Top European lakes to visit this summer

Top-European-lakes-to-visit-this-summer-hero Discover Lake Hallstatt, in Austria - Image by Flickr user Sergey

For me, being active on holiday is what it’s all about. Skiing and winter sports are great, but my favourite thing about summer is the chance to visit some of France and Europe’s best lakes. Swimming, sailing and hiking are just some of the activities I enjoy, so if like me you want to see some of Europe’s natural beauty, make sure you take a look at my selection of top European lakes to visit this summer.

Lake Hallstatt, Austria

Austria is known for its striking landscapes, and Lake Hallstatt is no exception. Located in central Austria’s Salzkammergut region, the lake is a glassy expanse of water, overlooked by green mountain peaks, while the pretty town of Hallstatt sits alongside the banks of the lake. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Hallstatt is one of Europe’s oldest inhabited settlements, and it’s an incredibly beautiful and romantic place to visit.


Take a motorboat and explore the far reaches of Lake Hallstatt, with or without a guide to show you the way. This is a great option if you’re travelling with family as you can all relax and enjoy the scenery. Alternatively, you can rent two-person paddleboats and explore the lake’s surface at your own leisure.

For those of you after a more active holiday, the surrounding rocky terrain is ideal for rock climbing. There are a number of via ferrata (protected routes with an iron cable for support) for both beginners and intermediate climbers, which you can follow. Alternatively, chilled-out holiday-goers can simply lie back in the sun and enjoy the many grassy areas that surround the lake.

Lake Como, Italy

Near to Milan in northern Italy, Lake Como is nestled in the foothills of the Alps, and is known for being a luxury retreat destination. The lake’s deep blue waters are often used for regatta championships, and sailing is popular throughout the year. About 120 kilometres long, there are several villages along the lake’s banks that you can discover, however my favourite has to be Argegno. With great links to the busier destinations of Como and Bellagio, Argegno is beautifully calm, and my favourite place to hide away after a long day exploring the lake. For a luxury stay, I recommend choosing Villa Belvedere, with lakeside views, simple, chic interiors and fantastic breakfast options.

Lake Como

Explore Lake Como by boat, and see it’s lakeside towns and villages. © Flickr user JohnPickenPhoto


For me, exploring Lake Como on foot is unbeatable. On a sunny day I can spend hours walking around the lake, and when staying in Argegno, I’ll often walk north towards Menaggio, which takes about three hours. This walk takes you alongside the lake, so pack a lunch and take in all the glorious scenery. This route is also perfect for cyclists, and makes for a refreshing morning bike ride.

Lake Como is very popular with sailing fanatics, as the calm waters are great if you’re just starting out. If you’re about to sail for the first time, I thoroughly recommend the lessons available from the Katsegeln Centre, in Domaso. The courses here are spread out over a few days and they give you a really great introduction to the sport. They also have shorter lessons, and cater for experienced and pro-sailors.

Lake Geneva, France/Switzerland

A fantastic multicultural destination, Lake Geneva is located right on the French/Swiss border. While all the towns on the lake’s banks are officially French-speaking, you’re likely to hear several languages in one day while on the lake, including French, Swiss German and Italian. This makes it a great people-watching destination! Geneva is one of the largest lakes in western Europe, and hosts the annual Tour du Lac rowing event, as well as being a popular yacht and catamaran racing spot.


A popular spot for visitors to Lake Geneva is Vidy Beach, just outside of central Lausanne on the northern banks of the lake. On a hot day, swimming is undoubtedly the most popular activity here, but I also love the idea of taking a stroll through the surrounding forest and parklands. Several trails run alongside the beach, used by cyclists and in-line skaters, while the water is popular with windsurfers and water-skiers. If you’re looking to explore more of the lake, don’t miss Yvoire on the southern French coast, which is arguably the lake’s most beautiful town.


Discover the beautiful town of Yvoire on Lake Geneva. © Flickr user Werner Bayer

Lac d’Ilay, France

In France’s Jura region, the Lac d’Ilay is one of the area’s most pristine lakes, perfect for wild swimming. The French Jura is dotted with beautiful forests, waterfalls and lakes, such as those at Clairvaux, and the Lac de Coiselet, which is surrounded by green mountains. Personally, I love the intimacy of a holiday around the Lac d’Ilay. I stay at the Logis Auberge du Hérisson hotel – a quintessentially French inn with simple yet comfortable rooms, just around the corner from the lake.

Lac d’Ilay

The stunning Lac d’Ilay in France’s Jura region. © Flickr user Paul-Edouard Pinot

Things to do

Wild swimming is the best thing you can do at the Lac d’Ilay. It’s an opportunity to really immerse yourself in the natural surroundings of the Jura region, and it’s an incredibly refreshing way to start the day! Especially before a hike. Whether you’re travelling by bicycle, on foot or on horseback, be sure to check out the 300 kilometre long trails of the Grandes Traversées du Jura. These trails take you all around the (relatively) small Jura region, and are easy to follow. 

For your next holiday, choose a lakeside escape and discover the best of Europe’s nature.

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