Where to stay in Lake Como – the 7 best towns from a local
This is where I was born. I have been living in Australia for a while but still I keep been asked so many times where to stay in Lake Como.
The short answers is that it depends on your type of trip and ultimately the length of your visit.
Ask any local and they will give you the own version of the best towns to stay in Lake Como.
In fact, there are areas that work well if you are travelling by car. Others are perfect if you are without a car, in fact are much better.
A few towns work better for families, meanwhile others are best for couples or even if you are looking for a bit of nightlife (but do not expect that much).
In this guide, you will find all you need to know to decide on your best place to stay in Lake Como.
All written with a local Italian touch. Lots of memories mixed with practical information and a few tourist notes.
The best part? It’s all updated, no old stuff.
Let’s get straight to the map and the best towns and areas.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best town to stay in Lake Como – the map
- 2 Como – Where to stay in Lake Como for a practical base
- 3 Lecco – Best place to stay in Como Lake on budget
- 4 Bellagio – Where to stay in Lake Como for couples
- 5 Varenna – Best place to stay in Lake Como for families
- 6 Menaggio – Where to stay in Lake Como for a quiet time
- 7 Tremezzo – Best for a nostalgic stay
- 8 Cernobbio – for a memorable stay in a luxury hotel
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9.1 How many days should I stay in Lake Como?
- 9.2 Where should I stay for 2-3 days in Lake Como
- 9.3 What can I do with 5 days in Lake Como
- 9.4 What is the best place to stay in Lake Como without a car?
- 9.5 Can I visit the Lake Como on a day trip from Milan
- 9.6 How to get from Milan to Lake Como?
- 9.7 How to get from Milan Malpensa Airport to Lake Como?
- 10 More Photos on the best places to stay in Lake Como
I also suggest checking the newspaper La Provincia (use Google translator for an English version). It lists all the local town events.
Best town to stay in Lake Como – the map
The lake is spreading through a vast area and each town has somehow the own feeling. They all have a different character.
Como, Lecco and Varenna are all easily accessible by train from Milan. For the others, you will either need a car or take the local bus.
There are over 20 interesting towns and villages that can be visited around this amazing corner of Italy.
In this guide you will read about my suggested 7 best towns to stay in Lake Como, and I will tell you why
Como – Where to stay in Lake Como for a practical base
- practical base to explore the lake. Buses and ferries depart from Como.
- easily accessible by train from Milan and direct link to the airport
- perfect for a long stay
- budget stay
- best nightlife on the Lake Como. It’s a city, after all.
- Como is on the lake, but you will not feel it
- it is nor romantic neither charming
With over 100,000 people, Como is a real city with the own football team that was once in Serie A, the major Italian league and, legends say, almost signing Messi in the kids’ team.
I had an Australian friend staying in Como for 3 weeks and he absolutely loved it.
He had a bike and with that, he could explore all the major sites, mountains and even explore Switzerland (just a few kilometres away).
He had easy access to all he needed for his stay, supermarkets, bars, cafes, restaurants.
Moreover, on a rainy day, he could grab the train and be in Milan in 30 minutes to visit the city, the unique museums and the great shopping.
Como was his base, the starting point.
This city is a great place to stay in Lake Como if you are after a practical location with easy access to all the modern facilities, however, you will not be able to experience the romantic stay you may have dreamed of.
Como has a bit of a town feeling, but honestly, nothing compared to other towns around the lake.
In Como, when you open the window in the morning you will have more of a city “welcome”, with busy traffic at the peak hours.
In saying that, if you plan for a long stay, with day trips around, then Como opens up more possibilities.
Como is also one of the least expensive towns to stay in Lake Como.
The Al Molo di Sant’Agostino is one of the best value bed & breakfast in Como. The location is just the best you can get, next to everything, including the funicular, the old centre and the train station too. All the units have been refurbished recently (see photos here)
The Como City Home works better if you are after a long stay and you need more space around you. It is a 1 bedroom apartment with a good size living room and a balcony too, which works so well for breakfast in spring and summer. (see photos here)
Lecco – Best place to stay in Como Lake on budget
- practical base to explore the lake and the east coast of the lake (Varenna and Colico)
- easily accessible by train from Milan (40 minutes)
- perfect for a long stay
- budget stay
- mountain trekking
- it has more character than Como but you will feel still in a city
Lecco is more charming than Como, but it doesn’t have that nice feeling you expect from a lake location.
