Planning An Unforgettable Holiday To Lake Maggiore With Kids

where to stay in Lake Maggiore without a car - Laverno Mombello

So you’re planning a family holiday to Lake Maggiore with the kids?

Well, we think you’ve hit on the best idea this side of Centre Parcs!

If our past trips to Lake Maggiore with kids, and without, have taught us anything it’s that it ticks boxes left, right and centre. I defy you to find me a family member who won’t fall in love.

Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second largest lake of paradise proportions and spans two countries no-less. It’s a verdant dream of lake swims, calming cappuccinos, adventure fun and balcony vistas. You’re going to love it!

But how do you plan the perfect holiday to Lake Maggiore with kids? There are umpteen factors to consider! So in this guide, we’ll navigate the essential steps to curating an idyllic holiday for you and your family. We’ll answer questions such as…

  • How do you get there?
  • Where to stay in Lake Maggiore for families?
  • What is there to do around Lake Maggiore with kids?
  • What must absolutely go on your bucket list?

…Now let’s get planning…

Lake Maggiore With Kids

Having visited several of the Italian lakes with the kids we absolutely loved the family vibe of Lake Maggiore. You’re less likely to bump into Brits and Americans than nearby Lake Como, and it’s also a quieter spot than Lake Garda, another popular family destination in the Italina Lakes. It’s visited by more Germans and Austrians who we’ve found to be nothing but friendly and polite.

The roads around Lake Maggiore are much wider and less winding than Lake Como, making for less stressful day trips – if you’ve ever driven around Lake Como you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from!

And there a so many things to do on Lake Maggiore that a week’s holiday just won’t be enough!

How To Get To Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is mostly located in northern Italy, but the top third of the lake stretches into Switzerland. There aren’t any Swiss airports worthy of a mention when planning your trip to Lake Maggiore but there are several Italian. Both Milan Malpensa and Milan Bergamot are just over an hour’s drive away and Turin is only 2 hours by car.

If you are driving from the UK we would recommend allowing 2 days. There are a few fun cities for kids to visit on the way, if you wanted to break the journey up. You could visit Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Colmar or even the Black Forest.

There are ample trains from the centre of Milan to various towns on Lake Maggiore but if you were visiting with kids we would definitely recommend hiring a car. A few of the Lake Maggiore attractions for kids are a little off the beaten track and it would be quite costly if you had to rely on taxis.

Where To Stay On Lake Maggiore With Kids

Lake Maggiore is a really friendly place and children would be welcome in any town. However, there is one area of the lake we think is more practical for families and stands out above others.

We recommend staying somewhere from Stresa up to Cannobio, on the west side of Lake Maggiore. Whilst the Swiss towns further north would also work as a base to visit most of the family tourist attractions, it can be a little more pricey in Switzerland. And as you know, when there are multiple mouths to feed and beds to find, this can get a bit expensive.

We love the town of Cannero Riviera and think it is a great place for a base for a family holiday. It’s small-town Italian at its finest and you will be warmly welcomed in restaurants and shops. It has its own beach at the end of a pretty promenade, which has repeatedly won blue flag status. And, unlike its neighbour Cannobio, it’s more sheltered from the lake breezes. Those winds do come in handy for water sports though so it’s ideal that Cannobio is only a 10 minute drive.

Cannero is on the correct side of the lake for an easy trip to Lake OrtaAlpyland, the Lake Maggiore Zipline and hiking in the incredibly beautiful Valley Verzaska. But there is also a ferry to Luino on the other side of the lake for the famous 500 year old market.


We found the perfect apartment, beautifully decorated with balcony views from most of the rooms. It’s a 4 minute drive to the centre of Cannero in a cute little village called Oggebbio which has all the things you need like fresh bread and coffee. It’s a 15 minute walk to a little lido and lakeside bar but realistically you will be driving to most of the family-friendly tourist attractions in Lake Maggiore so it’s the perfect location and not too far from anywhere.

It’s called Apartment Cadebei and we can’t recommend it enough – just look at those vistas. As with a lot of Italy, stylish places to stay are few and far between, or you pay an arm and a leg, but sometimes you can find a little gem like this one. For the best deals at Apartment Cadebei, click here.

family apartment in Lake Maggiore, Italy

Things To Do At Lake Maggiore With Kids

There are plenty of things to do in Lake Maggiore for families, even a week might not be enough time! So we’re going to just stick with the top attractions for kids that you definitely want to put on your Lake Maggiore itinerary.

