THE AMAZING 17+ BEST THINGS TO DO IN COMO CITY, ITALY + INFO & TIPS FOR YOUR COMO ITINERARY
Picturesque, cosy and sophisticated — that is Como City, Italy. With narrow streets, colouful buildings, interesting architecture, long (…very long) history, breathtaking views, unspoiled nature, shimmering blue waters framed by the foothills of the Alps and a portal to one of the world’s top destinations, Lake Como. Take a look and discover the very best things to do in Como City, Italy for timeless memories.
The charming, elegant and bustling city of Como is one of the prettiest towns in Lake Como, situated in Italy’s Lombardy region. This larger town is the most important town in the region. Reputed to be the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Como is an area of hidden gems and fairytale villages which was once only accessible by the rich and affluent but now a popular travellers destination who crave for slow-pace, gorgeous views and sunshine.
Como city is incredible. This is a city where you can immerse yourself in its history, admire some of the outstanding Gothic and Romanesque architecture, be completely enchanted with the scenic natural surroundings and eat some of the region’s best foods. Como city is one of the best towns to travel to in Lake Como and gives access to visiting the plethora of stunning towns such as Bellagio and Varenna and villages dotted around the lake-shores.
OUR VISIT TO COMO
We recently visited Lake Como in November and spent almost a week here.
When we arrived, the woolen grey sky, the crisp and misty air with little droplets of rain greeted us at the Como Nord Lago Station. Our first views of the lake with yoyoing boats, sky dappled with cloud and the hills laced with white ribbons will stay etched in our memory. We instantly felt relaxed having reached our destination. It was a short walk to our apartment in the historic centre of Como.
We loved the city’s atmosphere, and fell in love with the lakeside city life. There was a sense of quiet harmony entwined with modern city buzz and a lively al fresco scene unlike any other. Como has plenty of charm as well as lower prices, and often tops a tourist visit destination to this region.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THIS GUIDE
If you are planning a trip to the city of Como in Lake Como Italy and wondering what to see and do or what to expect, then you are in the right place! In this guide, you shall find suggestions about the best things to do in Como city, Italy, where to stay in Como, places to eat along with all the practical information you may need for your trip. This is the only comprehensive guide to Como City you will need and I welcome you to read on.
OVERVIEW OF WHAT IS COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE
In this article, you will find information about:
- About Como City, Lake Como, Italy;
- Top things to do in Como City, Italy;
- Add to your itinerary of the best things to do in Como City, Italy;
- How to get to Como City, Lake Como;
- Where to stay in Como City, Italy;
- Traditional food to try in Como;
- Where to eat in Como city, Italy | Best restaurants in Como;
- How much time do you need to visit Como City;
- Practical information and travellers tips for visiting Como City;
- What’s new.
- Share to Social Media.
ABOUT COMO CITY, ITALY
Located just 48 kilometres north of Milan, Como exudes a sense of tranquility that seems a world away from Italy’s commercial capital. Como sits in the Lombardy region, north of Italy and on the southern end of Lake Como, where Italy meets Switzerland. The city is a commune of about 84,000 residents and is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque places in the whole of Italy.
The yesteryear of Como city, Italy
The city of Como has a long history. Como has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and became part of the Roman Empire in the first century BC. Its location at the edge of the expansive lake has always been an important strategic point for commerce and trade in Lombardy during and since the Middle Ages. During the period of development, a series of defensive networks were constructed to protect Como. This included several watch towers, and one is still standing (The Baradello). Como city was eventually incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1859.
You can see the Roman influences in the orderly grid of streets that extend to the historic centre. Also, there is a unique example of a Romanesque fortifications, Porta Torre at Piazza Vittoria.
Present day Como city
Today, Como city is a popular tourist destination and thousands of visitors come here to explore and enjoy the stunning Lake Como along with the surrounding splendid natural landscape.
Como is a transport hub, offering good connections by boats, railways and roads to the major towns, and villages in the Lombardy region. It is the only town on the western branch of Lake Como with train stations, connecting both regional and international destinations. Regular public ferry services from Como connect all the lakeside towns in Lake Como. You can reach Bellagio or Varenna in under an hour and Argegno, the hidden gem in Lake Como in 20 minutes.
