Lake Como is one of Italy’s most picturesque lakes, surrounded by dramatic mountains and charming little towns.
The lake is glacial in origin, taking the shape of an inverted letter Y, with the cities of Como and Lecco perched at the tips of the two southern branches.
Originally, Lake Como had a Latin name, Lario; it later came to be named after Como, the largest city in the lakeside region.
Como is truly massive: in fact, it’s Italy’s third-largest lake, right after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore.
Lake Como’s aristocratic roots run deep, back to the Roman times and into today.
Over the centuries, Lake Como has served as a destination retreat for wealthy families and nobles.
As such, many luxurious historical villas were built on its shores, some of which have been converted to museums and even hotels.
Today, Lake Como towns are a popular destination for celebrities and the elite as well as fans of Northern Italy’s gorgeous mountains and lakes.
Between the candy-colored lakeshore towns, the delicious trattorias and elegant fine dining, scenic drives, and boat cruises, the Lake Como region truly has it all.
But it can be a bit overwhelming when it comes time to deciding where to stay in Lake Como.
Don’t worry – that’s what this post is for!
As someone who has lived and traveled all over Italy for over 15 years, trust me when I say you should absolutely add Lake Como to your must-see places in Italy!
So, without further ado, here are the most charming towns in Lake Como (and some options for where to stay in Lake Como), to help you narrow down the options!
15 Best Towns to Stay in Lake Como
The gateway to gorgeous Lake Como and its namesake, the city of Como sits at the tip of the lake’s southwestern branch.
Como is the closest lakeshore town to Milan, roughly a one-hour drive north of Lombardy’s capital.
Como is home to a charming old town featuring lovely landmarks like the Gothic Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, the 12th-century Basilica di San Fedele, and the Pinacoteca Civica art museum.
On the lakeshore, you can visit the Tempio Voltiano, a museum dedicated to the scientist who invented the electric battery, surrounded by lusciously landscaped gardens.
Northwest of the city center, Villa Olmo is a remarkable 18th-century villa with gorgeous gardens overlooking the lake.
The villa is free to visit and often houses art exhibitions.
On the opposite shore, just across the lake from Villa Olmo, you can catch the mountain cable car to Brunate for a panoramic view of Como and the lake – just don’t forget to bring your camera!
Bellagio is one of the most beautiful and popular towns on Lake Como, sitting on the tip of the promontory separating the lake’s two southern branches.
The old town is built on the western side of the promontory and boasts charming alleys and stairways lined with boutique stores, bars, and restaurants.
The hillside Parco di Villa Serbelloni rewards visitors with sweeping lake views, while the elegant Lungolago Europa, with its carefully cultivated flower beds and trees, is perfect for a casual afternoon stroll.
South of Bellagio, you can visit the superb Villa Melzi Gardens. The wonderful English-style gardens feature beautiful ponds, sculptures, fountains, and walking paths with marvelous lake views.
The entry ticket provides access to the gardens, museum, and chapel for a wonderful combined experience.
Located roughly 15 minutes north of Como, Cernobbio is a little town best known for its sumptuous villas and stunning lake views.
The impressive Villa d’Este has been transformed intoa five-star hotel with delightful, landscaped gardens and lake views.
If you want to visit another of the many gorgeous villas around Lake Como, head to Villa Bernasconi.
The Art Nouveau villa is a one-of-a-kind building on Lake Como, part of the Art Nouveau European Route.
You can explore the villa interior and check out the interactive exhibition on weekdays.
Last but not least, Cernobbio is the departure point for La Via dei Monti Lariani, a long-distance hiking trail ending all the way up in Sorico, a small town at the lake’s northern extremity.
Further north along the lake’s southwestern branch, Moltrasio is just a few minutes away from Cernobbio.
The town is among the most overlooked on Lake Como, which makes it the perfect stop if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want an escape from the crowds.
Although you won’t find many notable landmarks in Moltrasio, the town offers stunning lake views.
In the upper part of Moltrasio, you’ll find the San Martino Church, along with sweeping lake views.
The lower part of town is where most hotels and villas are, along with several fine-dining restaurants.
