Last updated on March 17, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in the European Alps & North of Italy

Where to stay in Lake Como without a car or with it

I got asked so many times by friends and readers where to stay in Lake Como with or without a car. Why? Because I was born and raised there, and I am back on a regular basis. Basically, I know a couple of things about this area.

But let me give you a short answer. It depends on your type of trip and ultimately the length of your visit to Lake Como.

Varenna is still my favourite without a car, and Como is best with a car when driving around Italy.

But there are other options that may work better for you and this is why I have created this guide to the best place to stay in Lake Como without a car and also when you have a vehicle with you.

But let’s start straight away with a map and a quick comparative table of my favourite 7 towns.

Map of the best towns to stay in Lake Como
Map of Lake Como. Check the interactive Map on Google

Best places to stay in Lake Como – Key points

DestinationBest ForAttractionsProsCons
Como TownWith a car/budgetComo Cathedral, Tempio Voltiano, Funicular Como-BrunateBus/ferry hub, Accessible, Budget-friendly, Long/short stay, With carCity vibe, Less romantic
VarennaWithout a car/familiesVilla Monastero, Castello di Vezio, Church of San GiorgioBest without car, Great sunset, Quiet for families, CharmingLess romantic than Bellagio, Steep terrain
LeccoBudget stayBasilica of San Nicolò, Ponte Azzone Visconti, Piani d’ErnaPractical base, Accessible by train, Long stay, Budget-friendly, Mountain trekkingFeels like a city, Less romantic
BellagioCouples/honeymoonVilla Melzi Gardens, Punta Spartivento, Old TownStunning lake views, Most romantic, Good base, Short ferry to other townsExpensive, Touristy, Hard access without car, Rare/expensive parking, Busy on weekends
MenaggioQuiet time/couple seclusionMenaggio Promenade, Villa Mylius Vigoni, Lido di MenaggioLocal feeling, Quiet secluded, Well connected, Tiny beach, Alps viewLess romantic/beautiful than Bellagio/Varenna, Very quiet off-season
TremezzoNostalgic stayQuiet timeWell connected, Nostalgic, Owned by families for generationsMostly hotels, not a village atmosphere
Cernobbio(Half)day trips/luxury stayBeautiful gardensPopular with day trippers, Luxury accommodations availableMore a day trip destination than a stay
7 amazing towns when you visit Lake Como

Are you thinking of renting a car in Italy for a trip to Lake Como? I usually hire my vehicles on DiscoverCars, a website I like to describe like the Airbnb of cars. It compares the best rental deals from local and international providers based on price and user feedback. It also offers full insurance for just 7 Euro/day, which is great peace of mind when driving on those narrow Italian streets.

My 3 best hotels in Lake Como

Enjoying a drive around Lake Como
Enjoying a drive around the Lago di Como

Como Town – With a car

  • Best place with the car and/or on a budget
  • Attractions: Como Cathedral, Tempio Voltiano, Funicular Como-Brunate

Pros

  • Bus and ferry hub
  • easily accessible by train from Milan and a direct link to the airport
  • perfect for short and long stay
  • on a budget
  • with a car

Cons

  • Como is on the lake, but more of a city vibe
  • it is neither romantic nor charming

With over 100,000 people, Como is one big city that has even its football team that is fighting to make it to Serie A, the major Italian league and, legends say, almost signing Messi in the kids’ team. The view of the lake from the south side of the stadium is actually unique.

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 Lake Como and even enter Switzerland (just a few kilometres away).

My tip: Switzerland is not part of the European Community and they have different VISA agreements. In true honesty, they rarely check the documents when you enter the country (even less with a bicycle), however, make sure your passport allows entry to the country.

He had easy access to all he needed for his stay, supermarkets, bars, cafes, and restaurants. Moreover, on a rainy day, he could grab the train and be in Milan in 45 minutes to visit the city, the unique museums and the great shopping.

This city is also one of the best destinations to stay in Lake Como with a car because accommodations usually include parking and, if not, there are plenty of affordable garages, certainly much less expensive than the other towns I have mentioned in this post.

In this respect, Como offers a great practical base with easy access to all the modern facilities, however, you will not be able to experience the romantic stay you may have dreamed of.

