Lake Como is Italy’s third-largest lake located in Lombardy. It is one of the country’s best nature destinations, attracting more than 1 million tourists a year during the past decade. The lake’s paradisiacal landscape with elegant villas never fails to awe-inspire its wandering visitors.
It has been the case ever since Roman times. Lake Como became the aristocrats’ favorite destination back in the day, and now for many multimillionaires and celebrities like Madonna, Gianni Versace, Richard Branson, and more.
This glacial lake, 146 square kilometers (56 sq mi), “Y” in shape, has exceptional qualities that make it compelling to visit. You will discover them from the unmissable places in Lake Como included in this blog post.
By the end of this blog post, you will not only discover the 10 unmissable places in Lake Como but also find if Lake Como is worth visiting or not. I also included a map of each unmissable place in Lake Como to be your guide during your visit.
The facts and information from this post are researched from Lake Como’s official tourism website. That includes some history and visiting information. So, without further ado:
What should you not miss in Lake Como?
When visiting Lake Como, you must not miss seeing at least one historic site, a scenic spot, and one beautiful villa. These three kinds of destinations in Lake Como are its identity – the highlight of traveling in Lake Como. Among the unmissable places in Lake Como, the three I think you must see are Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Como, Villa del Balbianello in Lenno, and Punta Spartivento in Bellagio.
In the next section, we will discuss these Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Villa del Balbianello, and Belvedere Parco Valentino together with the rest of the unmissable places in Lake Como.
10 Unmissable places to visit in Lake Como (Things to do)
Here is the summary of the 10 places you must not miss seeing in Lake Como. They are arranged from west to east, Como to Lecco:
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Como
- Tempio Voltiano in Como
- Faro Voltiano in Brunate (Como Viewpoint)
- Villa del Balbianello in Lenno
- Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo
- Punta Spartivento in Bellagio
- Madonna del Ghisallo in Magreglio
- Villa Monastero in Varenna
- Orrido di Bellano
- Belvedere Parco Valentino in Lecco
I based my selection on three things: awe-inspiring views, historical value, and overall impression of other people (to be more objective). You can expect that these places are absolutely remarkable and loved by many visitors (not only me).
Let’s kick off the list with Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Lake Como’s one of the most historical and Instagrammable attractions.
Must-See Place #1: Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Como
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Como or Como Cathedral is said to be the last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It is located in the heart of the city of Como, only a few steps away from the lake.
Como Cathedral is an unmissable place to visit around Lake Como for its gigantic size and magnificent interior. It may not be as impressive as the basilica in Venice or Rome, but the artworks and the decorations inside the church are unquestionably stunning. They will be the highlight of your visit to the cathedral.
The high ceiling of the Como cathedral’s nave has gorgeous portraits of saints and golden decorations, giving you a feeling that you’re visiting a palace. Above the transept is a spectacular ceiling and dome decorated with golden octagons. It’s mesmerizing, thanks to the lighting and symmetry that are just so good to see.
I must not forget to mention the ancient-looking tapestries inside Como cathedral along the church’s nave. They give the church a medieval flair and you a throwback vibe into the centuries in the past. Como cathedral’s golden altars and different paintings are worth seeing as well.
During the Christmas season in Como (from the last week of November to the first week of January), the city celebrates the Como Magic Light festival. During this time, colorful lights are projected to the facades of the Piazza del Duomo (and other parts of the city), turning the Como into a magical winter wonderland.
Here is the exact location of Como Cathedral in Google Maps.
Must-See Place #2: Tempio Voltiano in Como
The next unmissable place to visit in Lake Como is Tempio Voltiano, still in Como. You can find it at the shore of Lake Como, north of the city. Tempio Voltiano is a white building with a neoclassical design that you’ll first see after passing by the docks coming from the train station.
Tempio Voltiano is a museum dedicated to Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery, hence its name. It is an unmissable place to see in Lake Como because it’s easy to visit, it has beautiful architecture, and from here you can already have a beautiful view of the lake.
Most importantly, suppose you’re an engineer like me, or you are just curious about things that changed the world. Then, visiting Tempio Voltiano is a must. Tempio Voltiano may be small, but here you can find fascinating artifacts used by Alessandro Volta in his invention of batteries.
Tempio Voltiano was built in 1927 to celebrate Alessandro Volta’s 100th death anniversary. His awards, personal belongings, and his collection of scientific instruments are safely kept exhibited inside the museum. You must not miss seeing his batteries or the early voltaic piles.
