Lake Como winter holidays feature Christmas markets, light shows, fairgrounds and skating rinks, visits to historical villas and castles, winter sports, boat trips, day trips, and high-quality resort accommodations and dining.
Spending a few days at Lake Como during the winter season can be a winning idea in many ways. The Lake Como region manages to be at its best even during this period thanks to the events and attractions that enliven the small towns.
Also easily accessible by public transportation from Milan Malpensa, these resorts are a favorite off-season destination. More tranquility, fewer tourists, and lower prices are just some of the reasons why it is worth visiting Lake Como in winter.
Monthly winter temperatures and rainfall at Lake Como
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Visiting Lake Como in winter: events not to be missed
The winter season on Lake Como kicks off with the arrival of the Christmas markets. From the end of November until the beginning of January in Como and other cities, these splendid stalls are set up.
1. Como Christmas markets: Città dei Balocchi Market in Como
The city of Como is famous for La Città dei Balocchi. It is the best-known Christmas market in the area thanks to its characteristic little wooden houses and the magical atmosphere created each year.
2. Magic Light Festival
At the Piazza Duomo, the main square, you can watch the Magic Light Festival show, while in the streets of the city, among street food and local crafts, you can admire the exhibition of nativity scenes.
Among the travel tips, advance planning is suggested as most winter-time visitors come in conjunction with this event.
Booking the best accommodation option could otherwise be complicated. See below for the best places to stay in Lake Como in winter.
3. Other markets not to be missed
The Christmas markets planned for this year-round are several and are located throughout the lake area. The ones in the mountains, where you can taste typical products at local restaurants, are very impressive.
Also not to be missed are the Christmas markets on the lakefront, where you can warm yourself from the cold winter temperatures by drinking good mulled wine.
4. Visit Lake Como: historic villas and castles
If during the summer months, the landscape of Lake Como comes alive and very busy, especially around its beaches. During the off-season, it presents the perfect atmosphere to relax and enjoy its attractions to the fullest.
It is particularly the villas with their old-world charm that evoke beautiful scenery.
Also ideal for a day trip from nearby Milan, which is connected by a high-frequency Trenord train straight from Malpensa airport
Villa Monastero and Castello di Vezio – Varenna
Located in the province of Lecco, the villa is now a museum surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens.
It is an ancient Cistercian women’s monastery, remodeled over time to show its eclectic present-day appearance.
Varenna is a place from which many paths depart, which can be walked even in the winter months on sunny days. One of them leads to Vezio Castle. Here there is a terrace overlooking the lake with unparalleled views, from which one can admire the entire Lake Como in its entirety.
The castle is located in a hamlet of Varenna that has seen successive Celtic, Gallic, and Roman dominations. It was home to the Longobard queen Theodolinda, who loved to visit Varenna and spend the summer season.
Villa Erba and Villa d’Este – Cernobbio
Villa d’Erba directly overlooks Lake Como. It is now home to the Museum of the Rooms of Luchino Visconti, an important Italian film director, and is surrounded by an immense park and can be rented for events and weddings.
Villa d’Este, after a glorious past, is now home to a luxury hotel. A five-star resort with a splendid view of Lake Como. An arrivals area that turns back the clock with its pageantry.
Cernobbio, like other towns on the lake, is easily reached by the Trenord train departing from Como Lago station.
Villa Melzi d’Eril and Villa Serbelloni – Bellagio
Villa Melzi d’Eril dates back to the early 1800s. The neoclassical style makes it unique in its simplicity. The very large park that surrounds it takes on a unique charm during winter.
The snow that whitens the landscape of Lake Como is worth the whole trip.
Serbelloni is also now a luxury hotel. The park attached to the property can be visited, and there are trails surrounded by local and exotic wildlife.
Being located on the eastern side of Lake Como, the sun sets right in front of the villa. A sight not to be missed.
Villa Salterio Erker, Villa Passalacqua and Villa Fontanelle – Moltrasio
Two historic villas rise in Moltrasio that are not to be missed in winter. Salterio Erker (Villa Erker Hocevar) is a building overlooking Lake Como where you can relive the story of the musical composer Bellini.
Today it is private, but you can admire it from the road that runs along the lake, even better when covered in the whiteness of snow.
Passalacqua is a three-story villa with terraces that descend to the lake. In the past, it was home to artists.
It’s now a luxury hotel and is open in winter until January 2.
Fontanelle dates back to the 19th century when English lord Charles Currie fell in love with Lake Como and had this mansion built.
