Lake Como is one of Italy’s most scenic destinations, attracting more than 1.3 million visitors a year. Although it’s not the largest of the Italian lakes (Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore come in first and second place), Lake Como has plenty of sights and attractions to visit. And because of its proximity to Milan, most people can easily see it on a day trip.
Milan to the southernmost part of Lake Como (to the town of Como) is only 40 minutes by train or 1 hour by car. Travelers coming by train will need to transfer in Como if they want to explore other villages or areas around the lake.
What is the Best Day Trip from Milan to Lake Como?
There are many stunning lakeside towns scattered around the shores of Lake Como. But due to the ease of accessibility, most people choose to visit Como, Bellagio, and Varenna. These towns are known for their charming town centers, awe-inspiring villas, and dramatic lake and mountain views.
However, Lake Como has plenty of other towns and villages to visit, including Lecco, Menaggio, and Tremezzo.
The best thing about a Lake Como day trip is that you can’t visit more than one place! There is a well-developed ferry system that you can take to see different towns around the water. Having a car also gives you more flexibility in terms of places to visit, although it’s also possible to travel by bus.
If this is your first time to Lake Como, then make sure to spend a few hours in Como. It’s just a 40-minute train ride from Milano Centrale, making it the perfect day trip for visitors.
However, it does have more of a city vibe than a small-town atmosphere.
For this reason, there are an unsurprising number of attractions here, from museums and theaters to churches and palaces. Architecture lovers won’t want to miss the Gothic Como Cathedral, which sits in the heart of the vibrant Piazza Duomo.
From here, you can also visit the Broletto, Como’s old town hall made from contrasting white, red, and grey marble.
If you’d rather spend time in a historic villa, then Como has plenty of buildings within walking distance that are easy to reach.
The most stunning is Villa Olmo, a neoclassical villa with ornately decorated rooms and a sprawling Italian-style garden. Both are free to visit and worth a few hours during your trip to Como.
The picturesque village of Bellagio is located on a rocky cliff that sits between the two branches of the lake.
With colorful homes, grand villas, and a charming town center, it’s considered by many to be the “Pearl of Lake Como.” But although it’s one of the biggest tourist destinations on the lake, Bellagio manages to maintain a charming, small-town atmosphere.
Start your trip by wandering through the narrow cobbled streets of Il Borgo – the old city center.
Bring your walking shoes (it’s a very hilly town) and walk up to the vista on Via Guiseppe Garibaldi for panoramic views of the lake over the rooftops.
Other must-see sights in town include the Basilic of San Giacomo, the Melzi Gardens, and the Punta Spartivento Park. Before you head back to Milan, grab an aperitif or dinner at one of the local trattorias on the waterfront.
Varenna sits on the eastern shore of Lake Como and is surprisingly not very touristy, considering that there’s a direct train from Milan.
If you’re visiting Bellagio as well on this trip, then you can also take a ferry from there to Varenna.
This harbor town is small and still reminiscent of a small fishing village, just like it was when it was founded in 769 CE.
Although many cafes and restaurants are located close to the water, the beautiful buildings and historical sights are more uphill.
You’ll find the 14th-century Church of San Giorgio, the lush gardens of Villa Monastero, and the medieval Vezio Castle. The trail to the castle is relatively long (~40 minutes), but it’s worth it for the dramatic views over the entire lake.
Skip the crowds and spend your days walking around Lecco. Despite its breathtaking natural surroundings (it’s backed by the snow-capped Bergamo Alps), this small waterfront town remains relatively undisturbed by crowds of tourists.
This is unbelievable considering there are dozens of direct trains here from Milan each day!
Daily life is centered around the waterfront promenade, which is lined with cafes and gelato shops. You can also visit the Basilica of St. Nicholas, whose belltower is the 2nd tallest in all of Italy.
But if you’re seeking those jaw-dropping lake views, then take the cable car to Piani D’Erna (the starting point for hiking the Sentiero Natura).
From here, you can see over the entire town as well as the lake and surrounding mountains.
Compared to the other towns around Lake Como, Menaggio has a more local feel to it.
You’ll find kids playing ball in Piazza Garibaldi, friends chatting over coffee at a cafe, and people shopping for fresh produce at the lakefront street market (open every other Friday).
And unlike other towns in the area, Menaggio is entirely flat, so it’s perfect for those with limited mobility.
Menaggio is a great family-friendly destination, as there are plenty of activities to keep you and the little ones occupied.
There’s a mini golf course just a short walk from Piazza Garibaldi, which boasts stunning views of the water and the Larian Mountains.
On a warm day, you can also head to Lido di Menaggio.
This small beach has sun loungers, two pools, restaurants, a kid’s play area, and even its own brewery! There is no direct train to Menaggio from Milan (you’ll need to take a bus from Como or Varenna), but if you have a car, you can reach the town in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Home to some of Lake Como’s most opulent villas, Tremezzo is an ideal destination for anyone wanting to experience a bit of luxury on their vacation.
One of the most impressive buildings is Villa Carlotta, a neoclassical museum with 19th-century furnished apartments, an art gallery, and a terraced botanical garden.
A few miles outside of town sits Villa del Balbianello, another breathtaking villa with water views and lush, terraced gardens.
If it looks familiar, it’s because it was used in such films as Casino Royal and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
When you’re done villa-hopping, head back to the town center and walk along the lake.
Ninety percent of the town is located on the waterfront, which is dotted with several lovely restaurants and cafes.
You’ll also come across the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, the most opulent 5-star hotel in the area.
While you won’t be able to use the lake-facing pools, you can book a table in the bar or restaurant to enjoy the pristine water views.
Thanks to reliable public transportation, traveling from Milan to Lake Como has never been easier.
Whether you’re marveling at magnificent villas or sunbathing on a golden sand beach, Lake Como is one of Italy’s most desirable natural gems.