The museum is usually open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Entry is 2 EUR. However, every first Sunday of the month, you can enter the museum for free. Here is the exact location of Tempio Voltiano in Google Maps.
Must-See Place #3: Faro Voltiano in Brunate (Como Viewpoint)
The next unmissable place to see in Lake Como lies in Brunate, a village on top of the hills east of Como. This place is called Faro Voltiano (Volta Lighthouse), a lighthouse of Lake Como dedicated to Alessandro Volta.
Faro Voltiano is a 29-meter high octagonal tower that overlooks Lake Como. It is hard to spot during the day from the lake or city. But at night, you will see it illuminates the lake and the surrounding towns with the colors of the Italian flag, red, white, and green.
I consider Faro Voltiano an unmissable place to visit in Lake Como because of the gorgeous views you can see from it. The southwest part of the lake will all be yours to see! The sceneries extend even up to the distant Alps.
Faro Voltiano has fantastic views from north to west to south. Thus, I believe Faro Voltiano is one of the best places to catch sunset around Lake Como. In addition, there are benches too where you can just sit back and relax while enjoying the view.
Sometimes, depending on the weather, clouds stay at an elevation lower than the viewpoint of Faro Voltiano. This phenomenon is called the sea of clouds, and it’s gonna feel so paradisiacal when you witness one.
You can enter the Faro Voltiano for 2 EUR (1 EUR for kids) to see better views. I must say that the stairs inside of the structure are pretty Instagrammable, especially when you view it from the bottom.
To go to the Volta Lighthouse, first, you need to get a funicular ride from Como to Brunate. From Brunate, you can walk for 30 minutes to Volta Lighthouse or catch bus T3 that cuts travel time in half. If you prefer walking, Google Maps coordinates to Volta Lighthouse shall help you navigate.
Must-See Place #4: Villa del Balbianello in Lenno
Looking for a magical place in Lake Como? You must be looking for Villa de Balbianello in Lenno. Beauty is relative, but perhaps it’s the most beautiful villa in Lake Como – the reason why visiting it is an unmissable thing to do.
Villa del Balbianello sits in a lovely location. Perched on the tip of a hilly peninsula in the western leg of Lake Como, Villa del Balbianello lets you have so pleasant, slightly overlooking views of Lake Como. Visiting the villa shall feel tranquil, as well, for being secluded from the rest of the town.
The history of Villa del Balbianello stretches back to the 13th century when it wasn’t yet a villa but a Franciscan monastery. This is why you can see a chapel in the villa when you visit today. By the late 18th century, the property was bought by a cardinal. It was only then that it was converted into a villa.
A series of transfers of ownership followed soon after. It is when most of the evolution and beautification of villa occurred. A loggia, a secret passage, and more improvements were added to the site. The outcome of the changes was beautiful, and many people can testify too!
In the past decade, nearly 140,000 visitors came to Villa del Balbianello in a year! It was even featured in several movies like “A Month by the Lake ” (1995), “Casino Royale” (2006), and believe it or not, in “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones” (2002).
For me, the garden is the best part of Villa del Balbianello. The plants covering the walls of some buildings in the villa and vines crawling columns of the loggia are utterly fairytale! The trees and grasses are neatly trimmed, and flowers are blooming – heavenly ambiance, indeed!
The garden is so meticulously landscaped and designed in Italian style that it will make you press your shutter so many times during your visit. Your experience will much be better if you come during a bright sunny day when the water around the villa is sparkling blue!
To visit Villa del Balbianello, you must first go to Lenno. From Lenno, you can hike for 25 minutes to the villa or ride a Taxi-Boats from the beach of Lenno. Entry is 15 EUR. You can find the detailed visitors information from this link.
Must-See Place #5: Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo
Hit two birds with one stone by visiting Villa Carlotta, the fourth unmissable place to see in Lake Como. It is both a museum and a villa with a really picturesque garden to satisfy your wanderlust, really!
Villa Carlotta will let you experience a kind of Italian’s artistic, historical, and botanical heritage. Inside and outside the main building, you’ll find a collection of artworks entailing the villa’s history and the story of its past owners.
From the pictures, you might think that Villa Carlotta is just a “small” place only composed of one main building and a garden in front of it. But nope, it is slightly huge (70,000 square meters), and it could take you two to three hours to entirely explore the place.