In Como, when you open the window in the morning you will have more of a city vibe, with busy traffic at the peak hours. The city itself is not as charming as all of the towns around the lake. This is surely the biggest drawback of staying in this city. You will miss out on the romantic side of the lake.

In saying that, if you plan for a long stay, with a few day trips around, then Como opens up plenty of possibilities. It works well also for a short stay, being well connected to the Malpensa Airport, the city of Milan and all the highlights of the lake.

Como is also one of the least expensive towns in Lake Como, great if you are after a value-for-money break.

Here are 3 great accommodations in Como

The Al Molo di Sant’Agostino ($$$) is one of the best value bed & breakfasts 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

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-sized living room and a balcony too, which works so well for breakfast in spring and summer.

Como Rooms ($): Newly refurbished rooms with modern amenities, offering great value for money. Quiet yet centrally located near Como’s attractions.

Travelling by ferry through the Como Lake
Travelling by ferry through Lake Como

Varenna – Without a car

  • Best place without a car and/or families
  • Attractions: Villa Monastero, Castello di Vezio, Church of San Giorgio

Pros

  • best spot to stay in Lake Como without a car
  • great sunset
  • a quiet stay for families
  • charming town

Cons

  • not as romantic and beautiful as Bellagio
  • sort of steep town which makes it hard to get around with the luggage
  • parking is rare, and it doesn’t come cheap

Varenna is almost as beautiful as Bellagio, a bit on a smaller scale, not as busy and you will experience more of the local life. There is another big plus, it’s one of the best spots on the lake for sunset.

It is also the best town to be in Lake Como without a car. There are frequent trains from/to Milan (just over 1 hour) and easy ferry rides to Bellagio and Menaggio.

My tip: Remember to buy the train tickets in advance on the Trenord website. There is no ticket machine and the newsagency in Bellagio will charge you a service fee.

It may not offer the same facility selection and quality as Bellagio, however, you will have more of a local vibe with fewer tourists around.

It’s a great town also if you are travelling with kids. There is almost no traffic and it will be easier to get around. Less ideal if you have a pram because a few streets are steep and have stairs, in this case, Lecco or Como may be a better solution. They are both flat.

Moreover, the trips with the ferries will be great fun for the children.

To sum up, Varenna is a great choice if you are after a local quiet experience, with family-run restaurants 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 an hour), and from Varenna, you have also access to a few trekking options, in case you are looking for some more action.

The average cost of accommodation sits between Lecco/Como and Bellagio, neither expensive nor cheap.

Here are 3 great accommodations in Varenna

Oriental Coast Apartment ($$$). Superb views of the mountain and the Esino River, excellent location near train and ferry, well-equipped 1BR apartment (up to 4 people) with modern amenities, and outstanding cleanliness.

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 panoramic lake view is terrific (see photos here). It is surely not the cheapest 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 boutique Hotel Royal Victoria. This is a fantastic romantic place to be, with a pool and amazing lake views. You can experience one of the coziest accommodations of your life.

Royal Victoria
Royal Victoria Hotel in Lake Como

Things to do in Varenna:

  • 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)

Once in town I usually book a table at Il Cavatappi, a boutique family-run institution with homemade cuisine inspired only by local products.

The fisherman silhouette
The fisherman silhouette on the shore of the lake

Lecco – Budget stay on Lake Como

  • Best place on a budget
  • Attractions: Basilica of San Nicolò, Ponte Azzone Visconti, Piani d’Erna

Pros

  • practical base (but not as good as Como)
  • easily accessible by train from Milan (45 minutes)
  • perfect for a long stay
  • budget stay
  • mountain trekking

Cons

  • more character than Como but you will feel still in a city
  • not as romantic

Lecco, located at the southeastern end of the lake, is more charming than Como, but it doesn’t have still that nice vibe 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 locations on the lake.

Going to the Milan Malpensa is not as straightforward because you will need a train to Milan or the town of Saronno first, and then back to Lecco. Quite time-consuming.