Just outside of town, you can hit the Sentiero Monte di Lenno hiking trail and discover the nearby waterfalls, Cascata del Cam and Cascata del Torrente Pizzallo.
Brienno is a charming town stretching over several kilometers along the lake at the foot of Monte San Bernardo.
This little Lake Como town is just a 10-minute drive from Moltrasio and around half an hour away from Como.
For the most part, the town is centered around the main lakeside road, Via Regina Nuova.
The town center, with the town hall and the ferry port, features narrow alleys for you to stroll through as you make your way up toward the colorful houses built on the hillside.
The most iconic building in Brienno is the town’s church, Chiesa dei Ss. Nazaro e Celso, sitting right on the lakeshore.
Across the lake’s southwestern branch, you can look out and see the town of Nesso on the opposite shore.
Facing Brienno from the opposite lakeshore lies the small hamlet of Nesso, best known for the Orrido di Nesso and the splendid Villa Giudici, which is now home to gorgeous rental apartments.
The town features a tiny but delightful historical center with houses covered in climbing plants, along with a lovely stone bridge known as Ponte della Civera.
The Orrido di Nesso is a narrow gorge with a lovely waterfall, right in the middle of the little town.
You can admire the impressive view of the waterfall from the lower part of Nessoby Ponte della Civera, or even from the lake as you sail by the little hamlet.
In the northern part of Nesso, you can visit the beautiful Archpriest Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the little old port, Porto Borgovecchio.
The second major city on Lake Como, Lecco, sits at the far end of the lake’s southeastern branch.
The lake narrows towards the south of Lecco to form the river Adda, then enlarges again to form the small Lake Garlate.
Several bridges cross the river Adda, connecting Lecco with the opposite shore and the nearby Como, just over half an hour away by car.
Lecco boasts charming lakeshore parks to the north, with picturesque walkways providing scenic views.
The city is home to beautiful churches like the neoclassical San Nicolò church, with an imposing bell tower offering sweeping views of the city and lake.
The historical center of Lecco is a lovely area to enjoy a pleasant walk, eat delicious food, and visit local museums.
Check out the art collection at Palazzo delle Paure and the museum dedicated to the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni at Villa Manzoni.
The mountains surrounding Lecco provide the ideal setting for hiking and enjoying spectacular panoramic views.
One of the best places to enjoy the view is from Belvedere Parco Valentino to the north of Lecco.
Roughly halfway along Lake Como’s southwestern branch, Argegno is a slightly larger town boasting stunning hotels and guesthouses offering panoramic views over the lake.
This lakeside town is connected via railway to Como and Milan, making it a great destination for those traveling without a rental car (though having a rental car will certainly make traveling Como a breeze)!
Argegno’s ancient origins date back to Roman times, but most of the actual town dates back to medieval times, including an arched stone bridge over the Telo River.
The river level varies widely with the season, so you may even find a dry riverbed at certain times of the year.
Scattered throughout the main square in Argegno, Piazza Roma, you’ll find many wonderful restaurants and bars.
Have lunch with a view at Il Sorriso or stop for a relaxing coffee break at Cafè Colombo.
Lenno is a small hamlet and part of the Tramezzina commune, best known as the home of Villa del Balbianello, one of the most charming villas on Lake Como.
The villa, with its wonderful terraced gardens, lies at the top of the small peninsula Dosso d’Avedo.
Villa del Balbianello was a filming location for several Hollywood movies, including James Bond and even Star Wars.
You can explore the gardens on your own or combine them with a guided tour of the villa’s interior for a more in-depth look at this gorgeous location.
In addition to visiting Villa del Balbianello, you can stroll along the lakeside promenade, check out the Church of Santo Stefano, and enjoy a delicious gelato at La Fabbrica del Gelato.
To the north of Lenno, Tremezzo is yet another charming little town famous for its many beautiful villas, most of which are now hotels or event venues.
The best thing to do in Tremezzo is to simply wander around the quaint town and take your time enjoying the view over the lake.
Stroll along the main road, Via Statale, or discover the lovely Parco Civico Teresio Olivelli.
