Lake Como Guide: Unmissable Things to Do in Varenna, Italy

Visiting Lake Como? Then, you better put Varenna, Italy on your list to explore. Varenna is one of the prettiest Lake Como towns and there’s so much to do here. Varenna is home to 2 beautiful villas with stunning gardens overlooking the lake. You’ll feel the ultimate Italian experience here. Imagine strolling through the picturesque streets with gelato in hand or swimming in the lake with the glistening sun beating down on you. It is also one of the easiest towns to visit from other Italian cities like Milan since there is a train and ferry port here. Read on to learn what the unmissable things to do in Varenna, Italy are!

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Before you go:
🏨 Best place to stay in Varenna is Bed & Breakfast il Bolentino Varenna for an budget travelers. Albergo Milano is a not too expensive hotel with a balcony Lake Como view. For a splurge, stay at Villa Cipressi.
🎫 Best Tour Option is a private boat tour around the lake in a classic speed boat.
🧷 Travel Insurance with SafetyWing in case of any accidents. Better safe than sorry!
📱Mobile E-sim card to stay connected while traveling without the hassle of changing out your sim card!
💜 Best time to visit Lake Como: Spring or late summer. I by far loved visiting during Wisteria season! You will find most of the villas blooming with gorgeous Wisteria. The time varies each year but it is typically around the end of March and into April. You can ask the hotel staff at Villa Cipressi or one of the other villas when they expect it to come as you plan your trip.

Best things to do in Varenna, Italy

1. Visit Villa Monastero 

Villa Monastero is the top thing to do in Varenna. It is one of the most beautiful villas in Lake Como and you can clearly see why as soon as you step foot. Starting the day here to beat any crowds is a good idea.

I loved the views from this villa of the lake with the many flowers and green plants adorning the paths.

I’d recommend going inside the house museum too for an extra €3. You can also save money by buying a combo ticket for €22 which will grant you access to Villa Cipressi too. Villa Monastero can be visited in 1.5 to 2 hours.

📍 Location: Villa Monastero in Varenna (Google Maps)
Opening Times: Beginning of April to November. Hours are 930-8 pm Daily (Winter hours are different so check online here for exact timings).
🎟️ Entry: Entry is €13 for the garden and house museum. €10 for gardens only. No need to pre-book tickets but if you do, you can here.
💡Pro-Tip: Visit the Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi Botanical Gardens together and pay only €19 (€22 with House Museum too). To book the combination ticket, you must do so at the villa’s office.

2. Check out the Gate overlooking the Lake at Villa Cipressi

Villa Cipressi is literally one minute away from Villa Monastero so many come here next. It is much smaller than Villa Monastero but still worth seeing especially if you’re here during wisteria season. You will be able to see the stunning gate that opens up to the lake covered in gorgeous purple flowers. If you come to take photos, just be mindful that sometimes the gate is closed with a lock sadly. I’ve seen people opening it up to take photos though (not sure if it’s ok to open). This spot is truly a magical experience to see especially with the wisteria. You can see what the gate looks like during Wisteria season in my Instagram video.

Today, Villa Cipressi functions as a charming hotel and wedding venue. If you can stay at Villa Cipressi, I’d highly recommend it as it looks like the dream hotel!

You should allocate under one hour to visit this villa.

📍 Location: Villa Cipressi (Google Maps)
Opening Times: 8-5 pm Daily
🎟️ Entry: Entry is €10. No need to pre-book tickets for this one!
💡Pro-Tip: Visit the Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi Botanical Gardens together and pay only €19 (€22 with House Museum too). To book the combination ticket, you must do so at the villa’s office.

3. Enjoy Lunch at Ristorante Giardino or Victoria Grill

Varenna is full of so many tasty cafes and restaurants! I would try Ristorante Giardino or Victoria Grill. These restaurants are part of the beautiful Hotel Villa Cipressi. So after you visit the gardens of Villa Cipressi you can stop for a bite to eat.

Read my full post on the Best Lake Como Towns

4. Have a Coffee Break at the Hotel Royal Victoria Varenna

Another instagrammable location in Varenna is at the beautiful Hotel Royal Victoria. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth visiting for a coffee or a drink in order to see this beautiful location. If you head to the outdoor bar area, you will see a wonderful table set up overlooking the lake. During wisteria season, there will be that lovely purple hue hanging from the tree above.

