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Lake Como Travel Guide- Everything You Need to Know

Lake Como Travel Guide

Lake Como is a picturesque town surrounding a beautiful lake in Italy. When you arrive, you feel like you are in a movie. Lake Como, Italy is filled with charming lakeside towns, unparalleled natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. It’s one of Europe’s most iconic destinations for a reason. Bellagio, Varenna, Como Town, Tremezzo and the lake are all incredible areas to explore. Lake Como offers an unforgettable, blissful experience filled with nature, crystal-clear waters, great Italian food and local shopping. If you want a relaxing, lakeside vacation surrounded by enchanting beauty, Lake Como is the vacation destination for you. Whether you want a romantic, relaxing vacation surrounded by enchanting beauty, or a vacation exploring charming villages, this Lake Como travel guide will help you plan your first trip to Lake Como.

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Lake Como Travel Guide Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Travel to Lake Como?

There are many reasons why you should travel to Lake Como, it is truly one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit. Lake Como is known for it’s stunning natural beauty. The lake waters are crystal-clear, it’s surrounded by mountains and lush green hillsides. The charming villages offer wonderful Italian food and great shopping for items like Italian silk scarves. Each village has it’s own character and the villas along the lake are stunning. It’s the perfect place for a romantic vacation or a weekend filled with relaxation and wellness.

Easiest Way to Get to Lake Como

The easiest way to get to Lake Como is to fly / take train to Milan and then drive or arrange private transport to the village you’re staying at in Lake Como, especially if you’re not staying in Como Town. There is a train to Lake Como, but you have to get to the train station in Milan, then arrive in Como Town and then either take a ferry or taxi (which is hard to come by). It is also very easy to get to Lake Como from Switzerland by train and car. If you elect to take public transportation, ensure you know how far the train / bus / ferry station is from your hotel.

What airport is closest to Lake Como?

Malpensa airport in Milan is the closest airport to Lake Como and many US cities and European cities fly direct to Malpensa.

What do I need to know before going to Lake Como?

  • The easiest way to get to Lake Como is to fly, or take the train into Milan and then take a taxi or Uber to your location in Lake Como. You can also rent a car in Milan, or take the train to Lake Como but the train may not go near your exact destination in Lake Como.
  • If you’re coming from the US and have a layover in Europe, you will not need to go through customs again when landing in Milan.
  • Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended departure date to ensure smooth travel.
  • Europe is starting new visa requirements for US travelers, but this is now delayed until 2024 or 2025. When it starts, US travelers between 18-70 years old will need to fill out an ETIAS visa-waiver form prior to their trip, and pay a €7 entry fee, to travel to European countries within the Schengen Area. This will be valid for three years or until your passport expires. It’s expected to have a quick turnaround but it’s important to plan and submit ahead of your trip.
  • The maximum duration of stay for tourists from outside the EU/EEA is typically 90 days within a 180-day period. If you’re visiting for tourism, ensure you do not exceed this limit.
  • The official language is Italian, but English is commonly spoken as Lake Como is a tourist destination. Many restaurants also have English menus.
  • Check the weather during your travel dates and plan accordingly. The summers are warm but the winters can be chilly.
  • Know how far away the excursions you want to do are from where you will be staying. The lake is massive, and a cooking class could end up being over an hour away.
  • Book your return from Lake Como ahead of time – there aren’t many taxis available and it is best to book private transport ahead of time.
  • The currency is the Euro.
  • Italy uses European-style two-pin plugs with a voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50Hz.
  • If you want to bring a hairdryer or straightener from the US, it is best to leave that at home and buy one in Italy.
  • It’s easy to take the ferry to other towns along the lake, but check how long the ferry will take you to get there. Some towns are only 15 minutes away, others are 1 hour +. You do not need to book the ferry ahead of time.
  • If you want to take a private boat tour along the lake, it is best to book that ahead of time especially in high season.
  • In restaurants, it’s customary to leave a tip but it’s not obligatory. Some restaurants add service charges. If service is not included in restaurants, leaving a tip of 10% is considered a pilot gesture. You can also round up the bill to the nearest euro or leave some small change.
  • Don’t miss out on trying local food specialties including carbonara, cacio e pepe, traditional Italian pizza, and gelato.