Like Villa del Balbianello, Villa Carlotta is a well-maintained place with overlooking views of Lake Como. Villa del Balbianello shall feel more magical, but Villa Carlotta has a botanical garden and a notable collection of 17th to 18th centuries sculptures to give a unique experience when visiting Lake Como.
Discover nature’s little wonders in Villa Carlotta’s 8-hectare botanical garden. See various beautiful trees, cacti, flowers, and shrubs along different trails, some with panoramic viewpoints. It’s going to be a lovely stroll, made special by Italian botanical goodness.
Villa Carlotta’s museums, on the other hand, feature many masterpieces, sculptures, and antique objects from the previous three centuries. Some of them may interest you, but the one you would like to see in the museum is the view from the small balcony with the views of the lake. It’s breathtaking!
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a very Instagrammable spot in Villa Carlotta, the front garden is absolutely the one. The fountain and the staircase look so gorgeous! Just find a good angle and add some creativity, and you’ll love what you’ll be sharing with the online world.
Must-See Place #6: Punta Spartivento in Bellagio
Bellagio is Lake Como’s one of the most beautiful towns. Many people call it the pearl of Lake Como for being in an awe-inspiring location and having picturesque streets, fantastic restaurants, and charming little details.
There are many towns in Lake Como, but if there’s a town you should not miss visiting in Lake Como, it’s Bellagio, indeed! Its streets are totally perfect for leisurely wanderings. But, for me, Punta Spartivento is the unmissable place to see in this unmissable town.
Punta Spartivento, or the Cape of Split Wind, is a park located on the tip of the Bellagio peninsula where the three parts of Lake Como meet. Its location that’s almost in the middle of Lake Como lets you see nearly 270 degrees of scenic sights! Especially on a sunny day, scenes of glittering water and dramatic mountains in Punta Spartivento will surely awe-inspire you.
If you stay in Bellagio for the night, make Punta Spartivento your first destination the following day – that is if the weather forecast is good. Alpine lakes usually have magical views during sunrise.
Punta Spartivento has a small garden area and a restaurant too. Usually, it has fewer people, thus if you want a peaceful breakfast, this park is probably the place you’d like to visit. You can find adorable wild swans in Punta Spartivento too!
Must-See Place #7: Madonna del Ghisallo in Magreglio
Looking for something unique to discover in Lake Como? Madonna del Ghisallo in Magreglio is the one! Well, Madonna del Ghisallo is not only unique but also scenic and mystic… a place definitely not to be missed when visiting Lake Como.
Madonna del Ghisallo is a three-in-one destination. It is a museum, a scenic spot, and a shrine where legends say a Marian apparition took place. If you’re a cyclist, Madonna del Ghisallo is totally for you because it’s a place dedicated to people like you.
The reason for that roots down to the legend of Ghisallo. He is a medieval count who traveled to the hamlet of Magreglio, and during one of his travels, bandits attacked him. But the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the shrine helped him to be safe.
Since then, the apparition became well known as La Madonna del Ghisallo and became a patroness of local travelers. The shrine became one of the favorite stops of different cyclists joining cycling events in Lombardy after centuries.
Because of the increasing popularity of the shrine for cyclists, Magreglio’s local priest proposed to the pope to make La Madonna del Ghisallo the patroness of the cyclist. The pope agreed, and soon after, it became a place so dedicated for cyclists.
When you visit the small chapel in Madonna del Ghisallo, you will be amazed at how unusual it is. The walls, all covered with pro-bicycling memorabilia. In the middle of the chapel burns an eternal flame that remembers the cyclists who have died in cycling.
There are a few other museums for cycling and restaurants around the area. It can be a quick visit if you won’t see them all. But, indeed, the views from Madonna del Ghisallo are absolutely scenic! If you come sometime in early spring, you can see as far as the snowcapped mountains of the distant Alps.
Here is the exact location of Madonna del Ghisallo in Google Maps. You can visit Madonna del Ghisallo in Magreglio directly from Bellagio using bus #C36. The bus departs Bellagio every day, every 2 hours starting 10:40 am.
Must-See Place #8: Villa Monastero in Varenna
On the west coast of Lake Como lies Varenna, also one of the most beautiful towns you can visit in Lake Como. Like Bellagio, a visit to Varenna is an unmissable thing to do.
Varenna is an unmissable place in Lake Como because of three reasons:
- First, Varenna is undoubtedly photogenic. This colorful village just looks so good with the mountains from afar and nearby in the background. It looks even better when the colors of the houses spill to the lake when sunlight strikes them.
