Visit elegant mansions and lakeside gardens, sample delicious Italian cuisine, and try some water sports – these are the best things to do in Lake Como.
Lake Como offers the ultimate in Italian luxury – a gorgeous lake surrounded by green hills, picture-perfect villages, and sumptuous lakeside mansions. It’s known as the playground of the jet set, and has been attracting visitors for thousands of years.
I fell in love with the area on my last visit. It’s such a stunning spot, I found myself reaching for my camera over and over again. In addition to its beautiful setting, Lake Como offers a whole host of activities for visitors, whether it’s a boat ride on the lake, hiking the nearby hills and mountains, exploring the mansions, gardens, and lakeside promenades, or simply kicking back at a terrace with a cocktail and admiring the view.
To help you plan the ultimate adventure, here’s my guide to the best things to do in Lake Como.
If you’re planning a winter trip to this region, I’d recommend checking out my specific guide to the best things to do in Lake Como in winter.
Planning your trip to Lake Como? Here are a few quick highlights:
- Visit some of the prettiest towns on Lake Como on this cruise
- Learn how to make some staples of Italian cuisine
- Explore the area on two wheels (and without so much effort!)
- Your own private sightseeing cruise – a great option for groups visiting the lake
- You’ll feel like George Clooney as you speed away on a classic speedboat
- One of the most stylish hotels on the banks of Lake Como
Top Things To Do In Lake Como
Watch A Lake Como Sunset In Style
One of the most popular things to do in Lake Como is also the simplest: Watch the sunset! I think the sunsets around Lake Como are absolutely magical, and best viewed with a delicious cocktail in your hand! For the best views, head to the east shore of the lake, where you can enjoy the peachiest shades reflecting on the surface of the water.
For the best sunset cocktails in Lake Como, try the lakeside terrace at T Bar at Grand Hotel Tremezzo or Bar Il Molo in Varenna. Or for a panorama you’ll never forget, hop on the funicular railway at Brunate and enjoy sunset views across the lake!
READ MORE: Find out where to stay in Lake Como – from budget to luxury.
Try Your Hand At Water Sports
If you’re trying to decide what to do in Lake Como, the answer is simple – get out on the water! All visitors to Lake Como will feel the lure of the water at some point during their stay, and there are plenty of opportunities for water sports out on the lake. Try your hand at sailing, water skiing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, kite-surfing or even wake boarding.
There are activities suitable for all tastes and activity levels – if you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, book onto a sailing tour and kick back with a glass of prosecco as your captain shows you some of the best spots on the lake.
Eat At One Of Lake Como’s Coolest Restaurants
Lake Como showcases the best in north Italian cuisine and there’s no shortage of amazing places to eat around the lake. For fresh lake fish don’t miss Trattoria al Porto, in the sleepy village of Careno, where the menu changes each day depending on the catch.
For fine local produce, visit Agriturismo Sorsasso, a family run restaurant at the northern end of the lake, where every single ingredient is sourced from the local area and the family’s farm. Meals here are simple and made with love – often the way with the tastiest Italian food! Don’t panic about the prices either. I could always find a simple pizza or pasta dish when I visited Lake Como on a budget.
However, if you want to arrange a special dinner in Lake Como, book a table at the Michelin-starred I Tigli in Theoria, where you’ll be taken on a sensory journey through exceptional gourmet Italian cuisine.
Take An E-Bike Tour of Lake Como
Lake Como is an excellent destination for active travellers, with water sports, hiking and cycling opportunities galore. If you’re looking for a fun activity that isn’t too challenging, I’d recommend going hiring e-bikes and going for a cycle around the lake. E-bikes give you that extra boost up the hills, but are still a great way to get out and enjoy the scenery.
To see all the best spots, this 3-hour e-bike tour takes you to see three lakes – Lake Como, Lake Piano and Lake Lugano. You’ll also get to see some authentic mountain villages, lakeside beaches and ride along the old railway line through the Lake Piano nature reserve! It’s such a beautiful place to explore on two wheels and this is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Como!
You can also check availability using this handy tool…
Marvel At The Villa Del Balbianello
Lake Como is famous for its luxurious villas, and if there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in Lake Como, it’s the breath taking Villa Balbianello. With its beautifully landscaped gardens and wonderful views over the western shore of the lake, this villa oozes period charm and elegance.
Unfortunately it’s not possible to stay here, but you can explore the gardens, check out architecture and learn more about its curious former owner, Guido Monzini, leader of the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest. The upper floor of the villa has been transformed into a museum devoted to his memory, and even contains a sleigh that he used to travel to the North Pole!
Top Up Your Tan By The Lake
Northern Italy might be known as a place where the rich come to splash their cash, but there are also plenty of cheap things to do in Lake Como. If you’re looking for free things to do in Lake Como, simply head down to one of the beaches that line the shore and soak up the sun.
Temperatures in the summer months reach 30 degrees Celsius (although they drop to around 5 degrees Celsius in winter), so late spring, summer and early autumn are the best times to visit if you fancy a spot of sunbathing.
Take To The Skies And See Lake Como By Helicopter
Looking for unique things to do in Lake Como? How about an incredible helicopter ride over the lake! There’s nothing more exciting that taking to the sky and viewing the lake from a bird’s eye perspective, and this tour offers you exactly that opportunity.
You’ll see the lake as you’ve never seen it before and get a thrill as the chopper sweeps down and skims the surface of the water! This 15-minute tour doesn’t come cheap, but you’re guaranteed to make some memories that will stay with you forever.