How many days should I spend in Lake Como?

How many days you should spend in Lake Como ultimately depends on your interests, the activities you want to do and how busy you want your vacation to be. However, a common recommendation how long to spend in Lake Como is 3 to 4 days.

Day Trip to Lake Como

If you only have one day in Lake Como, pick the village you are most interested in visiting. Como Town is the closest from Milan. If you are driving to Bellagio from Milan, that could add another hour just to get there and another hour to get back. There is a direct train that departs from Milano Centrale and arrives at Varenna Esino as well. Though it’s infrequent and only departs every two hours, Varenna is one ferry stop away from Bellagio (about 20 minutes ferry).

Two Nights in Lake Como

If you are spending two nights in Lake Como, stay in a hotel in one of the villages you want to explore. That way, you can step outside your hotel and walk around at your leisure. Take advantage of having a full day to explore multiple towns along the lake, such as Bellagio and Varenna which are next to each other. On your last day, spend a few hours on a private boat tour and get a tour by water of some of the most famous villas such as Villa del Balbianello, or Villa Carlotta.

Three to Four Nights in Lake Como

If you’re spending three to four nights in Lake Como, you have plenty of time to explore the lake and also relax. In addition to the above, you may want to add a cooking class and relax at your hotel.

Best time of year to visit Lake Como

In my opinion, the best time to visit Lake Como is in September. While Lake Como is stunning in the summer, it is very crowded and also more expensive. In September, the crowds thin out but it is still warm enough to spend time on the lake. As autumn progresses, temperatures start to cool and some places may start shutting down for the season.

In the summer, Lake Como is stunning. It’s high season for a reason – the weather is warm and beautiful, the views are stunning and it’s the perfect time to spend on the lake. It’s the most crowded in Lake Como in the summer and the accommodations tend to be higher.

In the springtime, the weather starts to warm up and the natural beauty peaks through with flowers starting to bloom. However, the lake can still be a little too cool for swimming and water activities.

In the winter, Lake Como is peaceful and you can start to see snow on the mountains. Not all places will be fully operational as they’ve closed for the season. Accommodation prices will be cheapest in the winter. See what Lake Como is like every month of the year.

What is Lake Como famous for?

Lake Como is known for it’s stunning natural beauty from the crystal-clear waters of the lake, to the majestic mountains and the lush hillsides. The towns and villages look like they are straight out of a movie. Bellagio is the most famous town, but Varenna, Menaggio, Como and Tremezzo are all well known too. The famous hotel featured on Instagram a lot is the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Tremezzo which has the floating pool on the lake.

Lake Como is also famous for it’s luxurious villas, including Villa del Balbianello which you can tour or rent out for a private event, Villa Carlotta and Villa d’Este which are also open to visitors. It is also famous for it’s outdoor activities like walking along the lake and private boat charters to tour the lake from the water.

What are the best things to do in Lake Como?

There are many things to do in Lake Como. Even in a short trip, you’re able to squeeze in most of the things Lake Como is most famous for. The best things to do in Lake Como include a private boat tour of the lake, explore Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, Como and Tremezzo and see some of the villas like Villa del Balbianello.

Is Lake Como Safe?

Lake Como is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. We felt very safe walking around at night, though it’s always best to pay attention to the roads as it’s not always well lit. The top safety tip we’ve seen is to be careful of the lake. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of drowning, and people accidentally falling into the lake after having too much to drink.

What is the best area to stay in Lake Como?