As a good transport hub, Como is often seen as a transit town but it is well worth spending a few days here, as a base to explore the wider region.
Easy to get around
Como is a city that is flat. This makes it easy to walk around. The centre of Como (the Old Town) is a traffic-free zone which allows for splendid walkabouts. You don’t really need to use public transport here because all the attractions are within walking distance.
A city of history, architecture and untouched nature entwined with the calmness of lakeside living
Como city is home to many attractions, medieval architecture, ancient piazzas, and art museums. Surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape, Como is a gateway to several hiking trails as well as the funicular to a lovely little village, Brunate that gives a spell-binding view of Como and Lake Como. Como’s lakefront promenade is an attraction in itself and is well worth spending some time here also.
Shopping in Como
As a city, Como offers a great selection in shops ranging from high-end names to souvenirs in their weekly markets. In addition, Como has been Italy’s silk capital since the 16th century and you can find a good variety of their unique silk collection in the town.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN COMO and BEST PLACES TO SEE IN AND AROUND COMO CITY ITALY
So, here’s my selection of the best things to do in Como city, Italy.
1 | Wander the Old Town in Como City
The Old Town is a gem to explore. Shaped in a quadrangle, surrounded by fortress walls dating back to the 12th century, the Old Town showcases many buildings with beautiful architecture that dates back to pre-medieval times.
The streets within the walled city are pedestrianised. You can wander around the Old Town endlessly. The charm of the city are the medieval piazzas that are full of life even in the quiet month of November. Life here is unhurried, quite simply pleasant.
When you wander through the streets of the Old Town in Como city, look out for these:
>> The streets of Via Odescalchi, Adamo del Pero and Vitani for some pre-medieval architecture;
>> Piazza San Fedele sits on the site of the old Roman forum. Back in the day, this medieval square was a wheat market, but today it is a bustling lively spot with many small bars, cafes and shops. An antique market takes place every Saturday. This Piazza hosts two medieval palaces and Basilica di San Fedele, a remarkable 12th century Romanesque church;
>> Piazza del Duomo is a historic square which is home to the majestic Como Cathedral. Como city developed around this square in the 11th century, about the same time when construction on the Como Cathedral began. The square also houses the old town hall (Broletto) which showcases a magnificent Gothic-Romanesque and Renaissance architecture.
2 | Visit the majestic Como Cathedral
One of the must-sees in Como is the majestic Como Cathedral. The imposing Como Cathedral overlooks the Piazza del Duomo and almost takes up the entire side of the Piazza.
Como Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is the seat of the Bishop of Como.
This magnificent Como Cathedral is renowned as the finest example of 14th century Gothic-Renaissance styled architecture. Its marble facade is highlighted by detailed stone carvings and stone statues and is topped with several small decorative towers.
The interior is magnificent. It is vast and lavishly decorated. The central dome is especially attractive, that is covered with gold artwork and lovely decorations.
Visiting the Como Cathedral should not take too long — dedicate at least half-an-hour for your visit.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Hours: 10:30 to 17:30
3 | Paolo Giovio, Como Archaeological Museum
The museum is housed in Palazzo Giovio, once the residence of the powerful Giovio counts.
The museum traces the history of Como, from prehistory to Roman Age in an itinerary presenting archaeological finds of Roman, Egyptian and Greek collections. You can expect to see a variety of regional artefacts — pottery, jewellery, stonework and argricultural machinery amongst others.
Address: Piazza Medaglie d’Oro Comasche, 1, 22100 Como CO,
4 | Make a quick stop at the Basilica di San Fedele, Como City
The Basilica di San Fedele sits on the medieval square of the same name. Piazza San Fedele is next to Piazza Duomo, but is a little quieter than Piazza Duomo.
The construction of Basilica di San Fedele probably began in 1120 on the ruins of a previous church from the 7th century. Construction took several years to complete and the following centuries the basilica was further modified. During the years of 1807 and 1808, side chapels to the basilica were built. It underwent a restoration in the early 21st century and a bell tower was added.
