20 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Como, Italy

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The sun-soaked city of Como, located on the shores of Italy’s famous lake of the same name, is a tourist magnet that attracts millions of visitors every year.

Just the name alone evokes a dreamy vision of luxurious villas, glamorous boat rides and enough lakeside gelato to feed a village.

And while most visitors use Como as a jumping point to other towns around the lake (or perhaps as a stalking base in hopes of seeing George Clooney), the reality is there are plenty of things to do in the city itself.

Having been there twice now (in winter and summer), I can vouch for the fact that there are plenty of lovely things to do in Como….. if you know where to look.

Luckily, you’re here, so you don’t need to look too hard. Keep scrolling for a list of the best unique things to do in Como, Italy!

Save this list of Things to Do in Como for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Take a boat tour

You really can’t come to Como and not do a boat tour of the stunning Lake Como!

Seeing the city (and other adorable towns) from the water is an unforgettable experience that will have you wallowing in drool puddles for days, hence why it’s my top pick for Como must-dos.

You can choose from a few different boat tours, including this guided tour where the captain will point out the most beautiful lake-side villas and tell you all about the best attractions in the area. If you feel confident enough in your ‘sailing’ skills then you could also rent a private boat to do it yourself.

And for the most charming/romantic option (for those who want to splurge and feel at one with the likes of George Clooney) check out this speedboat tour which includes some prosecco and snacks. You’ll truly feel like a James Bond villain, or heroine!

2. Soak in the view from Brunate

And for a different (but equally impressive) vantage point of the lake, make sure you hop on the Brunate Funicular.

The village of Brunate is located 500 metres above Como, and there has been a train to reach the panoramic peak since 1894!

Every 30 minutes you can travel on this funicular from the city of Como up to the top to enjoy spectacular views of the city, lake and surrounds, plus it only takes 7 minutes each way.

Once up there you can simply enjoy the views, or do a number of walks in the surroundings, including one to the Faro Voltiano (Volta Lighthouse) which is also worth seeing. Do be aware that the queues for the funicular can get long in summer, so get there early (or late) to avoid the crowds.

3. Enjoy some lakeside walks

Okay, I promise this post will include more than just gawking at the lake from various perspectives, but I need to add a final one: the almighty lakeside stroll.

It sounds simple, but truly one of the best things to do in Como is simply a walk around the lake, taking in all the views at a slow pace while preferably nursing an oversized gelato. The local government actually created a “romantic promenade” in 1959 for visitors to enjoy the elegant buildings, so it would almost be rude not to!

From the main harbour area head west (or left, if you’re looking towards the lake) along the foreshore and you’ll be rewarded with sights of multiple monuments, the Tempio Voltiano museum, and a number of stunning villas.

4. Wander around the Old Town

While most visitors to Como head to the lake and waterside attractions, you’re missing out if you don’t also spend some time exploring the beautiful Old Town, which is surrounded by fortress walls dating back to the 12th century.

Indeed, Como is a history nerd’s dream, with art and architecture from the medieval to neoclassical ages to discover, including three remaining Romanesque military gate towers. Como’s Duomo cathedral is, of course, stunning, but I also loved the pretty Broletto di Como next door, which is lit up with art installations at night.

Other must-see sights include the Pinacoteca (art gallery), the Basilica of San Fedele, and the Romanesque Basilica of Sant’Abbondio, with its twin bell towers.

5. Go villa hunting

Around the world, Lake Como’s luxurious villas are the stuff of paparazzi dreams and wedding Pinterest boards alike.

Luckily, you can visit a few of them in the city of Como, without needing a private boat or suspicious billionaire connections. The main ones that are open to the public, in the order that they can be reached from the main harbour if you travel left along the lake shore, are:

  • Villa Saporiti: Built between 1790 and 1793 for marchioness Eleonora Villani. Many famous people were hosted here between the end of XVIII and the beginning of the XIX century, including Napoleon!
  • Villa Gallia: The oldest villa in the Borgovico neighbourhood, it was built in 1615 as abbot Marco Gallio’s summer house.
  • Villa Olmo: A stunning neoclassical villa surrounded by huge gardens and often used for exhibitions. If you only visit one villa in Como, make it this one!
  • Villa del Grumello: Another gorgeous villa with beautifully restored greenhouses, gardens and stables.
  • Villa Sucota (Fondazione Antonio Ratti): This villa has passed hands between a number of people (including Napoleon’s doctor) and is now the headquarters of the Antonio Ratti Foundation. It also houses a library with books and documentation on silk and yarn. 
Villa Olmo

6. Try risotto with perch

As I mention in my Italy travel tips post, one of the best ways to enjoy Italy is munching your way through all the top regional specialties. After all, there’s much more to Italian cuisine than just pizza and pasta…

And Como is a great example. Here, risotto with perch (a local fish) is one of the top dishes offered in almost every restaurant. The delicate, white flesh of perch (which is abundant in Lake Como) complements the creamy risotto perfectly, creating a delightful combination of flavours and textures.