Its uniqueness lies in its location, right on the edge of the lake. After years of neglect, in 1977 it was bought by Versace, the famous Italian fashion designer, who restored it to its former glory. It’s currently owned by a Russian billionaire.
5. Visiting Lake Como by boat trips in wintertime
Boat trips on Lake Como are always a good idea. Seeing the mainland from this perspective makes everything more magical. Bright Christmas lights, festive mood, and background music change face when seen from another side.
The ferry options are one of the most popular options for exploring Lake Como. The convenience of this service comes from the fact that companies offering the option of boarding a fast ferry have their ticket office in the city center of Como.
For that reason, even those coming from the closer towns have no problem getting around. Thus, after enjoying a hot morning cappuccino, it is possible to purchase one’s ticket and board.
Visit Lake Como from this perspective you have a full view of the lake villas, even those that cannot be visited. There are several routes from which you can choose and three different types of boats.
6. Skiing and snowboarding
Lake Como in winter is also a favorite place for winter sports lovers.
Indeed, there are many places to go skiing, ice skating, or snowboarding. Being very close to the Swiss border, it is positively affected by the Alpine climate.
Ski vacations at the lake are thus tinged with the hues of winter. Reaching the lifts is easy thanks to connections with the Como train station.
Valsassina offers a short distance from Como 36 kilometers of slopes at 1700 meters above sea level. The pride of the local ski area is the Piani di Bobbio.
The transformation of Piani di Bobbio took place in the 1950s when the chairlift was built. Here there are alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding slopes.
7. Winter sports at Lake Como: Snowshoeing and hiking trails
The winter period is also considered the peak season at Monte Bisbino. People not only enjoy winter sports here but also come to admire the local wild horses.
It is here that they are cared for by volunteers who spend the winter period at the refuge every year.
To reach the summit, at 1,300 meters, it is possible to rent equipment such as snowshoes or, in the absence of snow, to walk the trail that connects Cernobbio to the mountain.
8. Swiss: the out-of-town trip from Lake Como
For a trip out of Lake Como, it is also possible to consider Lake Lugano. Due to its proximity to Switzerland, it can be reached in less than a half day.
An itinerary between Italy and Switzerland where Lugano is only 40 kilometers from Como. The trip to Lake Lugano will make it possible to explore a world, though close, very different from that of Lake Como.
Taking a stroll along the lakefront will be unique even in the coldest month of the year and is even more comforting with a Swiss hot chocolate.
Different lodging options can also be found here, with smaller hotels of different kinds, in case the Como area is saturated and fully booked during winter time. Even in low season, Lake Como is a popular place for a vacation.
9. Visit Lake Como to explore local culture and history
Lake Como in winter is an ideal destination for the whole family. Just a stone’s throw from Como you can visit places such as Bellagio, where a children’s treasure hunt is held every winter.
A way to learn about the local culture while having fun among the medieval buildings and even earlier churches such as San Martino in Moltrasio and Sant’Agata which was built in the 13th century.
A good way to explore the Como area is by using the hop-on hop-off buses, so you can choose when and where to stop according to your interests, and stay warm at the same time!
10. Lake Como in Winter is perfect for dolce far niente
Sometimes, it’s the journey, the headspace of being somewhere else, and the sense of peace of a beautiful Lake in winter, fine food, and timeless hospitality that can recharge the soul in the dead of winter.
Lake Como locals say that winter is the perfect time for dolce far niente, or ‘doing nothing.’
There are wonderful spas, expansive botanical gardens, cozy cafes in cobbled alleyways, and luxury villas with local delicacies perfect for dolce far niente!
Where to Stay in Lake Como in Winter
Treterre – Overlooking Lake Como in Pianello del Lario, Treterre is an ideal base in the lido for trekking and sports activities and also for relaxing on the beaches of Lake Como. It has an excellent restaurant and a heated pool. Lots of wood, stone, beautiful furnishings, and a sense of being in nature – the real essence of Lake Como!
La Cassinella – A historic home that among its services also offers the possibility of organizing excursions, water sports, and renting pedal boats. This ideal location is in Ossucco on Lake Como.
Final Thoughts: Why visit Lake Como in winter
The villages of Lake Como are unique and I thoroughly recommend spending time in both summer and winter.
Narrow alleys, steep stone stairs, and historic buildings make it one of the most popular lakes in the world. To choose winter to visit is to take a trip to a unique and unparalleled atmosphere!