5. Explore Varenna Town Center

The Varenna town center is so nice to stroll through with no real set agenda. Here you will see so many views of the lake with the colorful buildings in the backdrop. So just stroll along the waterfront admiring the views. Treat yourself to delicious gelato at one of the local gelaterias like La Passerella. There are many shops so if you fancy shopping this is the place for that! You can also stop by the Church of San Giovanni Battista with its unique black and white stone façade.

One of my favorite experiences was taking a classic boat cruise on Lake Como and seeing so many pretty spots from the speed boat. You can book the same tour I did here!

6. Hike to Vezio Castle

The Vezio Castle offers amazing views of Lake Como. To get here, you’ll need to be prepared for a hike. It is easy to medium difficulty and will take around 30 minutes. The pathway can be found near Villa Monastero. The castle dates back to the 11th to early 12th century. It was restored numerous times throughout the centuries. Today it’s open to the public daily and normal hours are from 10:00 a.m. to sundown.

7. Go for a swim at the beach in Varenna

Varenna has a small beach where you can go swimming or just relax at. It’s called Lido di Varenna and is located near the ferry dock of Varenna. While it’s not a sandy beach, it’s still a nice place to go.

8. Aperitivo at Bar il Molo

Bar il Molo is one of the most beautiful cafes in Lake Como. It is a great photo point with the flowered archway and colored buildings. Be sure to visit here early for breakfast or during sunset for a drink. The place does get busy due to the prime location. I’ve heard that the food is not the best, so that’s why I’d recommend just going for a drink. It is also possible to walk by and take a photo if you’re short on time.

9. Dinner at Locanda Cavallino 

Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant like Locanda Cavallino. If you love seafood they have fresh fish here and other nice Italian food options on the menu. The restaurant is conveniently located right next to the train station. The ambiance is good with an outdoor terrace and aesthetic interior.

10. Stroll through the Lovers Walk Passageway

You won’t be able to miss this charming pathway in Varenna known as the Lovers Walk. It is the path you’ll take from the ferry or train to get into Varenna’s town center. It is nestled along the picturesque shores of Lake Como and offers breathtaking views of crystal-clear waters and surrounding mountains. The romantic pathway is lined with red railing and you’ll see so many pastel-colored buildings behind.

How to get to Varenna

Getting to Varenna is relatively easy, as it is well-connected by both train and ferry services. If you’re coming from Milan, you can take a direct train from Milan Central Station to Varenna-Esino Station, which takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Train tickets can be purchased at the station or online through Omio. Read my guide on taking a day trip from Milan to Lake Como here.

Alternatively, you can take a ferry ride from various towns around Lake Como, such as Bellagio or Como. Ferry tickets can be purchased at the ferry terminals or online on the Navigazione Laghi website.

Once you arrive in Varenna, you can easily explore the village on foot as it is relatively small and pedestrian-friendly.

Where to Stay in Varenna

When people ask me where to stay in Lake Como, I always recommend Varenna! It’s super convenient to stay here because it has both train and ferry transport links. Also, there is so much to do here as you could gather from this post. The location is great for exploring other Lake Como Towns.

Affordable Hotels in Varenna, Italy

Bed & Breakfast il Bolentino Varenna: I stayed here and it was an Airbnb style apartment with the kindest hosts ever. Even though the owners didn’t speak good English, you could tell how warm and welcoming they were. They have an adorable kitty cat on-site and a delicious breakfast served too. The rooms are basic but all you really need. It was a great budget stay and I highly recommend it!

Mid-range Hotels in Varenna, Italy

Albergo Milano for an affordable hotel with a balcony lake como view.

Luxury Hotels in Varenna, Italy

Villa Cipressi is a stunning 4 star hotel where the beautiful garden villa is located.

Hotel Royal Victoria is another gorgeous hotel and also part of the R Collection hotel group as Villa Cipressi is.

Hopefully you enjoyed this post about the best things to do in Varenna. Comment below to add your tips too!

You may also like these posts!
📝 Lake Como 4 Day Itinerary
🏠 Best Lake Como Towns
💼 Milan to Lake Como Day Trip
🏞️ The Best Things to do in Bellagio, Lake Como Italy
🌳 Most Beautiful Lake Como Villas
🚤 Best Lake Como Boat Tours
🏨 Best Hotels in Varenna, Italy
🤍 Hidden Gems in Italy
💡Northern Italy Itinerary Ideas
👩 Solo Female Travel Guide to Italy
🇮🇹 For more travel inspo visit my Italy section

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