Last updated on April 2, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in the European Alps & North of Italy

Where to stay in Lake Maggiore | 5 best TOWNS & HOTELS

Finding where to stay in Lake Maggiore is simply not as easy because the towns along the coast are so different from each other, catering somehow to a different category of travellers.

The lake was my backyard, I grew up and spent my entire youth here and I have come back almost on a yearly basis since I moved overseas. For this reason, take this post like a real insider guide, probably one of the best on my website.

In this article, I have organised the 5 most beautiful and interesting towns to spend your holiday on Lake Maggiore, for either a short or long break, all with their own pros and cons.

But let’s jump straight into it.

The Borromean Islands of the lovely Stresa
The Borromean Islands of the lovely Stresa

Best places to stay in Lake Maggiore – Key Points

For a quick summary review, check out the below table that compares the 5 best areas to stay in Lake Maggiore. Click on the name for a town review or just keep reading the full guide.

On a mobile swipe left or right to see all the columns.

TownBest forProsConsAccessibilityAttractionsRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeCharacter
StresaFirst-time visitors & Boutique destinationConvenient location, Borromean Islands access, Rich history, Scenic viewsCrowded high season, Expensive hotels, Limited budget options, TouristyWell connected by train, Regular boat service and bus hubIsola Bella, Villa Pallavicino, Lake Maggiore cruises, Alpine cable car (2025)ExcellentVery goodModerateAristocratic, scenic
Cannero RivieraPicturesque stay & Historical charmScenic, Historic character, Relaxed pace, Easy accessLimited dining, Small size, Lacks attractions, Seasonal crowdsSheltered shore location, Less direct public transportPebble beach, Castle ruins, Orrido gorge, Lake pathGoodVery goodLowCharming town, intimate
Isole BorromeeRomantic getaways & Quiet retreatsRomantic, Peaceful, Intimate charm, Scenic vistasLimited dining, Small accommodations, Daytime crowds, ExpensiveWater transportation required, Limited during off-hoursIsola Bella Palace and gardens, Quaint fishing village, Nature trailsModerateLowVery lowExclusive, romantic
BavenoFamilies & Adventure parksFamily-friendly, Convenient location, Beach access, Budget hotelsCrowded summer months, Limited attractions, TouristyWell connected by train, Direct ferry to Isole BorromeeAquadventure Park, Central playground, Mergozzo beachVery goodExcellentLowFamily-oriented, accessible
AronaShort stays & NightlifeConvenient location, Transport hub, Nearby music clubs, Lake activitiesLess character, Crowded weekends, Noisy nights, Limited budget hotels50 minutes by train from MilanLakefront walk, Old town streets, Nature reserveGoodGoodExcellentLively, less quaint
The best 5 towns on Lake Maggiore

Making a selection of just 5 destinations is never easy, even more so for Lake Maggiore. Other two towns that you may also want to check out are Verbania, the largest town on Lake Maggiore with the lovely Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto, and Angera, on the Lombardy side of the lake for a quiet stay.

Are you organising an itinerary of Lake Maggiore? You have two possibilities:

  • Use the bus/train or the charming ferry (although slow), and visit the towns connected. You can find here the network and timetable for the boat option
  • Use the car and experience the lake as well as the surrounding areas whenever you want.

I have spent some of the best years of my life on Lake Maggiore and I highly recommend having a car because you can experience not only the lake but also other nearby amazing destinations like the Mottarone Peak, the Lake Orta, the Val Grande National Park or the Orrido di S.Anna just to name a few amazing places.

If you plan to rent a vehicle in Italy I suggest doing it at the Milan Malpensa Airport. You will be a stone away from Lago Maggiore and you can start your road trip in no time.

I usually hire my cars 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 a great peace of mind when driving on those narrow Italian streets.

Enjoying a walk through the villages around Lake Maggiore
Enjoying a walk through the villages around Lake Maggiore

My 3 best hotels in Lake Maggiore

A lovely sunset on Mergozzo Lake near Lago Maggiore
A lovely sunset on Mergozzo Lake near Lago Maggiore

Stresa

  • Best place for First-time visitors & Boutique destination
  • Attractions: Isole Borromee, Lake Maggiore cruises, Alpine cable car (to be open in summer 2025)

Pros

  • convenient location,
  • Borromean Islands access,
  • rich history,
  • scenic views

Cons

  • crowded high season,
  • expensive hotels,
  • limited budget options,
  • touristy

Serving as the lively gateway to Lake Maggiore’s beautiful Borromean Islands, Stresa offers first-time visitors iconic Italian vistas, aristocratic architecture, and convenient access thanks to regular rail links from Milan.

Its elegant 19th-century pedigree as a nobility retreat lingers through gorgeous seaside promenades and hillside villas blooming with bougainvillea and olives.

Yet part of Stresa’s enduring popularity also relates to its efficient boat service and bus hub providing effortless island hopping.

