Lake Como is one of Italy’s most beautiful and most famous lakes, with glistening sapphire waters surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks, perfectly manicured gardens and magnificent estates (including one owned by actor George Clooney). Putting it on your itinerary while visiting Italy is truly a must, the only question is, where to stay? There are many charming villages lined along the shores of the lake, but these are the very best to spend some time in.
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The city of Como is the main town on Lake Como, overlooking the southwest end of the lake on the Swiss-Italian border, surrounded by vibrant green hills. It has a picturesque Old Town with lovely piazzas where locals gather to chat and enjoy good food, along with lively bars and shops. There are a number of historic sites too, including the 10th-century Basilica di San Fedele.
Why Stay Here: Luxurious stays, pretty streets that are ideal for getting lost in, and a strategic location at the junction where the lake divides into two branches.
Top Hotels: The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni |Hotel Belvedere Bellagio | Residence La Limonera
Located in the heart of Lake Como, picturesque Bellagio is one of the most well-known towns in the region, a popular spot among tourists for decades. It’s famous around the world for its magnificent villas that overlook the water, rich in history and views. Visitors can stroll the cobbled streets, hop on the ferry from the dock to visit destinations around the lake, shop in chic boutiques and enjoy fine dining at many restaurants. Accommodation is luxurious, with many five-star offerings.
Why Stay Here: Stunning waterfront with breathtaking views across from Bellagio, gorgeous botanical garden and the lake’s most famous luxury hotel.
Top Hotels: Grand Hotel Tremezzo | Hotel Villa Marie
The beautiful small town of Tremezzo lies on the lake’s western shores across from Bellagio, convenient for visiting both Bellagio and Varenna which can be accessed by ferry within 20 minutes. Nearby on the tip of Laveno headland is the famous Villa Balbianello, which has been used in a number of films like “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Casino Royale.” The Villa Carlotta can be found here too, with the complex featuring a more than 17-acre of botanical gardens and a museum.
Cadenabbia is especially picturesque in the fall, surrounded by trees that are transformed by brilliant autumn hues. While it has a population of just 700, it’s famous for being a spa resort, providing an ideal location for plenty of pampering. Cadenabbia is also home to Italy’s first Anglican church, the early 19th-century Church of the Ascension, which was built during the early 1800s along with some ultra-luxurious villas.
Why Stay Here: A tranquil environment for relaxing, friendly locals, excellent authentic eats and one of the best waterfronts on the lake with a pebbly beach for sunbathing and picnicking.
Top Hotels: Hotel du Lac | Royal Victoria
Varenna is a picturesque fishing village and one of Italy’s best-kept secrets that sits along the eastern shore of the lake. It’s home to a gorgeous villa, Villa Monastero with its incredible gardens filled with exotic plants and flowers while providing a jaw-dropping view of the lake and mountains. Open from March through October, by visiting you’ll also be able to explore Casa Museo, a museum that showcases four centuries of history in an elegant setting, with beautiful decor and furnishings. There are many authentic eateries here serving traditional Italian dishes with locally sourced ingredients complemented by tasty local wines.
Nestled on the lake’s southern tip, this bustling, real working town is ideal for those who want to experience more of the authentic side of Lake Como on a budget, including outstanding restaurants that serve delicious authentic Italian fare in traditional style restaurants. Lecco is also well-known for its Sicilian-style ice cream, a must-try. Visconti Bridge is a highlight, dating back to the 14th-century, providing lots of traditional Renaissance charm. You’ll find a number of fabulous hotels that provide lake views for much less than other popular towns on the lake, many of which include boutique-style hotels with balconies.
Bellano is a charming town on the lake’s east side, much less touristy than places like Como or Bellagio. Its big draw is a beach flanked by high-end hotels with pools at beachside along with a smattering of bars and eateries overlooking the beach. The top things to do here is to relax on the lidos lining the shores while enjoying the gorgeous panoramic views. The terrain here also makes it a great place for hiking – famous Bellano Gorge is a fabulous spot for hikes.
Why Stay Here: Ideal for those who want to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, swimming and other water sports, surrounded by striking natural beauty.
Top Hotels: Grand Hotel Menaggio | Hotel Garni Corona
Menaggio offers a ton for those who want to enjoy outdoor activities among beautiful surroundings. This resort town not only lies on the lake’s western shores providing easy transport to other destinations, but it’s often said to be the most picturesque town on Como – not an easy feat with so many pretty towns here. The area is ideal for swimming and a variety of water sports while also enjoying mountainous surroundings that make it popular for scenic hikes. Piazza Garibaldi is lined with 19th-century buildings and serves as the hub, filled with bars, restaurants and cafes that are perfect for sipping coffee while people watching. You’ll find great bakeries and plenty of casual dining options serving fresh, reasonably priced food too.