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Lake Como may be renowned as a high-end destination, but don’t be mistaken, it’s also a fantastic playground for a family vacation. Both kids and adults will be captivated by the shimmering waters, charming towns, historic villas, and a wide range of activities waiting to be discovered.
Here are the best things to do in Lake Como with kids, where to stay and practical tips to make the most out of your visit.
In a Nutshell
- Best hotels
- Best activities:
- Best day trip:
Best Time to Visit Lake Como
Lake Como sparkles throughout the year, but for a family vacation, the best times are the mild and sunny months from April to October. These months offer the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities.
Keep in mind that July and especially August, the peak summer months, tend to be both crowded and hot. If bustling crowds or high temperatures are not your cup of tea, you might want to consider planning your visit in the shoulder seasons.
In addition, spring is a particularly good time to visit Lake Como, as the gardens of the villas are looking their best.
How Long to Stay in Lake Como
Deciding how long to stay in Lake Como depends on the activities you plan. If it’s your first trip, a week gives you ample time to explore the main attractions leisurely and soak in the beauty of the lake without feeling rushed. However, even a long weekend can be a great way to sample what Lake Como has to offer if you’re tight on time.
If you’re heading to Lake Como for the first time, we suggest spending at least two to three days there to really soak up the whole vibe. It can be tempting to try and cram everything into just one day, but that’ll leave you feeling all rushed and overwhelmed. Take it easy, enjoy your time, and give yourself a chance to truly appreciate the area.
If you only have one day in Lake Como, book a guided tour to make the most out of your time. This highly-rated tour from Varenna takes you to Villa Balbianello, offers a walking tour of Bellagio and Varenna, and a boat tour.
How to Get to Lake Como
Getting to Lake Como by Plane
If you’re flying into Italy, the nearest airport to Lake Como is Milan’s Malpensa Airport.
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From the Milan Malpensa Airport, you can take a train to Saronno and then change to a train to Como. This would take about 1 hour 15 minutes.
From Milan you can take a direct train to Como or Varenna. Como is just 40 minutes away from Milan by train and Varenna is about an hour.
Alternatively, you can rent a car for more flexibility. It takes about 40 minutes to drive from Milan Malpensa to Como.
We always use this search engine to find the best car rental deal. They compare all major companies, like Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, and more, and you get the lowest price. The earlier you book a car, the lower the price. You also get free cancelation up to 48 hours before pick up, which is great if anything happens
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How to Get Around Lake Como
One of the best ways to get around Lake Como is by ferry. It’s not just practical but also a wonderful way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
The Middle-Lake Shuttle connects Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna and runs about every hour.
Tips for the Ferry at Lake Como
- If you stay in Bellagio, Menaggio or Varenna, you can easily visit the other towns with the mid-lake line.
- Get to the ticket office approximately 20 minutes prior to departure.
- During peak summer months and holidays, traffic can be heavy with long lines at the ticket counters.
- The ticket offices are close to the docks in the main towns.
- You can also purchase your ticket onboard.
- You can find the official website here and buy tickets online in advance (not for fast boats, only normal ones).
Navigating Lake Como by car can be a bit of a challenge. The narrow streets and limited parking can prove tricky, especially during the peak seasons. Moreover, the real beauty of the area is best explored by ferry or on foot.
Therefore, while it’s possible to get around by car, it is best to avoid it and opt for public transportation or boat rides instead.
If you are still looking to rent a car, we always get the best rental car deals here.
Tips for Driving around Lake Como
- Don’t! That’s the best tip. Especially during the peak summer months, traffic can be heavy – and the streets are narrow.
- Make sure your hotel has free parking and leave the car there 🙂
- Instead of attempting to navigate Lake Como by car, consider parking in Como city center and then hopping on a ferry.
Where to Stay in Lake Como
If you’re wondering where to stay in Lake Como, we highly recommend the mid-lake region. This area offers a variety of charming towns to choose from, each with its own unique appeal. The most popular among them are Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna.
The towns of Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna are quite hilly, which could be challenging for families with younger children or individuals with mobility concerns. For the most convenient and comfortable experience, look for accommodation near the ferry terminals. We saw people struggling to climb infinite steps in Varenna, it’s best to avoid that with the little ones!
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is the epitome of luxury. This 5-star hotel boasts indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a private beach, a spa and wellness center, and offers stunning views of Lake Como – making it an exceptional choice for a lavish family vacation.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo boasts two swimming pools – one outdoor pool that’s floating on the lake, and an indoor pool for when you fancy a dip in a more secluded setting. There’s also a spa and wellness center complete with a sauna and hot tub.
Hotel Excelsior Splendide is situated at a prime location in Bellagio with great views of Lake Como. Plus, the ferry stop is just a short stroll away, and being in the flat part of town makes navigating easier. And if you’re in the mood for a refreshing dip, there’s also a pool.