Crispy perch filets on a bed of creamy, dreamy risotto? Turns out the villas aren’t the only luxurious things to enjoy in Como 😉

7. Take a local cooking class

If you’re a foodie who wants to learn even more about the traditional cuisine of the Como region, then you can’t go wrong with a cooking class in the home of a local Italian family!

In this cooking class, you’ll have the chance to prepare mouthwatering specialties that capture the essence of Como’s culinary heritage. From handmade pasta to local delicacies, you’ll be guided through each step by a friendly local host who’s passionate about sharing their love for cooking.

Plus, it’s not just about the cooking—the class includes a dining experience too! So, after you’ve created your culinary masterpieces, you’ll sit down, relax, and savour the fruits of your labour in the warm and welcoming ambience of a local home.

8. Stuff your face with gelato

Aside from pizza, pasta and risotto, one of the main foods you have to eat while in Italy (especially in summer) is gelato.

Gelato is basically just the Italian version of ice cream, although it is made with less air than regular ice cream, making it denser – and more delicious in my opinion! Since Como is a popular summer destination it’s no surprise that there are plenty of great gelaterias to visit when you need to cool down and get a sugar fix.

See which ones take your fancy as you walk along, and while long queues can be annoying, they also attest to a place being really good. I suggest trying as many different gelaterias and flavours as possible, all in the name of research, of course!

9. Enjoy a lakeside drink

Of course, if you’re looking for something stronger, another delicious and relaxing Como must-do is having a drink by the lake.

While there are swanky bars aplenty in Como, for a budget-friendly choice, head to Gelateria Chiosco al Molo, near Piazza Matteottoni Giacomo.

Considering the location, they had incredibly well-priced drinks (cocktails for 5 euro and wine for 3.50), plus an amazing view of the water.

… just beware of the pigeons. They really are ruthless around here.

10. Visit Como’s Archeological Museum

If you get tired of eating, drinking and gawking at beautiful villas in Como, then you might like to spend some time learning about the archaeological history of the area at the Museo Archeologico Giovio.

Named after the renowned Renaissance historian and collector Paolo Giovio, the museum is housed in the Palazzo Giovio, a historic building that adds to the allure of the exhibits. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a rich collection of artefacts from various periods, including prehistoric, Roman, and medieval eras.

The museum showcases a diverse range of archaeological finds, such as ancient tools, pottery, jewellery, and sculptures, offering a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the civilizations that once thrived in the Como area.

11. Visit the Historical Museum “Giuseppe Garibaldi”

If you’re a history buff or just curious about the legendary Italian figure, this place is a hidden gem you don’t want to miss! Giuseppe Garibaldi, known as the “Hero of Two Worlds,” was a revolutionary leader and played a major role in the unification of Italy.

Step into this museum, and you’ll be transported back in time to Garibaldi’s era. You’ll find yourself surrounded by fascinating artefacts, personal belongings, and historical documents that tell the story of this incredible man. From military uniforms to handwritten letters, it’s like getting a VIP pass into the life of one of Italy’s most iconic figures.

It’s got some cool interactive elements too! You can dive into the Garibaldi experience with multimedia displays and virtual reality exhibits. You can even try on replicas of his iconic red shirts. Imagine strutting your stuff in Garibaldi’s gear. Now that’s an Instagram-worthy moment right there!

12. Admire art at the Pinacoteca Civica, AKA the Art Gallery of Como

I mentioned the Pinacoteca Civica briefly in the Old Town section, but this art gallery definitely deserves its own description so that you know not to miss out on it.

The Pinacoteca Civica is a great place to escape the crowds and indulge in a little quiet reflection. It’s like your own private art sanctuary, where you can take your time, admire the brushstrokes, and let the beauty of the paintings transport you to another world.

From Renaissance masterpieces to contemporary works, this place has got it all. You’ll be strolling through the halls, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Botticelli, Titian, and Caravaggio (well, their artwork at least).

13. Check out a Neoclassical temple dedicated to Alessandro Volta

Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist and pioneer of electricity, born in Como in 1745. His groundbreaking work in the field of electromagnetism and the invention of the electric battery have left an indelible mark on scientific history, which is why there are so many places relating to him in and around Como.

I’ve already mentioned the lighthouse looking down over the city, but the Tempio Voltiano is probably the most fascinating of the attractions related to Volta, as it’s a museum and monument dedicated to his life and work. Here visitors can learn about his experiments, discoveries, and the profound impact he made in the field of electrical science.

The museum is housed in a gorgeous neoclassical building that was constructed between 1924 and 1928 on the site of the former Royal Palace of Como. The architecture of the Tempio Voltiano is reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple, paying homage to the classical influences that inspired Volta during his life.

14. Learn more about Como silk at the Como Silk Museum

The Museo didattico della Seta, also known as the Silk Educational Museum, is a unique and fascinating museum located in Como. It is dedicated to showcasing the history, craftsmanship, and cultural significance of silk production in the region.

Como has a long-standing tradition of silk production and is renowned for its silk industry. The Museo didattico della Seta provides an immersive experience, allowing visitors to explore the various stages of silk production, from the cultivation of silkworms to the weaving of fine fabrics.