Ride The Bucket Lifts

For some of the most epic views of Maggiore ride the Funivia del Lago Maggiore Cableway. All kids love a bit of mild peril so a 16 minute cable journey up the side of Sasso Del Ferro in a bucket you could jump out of is definitely going to be one of the best Lake Maggiore activities you will do fo sure. Views of the Alps and the pre-Alps along with Lago di Maggiore below you, are the reward of this slightly shaky cable journey up 3484ft. €25 for a family of 4 is an absolute bargain for this experience and you have the option of calming your nerves with a drink on the terrace once you reach the top. And, seeing as the kids aren’t old enough for an Aperol Spritz yet, it’ll be you the adult providing the fun on the return journey with your Dutch courage and bucket-shaking skills!

The town of Laveno at the bottom is a worthwhile place for a stroll too, and we sat for a good while watching the local kids jump off the wooden pier into their very own lake. I can’t even imagine how amazing it must be to grow up on the shores of Maggiore.

The Lake Maggiore Bucket Lift & Kids jumping off the pier in Laveno

Visit AlpyLand

Do not be fooled by the lack of infrastructure and the feeling of post-apocalypse in this remote mountain tourist attraction! Approaching on a road that could do with a bit of TLC and having to search for an entrance leaves you questioning if you have the right coordinates. However, there is nothing but exhilaration ahead of you, you are in the right place.

bobsleigh Alpyland Lake Maggiore

You are met with a DIY Big Dipper ride that has you questioning whether you have your affairs in order, and what song you’d like sung at your funeral. I felt rather sacrificial letting the kids go first, but it took me a while to muster up the courage.

The two-seat bobsleighs are equipped with a manual braking system which the passenger can use to adjust the speed to his liking, and a selective braking system that slows down all bobs at the end of the descent. This should all reassure you but trust me, your heart will be in your mouth the whole journey. And, of course, the kids will definitely want more than one go!

Do The Lake Maggiore Zipline

Right at the top the kids Lake Maggiore bucket list was an adventure activity that was causing me sleepless nights! I genuinely hoped the ZipLine centre would burn down before I got the chance to show my kids how chicken I was. However, it turns out all of the worrying was for nothing.

You must read my review of the Lake Maggiore ZipLine flight that we did – it was definitely the most thrilling thing I’ve done since stroking Dave Grohl’s arm. A 2 kilometre flight at 80mph across some of the most awe-inspiring views below. Everyone needs to experience what it’s like to fly like a bird at some point in their life, so why not do it over the slopes of the Italian pre-Alps with your kids. The Maggiore Zipline was the absolute highlight of our holiday for all of us and the experience will stay with us for a long time.

Hire A Boat On Lake Maggiore

This activity is possibly the perfect collection of ticked boxes for both kids and adults wherever you are in the world – hiring a boat has always gone down well in our family.

Lake Maggiore’s pretty towns mostly sit at the base of the mountains that meet the Lakeshore, and the rest of the view is of lush green slopes of fir and cedars. This sets the scene for the prettiest boat ride you could ever take and there are dozens of spots you could moor up for lunch or aperitifs. It’s a nifty way of visiting a few towns in one day and if you place the responsible teens at the helm you may even get the chance to put your feet up for a bit – there has to be some advantages to grown-up kids.

We saw fliers everywhere on the lake, prices ranging from €30 for an hour. You can hire boats where you don’t need a skipper’s license and the boat owners often have lots of great local recommendations for you.