It’s very well connected to Milan (40 minutes) and to Varenna (20 minutes), and there are buses and ferries to other location on the lake.
Going to the Milan Malpensa is not as straightforward because you will need to go to Milan first, and then back to Lecco.
It is a low budget base for a long stay, with plenty of restaurants and supermarkets.
It works also very well if you plan to do some trekking in the mountains around the city.
I highly suggested the walk to the Monte Resegone peak, absolutely stunning
The B&B Casa Fortuna has probably the cheapest rooms in the Lake Como. The units have been recently refurbished and they offer a basic clean stay, perfect if you are travelling on a budget. The view from the rooms is actually quite outstanding (see photos here).
The Huonder House is another bargain in the Lake Como. This is a 2 bedroom apartment that is perfect if you are travelling as a family or with friends. The bathroom is brand new (see photos here). The location is perfect, right in the old town.
Bellagio – Where to stay in Lake Como for couples
- a stunning town with an amazing 360 degrees view over the lake
- the most romantic place to stay in Lake Como
- a good base to visit Tremezzo, Menaggio and Varenna, all a short ferry away
- the most expensive town in Lake Como
- most touristy place
- easily accessible by car. Without a car, it takes some time.
- parking is rare, and it doesn’t come cheap
- it can be very busy on the weekends when the “Milanesi” (day-trippers from Milan) arrive on herds.
In Bellagio, you will feel straight on a postcard holiday with the town sitting on the steep lake coast.
At night you can have your dinner in one of the many local “trattorie”, mostly family run and walk through the tiny alleys and lane illuminated by a romantic soft light.
Walk on the west side of Bellagio for the beautiful sunset, or go to the east side for the amazing views of the Italian Alps.
Personally, I find Bellagio cozier in winter or autumn, with that fog that comes around sunset.
This is the best destination to stay if you are travelling with your partner and you are looking for a romantic stay.
Access to Bellagio, unfortunately, is not that practical unless you plan to travel by car.
The easiest and most romantic way is to take a train to Varenna (just over 1hr from Milan), walk down to the little pier (10 minutes) and grab a 15 minutes ferry to Bellagio.
Walking down from the train station in Varenna is not a problem if you have a small suitcase.
It can be challenging if you have a big case with wheels (stairs and stairs). Even more tiring on the way back.
Alternatively, you can take a train to Como (40 minutes), walk to the Bus Station in S.Rocchetto and catch a local bus to Bellagio Lido.
This route will take longer and there is more walk involved, however it will be mostly flat.
Being Bellagio such a popular destination, it comes to no surprise it is also the most expensive town to stay in the Lake Como.
In saying that, Bellagio is really a town you can’t stop loving it, even in the busy season, from June to August, really worth the extra price.
The Residence la Limonera is one of the best value accommodations in town. The location is just perfect, only 5 minutes from the ferry pier, with a nice garden area which is perfect if you travelling in spring or summer.
For a more romantic and glamour stay, facing the lake, you may check the Villa Serbelloni, the perfect place to stay in Lake Como for couples. It’s like stepping back in time with an amazing interior of the old charming days. The swimming pool is a great plus in summer (see photos here). It is a hotel for the great occasions, very often booked out.
In 2 or 3 days in Bellagio, you should consider
- taking the ferry to Menaggio for a day visit and lunch on the lake
- grab a bus to the “Madonna del Ghisallo”, a small chapel dedicated to the cyclists, a very unique experience, especially if you are a rider yourself
- Take a private boat tour
- Have a walk to the Punta Spartivento, where you can have a view of the whole lake, from left to right
- Visit Pescallo (10 minutes), a nice small little fishing village
These are my suggestions for lunch or dinner in Bellagio
- Ristorante Mistral, for the great position with almost every table facing the lake. It is a Michelin star restaurant, so expect a great selection of food. For the special occasions
- Babayagav, if you are after an Italian pizza off the beaten path, which means a more original taste and dining between more locals than tourists
- Bistrot Restaurant, a nice boutique restaurant, best for lunch with a nice outdoor area. Family run, it offers great food besides being a fantastic value, especially considering it’s in Bellagio
Varenna – Best place to stay in Lake Como for families
- the best town for sunset
- a quiet stay for families in a small town with a local feeling
- best place to stay in Lake Como without a car, easily reachable by train from Milan (1 hour) and well connected to Lecco (20 minutes)
- connected to Bellagio and Menaggio by a quick ferry
- charming town
- not as romantic and beautiful as Bellagio
- sort of steep town which makes it hard to get around with luggages
- parking is rare, and it doesn’t come cheap
Varenna is almost as beautiful as Bellagio, however on a smaller scale, less busy and you will experience more of the local life
It is so famous for the sunset view, doesn’t matter where you are.