The Basilica di San Fedele is of Romanesque and Baroque architecture. The interior is home to many frescoes and sacred art pieces.
Address: Piazza S. Fedele, 22100 Como CO, Italy
5 | Visit the Basilica of Saint Abundius
Basilica of Saint Abundius or Basilica di Sant’Abbondio is a Catholic church located a little out of the Como city centre, under Mount Croce.
The origins of the church goes back to the 9th century and the current church was built upon the old church in the 11th century in Romanesque style by a community of Benedictine monks who settled here.
The exterior of the basilica appears quite plain featuring simple stonework and has two notable bell towers. The inside of the basilica features huge columns along with a distinctly decorated main altar.
If you have the time, this majestic church is worth a visit.
Address: Via Regina Teodolinda, 35, 22100 Como CO, Italy.
Hours: 08:00 to 18:00
6 | Take the Como-Brunate Funicular or the bus to Brunate for spectacular views of Lake Como
On the eastern edge of the lake in Como city is a funicular station where you can take the train that scales the mountain to a little village called Brunate. The locals call this characteristic village, “Balcony in the Alps“. When you reach here, you will be amazed by the breathtaking panorama.
The Como-Brunate funicular ride has been in operation since 1894. The train runs at an interval of every 30 minutes. The ride takes 7 minutes and is the quickest way to access the mountain village from Como city.
Brunate is situated at 715 metres high and overlooks Como city, offering breathtaking views over the city and Lake Como. The landmarks and the structure of Como city are clearly visible from this viewing point.
Brunate is also the gateway to several nature-walks and road-biking.
There are two vantage points in Brunate that offer striking views of Como and Lake Como. One is at the Brunate Station, a few metres downhill and along the terraces of the restaurant. The other is from the Volta Lighthouse, located on a hill further up from Brunate.
The Como-Brunate activity is a must-do in any Lake Como itinerary and almost all tour groups include this in their itinerary. Check the official website of Brunate Funicular for the latest information, prices and timetable.
Address: Brunate Funicular, Piazza Alcide de Gasperi, 4, Italy
7 | Hike to Volta Lighthouse
The Volta Lighthouse (Faro Voltiano), built in memory of Alessandro Volta is located on a hill in San Maurizio, about 150 metres above Brunate.
To reach the Volta Lighthouse, you need to take the walking path up from Brunate Funicular Station. It takes about 30 minutes to walk the trek. The trek is steep in some places and the stony paths are poorly maintained also. If you intend to hike this trek, please ensure you are using suitable footwear.
There is an option to climb to the top (143-step on a spiral staircase) of the lighthouse for a small fee. The views from the top are totally spellbinding! You will see jaw-dropping views of the lake, small towns surrounded by lush nature, the valley towards Switzerland and the snow-capped Alps.
Address: Via Giacomo Scalini, 22034 Brunate CO, Italy
Hours: 10:30 — 18:30
Timeless Travel Steps: A quick summary of useful tips about the Como-Brunate Funicular + The Volta Lighthouse:
1 | The Como-Brunate Funicular runs every 30 minutes; The journey takes 7 minutes.
2 | In the winter months, the service operates from 06:00 to 22:30;
3 | In the summer months and on weekends, the service operates from 06:30 to midnight.
4 | When the funicular is closed for maintenance, a bus service is available from Como-Brunate-Como that runs every 30 minutes.
5 | Check the official website of Como-Brunate for the latest info and prices.
6 | If you are trekking to the lighthouse, use appropriate footwear for the not-so-easy trek of 1.3 km.
7 | There is one shop in Brunate for coffee/tea and snacks. They do not accept card payments, so plan ahead to have some cash with you if you plan to take a break here.
8 | Go off-beat, hike and discover enchanting hamlets in the mountains surrounding Como City
If you love to discover new places, and enjoy off-beat adventures, you may want to explore the network of hiking trails around Como city by yourself or with a guide. It often is great to explore the hidden hamlets in the mountain woods and enjoy the freshness of the mountain air along with experiencing the local culture.
