Lake Garda vs. Lake Como: Which Italian lake is right for you?

Italy's lake region is bursting with stunning scenery, storybook towns and endless adventures. But how do you choose between the two top spots: Lake Garda and Lake Como? We've called in our Italy holiday experts to help you figure out which one is right for you.


At a Glance

Lake Como: The epitome of Italian elegance

Lake Como dazzles from every angle. Baroque villas peek out from immaculate, fountain-and-flower-framed gardens and towns like Bellagio and Varenna are bursting with authentic Italian charm. The lake isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it has an intangible air of exclusivity, drawing everyone from honeymooners to A-listers to its cypress-lined shores. Perfect for Champagne-sipping cruises and romantic promenade strolls with a gelato in hand, Lake Como is where you come to feel like a movie star – every scene looks straight out of a dreamy Italian film.


Lake Garda: Adventure & relaxation

Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, has a mix of outdoor adventure and vibrant towns, making it the ultimate playground for water sports enthusiasts and a haven for wholesome family fun. Start your mornings windsurfing on sparkling waters, spend afternoons exploring medieval castles and enjoy evenings savouring delicious Italian cuisine by the water. Lake Garda attracts all types of travellers, whether you’re seeking water activities and mountain hikes or romantic moments like sunset boat trips and wine tastings at charming vineyards.


FAQ with our experts


Which lake is more beautiful?

I adore Lake Como for its breathtaking alpine views, grand villas and spectacular gardens filled with colour-popping rhododendrons and azaleas. The storied towns around the lake are a joy to explore, and the convenient ferries make getting around a breeze,” says Maxine Brown, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Bluewater. “Having said that, Lake Garda has its own appeal. The bright-blue waters framed by rugged mountains create a captivating holiday backdrop and there’s a buzzy, adventurous side.”


Which has the best location?

When it comes to attractions and nearby cities, both lakes shine in their own way,” explains Steve Yates, Assistant Store Manager at Kuoni at Sloane Square. “Lake Garda is close to Verona and Venice, and you can easily venture into the Dolomites by car or on a day trip. Lake Como, on the other hand, is just a short hop from Milan and you can even take a quick trip into Switzerland.

Which lake is more expensive?

Overall, Lake Garda tends to be more affordable than Lake Como, largely because Como attracts the jet set crowds, driving up prices,” reasons Michelle McGuffie, Personal Travel Expert at Kuoni Liverpool. “You can easily find ways to splurge at either lake – but using public transport and eating away from the main squares helps keep costs down. Just remember, if a restaurant has a view, you’re likely paying extra for it.


Which is better for a romantic getaway?

Lake Como is pure romance, with its elegant lakeside villas and enchanting scenery,” shares Sue Eaton, Store Manager at Kuoni at John Lewis Reading, who brings her experience from living in the Italian Lakes region for four years. “But if you want a bit more buzz while keeping it romantic, Lake Garda’s towns like Malcesine and Sirmione are just the ticket. Both lakes are prime honeymoon territory, but picking the right hotel makes all the difference. Try the timelessly classic Grand Hotel Menaggio or the contemporary Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda, known for its innovative spa.”

Is Garda or Como more family-friendly?

Lake Garda is a hit with families of all ages thanks to its water sports, the thrills of Gardaland theme park and plenty of sandy shores,” says Kelly Ruth, Family Travel Expert at Kuoni at John Lewis Norwich. “Add in castles to climb, cycling trails and adventure parks, and there’s never a dull moment. Lake Como isn’t left out, with fun boat trips and chocolate-box towns to discover. My top place to stay? You can’t beat Hotel Gardea Soulfamily Resort on Lake Garda. It’s got everything from kid-friendly amenities and family suites to fun activities and spa treatments designed for families”.


Which is better for swimming and beaches?

Lake Garda is fantastic for swimming, with numerous accessible beaches like those in Riva del Garda and Lazise,” notes Sue. “The water is generally warmer than Como and the beaches can be either public (free) or private (chargeable, with sunbeds and some facilities). Lake Como has some lovely swimming spots like Lido di Bellagio and Menaggio, but they’re fewer and more spread out, making them a bit harder to reach.”