One of the highlights of the museum is the interactive demonstrations/workshops that allow visitors to engage with silk production firsthand. You can observe skilled artisans at work, try your hand at silk weaving techniques, or even participate in silk-related activities. This is definitely a must-visit for the fashionistas!

15. Check out Como’s Botteghe Storiche (Historical Shops)

Visiting the Historical Shops of Como is a delightful experience that allows you to step back in time and immerse yourself in the city’s rich heritage. These shops, known as “botteghe storiche,” are traditional establishments that have been operating for decades, often passed down through generations.

When you stroll through the streets of Como, you’ll encounter these historical shops tucked away in charming corners. Each shop carries its own unique character and speciality, offering a wide range of products that reflect local craftsmanship and traditions.

The Historical Shops of Como offer a diverse array of products, from fine textiles and luxury fabrics to artisanal chocolates, gourmet delicacies, and local wines. You can find beautifully crafted furniture, decorative items, ceramics, and unique souvenirs that reflect the distinct style and craftsmanship of Como. Check out a full list of these official historic shops here.

16. Take a dip in Lido Villa Geno

If you’re looking for things to do in Como during the summer, a dip in the Lido Villa Geno is as perfect as it gets.

While most of the villas that you can visit in Como lie on the west side of the lake, Villa Geno is located on the east (or right) and you’ll be able to find it by looking for the 30-meter high water fountain outside. While the villa itself is a popular wedding venue, it’s the beach out front that’s the real drawcard here.

There’s a public beach to the west of the villa, with a wide-open meadow for sunbathing and a small swimming pool if you don’t fancy going in the lake. There are also places to rent bikes or umbrellas, along with a bar and restaurant, so it’s the best spot to relax on a hot day in Como.

17. Seek out Como’s modern structures

While all the classic architecture is wonderful, don’t forget Como’s modern side, with cool structures like the Life Electric and the War Memorial to discover as well.

Life Electric is probably the most well-known, and easy to find, as it’s a 16.5 metre-tall shiny metal object on the breakwater in the middle of the harbour. This is another monument to that famous Como resident Alessandro Volta and his work on batteries.

Not far from the Tempio Voltiano is the Monumento ai Caduti, the memorial built to commemorate the victims of WWI. It looks like a stone tower with rectangular openings and is quite easy to spot.

As well as the Voltiano lighthouse in Brunate, some other modern structures to watch out for in Como include:

  • Fontana di Camerlata: a cool fountain made of circles and spheres
  • Canottieri Lario: a rowing club with a large diving platform in reinforced concrete that cantilevers over the lake
  • Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia: a stadium built on the occasion of the Volta celebrations in 1927, also contains the Piscina Sinigaglia swimming pool

For a full list of modern structures (with photos) check out this website.

18. Explore Como’s many markets and shopping opportunities

Along with monuments and architecture, Como offers many opportunities for shopping up a storm that you don’t want to miss. This is Italy, after all!

I’ve already mentioned the historic shops and Via Armando Diaz in the city centre also contains lots of cute boutiques to check out.

Como is also home to a number of excellent markets, like the Mercato Mercerie which takes place along the old city walls on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (from 8:00 to 13:00) and all day Saturday.

There’s also a monthly antique market held in Piazza San Fedele (on the first Saturday of each month), as well as an art and crafts market on the other Saturdays.

19. Enjoy a green break in one of Como’s many parks

While Lake Como might be one of the most famous natural attractions in Como, the city is also home to a number of beautiful parks if you want to spend some time relaxing in greenery, or not be on the water for a change.

The largest of Como’s parks is Parco Spina Verde, which lies on the west side of the city and covers an area of 1000 hectares (3.86 square miles). There are lots of trails for hiking here, along with some notable sites to discover, including the 6th century Castel Baradello and Respaù hill, which boasts some of the best views in Como.

The Giardini del Tempio Voltiano is the park beside the lake in front of Tempio Voltiano which is also a lovely spot, with some interesting monuments and even an old FS 851 locomotive. The Chilometro della Conoscenza (“Kilometre of Knowledge”) is another gorgeous area that meanders through Villa Olmo, Villa del Grumello and Villa Sucota.

20. Visit other beautiful towns near Como

Of course, Como isn’t the only beautiful place to explore on the shores of Lake Como, there are many more stunning towns worth visiting if you have time for some day (or half-day) trips.

Aside from Como, the town of Bellagio is one of the most glamorous and romantic destinations in the region, with lots of cute alleys, gorgeous villas, gardens and shops to explore. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade, stop by a gelato shop for a sweet treat, and soak in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Next on our hit list is Varenna, a quaint and picturesque town that’ll steal your heart. With its charming pastel-coloured houses, steep winding alleys, and a romantic lakeside promenade, Varenna is the perfect place to unwind and take in the laid-back Italian vibes. Don’t miss a visit to Villa Monastero with its stunning gardens and breathtaking lake views either.

If you want to see some of the most stunning villas on Lake Como, head to Tremezzina and for the most unique landscape, go to Nesso – a breathtaking village that’s literally split in half by its famous gorge!

Did I miss any of your favourite things to do in Como?

Let me know in the comments! I hope you enjoyed this roundup of the best Como activities. Hope you have a great trip!

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