Lake Como offers a variety of charming towns and villages. Because each village is spread out, the best area to stay depends on what activities you want to do and restaurants you want to visit. If you’re only staying a night or two and want to go to Bellagio and Varenna, staying in those villages or in Tremezzo right across the lake will be easiest. That way, it’s a walk outside your door or a quick ferry ride.

If you’re interested in exploring the historical sites and activities like cooking classes, Como Town will be the best area to stay. If you stay in Tremezzo, or Bellagio it will be over an hour to get to Como town. Especially when you only have a weekend, you don’t want to spend it traveling back and forth in a car. This is true even more at night, when you’d have to drive in not so well lit areas or pay a high price for a pre-arranged taxi.

There are also some beautiful hotels in Lake Como, and you may pick the area based on where these hotels are located. Popular luxury hotels include Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Tremezzo and Villa D’Este in Cernobbio.

If you’re interested in doing a private boat tour of the lake, many companies have multiple pickups and can pick you up at, or close, to your hotel.

What are the best beaches near Lake Como?

While Lake Como is a body of water, there aren’t really beaches. The beach clubs are more on cement. If you’re looking to sit and relax on a beach there are better destinations to go to in Europe like Mallorca.

Driving in Lake Como

Renting a car in Milan and driving to Lake Como can be an easy way to explore the lake. Though you have to be careful about where you drive in Milan due to restricted zones, for most of the drive to Lake Como you drive on the highway or in a single lane road up to Bellagio or Tremezzo. Once you get to the lake, road conditions around Lake Como can be narrow and windy. In the towns, also pay attention to traffic zones and what areas are pedestrian only. Make sure to also understand the parking situation at your destinations. Also, be mindful of the speed limit as Italy uses cameras to enforce speed limits and traffic rules. Driving is on the right side of the road in Lake Como and Italy, so it is easier to navigate when traveling from the United States.

If you drive up one side of the lake and realize you want to be on the other side some ferries are car ferries. For example, if you are in Bellagio, you can take the car ferry to Cadenabbia instead of driving all the way around.

How to save money traveling in Lake Como

There are many ways to enjoy a luxurious trip to Lake Como while still saving money. That said, many of the best hotels in Lake Como are quite expensive. To save on accommodations, limit the amount of nights you spend in Lake Como. There are many accommodations that are cheaper in cities like Milan and Venice, so you can splurge for a few nights in Lake Como and save money on accommodations elsewhere in your trip. There are cheaper hotel accommodations, but some of these are also dated and we learned that not all hotel rooms have their own shower. Some only have baths. So, if you don’t book the top luxury hotels ensure you inquire about whether or not your room has a shower. Family run airbnbs are also an option. Booking in the off-season will also save you some money.

To save money traveling around Lake Como, you can rent a car from Milan or stay in the area you want to explore to limit the amount of taxis. Taking the ferry across the lake is very affordable but ensure you know how long the ferry is to your destination. To save money on private boat tours, choose the 2 hour tour instead of the longer tours although this will still be pricey. Booking early can also get you a cheaper boat, as companies charge more for the classic boats.

When dining in Lake Como, there are a lot of good restaurants that aren’t incredibly expensive. Local pizzerias are a good option for great food at a lower price point. Bars may also offer discounted appetizers with drinks during aperitivo hours. Be mindful of tourist traps, as these will be more expensive. Some hotels and Airbnbs also offer free breakfast.

Lake Como Travel Guide Conclusion

In conclusion, Lake Como is a great destination in Italy to visit. It is easy to get to Lake Como from Milan by taking a taxi, renting a car or taking the train. Lake Como is a large lake, so ensure you stay in an area near the attractions you want to visit. Or, know how far the attractions you want to visit are from your hotel. No matter what you do in Lake Como or how long you stay, your trip to Lake Como promises to be an incredible one. Plan ahead using this Lake Como Travel Guide so that you are able to seamlessly travel to Lake Como, visit all the attractions you want to see, and eat all the incredible Italian food.

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