While the hiking trails around Como city are easily accessible and are for all abilities, taking a guide with you might be a good idea if you do not have time to plan the routes or are afraid of getting lost. Also, if you do not have much time to spend in Como and to ensure the best experience, I’d suggest opting for a guide.
Here are a couple of options for you to consider:
8.1 | If you are hiking without a guide:
The main hiking trail and quite a simple one is the trek up to Brunate through the woods.
You can hike up to Brunate via two trails from Como. One runs alongside the funicular and the other passes by the Hermitage of San Donato, founded by the monks in the 15th century.
When you reach Brunate, you can follow the trail to San Maurizio (Volta Lighthouse). From San Maurizio, follow the trail to piazzale del Cao “mountain lodge walk”. This trail leads you to Carla Mountain Lodge, the Bondella Mountain Lodge and the Boletto Mountain Lodge.
There is a further ancient mule track that leads you through the woods, to reach Mount Boletto, Bolettone and Palanzone. From here you can enjoy unparallel views over Lake Como. You could follow the trek back to Como from here.
8.2 | Opt for a tour guide for an easy mountain trek and cultural experience:
If you prefer, I found a really good “easy mountain trek” tour with a guide that includes the funicular ride to Brunate and a boat ride in Lake Como. It seems like a good value for money tour that offers some fascinating trails to several towns in the mountains and includes lunch in a baita. This particular activity allows you to experience authentic mountain villages, culture and gorgeous scenery.
9 | Take a boat trip around Lake Como
One of the best things to do in Como city is to go on a boat trip around Lake Como.
Since our visit to the region, I can definitely say that there is no better way to explore Lake Como and to see the beautiful landscape around this massive lake than to take a boat trip.
9.1 | Types of water transport from Como city
Ships, sea-planes, high-speed hydrofoils and boats depart Como pier daily.
From Como pier, you can take the slow boat (hop-on-hop-off boats) or a fast boat (hydrofoil) to get to the towns along Lake Como.
A trip on the hydrofoil from Como to Bellagio takes about 50 minutes. A journey aboard the small boats usually takes about 2 hours to reach Bellagio from Como.
The small boats move at a leisurely pace, stopping at almost all of the important towns.
We took the high-speed hydrofoil that goes much faster than the boats. We also took the connecting passenger/car ferries to explore the smaller towns in the central region of Lake Como.
The hydrofoil is slightly more expensive than the slow boats but it is well worth the time it saves you when exploring Lake Como.
Como city has a well managed ticket office at the pier. We were advised of the most convenient options and the best way to hop around the towns.
9.2 | Como city boat tours
One of the nicest ways to enjoy a scenic boat trip on Lake Como and to learn more about Como is to join a tour. Most day tours include a boat trip to Bellagio, or a sightseeing cruise of Lake Como. If you prefer, you could opt for a private boat trip that covers the highlights of Lake Como. A private boat trip in the summer months includes a swim in the clear waters of Lake Como.
If you are visiting Milan and wish to include a trip to Como, you may want to join one of the popular day tours from Milan to Lake Como. Most day tours from Milan visit Como, Brunate, Bellagio as well as Varenna and include a boat trip.
Day tours make use of fast boats or private boats to ensure travellers get the best out of their experience and avoid long waiting times or slow journeys. There are several tours that may be of interest to you and you can take a look to select one to best suit your itinerary.
THE MOST POPULAR TOUR OF LAKE COMO TOWNS AND CRUISE EXPERIENCE FROM OUR READERS’ BOOKINGS:
9.3 | For timeless experiences
Would you like to experience the best of Lake Como as well as the best off-beat places including taking a dip in the clear waters of this famous lake?
If you do, you may want to take a private boat trip to explore Lake Como.
This is one of the best things to do in Lake Como if you want to use the most of your time when visiting this region. A private boat hire might be best for you so you could experience several places in a short time.