Visit The Forte Di Fuentes
Towering over the hill of Montecchio, the Forte di Fuentes is a lasting reminder of the Spanish presence in northern Italy in the 17th century. This fascinating site is the ideal way to learn a little more about Italy’s complex past, demonstrating the ways in which Spanish, Polish, Austrian and French interventions have shaped the history and character of this beautiful region. The Forte di Fuentes is a great day trip from Lake Como, and the views from the hill are guaranteed to have you reaching for your camera.
Sample A Fabulous Food Tour In Como
Food, food, food – in my opinion a trip to Italy would be nothing without feasting on the incredible local cuisine! This food market experience is one of the best things to do in Lake Como, showcasing gorgeous local produce whilst taking in the sights of Como town.
You’ll visit the vibrant local farmers market and taste lots of local delicacies. Not only will you get to soak up the authentic side of the lake experience, but you’ll get to learn all about the cuisine too. What better way to spend the day?!
Stretch Your Legs On The Sentiero Del Viandante
The Sentiero del Viandante is an ancient Roman highway that runs along the eastern side of Lake Como, and has now been transformed into a popular hiking trail. If you’re looking for peace, stillness and the most incredible views of the lake, head up here to stretch your legs or maybe catch a pretty sunset.
You’ll pass by ancient mule tracks, chestnut woods, olive groves and black marble quarries. Towards the end of the day, the vivid colours of the sunset illuminate the lake and the nearby hills, providing a dazzling natural light show.
Go Wine Tasting In Lake Como
What to do in Lake Como when it’s raining? How about heading indoors and sampling some local wine? Northern Italy is a paradise for wine lovers, and if you’re staying in Bellagio, I’d recommend a visit to Enoteca Principessa, one of the lake’s best wine stores.
The shop is crammed with exceptional wines, and the friendly staff are always on hand to provide explanations, recommendations and tastings. It’s an atmospheric treasure trove of a store and is one of Lake Como’s most unique attractions.
Explore the Orrido di Bellano
Fancy seeing an amazing gorge? Then head to Orrido di Bellano! Located in the town of Bellano, on the eastern shore of Lake Como, this natural wonder offers a unique and thrilling experience.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Lake Como, this is a great option! What makes it unusual is the opportunity to walk through narrow, rocky passages with waterfalls cascading through the gorge.
Wooden walkways and bridges have been built to allow visitors to explore the gorge safely. It’s a fascinating mix of natural beauty and a sense of adventure that you might not expect to find on Lake Como.
Chill Out In Villa Carlotta’s Botanical Gardens
Como is well known for its glamorous lakeside mansions, and Villa Carlotta is one of the most famous. The stunning villa is a monument to the perfect marriage of architecture and nature and features an elegant villa set amongst 17 acres of lush gardens.
The famous botanical garden is packed with rare trees and plants, including colourful rhododendrons and ancient cedars. You’ll also find an excellent museum with an impressive art collection too, so there’s enough here to keep you entertained for hours, whatever the weather.
Still planning your trip? Read about the best hotels in Lake Como – from budget to luxury.
Take A Day Trip To Milan
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the lake, why not go a little further afield and take a day trip to Milan? I’ve always really enjoyed my time in Milan, with its mix of Renaissance and contemporary art, stunning architecture and chic shopping districts. Plus… the food is great too! Yes – I often plan my trips around my stomach!
Milan is known as the fashion capital of Italy, so a day trip here is the perfect opportunity to do some shopping. Simply hop on a train in Varenna, and within an hour you can be sipping a coffee at one of Milan’s iconic bars. Find out more about the journey from Milan to Lake Como (and tours) in my post here, plus read my guide to spending the ultimate 24 hours in Milan.
Marvel at the Gardens in Villa Melzi
Villa Melzi, otherwise known as the ‘pearl of Bellagio’, is yet another gorgeous mansion in Lake Como. This beautiful house is built in a neo-classical style, and set in a huge park that gives wonderful views down to the lake.
Here you’ll find ancient Japanese maples, ponds filled with water-lilies, Egyptian sculptures and Roman statues. It’s one of the finest houses on the lake. Unfortunately it’s not open all year round (usually opens late March), so check the website before you plan your visit.
Attend the Sagra di San Giovanni
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Lake Como, don’t miss the region’s biggest festival which takes place every year on the weekend closest to the 24 June. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, this celebration sees Como come alive with music, dancing, storytelling, and an epic fireworks show to top off the evening.
This fabulous party is one of the best things to do in Lake Como at night, as each town is illuminated by glittering lights and fireworks.
Explore Lake Como in Winter
A lot of my suggestions are ideal for summer trips, but how about visiting Lake Como in winter? It’s a very different place as the cool weather rolls in, transforming it into an enchanting winter wonderland.
Nestled amidst the snow-capped Italian Alps, this picturesque destination takes on a quiet charm. Enjoy strolls through the pretty lakeside villages which are adorned with twinkling lights. Tuck into some hearty Italian cuisine in a cosy restaurant, sitting beside a crackling log fire.
You might be less keen to be out on the water of Lake Como in the winter months, but it’s a great time to get up into the mountains for aw winter hike. Plus, if you’re saving your pennies, you’ll save a lot of money on hotels by visiting in the winter season! That’ll leave you more money for delicious pizza, pasta and vino!
If you’re looking for more guides to this region, check out these posts:
- 20 Amazing Things To Do In Lake Como
- Where To Stay In Lake Como, Italy – Hotels For Every Budget
- How To Travel From Milan To Lake Como
- Lake Como On A Budget
- What To Do If You Only Have One Day In Milan
- The Ultimate Italy Road Trip Itineraries: Routes, Sights, Guides, Maps And More
- 23 Best Hidden Gems In Italy: Venture Off The Beaten Path In Italy
- Riva del Garda: Restaurants, Food Experiences and Activities
- Where To Stay In Lake Garda, Italy – Hotels For Every Budget
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