Does Como or Garda have a better culinary scene?

Lake Como unsurprisingly has a flair for high-end dining, especially in Bellagio and Como. You’ve got to try Vistaria Restaurant at Hotel Royal Victoria – the food is artfully presented and the views are just as amazing,” remarks Maxine. “Lake Garda has a wider variety, from superb restaurants like The Lemon Garden at Grand Hotel Gardone (customarily followed by Campari Spitz cocktails at Winnie’s, a favourite of Winston Churchill) to Bigoli con le sarde served up in rustic backstreet trattorias. Be sure to taste the famous Garda olive oil, best drizzled over freshly grilled fish from the lake.”


What are your top hotel recommendations?

In Lake Garda, the family-friendly Hotel Caesius Therme & Spa Resort offers great value and is just a short stroll from Bardolino. If you’re looking for five-star pampering, Splendido Bay Luxury Spa Resort is the ultimate spot – spend an afternoon relaxing in the Finnish sauna and cooling off in the Ice Cascade,” recommends Steve. “Over on Lake Como, Grand Hotel Victoria Concept & Spa perfectly matches Como’s upscale vibe. With its neoclassic architecture, frescoes and chandeliers, it’s no wonder it’s been awarded two Michelin keys as one of Italy’s most outstanding hotels.”

What is the best time to visit?

Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit Lake Como – fewer crowds mean shorter waits for ferries and a better chance to snag a table at the most popular restaurants. Spring is wisteria season in the lakes, draping everything in cascading curtains of lilac and ivory blooms – head to Villa Cipressi for those Instagram-worthy shots.” says Maxine. “Lake Garda is lively in summer, but you’ll definitely appreciate the slower pace if you visit outside the peak months.”


What are the top things to do?

Both lakes have incredible day trip options. At Lake Garda, take a cooking class, enjoy wine tasting on horseback or e-bike or visit nearby Venice, Verona or the Dolomites. At Lake Como, cruise the lake in style on a private boat, wander through the grounds of gorgeous villas like Villa Balbianello and maybe even spot George Clooney’s or Madonna’s homes. Plus, you can easily hop over to Milan or head into the Swiss Alps for a day,” highlights Steve.

How easy is it to get around each lake?

Lake Garda is more car-friendly due to its flat areas and well-maintained roads,” explains Michelle. “Driving between towns is easy and parking is generally available – note to leave early if you’re visiting a busy spot like Sirmione in summer. In contrast, Lake Como’s steep, narrow roads make ferries a better option. The ferry system is efficient and scenic, allowing you to conveniently travel between the picturesque hotspots without the hassle of navigating tricky roads. My top tip is to book ahead on popular routes like Bellagio to Varenna in summer.”


Can you do both lakes in one holiday?

It’s possible to travel between Lake Como and Lake Garda, but it’s quite a long journey and private transfers can be costly,” advises Sue. “Personally, I’d recommend twinning one lake with a nearby city rather than trying to do both lakes in one holiday. But anything is possible – speak to your travel expert, and they’ll provide the best advice.”

Are there any more lakes worth considering?

Steve suggests the lesser-known Lake Maggiore. “While all the great lakes are stunning, Maggiore stands out for being the most ‘local’ and least changed by tourism. It features the delightful town of Stresa with its baroque architecture, excellent restaurants and picturesque lakefront promenade. Plus, you can enjoy a day trip to the Borromean Islands or explore smaller local towns and mountain valleys like Domodossola and Riale. In places like Verbania, you’ll find authentic bars and restaurants filled with locals and freshwater swimming spots that are wonderful in summer.”

Inspired?


Whether you’re drawn to the glamour of Lake Como or the vibrant energy of Lake Garda, both offer a perfect slice of la dolce vita. Ready to start planning your dream Italian getaway? Download our Italy brochure, give us a call or visit our in-store experts who will help you create the perfect holiday.

This feature was created on 10th June 2024. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.

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