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. My favourite trek in the area is the Alta Via delle Grigne trek, with spectacular views of Lake Como

Here are 3 great accommodations in Lecco

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

The Huonder House ($) is another bargain in the Lake Como. This is a 2BR apartment that is perfect if you are travelling as a family or with friends. The location is perfect, right in the old town.

Lecco Apartment ($): 1BR unit offering a superb location near the lake and city centre, with quiet surroundings. Clean and with essential amenities for a short stay.

Travelling by ferry is easy and inexpensive
Travelling Lake Como by ferry is easy and inexpensive

Bellagio – Romantic

  • Best place for couples and honeymoon
  • Attractions: Villa Melzi Gardens, Punta Spartivento, Bellagio Old Town

Pros

  • a stunning town with an amazing 360 degrees view over the lake
  • the most romantic town on the lake
  • a good base to visit Tremezzo, Menaggio and Varenna, all a short ferry away

Cons

  • expensive
  • most touristy place
  • easily accessible by car. Without a car, it takes some time.
  • parking is rare and expensive
  • it can be very busy on weekends

Bellagio is the Pearl of Lake Como where you will feel straight on a postcard holiday.

I particularly love this town at night when you can have dinner in one of the few restaurants, from local “trattorie” to luxurious establishments, and walk through the tiny alleys and lanes illuminated by a romantic soft light.

Walk on the west side of town for the beautiful sunset, or go to the east side for the amazing views of the Alps, on of the best in this part of Italy.

Personally, I find Bellagio cozier in winter or autumn, with that nostalgic fog that comes around sunset time.

This is the best destination to stay if you are travelling with your partner and you are looking for a romantic stay, in fact, it’s one of the most popular locations in Como Lake for a honeymoon.

Access to the town, unfortunately, is not that practical unless you are renting a car in Italy.

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-minute 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 (expect plenty of stairs). Even more tiring on the way back.

Alternatively, you can take a train to Como (45 minutes) and from there catch a local bus or alternatively take the little ferry. This route will take longer (especially with the boat) but it won’t require much walking.

Being Bellagio such a popular and glamorous destination, it comes as no surprise it is also the most expensive town to book your hotel in Lake Como.

In saying that, this is really a town you can’t stop loving, even in the busy season, from June to August.

My Tip: On a first trip try booking at least one night in a hotel in Bellagio, it would be a pity not to

Here are 3 great accommodations in Lecco

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.

Residence La Limonera
Residence La Limonera

For a more romantic and glamorous stay, overlooking the lake, you may check the Villa Serbelloni. 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. It is a hotel for the great occasions, very often booked out.

Villa Serbelloni
Villa Serbelloni

Hotel Centrale ($$$) Nestled just steps from Lake Como, this charming, family-run establishment offers a superb breakfast and stunning views of the lake.

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 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, perfect 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, is 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
The Madonna del Ghisallo chapel
The Madonna del Ghisallo chapel

Menaggio – Quiet time

  • Best place for Quie time & couple seclusion
  • Attractions: Menaggio Promenade, Villa Mylius Vigoni, Lido di Menaggio

Pros

  • great local feeling
  • Great for couples looking for a quiet secluded stay
  • Well connected to Como (fast ferry) and to Lugano/Switzerland (bus)
  • good tiny beach for summer
  • the best town on the west part of the lake for the Alps view

Cons

  • not as romantic and beautiful as Bellagio and Varenna
  • very quiet when off-season

Menaggio, on the eastern shore of Lake Como, sits between the city life of Como/Lecco and the romantic feeling of Bellagio/Varenna.

It’s flat, with no stairs, so much easier to walk around. You can have a nice local experience with more authentic restaurants and fewer travellers.

It is the perfect town to enjoy your holiday in Lake Como if you are looking for a quiet and secluded place to escape from the busy life back home.

There is also a nice small beach, in case you are planning a summer trip.

I recently had from Menaggio a day trip to Lugano Lake in Switzerland. It was such a great experience driving around beautiful lakes and mountain roads with spectacular views of both countries.

Here are 2 great accommodations in Menaggio

Grand Hotel Victoria by R Collection ($$$$$) The most impressive Como hotel with impeccable service, stunning views, and luxurious amenities. The spa is exceptional, breakfast is delightful, and the location is perfect for a romantic getaway.

