Top 5 places to visit on Lake Maggiore

Top 5 places to visit on Lake Maggiore

Anyone familiar with Bookings For You knows that Lake Maggiore holds a special place in our heart. We’d argue that even two weeks isn’t enough time to do justice to its many sights and attractions. But if you’re short on time and want to visit the very best towns or villages that the lake can boast, here’s our guide to the top 5 lakeside towns on Lake Maggiore. It won’t take long for you to realise that we have (perhaps controversially) omitted by far the most famous of these – Stresa – but that possibly reflects our love of the less touristy, arguably more authentic towns around the lake.


Falling into the Swiss rather than Italian side of the lake, Ascona has an edginess to it that perhaps the other lakeside towns don’t have. It certainly has a much more contemporary feel with a choice of Michelin star restaurants (as well as more traditional Italian establishments) and lively lakeside bars to enjoy.

Ascona may have once been a charming fishing village but these days, Ascona’s lakeside promenade is lined with brightly painted cafes, bars and restaurants with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Sit on one of the terraces and enjoy the marvellous views of the lake and the Brissago Islands.

Most of the Ascona’s streets will lead you eventually to the lakeside and the main Piazza G Motta. This is also where JazzAscona takes place, attracting thousands of musicians and music lovers each year. The town has also attracted many artists over the years and the narrow streets of Ascona are home to a number of art galleries.

The town has a market every Tuesday between April and October which is a great place to pick up some local souvenirs as well as some delicious local produce. Incidentally, Ascona also has a public orchard – a Frutteto – where people can enjoy the fruit grown and relax in the beautiful surroundings.


Cannero is a small sleepy lakeside town on the Western shores of Lake Maggiore. It is often referred to as the ‘Riviera of the Lakes’ thanks to its mild Mediterranean climate and you may be surprised to see some very Mediterranean plants growing here including palm and citrus trees.

The vibe in Cannero couldn’t be more different to that in Ascona. With only a handful of restaurants (but with some very good ones such as Il Cortile that are more than worthy of a Michelin star in some people’s eyes), and very few shops, there isn’t much to do in Cannero apart from enjoy a walk or spend time on the fantastic stretch of beach. That said, it does still have a weekly market every Friday in the Piazza Alpini. And we absolutely love the peace, quiet and beauty that Cannero offers.

Find out more in our Cannero travel guide.


Nestled to the north of its neighbour Cannero, Cannobio is the lakeside town we find our guests rave about the most! Certainly, it’s one of the most attractive lakeside towns on Lake Maggiore. It is much larger and more bustling than Cannero and attracts a number of tourists in peak holiday season.

As you step from the boat on to the shore, you will be wowed by the tall, pretty pastel painted shopfronts that face you. From here, you can head right along the waterfront to Cannobio’s beach which year after year has been awarded Blue Flag status for cleanliness. This is a really popular spot, with many heading here to also make the most of the facilities available at the on site water sports centre. Or, head left from the boat stop and you will find yourself heading uphill away from the lake along cobbled streets lined with charming shops and cafes.

For us, the charm of Cannobio is to be found very much in the simple pleasure of enjoying a walk along these streets, taking time to stop and look in the shop windows or to pop your head into some of its fascinating churches where you can find out a little bit more about this town’s long and fascinating history.

Find out more about Cannobio in our Cannobio travel guide.


Arona has rather a relaxed air to it. It is a popular summer destination for tourists but, for us, feels more authentic than Stresa just 20 km away. The town is characterised by a beautiful lakeside promenade, pretty squares and charming backstreets. In Ascona you may have views of the Brissago Islands and in Cannero views of the Cannero Castles which sit just off shore. But in Arona you have wonderful views across the lake to the Rocca di Angera.

If you’re prepared to walk inland from Arona’s lakeside, there are a number of things to see and do including climbing the Colossus of St. Carlo Borromeo (once the tallest statue in the world) or exploring the ruins of the Rocca Borromeo. But, we just love spending time enjoying a spot of people watching in the main Piazzo del Popolo!

Find out more in our Arona travel guide.


Whilst Cannero may be affectionately known as the ‘Riviera of the Lakes’, Pallanza is often referred to as ‘the garden on the lake’ thanks to a spectacular botanical garden that covers an area of nearly 40 acres and which is home to around 20,000 species from all over the world.

Its lakefront is one of the finest on Lake Maggiore. Look out across the lake and you will be able to see the pretty Borromean Islands. Inland you are faced with a promenade of colourful period facades and pretty porticoes, dotted with window boxes full of flowers. Plenty of bustling cafes and restaurants provide the perfect place to sit and take in the scene.

There are plenty of historic buildings worth a visit including the Romanesque Church of Madonna di Campagna as well as the Church of San Leonardo. Also worth seeing is the 19th century town hall with its 32 pink granite pillars along with Villa Giulia, a stunning 19th century mansion. There are also some museums that may be of interest in the town including the Museo del Paesaggio (Landscape Museum) in the Palazzo Viani-Dugnani and the Museo del Paesaggio in the Palazzo Biumi-Innocenti.

Have time to discover more of Lake Maggiore’s towns and villages? Then check out our A to Z guide to Lake Maggiore. Or, if we have persuaded you that you need to see these towns for yourself, do take a look at our selection of Italian Lakes villas.