Como. And just like Como town, Lecco is a great place to visit in the colder season when most smaller villages and more touristy towns are really deserted.
What to see and do: Lecco is one of the biggest towns of Lake Como, with more places to explore and walk around. There are quite a few parks and gardens and several villas that now function as museums, e.g. Villa Manzoni or Palazzo delle Paure.
But the nicest place to see is the lovely promenade Lungolago di Lecco. The views here are stunning! Lecco is also one of the best places to see the sunset in Lake Como. There are also lots of hiking possibilities in the surrounding mountains. But that’s something for those on a longer vacation in the Lake Como area.
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Lecco is by direct train from Milan, or by car. You can also get here by boat from the most popular towns in the middle of the lake (Varenna, Bellagio, etc.), but it takes more than 1 hour just to get there.
How much time do you need: Depending on what you plan to see and do, count a few hours for a visit to Lecco.
Located on the southern end of the lake, close to Como town, Cernobbio is another pleasant little town to see in Lake Como. It’s best known for the impressive 16th-century Villa d’Este. However, nowadays, this is a luxury hotel, and you won’t be able to visit unless you are staying here, dining at a restaurant, attending a wedding or so.
Good to know: Do not confuse this villa with the famous Villa d’Este in Tivoli, close to Rome. That one can indeed be visited (and is well worth it if you are going that way).
Just like Menaggio, Cernobbio is a charming lakeside resort where you mainly come for the views and the atmosphere. However, Cernobbio is a bit bigger, has a few nice parks and gardens, and also a couple of other impressive villas. Still, you don’t need much time to visit here. But if you are looking for a more authentic little town on the shores of Como Lake, it’s well worth a quick stop.
What to see and do: Take a short walk on the lovely waterfront promenade and explore the tiny old town. You can also visit Villa Bernasconi which functions as a museum but is only open for visits a few days a week (otherwise, you can just see it from the outside).
Villa Erba is located in a beautiful park and is used for exhibitions, weddings, and other events. Its interior is stunning. Unfortunately, you can’t visit inside unless for an event. But it’s worth seeing anyway.
I guess you could also walk to Villa d’Este, but you won’t see much from the road. You can better appreciate this villa from the lake when passing by boat.
Getting there: The best way to visit Cernobbio is by taking a boat from Como town. You can also get here by bus or by car, but – like anywhere else – parking in the high season is problematic.
So, this is our guide to the most beautiful Lake Como towns that are worth your time the most. I hope that this gives you a better idea of what to expect and what to see and do when visiting the area.
TIP: If you are looking for practical information and tips to help you plan your trip, take a look at our practical guide to visiting Lake Como. It contains lots of useful info and tips for a better experience. Check it out!
READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Lake Como
You may also like our recommendations on how to see the best of Milan in 1 day. Whether you are staying in Milan and visiting Lake Como from there, or are staying in Lake Como and want to visit Milan for a day, this guide showcases all the musts that you really shouldn’t miss!
And finally, if you are looking for more inspiration and information for your trip to Italy, take a look at our Italy travel page. We’ve been to Italy dozens of times, so you can find lots of detailed destination guides and experience-based tips for a big variety of popular places all over the country.
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