Visit The Waterparks Or A Lido

We’re not an ‘all-inclusive hotel’ kind of family – there’s too much out there to explore. However, the times we have been tied down to a hotel with a pool and a bar, everyone in the family has totally loved it. So, that’s why we looked into visiting a water park or lido on Lake Maggiore. They don’t come cheap but if you know the weather is going to be good then take a picnic and plan to stay for the day. The adults get to chill out with a book whilst the kids get to have fun in the water! Here are some of the best picks for Lake Maggiore if you fancy a day at a Water Park or outdoor pool…

The Lido at Locarno, Switzerland - Lake Maggiore
Image – Ticinotopten
  • Splash & Spa in Rivera-Monteceneri, Switzerland costs about £75 for a family of 4 for 4 hours and has some of the best water slides targeted towards teens or more daring kids. There’s also a wave pool and some very nice adult lounging areas, plus the Spa facilities.
  • The Lido at Locarno, Switzerland. Indoor and outdoor pools with 4 slides. Not quite as exciting as Splash but what an amazing backdrop. So if the kids are happy to make their own entertainment in the water, including on the beach where there is also beach volleyball, then this Lido is a more pleasant setting for the adults to relax.
  • Ascona’s Lido is very good value for money and you pay for each activity individually. Activities on offer for kids include pedalos, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, banana boats and giant lake inflatables á la Wipeout.
  • Cannobio has one of the widest sandy beaches on the shores of Lake Maggiore and a most beautiful square overlooking the waterfront. Drop the kids off in one of the three harbours to do waterskiing, wakeboarding or scuba diving whilst you spend a while in this very pretty town of Maggiore.

Take Them To The Luino Market

It’s one of the largest and oldest markets in Europe, attracts tourists and locals, and there’s such a buzz! Our kids love a good market, somewhere to spend that pocket money burning a hole in their trousers. You can expect all the usual fresh produce and clothing but there’s also plenty of local crafts and souvenirs too.

But the town itself is also a beautiful place to wander. The old cobbled streets and waterfront don’t cover a huge area but there are still plenty of lovely things to see and places for a coffee. We loved Luino.

Ride The Tourist Train At Lake Orta

One of our favourite day trips from Lake Maggiore was when we visited Lake Orta to the west. It was only a 40 minute drive to get to Lake Orta from our Lake Maggiore apartment.

Once you arrive at the beautiful town of Orta San Guilo and have had a look around, we recommend hopping on the miniature tourist train. It’s a delightful family-friendly experience and a hassle-free way to explore Lake Orta. There is running commentary whilst you wind through charming villages and interesting sights and the stories are interesting for kids. This has to be one of the most beautiful places in Italy, Lake Orta, but if the kids aren’t quite at appreciation age yet there’s always the excitement of the train ride!

Just some of the beautiful sights of Lake Orta from the tourist train.

Go Wild Swimming And See The Famous James Bond Dam

If your family holiday in Lake Maggiore is during the summer months then you are going to want to take a swim at one of the most picturesque locations you’ll ever see. But not before you visit a famous James Bond film location!

There are some huge Bond fans in our family, and I personally have a thing for film locations so we were always going to put this one on our Lake Maggiore itinerary.

The Verzasca Dam is right at the top of Lake Maggiore in Switzerland, and was a 45 minute drive from our apartment at Oggebbio. It’s a very impressive structure set against the stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps and will take your breath away. It most definitely took Pierce Brosnans away as he bungee jumped from it in the opening scene of GoldenEye! If you’re lucky you might see a few crazy people reenacting that clip themselves as it’s a popular spot for adrenaline junkies. It’s one of the world’s highest bungee jump locations.

There is a parking area right near the dam.

As for the wild swimming, there is nowhere prettier than Lavertezzo for a dunk in fresh waters! The crystal clear river, flat rocks for sunbathing, a gorgeous old bridge, and plenty of show-offs for an afternoon’s entertainment, make this the perfect Lake Maggiore day-trip with the kids. Mind you, the river has some fast currents so it may be wise to stick to the natural rock pools with smaller children

So there you have it, our recommendations for planning the most perfect holiday in Lake Maggiore with kids. It’s the most idyllic destination for families seeking both relaxation and adventure, and we know you’re going to love it! Make sure you stick all of these attractions on your bucket list, and don’t forget our highly recommended family apartment in Oggebbio.

family apartment in Lake Maggiore, Italy

For the best deals at Apartment Cadebei click here.

If you plan to visit Lake Maggiore as part of a tour of the Italian Lakes then you might want to check out another post we wrote about Lake Como. Or have a read of Wondering Where To Stay In Lake Garda and Family Holidays To Lake Garda With Teenager. And if you’re contemplating a day trip to Venice too, Venice.


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