You can take a boat in the morning to explore the exotic gardens of Isola Madre before catching an afternoon return to Isola Bella’s magnificent Baroque palace and terraced grounds.

I particularly love the design of these beautiful lake boats connecting the Borromean Islands, old-style 70s glamour. You may feel suddenly in a black & white movie.

On-shore diversions like the bird sanctuary at Villa Pallavicino or swimming on a hot day at Piscina Carciano offer further options between boat trips.

Just note that Stresa’s polished charms come at a cost with hotel rates and crowds peaking from May into September. It’s going to be challenging to find budget lodging, so booking well in advance becomes essential to secure affordable rooms near the train station hub.

Here are 3 great hotels in Stresa

Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromee ($$$$): The most amazing luxury hotel with lake view, in Art Nouveau style and a rich history that dates back to 1863. Not mention the two superb swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and the top-notch dining options.

Boutique Hotel Stresa ($$$$$): One of the best Lake Maggiore hotels. Spacious and modern rooms, spectacular views of the lake and the Alps, and convenient location. Delicious breakfast and lovely pool.

Vista Lago ($$): Clean, spacious 2BR apartment, superb location near lake, main square, and amenities. Comfortable beds, well-equipped kitchen, stunning views from balcony. A real bargain.

Glamour buildings in Stresa on Lake Maggiore
Glamour buildings in Stresa on Lake Maggiore

Cannero Riviera on the Piedmont side

  • Best place for a Picturesque stay & Historical charm
  • Attractions: Pebble beach, Castle ruins, Orrido gorge, Lake path

Pros

  • scenic,
  • historic character,
  • relaxed pace,
  • easy access

Cons

  • limited dining,
  • small size,
  • lacks attractions,
  • seasonal crowds

Nestled on sheltered Lake Maggiore shores between looming peaks, the tiny enclave of Cannero Riviera captures old-world Italian village magic with winding cobblestone alleys threading beneath ancient arches and pastel-washed houses cascading down flowery hillsides.

Compared to busier neighbours like the celebrity destination Stresa, Cannero moves to a local’s pace with few major attractions beyond admiring ancient castle ruins, exploring the lush ravine at Orrido di Sant’Anna gorge via bike/car, or passing lazy Italian afternoons beachside at the town’s pebbly beach.

My tip: take a jumper with you even in summer when visiting the Orrido. You will be in a narrow valley and the temperature drops a few degrees.

Yet what this town may lack insights, it compensates through an authentic atmosphere, from the tangle of narrow lanes converging beneath Renaissance arches in Piazza Castello to family-run cafés serving fresh lake fish on checkered tablecloths.

This is a town that feels suspended in time with its scenic shores and pastel façades all around a spectacular harbour area.

I love it, I actually recently visited it with my parents for an anniversary, however, I must say that the town in July and August weekends gets very busy, almost crowded. Visit it during the week to uncover the town’s intimate village voice and sleepy lake charms.

On that occasion, I was there on a Wednesday at the beginning of September and I had it almost by myself with locals starting to populate the Old Harbour area for the aperitivo. Truly spectacular.

Here are 3 great hotels in Stresa

Park Hotel Italia ($$$$$): Spacious rooms that overlook the lake, quality dining, and stunning rooftop restaurant. A peaceful retreat with top-notch amenities and breathtaking surroundings.

Hotel Cannero ($$$-$$$$): Overlooking Lake Maggiore, comfortable rooms, and extensive buffet breakfast. Delightful hotel with great facilities, including outdoor pool, perfect place for a memorable stay.

Appartamento FIORE ($$): Newly furnished 2BR apartment, convenient location near amenities, and delicious pastries nearby. Spacious rooms with modern amenities and stunning views.

The charming Cannero
The charming Cannero

Isole Borromee

  • Best place for a Romantic getaways & Quiet retreats
  • Attractions: palace and gardens, quaint fishing village, nature trails

Pros

  • romantic,
  • peaceful,
  • intimate charm,
  • scenic vistas

Cons

  • limited dining,
  • small accommodations,
  • daytime crowds,
  • expensive

The Isole Borromee are my favourite place area to stay in Lago Maggiore and they may be perfect for you if you are seeking intimate island romance away from bustling lakeside resorts.

Isola Bella stands out as the chain’s crown jewel, where an ornate Baroque palace and sprawling Italian gardens offer aristocratic opulence and fragrant floral splendour. It really looks like you are suddenly in a time-travel machine, transported back in the 17th century.

Even Napoleone fell in love with this island and decided to spend some time here, on multiple occasions, as a guest of the Borromeo Family.

The fishing village on Isola dei Pescatori will also take you back in time with its labyrinth of narrow lanes threading past centuries-old buildings draped in flowering vines concealing secret courtyards. Here cute restaurants serving fresh lake fish feel worlds away from mainland crowds.