It is also very practical with the frequent trains from/to Milan (just over 1 hour). Keep in mind to buy the tickets in advance. There is no ticket machine and the local agency with charge you a small service fee.
It may not offer the same facility selection, and quantity, of Bellagio, however, you will have more of a local feeling with fewer tourists around.
It works very well if you are travelling with grownup kids that can walk around freely without much traffic.
Moreover the trips with the ferries will be a great fun for the children.
If you are travelling with a pram, then Lecco or Como may be a better solution. They are both flat.
To sum up, Varenna is a great choice if you are after a local quiet experience, with family-run restaurant and hotels, in a town with lots of character (and steps)
It can be a great solution also for a long stay, considering the direct train to Milan (just over one hour trip).
From Varenna, you have also access to a few trekking options.
Price wise, it seats between Lecco/Como and Bellagio.
The Hotel Beretta is great value for money with a fantastic location, right in the centre of town and 5 minutes from the train station and the pier. Breakfast is included, which helps to start the day in a comfy way. They offer double and triple rooms (see photos here).
The Casa Lido Lake View is a magnificent apartment that can host up to 4 people. As you may have guessed from the name, the view from the balcony is terrific (see photos here). It is surely not the cheapest place in Lake Como, but you will not forget that view for a long while.
If you decide to be in Varenna for a quiet stay with your partner, then look no further than the Hotel Royal Victoria. This is a fantastic romantic place to be, with a pool and an amazing view of the lake. You can experience one of the coziest accommodations of your life (see photos here).
Once in Varenna, you could also:
- follow the Esino River and reach the unique tower of the Castello di Vezio, a fortress with a great view of the lake
- take a ferry to Bellagio for a day tour
- visit the Villa Monastero for its magnificent interior and the beautiful garden
- walk through the Sentiero del Viandante along the lake coast, so romantic
Have dinner at the restaurant Il Cavatappi, an institution with such a great service, in the boutique size (you better book a table).
Another favourite of mine is the Crotto del pepott, hidden behind trees in a magical atmosphere.
Homemade cuisine inspired only by local products. Another place to book in advance.
Menaggio – Where to stay in Lake Como for a quiet time
- great local feeling
- a quiet stay for couples looking for a secluded stay
- Well connected to Como (fast ferry) and to Lugano/Switzerland (bus)
- captivating town
- good tiny beach for summer
- the best town for the Alps view
- not as romantic and beautiful as Bellagio or Varenna
- too quiet when off season
Menaggio seats between the city life of Como/Lecco and the romantic feeling of Bellagio/Varenna.
It’s flat, no stairs, so much easier to walk around.
You can have a nice local experience with more authentic restaurants and less travellers around
It is the perfect town to stay in Lake Como if you are looking for a quiet and secluded place to escape for a while in a nostalgic way..
There is also a nice small beach, in case you plan your trip in summer.
Check out the Hotel Garni Corona for its amazing location (lakefront and central to the town) and the newly renovated interior, not to mention the outstanding service.
Tremezzo – Best for a nostalgic stay
Tremezzo is just a short distance from Menaggio, facing Bellagio and the amazing Alps (incredible view).
Very well connected with buses and ferry to all of the towns above. It’s another practical destination.
The village is almost non-existing and mostly based on a few hotels.
It is a very nostalgic place with accommodation probably owned by the same people for the last 100 years.
La Darsena is the classical example, facing the lake with a beautiful interior and the most friendly service you can find in this corner of Italy.
There is even a a private docking and mooring for boats (see photos here)
Cernobbio – for a memorable stay in a luxury hotel
Cernobbio is a beautiful village a few kilometres outside Como, very popular with Sunday trips of “Milanesi” (day trippers from Milano).
I see it more as a (half)day destination.
However, if you are looking for the best luxury place to stay in Lake Como, then here you find one of the most famous in the world, the Villa D’Este.