All along Via Statale you’ll find many restaurants, bars, and ice cream shops, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up after all that walking!
Just north of Tramezzo, you can also visit the imposing Villa Carlotta, now a museum housing beautiful works of art, including sculptures by Canova and paintings by Hayez.
The villa also features a gorgeous botanical garden with lake views, so it’s definitely worth an extra stop.
Menaggio is a slightly larger town on the western shore of Lake Como, just before the lake splits into two separate branches.
The picturesque town boasts elegant lakeshore promenades, a beautiful little marina, and lovely squares.
Menaggio provides the perfect blend of sightseeing, lively restaurants, and stunning hiking trails just outside town.
Parco Val Sanagra is a beautiful park located uphill from Menaggio, with impressive waterfalls, historical landmarks, and lovely trails immersed in lush vegetation.
On a hill south of Menaggio, you can walk to the scenic view at La Crocetta, and the tiny church Chiesetta degli Alpini to enjoy a spectacular view of the lake and from above.
The town has ferry connections to the nearby towns of Bellagio and Varenna, making it easy to get around from this central Lake Como village.
Close to the far northern end of the lake, on the eastern shore, Colico offers some of the best views of the nearby mountain ranges.
The best spot to enjoy these spectacular views is the Montecchio Sud hiking area!
To the north of Colico, the Forte Montecchio Nord is a military stronghold left over from the First World War.
The fort was built to protect Lombardy from potential invaders from Austria or Switzerland; now, you can tour the fort, since it was turned into a museum over a decade ago.
Along the lake shore, you can find many gorgeous green spaces to take in the stunning lake views.
Another great area is the Piona cliff face area, where you can also visit the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary of Piona.
Mandello del Lario
One of the largest towns on the southeastern branch of Lake Como is Mandello del Lario, located on the eastern lakeshore.
The public gardens and lakeside promenade are two popular spots to enjoy strolls in this less-often-visited Lake Como town.
But the real draw of the town is its motorcycle history, as it was the birthplace of Moto Guzzi, a famed motorcycle manufacturer.
There’s even a museum dedicated to him in town!
Around the old town of Mandello del Lario, you can explore the narrow alleys, visit beautiful churches, and indulge in tasty gelato.
Just outside of town, stroll along the beautiful trail Sentiero del Viandante and stop by Chiesa Di San Giorgio.
Charming Bellano, with its picturesque alleys, colorful buildings, and dreamy lakeside promenades, sits on the western shore of Lake Como, at the foot of Mount Muggio.
The main attraction in town is the Orrido di Bellano, a natural gorge dating back 15 million years.
A system of walkways and footbridges has been built along the caves and ravines to allow visitors the chance to admire spectacular views of the impressive canyon and the Pioverna waterfalls.
Bellano is also a stop along the Sentiero del Viandante, an ancient mule track dating back to Roman times.
The trail follows the lake on the eastern shore for 45 kilometers from Abbadia Lariana, just north of Lecco, ending at Piantedo, at the lake’s northern end.
Home to gorgeous panoramic terraces, sumptuous villas, and delightful parks, Varenna is a must-see on Lake Como.
Get lost wandering around the charming little town and enjoy beautiful views from the lakeside promenade, then stop for lunch with a view at La Vista or have an ice cream from La Passerella while strolling around the port area.
One of the main attractions is the 12th-century Castello di Vezio, which dominates the lake from a promontory just above Varenna.
Check out the impressive views and visit the castle dungeons, gardens, and permanent exhibition of medieval artifacts.
At the far southern edge of Varenna, you can discover the impressive waterfront Villa Monastero, featuring lavish gardens with fountains, sculptures, and terraces looking over the lake.
The villa houses a museum with period furniture and beautiful art. You can choose between visiting just the botanical garden or both the garden and the villa’s interior.
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies. Her mission is to find hidden gems, even in the most popular travel destinations, and to inspire people to explore new places and cultures with the same curiosity! When she is not traveling, writing, or planning her next trip, she is either binge-watching TV shows or reading books.