As you may expect, the Borromean Islands are certainly not a secret gem, in fact, they are some of the most popular destinations for day-trippers. July, August as well as most of the summer weekends these islands are crazy busy during the day.

My best tip: book at least one night on one of these two islands. When the last boats depart and the islands embrace their exquisite intimacy, you will share these islands just with a few other travellers

On both islands, you will find limited dining options, usually romantic candlelit restaurants and no sign of nightlife.

Overall it’s not going to be a cheap destination, but believe you me, it will be one of the most memorable stay of your time around the Lake Maggiore

Here are 3 great hotels in the Borromean Islands

Suite Ortensia ($$$$): Exceptional quality, very spacious 1BR apartment with views of Lake Maggiore.

Boutique Hotel Elvezia ($$$): Located on a picturesque side of Bella Island with wonderful lake views and charming decor. Spacious rooms and delightful dining.

Belvedere ($$$): A charming hotel on the Isola dei Pescatori with views over the lake. Rooms are clean and comfortable, some with spa baths and balconies.

Drone view of the Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori in the background
Drone view of the Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori in the background

Baveno

  • Best place for Families & Adventure parks
  • Attractions: Ferries to islands, Aquadventure Park, central playground, Mergozzo beach

Pros

  • family-friendly,
  • convenient location,
  • beach access,
  • budget hotels

Cons

  • crowded summer months,
  • limited attractions,
  • touristy

Catering to families seeking convenient Lake Maggiore stays with splash-happy diversions for kids, the bustling resort town of Baveno blends easy train access from Milan with budget lodging options, lakeside playgrounds, and quick boat access to the famous Isole Borromee.

Its pebbly public beach also offers lake swimming just steps from ice cream shops lining pedestrian streets for refuelling after water adventures.

For kids craving more excitement, the town provides fast bus connections west to sleepy Lake Mergozzo where crystal clear waters and grassy shores are the best spot for a day by the water.

I love Lago Maggiore so much. I was born just a stone away from it, however, I must be honest with you, the water has never been so clear or inviting, something that you will have instead in the medieval village of Mergozzo.

Back in Baveno, the Aquadventure Park is filled with pools and slides surrounded by lush gardens. Central playgrounds give younger children space to play freely as well.

With camping grounds, holiday apartments, and family-run pensions, the town caters especially well for cost-conscious families compared to pricier neighbours. Just expect dense crowds swarming narrow lanes during the Italian summer high season (July/August).

Here are 3 great hotels in Baveno

Grand Dino Hotel ($$$$): One of Lake’s Maggiore best stays for families with spacious rooms, and stunning lake views. The pools and wellness facilities are great for both kids and adults alike

Easy Lake ($$): 1BR apartment in a central location close to a few supermarkets . It can work also for families up to two kids. Modern furniture and amenities.

Marconi Lake View ($$$): 2BR spacious apartment with a view of the lake. It works very well if travelling with kids or in a group of friends

Promenade in the village of Baveno at Lake Maggiore
Promenade in the village of Baveno at Lake Maggiore

Arona – For a short stay

  • Best place for Short stays & Nightlife
  • Attractions: Lakefront pedestrian area, old town streets, nature reserve, ferries

Pros

  • convenient location,
  • transport hub,
  • nearby music clubs,
  • lake activities

Cons

  • less character,
  • crowded weekends,
  • noisy nights,
  • limited budget hotels

Sitting along the scenic western shores of Lake Maggiore just 50 minutes from Milan by train, the town of Arona offers a convenient base to experience famous Italian lakeside panoramas and island adventures despite lacking the intimate charm of quainter villages.

Its pedestrian streets and lively lakefront promenade lined with gelato shops and aperitivo bars cater best for a short stay prioritizing convenience, shopping, and nightlife over sleepy village nostalgia.

During summertime, Arona springs to life as weekend crowds pour in from Milan to enjoy buzzy outdoor aperitivo happy hours overflowing from wine bars dotting the historic centre streets.

Drone view of Arona
Drone view of Arona

Night owls can dance until dawn at the nearby clubs. The Discoteca Gilda in Castelletto (10km or 15 minutes by car) is a must but dress smart to gain entry. They are usually open on Fridays/Saturdays till 4-4:30 am

I really like Arona, especially for aperitivo time, just don’t expect Arona’s pretty pastel buildings and scenic lakeshore setting to emulate the romanticism of Cannero or Stresa’s aristocratic airs.

Here are 3 great hotels in Arona

Bilocale ($$): 1BR apartment in a prime location with city views, free WiFi, and full amenities.

La Ninfea ($$): 2BR apartment in a perfect location, spacious, clean, and with free WiFi and a spa bath.

Le stanze di Alicam ($): Clean, comfortable rooms, a well-equipped kitchen and BBQ facilities. The location is quiet yet conveniently close to local attractions.

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.

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