The Best Things to Do in Lake Como with Kids
If you only have one day at Lake Como, make the most out of it with this highly-rated tour of Villa Balbianello, a walking tour of Bellagio and Varenna and a boat tour.
Enjoy a Boat Ride
Indulging in a boat ride on Lake Como is an absolute must to fully appreciate the beauty of this destination. Whether you opt for a private boat ride or a sailing excursion, the experience promises to be truly memorable.
This private boat tour is a short sightseeing cruise around the most beautiful villas and villages of Lake Como. This half-day sailing boat tour is suitable for kids 8+ years old. On this sailing tour you’ll be enjoying your time on the lake, swimming and relaxing. And you can rent a boat here and play captain for a few hours!
Discover the Charm of Small Towns Around Lake Como
Besides Como, there are several smaller towns scattered around the lake, each with its own unique charm.
Bellagio, often referred to as the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’, is known for its picturesque streets, elegant villas, and boutique shops.
Menaggio, on the other hand, boasts a beautiful promenade, a mini-golf course, and views that stretch across the lake, making it a tranquil and engaging destination.
Varenna, a quieter yet equally enchanting town, offers a mix of colorful homes, a romantic walkway – the ‘walk of lovers’, and a few notable sites like Villa Monastero and Castello di Vezio.
These charming towns are considered the classic destinations around Lake Como. They are also easy to visit one after the other, as they are connected with a direct ferry line.
Bellagio, the enchanting town nestled on the shores of Lake Como, holds the title of being the most popular destination in the area.
Situated at the intersection of the lake’s three branches, Bellagio boasts an unrivaled location that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and azure waters. The town’s picturesque setting has earned it the nickname “The Pearl of Lake Como,” and it’s easy to see why.
Wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets of Bellagio is like stepping into a postcard. The quaint shops, elegant boutiques, and delightful cafes exude an air of sophistication and romance. Take your time to explore the local artisan shops, where you can find unique crafts, handmade jewelry, and exquisite silk products.
Mini Train in Bellagio
There’s something delightful about little trains – they provide a laid-back way to see the main attractions, and best of all, they keep the kids entertained without wearing them out. It’s a win-win situation for the entire family.
You can find the Bellagio Express train right in front of the ferry dock. It runs every 30-45 minutes.
Punta Spartivento in Bellagio
La Punta Spartivento, located in Bellagio, is a park situated right on the edge of the peninsula. A short but scenic 10-minute uphill stroll from the ferry terminal will lead you to this gem. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with great views.
In addition to its captivating vistas, La Punta Spartivento offers also a small beach. It’s a perfect spot for a quick dip or simply lounging around while soaking in the serene surroundings.
Menaggio, a delightful town on the western shore of Lake Como, is another gem that beckons visitors with its unique charm and stunning surroundings.
Situated at the base of lush green mountains and overlooking the glistening waters of the lake, Menaggio offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and historic allure.
The town itself is characterized by its elegant promenade lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. Take a leisurely stroll along the lakefront, basking in the serene atmosphere and enjoying the breathtaking views. Grab a gelato or sip a cappuccino at one of the inviting waterfront cafes, and watch as boats gently sway in the marina.
Promenade in Menaggio
The town features a beautifully maintained promenade that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. But perhaps the most striking aspect of Menaggio are the views across the lake, with distant mountains in the background.
Mini Golf in Menaggio
Playing mini golf with such a beautiful backdrop was by far our most favorite activity. The kids loved it and we had fun while enjoying the wonderful views. It was the first time our kids ever tried mini golf! The exact location is here.
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Varenna is a charming town nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Como. Much smaller than Bellagio, it is a hidden gem that exudes romance and tranquility. This picturesque destination captured our hearts with its narrow streets, colorful houses, and panoramic views of the lake.
Varenna is much smaller than Bellagio and you can see the old town and the promenade in about an hour. Villa Monastero is in the center of Varenna, so if you’re pressed for time, this villa is one of the most conveniently located.
Walk of Lovers
One of the highlights of Varenna is the footbridge Walk of Lovers. This scenic pathway hugs the lake’s edge, offering breathtaking vistas and an idyllic setting for a romantic stroll. As you wander along the path, you’ll be treated to views of the crystal-clear waters, lush vegetation, and the majestic surrounding mountains.
Explore the Lake Como Villas
Villa del Balbianello
Built on the grounds of a former Franciscan monastery, Villa del Balbianello emerged at the end of 18th century under the watchful eye of Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini.
Located in Lenno, Villa del Balbianello offers stunning views of Lake Como. The villa is also known for its elaborate terraced gardens.
This historic villa has served as a backdrop in films like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Casino Royale.
Keep in mind, the parking area can quickly become full, particularly during peak tourist seasons. To make the most of your visit, arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds.