- Here you can find Villa Monastero, a charming villa with eclectic design and home to an interesting collection of optical, electronic, and mechanical instruments.
- Above the Varenna (you can easily visit) is Castello di Vezio, a 12th-century castle with odd-looking ghost sculptures. Surprisingly, it has an exhibition dedicated to Lariosaurus, an extinct sea reptile from the Middle Triassic period.
But among the three reasons, Villa Monastero, lying to the south of the village of Varenna, is probably the one you’ll like the most. Like villa Carlotta, Villa Monastero is also a villa that includes a museum and a botanical garden.
Villa Monastero is also built at the shores of Lake Como, similar to the aforementioned villas. A beautiful view of the lake is expected. However, it faces west. Thus it is the villa you would like to stay at to watch the sunset.
Villa Monastero may not have the charm of Villa del Balbianello or a vast garden like Villa Carlotta, but it has an eclectic design that sets it apart. Of course, its location as well. The collection of electronic, mechanical, and optical instruments exhibited in the villa can be quite a thing too.
Here is the exact location of Villa Monastero in Google Maps if you need directions.
Must-See Place #9: Orrido di Bellano
Another unmissable place in Lake Como is the gorge in the town of Bellano, located north of Varenna. It is called Orrido di Bellano, and it is an impressive 15-million-year-old spectacular artwork of nature to see while in Lake Como.
You know, the first time I visited a gorge, I was really blown away by the dramatic views inside it. The best scene is perhaps when sunlight enters the slight opening above and makes angelic rays. You might as well experience it in Orrido di Bellano.
At the same time, the meanderings footbridges attached to the canyon walls of Orrido di Bellano, its high cliffs, and the sound of rushing water will totally be a unique experience when visiting Lake Como. Besides, if it did not rain before you come, you may witness mesmerizing blue water flowing in the middle of the gorge!
Actually, a plain but scary building in the Orrido di Bellano is the one that can really make visiting the gorge different from the other attractions in Lake Como. The building is called Cà del Diavol, located at the entrance to the gorge. The images of the devil painted on its walls evoke fear and a strangely mystical vibe to anyone who comes.
If you plan to go to the gorge, I suggest not bringing your car. The parking is terrible! The entrance to the Orrido di Bellano is just minutes away north of the train station. Here is the exact location of Orrido di Bellano in Google Maps if you need directions.
Must-See Place #10: Belvedere Parco Valentino in Lecco
Last not but not least is the Punto Panoramico in Belvedere Parco Valentino, the unmissable place (park and viewpoint) to visit in the eastern leg of Lake Como located north of the city of Lecco. It is the highest viewpoint with views of the entire east side of Lake Como.
Exceptional views await you in Punto Panoramico (top of Mount Coltignone). The fascinating transition of landforms of northern Italy, from flat to alpine, will all be yours to see.
Not only that! From here, you can spot at least three lakes. Not only Lake Como but also Lago di Garlate (which is connected to Lake Como) and Lago di Annone situated beyond the city of Valmadrera.
I suggest you visit the Punto Panoramico during the afternoon golden hour, on a clear sunny day. It’s the time when you can witness Lago di Annone (sometimes Lago di Garlate) glow like a surface of a molten pot of gold – definitely wondrous to see.
Belvedere Parco Valentino is located in Pian dei Resinelli plateau which you can only reach using a car. Here is the exact location of Punto Panoramico or Belvedere Parco Valentino in Google Maps.
Is Lake Como worth visiting?
Absolutely, Lake Como is worth visiting and must not be missed in your travels to Italy! It’s a place blessed with beautiful sceneries and lovely villas to make you feel like you’re in paradise. Not to mention the small things you can discover in the museums and on the streets of its picturesque towns – they magically feed everyone’s wanderlust cravings.
Is one day in Lake Como enough?
One day is not enough. Lake Como is huge, and it has several fantastic towns around it with numerous attractions to see. You will need at least 3 to 4 days to see the bests of Lake Como, especially if you want to do or visit the unmissable things in Lake Como.
Map of the Unmissable places to see in Lake Como
As an overview, here are the unmissable places to visit in Lake Como in Google Maps:
Guides and Tours in Lake Como
If you need tours, ticket reservations, and guides in exploring Lake Como, you may check GetYourGuide’s discounted packages for convenient travel. And for your convenience, I have listed below the tours which can be essential for seeing the bests of Lake Como:
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CATEGORY | Italy