With some boat trips, you can curate your own itinerary and select the towns you want to visit in Lake Como. In some others, the itinerary is already planned and includes seeing the best of Lake Como sights from the waters. Some private boat trips take you to a special island renowned for the clear waters where you could have a swim. This is the most efficient way of exploring the best of Lake Como for timeless memories. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to do, take a look at this private boat trip I found:
This particular private boat trip is flexible where you can curate your own itinerary of places to visit and admire from the waters. You could also hire these guys for a special celebration like a birthday, anniversary or a special couples outing with champagne. They will even do drone photography , if you want them to. However, if you do not want to curate your own itinerary, this private boat trip takes you to see the popular villas from the waters. It includes a trip to the beautiful Comacina Island where you can swim in the clear waters of Lake Como.
You can learn in more detail about this exceptional private boat trip from Viator.
10 | Wander the Como city lakefront
From Como pier, head west alongside the promenade. The calming views of bobbing boats, the comings and goings of ferries amidst the backdrop of colourful hamlets and snow-peaked mountains are a sight to behold!
There is a footbridge that leads to the centre of the lake that offers many photo opportunities.
If you keep walking along the promenade, you will come to Tempio Voltiano (Volta Museum), Monumento Ai Caduti (War Memorial), the football stadium, the local rowing club and the Aeroclub. The Aeroclub offers flying lessons and flights over Lake Como.
Continue on along the promenade and you will come to Passeggiata Villa Olmo, leading towards Villa Olmo.
11 | Visit the Volta Museum, Como city
The Volta Museum or Tempio Voltiano is a Greek-style Neoclassical temple dedicated to Alessandro Volta.
Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist and chemist who invented the electric battery and provided a first source of continuous current.
The Tempio Voltiano museum showcases Volta’s life and his work. There is a rich collection of scientific instruments alongside a display of instruments he used to create the first electric battery. The Tempio Voltiano is an essential activity in most Como city tours itinerary.
The Volta Museum was constructed in 1927, almost a hundred years after the death of the scientist.
Address: Viale Guglielmo Marconi, 1, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Hours: From 10:00 to 18:00
Entry fee applies. Check the official website of the Volta Museum for the latest information.
12 | Go around to Villa Olmo, Como city
Villa Olmo is set in a vast lush greenery and displays some extraordinary Neoclassical architecture. In front of the villa sits an elaborate fountain.
12.1 | Villa Olmo: A symbol of Como city
Villa Olmo was built in Neoclassical style alongside the lake front as a summer residence for an Italian aristocrat family. Built in the 18th century, Villa Olmo is one of the symbols of Como city. This resplendent historic residence is set amidst a rich vast lush Italian garden.
The Neoclassical architecture is fully represented in the facade of Villa Olmo. The central body is raised forward and faces an elaborate water fountain. It has five entrance arches surmounted by six iconic columns alternating with medallions depicting philosophers.
The villa was sold to the Municipality of Como in 1925. Since then, Villa Olmo has been used as a distinguished venue primarily for exhibitions, events and conferences.
12.2 | Explore the villa
Take some time to stroll through the gardens. It was really nice to sit for a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility that surrounds this landmark. The villa hosted a contemporary arts exhibition for a small fee of 7 Euros when we visited and it was an opportunity to see the grandeur of the ground floor rooms of the villa.
Address: Via Simone Cantoni, 1, 22100 Como CO, Italy.
Hours: From 10:00 — 18:00, Tuesday to Sunday
Check the official website of Villa Olmo for activities and events.
13 | Stop by at Villa del Grumello
A short walk from Villa Olmo on the western shore of Lake Como sits another lovely villa. Villa Grumello is a historic mansion located in a secluded spot within a vast park. This historic villa is surrounded by thousand-year old trees, pretty greenhouses, a beautiful lake, along with an enchanting pond where water lillies and plants thrive.
Villa Grumello is one of the three villas (the other two are Villa Olmo and Villa Sucota) that forms a pedestrian path named as “Kilometer of Knowledge”. This path allows you to admire the best scenic views of Como and Lake Como from various positions.
Villa Grumello itself is only accessible through special events but the public can access the grounds.
Address: Via Per Cernobbio, 11, 22100 Como CO, Italy
Official website of Villa Grumello
14 | Visit the famous villas of Lake Como near Como city
Lake Como is renowned as one of the most beautiful places in all of Italy. One of the lake’s distinct characteristics are the charming mansions and villas that are delightfully sprinkled along the lake-shore. These mansions and villas are definitely a must-see if you are planning a visit to Lake Como.