This place is more for a memorable stay, famous with VIPs and Italian politicians.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days should I stay in Lake Como?
The length of the stay is based on the experience you want to have.
For a brief stay, book your hotel in one town only, otherwise, you may spend more time in packing, unpacking and moving than actually enjoy the place.
For a longer stay, you may think about moving between two or more accommodations.
You would need at least 4 or even better 5 days to see all the towns I mentioned above.
Where should I stay for 2-3 days in Lake Como
Varenna is, in my opinion, the best option because it is so well connected to Milan by train. You will not waste time in too many transportation meanings.
Lecco is perfect if you are travelling on a budget.
What can I do with 5 days in Lake Como
With 5 days, or more, you can think to split your stay in Lake Como between 2 towns or you can book your accommodation in one single place and use it as a base to visit the lake.
If your option is for a single place, I would strongly consider Varenna because of these advantages:
- easy to reach by train
- easy to organise day trips. It’s 20 minutes by train to Lecco and 1 hour to Milan, 15-45 by ferry to everywhere on the lake. Really well connected.
- on a rainy day, you can plan a trip to Milan, for some shopping and a few of the best museums in Italy
- a few options for trekking the mountains above
- interesting day trips like the one to the Moto Guzzi old office and museum in Mandello (a must for motorcyclists)
- good value town, especially considering how beautiful it is.
Alternatively, you can split the trip into two towns. I would include Menaggio for 2/3 days and Bellagio (or Varenna) for 3/2 days.
What is the best place to stay in Lake Como without a car?
The best place to stay in Lake Como without a car is Varenna, just 1 hour by train from Milan.
You can easily take a quick ferry to Bellagio and Menaggio for a (half)day trip.
In 20 minutes by train you are in Lecco, and on a rainy dull day you can always go to Milan for a day trip.
Como and Lecco are also good options, however not as charming as Varenna. They are both more practical and cheaper too, though.
Can I visit the Lake Como on a day trip from Milan
Yes, you can visit the Lake Como from Milano also on a day trip, however, is going to be an intensive day, especially if you want to visit Bellagio, the pearl of the lake.
There are a few trains leaving from Milan direction the lake. They may take 40 minutes as well as over 1 hour to arrive in Como, based on the type of train.
I would personally suggest planning the quickest route because the train trip does not have any particular beautiful scenery.
Here is a possible itinerary that will allow you to visit most of the interesting places.
- Take the train in Milano Centrale at 8:20am to Varenna (confirm the time on the Trenitalia website). This is one of the quickest options you can get (it takes just 1 hour), and the time is neither too late nor too early.
- Spend 2-2.5 hours exploring Varenna, including a stop for a cappuccino with “cornetto” at the Cafe Il Monasterio.
- Take the ferry to Bellagio (check the weather conditions to avoid those rare bad days when they stop the navigation, usually in winter)
- Lunch at the Bistrot Restaurant, a lovely boutique corner of Bellagio
- Budget around 3 hours for Bellagio, or even more if you plan to visit also Pescallo
- Ferry back to Como at around 5 pm (check the timetable here). It will take around 1 hour, but you will not get bored with an absolutely fantastic scenery
- You can decide to take the next train to Milan or spare a couple of hours in the city
You will not see Lecco and the time will be limited in both Bellagio and Varenna, however, in one day I think this is the best itinerary to cover the most interesting places of Lake Como.
The alternative is to join a private tour.
This is the no worries solution. You jump on a private bus and they will take you around the iconic places.
The great advantage is the guide that will show and explain all about the lake, from the history to the anecdotes.
You will also take a private boat instead of the public ferry, that will take you to a few unique sites.
How to get from Milan to Lake Como?
The best way to travel from Milan to Lake Como is, of course, by train (either to Como, Lecco or Varenna). It’s quicker and you will not have any trouble with parking the car.
How to get from Milan Malpensa Airport to Lake Como?
There are essentially two ways from Milan Airport to Lake Como:
- if your final destination is Como than catch a train from Malpensa and get off at Saronno Station (20 minutes). From there, grab a train to Como (25 minutes)
- if your final destination is Lecco, Varenna or Bellagio than catch a train from Malpensa to Milano Centrale (1 hour). From there take a train direction Sondrio and get off the train to either Lecco or Varenna. For Bellagio, you will still need a ferry leg from Varenna.