Hotel Garni Corona ($$$) Amazing location (right on the lake and central to the town) and the newly renovated interior, not to mention the outstanding service.

View from the rooms
View from the rooms of the Hotel Garni Corona

Tremezzo – Nostalgic stay

Tremezzo is just a short distance from Menaggio, on the Western shore of Lake Como, facing Bellagio and the amazing Alps (incredible view).

Very well connected with buses and ferries to all of the towns above. It’s another practical destination.

The village is almost non-existent 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.

Here are 2 great accommodations in Tremezzo

Grand Hotel Tremezzo ($$$$$): A luxury with panoramic views of Lake Como. Spacious, elegant rooms and a variety of dining options. Wellness centre, pools, and private beach.

La Darsena ($$$) Right on the shore of Lake Como, with a beautiful interior design and the most friendly service you can find in this corner of Italy. There is even a private docking and mooring for boats.

The Cadenabbia pier
The Cadenabbia pier – Tremezzo -Lake Como

Cernobbio

Cernobbio is a beautiful village on the western shores of the lake, just a short drive from Como, and very popular with Sunday trips of “Milanesi” (day trippers from Milano).

I see it more as a (half)day destination than a real place to stay for your holiday.

However, if you are looking for a luxury hotel to stay then you should check out Villa d’Este, famous with Italian politicians and VIPs

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days should I spend on the lake?

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 packing, unpacking and moving than actually enjoying the place.

For a longer stay, you may think about moving between two or more accommodations. You would need at least a week to see all the towns I mentioned in this article.

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 so you won’t spend much time commuting. Lecco is better if you are travelling on a budget.

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.

What is one of the best places to stay on Lake Como with a car?

The best area to stay in Lake Como with a car is the town of Como. Parking is easier and cheaper than anywhere else. From there you can take the ferry to explore the lake or by car, you can travel to the mountains for trekking, Lugano Lake, or even Lago Maggiore, as beautiful as Como Lake, although rather different.

What is the best town to stay in Lake Como on a budget?

Lecco is the cheapest of the towns and cities facing the lake. Como town has also a few amazing deals.

How do you 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 then 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 then 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.

More Photos

Travelling by ferry is easy and inexpensive
Travelling by ferry is easy and inexpensive
Travelling around Como Lake by car can unveil amazing corners
Travelling around Lake Como by car can unveil amazing corners
Bellagio view from the approaching ferry
Bellagio view from the approaching ferry
Sunset light on the Bellagio lake front
Sunset light on the Bellagio lakefront (nostalgic winter, when most of the shops are closed)
Walking through these steep lanes can be challenging with a big luggage
Walking through these steep lanes can be challenging with a big luggage
Travelling by ferry through the Como Lake
Travelling by ferry through the Como Lake
Amazing secret corners of Como Lake
Amazing secret corners of Como Lake
The old pier in Bellagio
The old pier in Bellagio
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

7 thoughts on “Where to stay in Lake COMO WITHOUT A CAR or with it”

  1. Where would you recommend staying in winter? Would Varenna, Bellagio, or Moltrasio be too quiet or closed during that period, or are enough restaurants etc. open for it to still be easy to stay there? I would love to be able to stay in a small town rather than just Como proper, but still hoping it’s accessible enough!

    Reply
    • Bellagio is the best bet, in my opinion. In fact, it can be quite popular even in those nice sunny winter weekends.
      Enjoy your trip!!

      Reply
  2. Where would you recommend us to stay if we were to drive in from Switzerland for a two night stay? We are a couple on holiday in Switzerland, planning to drop in to Lake Como in mid May.

    Reply
    • Hi Joana,
      I would recommend driving to Griante and catch there the quick ferry to Bellagio (such a romantic trip and amazing view from the water too).

      May is one of my favourite month to visit Lake Como, especially Bellagio. Usually beautiful sunny days but still not many travellers around.

      In Bellagio I suggest booking at
      Villa Serbelloni, for a glamour characteristic stay.
      Residence la Limonera, for a great value for money accommodation

      Enjoy the lake, absolutely magical

      Reply

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