Each mansion or villa is distinct. Each has its own charm, character and atmosphere. Some have become luxury hotels while others provide a serene haven, surrounded by nature and magnificent gardens for the whole family to enjoy.
Most of the villas are located outside of Como city and involve a short journey by boat or bus. Here is my selection of the top three villas not to miss.
14.1 | Villa Balbianello
Villa Balbianello is renowned for its amazing architecture and the sublime views of Lake Como it offers from its terraces.
This baroque villa is located in Tremezzina, near the bay at Lenno. It was constructed in the 18th century over what was previously a monastery.
You can reach Villa Balbianello by taking the ferry to Lenno and following a beautiful trail through some gorgeous woodland from the bay at Lenno. The walk to the villa is about 15 minutes. You could also hire a private boat to take you there.
The terraces of the villa open up to the lake with spellbinding views of the calming waters of Lake Como and the rocky peaks of the snow-capped mountains. You can see the town of Bellagio as well.
This splendid Villa Balbianello has made several appearances in movies including Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Address: Via Guido Monzino, 1, 22016 Tremezzina CO, Italy
Open daily from mid-March to mid-November: 10:00 to 18:00
Entry fee applies.
14.2 | Visit the sumptuous Villa Carlotta
Villa Carlotta dates back to the 17th century and is home to an extensive collection of arts and masterpieces. This elegant villa has an expansive terraced garden and gives stunning views of the lake.
Villa Carlotta is located within minutes of Tremezzo’s pier. Both the museum and the gardens are open to the public.
Address: Via Regina, 2, 22016 Tremezzina CO, Italy
Entry fee applies. Check for the latest visiting information on the official website of Villa Carlotta.
14.3 | Villa Monastero, Lake Como
Villa Monastero sits elegantly along the eastern shore of Lake Como in Varenna. It is an amazing complex that includes a wide botanical garden along with a museum. The museum tells the story of the villa spanning four centuries.
If you have the time, Villa Monastero is one you would not want to miss when you visit Varenna.
Address: Viale Giovanni Polvani, 4, 23829 Varenna LC, Italy.
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00
Official website: Villa Monastero, Varenna, Lake Como.
15 | Brunch at Piazza Cavour
Piazza Cavour is a lively square with some shops, hotels, a small garden with benches and restaurants offering al fresco dining. It is a great meeting point, boasting beautiful views of the lake and mountains, located just minutes from the Como Nord Lago railway station and the Como City pier. We were entertained with live music at brunch.
16 | Shop for local silk and visit Como Silk Museum
One of the most luxurious Italian fabrics is silk and Como city has been the centre of silk production for centuries.
Mantero, a family owned textile company since 1902 has been weaving, dyeing and creating silk garments for over a century. Mantero is located just 15 minutes drive from Como city centre.
If you can’t get to Mantero, then stop by at A.Picci. A. Picci has been trading since 1919 and is the last remaining silk shop in town, dedicated to selling Como silk.
The Como Silk Museum or Museo della Seta di Como is solely dedicated to the history of Como Silk. The silk related exhibits reflect the high quality craft production, machinery and looms that made Como City famous all over the world.
Address: Como Silk Museum, Via Castelnuovo, 9, 22100 Como CO, Italy
17 | Visit the prettiest towns in Lake Como
Lake Como — a small region in Northern Italy encompasses the country’s enchanting beauty. Full of hidden gems in the woods, fairytale villages and a maze of historic lanes in quintessential paradise where time seems to have stood still, Lake Como presents a world of discovery for the discerning traveller. At this, most beautiful lake in the world, explore some of the captivating villages for the timeless experience of the region.
Bellagio and Varenna are the two top destinations as these are indeed colourful and picturesque towns. Alongside these, I would also suggest visiting Lecco, Argegno and Tremezzo as these three are equally charming, captivating and off-beat gems.
I found these to be the best and prettiest towns to visit in Lake Como which may be helpful to you in designing your itinerary when visiting this region.
Turn over to the next page for best things to add to Como City itinerary >>