Expect a 20-minute uphill walk to reach the Villa, or opt for a more scenic 45-minute hike. Alternatively, a private water taxi service operates from Lenno for approximately EUR 10.
To gain access to the interior of the Villa, which is filled with intriguing historical artefacts and artwork, make sure to book a guided tour well in advance, as these often sell out quickly.
You can also opt to see only the garden – in which case you are still better off to book tickets online to avoid the queue.
Book tickets here
Villa Carlotta is another gem located in proximity to Menaggio. You can easily reach this historical site by hopping on a ferry – 20 minutes from Bellagio and 30 from Menaggio. The villa is renowned for its beautiful gardens and art collections.
Villa Carlotta, a celebrated landmark on Lake Como, offers you two distinct paths to explore its beautiful gardens. One route is less strenuous, while the other, slightly more challenging, boasts a steeper climb. Nevertheless, both trails reward you with breath-taking views of Lake Como, making the effort more than worthwhile.
The Villa also features a cafe, offering both indoor and outdoor seating with lovely views.
Varenna is also home to Villa Monastero, an elegant villa with beautiful gardens that slope down to the lake. Explore the well-manicured botanical gardens, adorned with vibrant flowers, trees, and charming terraces.
Villa Monastero in Varenna offers the option to explore its beautiful gardens or delve into its house museum, although you can skip the museum if not of interest. The villa’s gardens are the true highlight, featuring stunning landscapes and captivating lake views.
After exploring the gardens, take a moment to relax at the small café nestled within Villa Monastero. Indulge in delectable pastries and sip on coffee while soaking up the incredible view.
While Villa Monastero may not have the grandeur and extensive exhibits of Villa Carlotta, it offers its own charm and allure. Its convenient location in Varenna makes it easily accessible, allowing you to incorporate a visit into your itinerary without much effort.
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The Funicular Railway
The funicular railway in Como offers an exciting way to travel and take in the views. It connects Como city center to the town of Brunate in the nearby hills.
Lake Como is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. You can try water skiing, paddleboarding, or simply swimming in the clear water of the lake. This kayak tour combines fun and learning about the history of Lake Como.
Jungle Raider Park
For families with older kids, a day at Jungle Raider Park could be an exciting diversion. This adventure park offers treetop courses, zip lines, and other fun outdoor activities. You can find more details here.
Lake Como Adventure Park
For a more nature-focused adventure, visit the Lake Como Adventure Park. This park offers treeclimbing routes complete with a playground for kids under 6 years old. You can find more details here.
Both adventure parks are a good place to spend some time in nature, if you have extra time after seeing some of the charming towns and villas of Lake Como first.
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Visiting Lake Como as a Day Trip
If you’re based in Milan or nearby, Lake Como makes for a wonderful day trip. A single day can be a bit rushed to visit the charming towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna and take a boat ride on the lake, let alone to visit one of the villas.
If you would like to visit the charming towns and a villa, then the best villa to visit is Villa Monastero just because it’s conveniently located in Varenna. It’s a good idea to choose only two of the towns, eg Bellagio and Varenna, and Villa Monastero.
We highly recommend a guided tour, if you want to make the most out of your one day in Lake Como.
This tour starts from Varenna and allows you to visit Villa Balbianello, do a walking tour of Bellagio&Varenna and a boat tour. Varenna has a direct train connection with Milan.
This highly-rated tour to Lake Como takes you from Milan to Como, Villa Olmo, Bellagio and Varenna. You also get a 1-hour lake cruise by private boat.
This tour to Lake Como, St Moritz and Bernina Express takes you for a boat trip around Lake Como and then to St. Moritz in Switzerland – you also get to ride the famous Bernina Red Train!
A Journey to Nearby Lakes
While Lake Como offers plenty of amazing things, a trip to nearby Lake Garda promises a change of scenery and more fun for kids. Known for its theme parks, it’s a popular tourist destination, especially for families.
Planning an Italian Lakes Family Holiday
If you’re planning an Italian lakes family holiday, a stay at Lake Como can easily be combined with visits to Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. These are three of Italy’s largest lakes, and each offers a different atmosphere and attractions.
The Beauty of Lake Como
On your first visit to Lake Como, you’ll be captivated by the beauty of the lake, the charm of the small towns, and the grandeur of the villas. But what will make you return is the warmth of the people, the delicious food, and the myriad of activities that make every day unique.
As we wrap up this guide, we hope it has given you an insight into what Lake Como has to offer for a family vacation. From accommodation to activities, and from travel tips to the best areas to visit, we’ve covered it all. Now, all you have to do is pack your bags and head to this Italian paradise!
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Jo Koni (Georgia Konidari) is a writer and the creator of World Wild Schooling, a digital platform dedicated to travel. She is on a mission to explore the globe and share her experiences with fellow travelers. You can follow Jo on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.