Boats and paddle boarders gliding across the lake in Luzern

Three lakeside retreats to escape to this summer


Whether you’re dreaming of sun-soaked swims, water sports, or a room with a view, there’s nothing better than a leisurely vacation by the water.

The best place to be in summer is by the water – especially if you’re staying by one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes. There’s nothing like the glint of the sun on the water, whether you’re enjoying a coffee from your lake-view terrace, or balancing on a paddleboard. Join those in-the-know by upgrading your trip and hopping from lake to lake – it’s less than three hours’ drive from Lake Como to Lucerne, then three hours onwards to Geneva. Ready to take the plunge? Here’s where to start.

Lake Como, Italy

Nowhere captures the spirit of summer better than Lake Como, especially if you’re checking into Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como. Set in 19th-century Villa Roccabruna, it epitomises la dolce vita, with green grass and pale stone terraces bordering the lake. Summer days here drift lazily by, punctuated by small pleasures: a drive to Bellagio for a late-afternoon gelato, or a private cruise past fairy-tale villas and pastel-painted towns. Lunch on langoustine-studded tagliolini at the water’s-edge CO.MO Bar and Bistrot, or head into Como for Kitchen’s masterful, one-starred menu, showcasing produce from its biodynamic gardens.

Once you’re feeling re-energised, the lake and mountains await. The hotel can arrange water sports, from kayaking to wake-boarding, along with all manner of adventures in the surrounding peaks. Head off on an e-bike adventure, high above the lake, or hike up Monte Boletto for views as far as Milan.

What to pack: Oversized shades, chic sandals for the cobbles, and a paperback to read by the pool.

Don’t miss: The hotel’s new 40-metre pool – one of the largest infinity floating pools in the world, designed by the international architectural practice Herzog & de Meuron.

Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

In Lucerne, time sometimes seems to stand still. You might glimpse a paddlewheel steamer making its way across the lake, or find yourself admiring a monument that moved Mark Twain to tears (the mournful, mortally wounded Lion of Lucerne). A turreted, Belle Époque landmark, built in 1906, Mandarin Oriental, Luzern chimes perfectly with that mood. Its setting is second to none. Check into a lake-view room with a terrace, and you’ll never want to leave.

On a summer’s day, the lake’s waters are cold and clear, and it’s up to you to explore either the sandy lakeside beach, or visit the stylish two-storey floating structure, Seebad Luzern, which is just opposite the hotel, on the shore. In situ since 1885, it offers open-air pools, sun-trap decks, and steps down to the lake. Afterwards, stroll to the Gellateria dell’Alpi, for a scoop of fig sorbetto or black sesame gelato.

If you find the mountains calling you, the hotel can set up some suitably scenic adventures, from cable-car rides to the famous Fürenalp to precision-planned excursions, featuring a limousine ride and lunch in the mountains. Feeling adventurous? Head to the bottom of the lake, to explore its ancient shipwrecks in a P-63 submarine.

What to pack: A sketchbook – the views are truly inspiring.

Don’t miss: The hotel’s afternoon tea, which combines sublime pâtisserie with soul-soothing views of the lake.

Lac Léman, Geneva

If you’re looking for a lake on an epic scale, this is it: glacier-formed Lac Léman, framed by snow-capped mountains. On the banks of the Rhône, a stone’s throw from the lake, is Mandarin Oriental, Geneva. For a private terrace with soul-stirring views, book a Rooftop Junior Suite.

In summer, the city truly comes into its own, as red-and-yellow shuttle boats cross from shore to shore, and locals hit their favourite swimming spots. (For front-row views of the Jet d’Eau, try the beach at Eaux-Vives.) There are pedalos and paddleboards, or private cruises on handsome, historic sailboat La Neptune. Back on dry land, walk below the Promenade des Bastions’ chestnut trees, then linger over lunch at its pavilion café. In the nearby art museum, Ferdinand Hodler’s landscapes capture the lake’s many moods, running from misty dawn vistas to cloud-dappled summer afternoons.

To really experience the landscape, though, you need to get outdoors – whether that means a half-day hike or a bespoke day trip further afield. Picnic on the lofty heights of Mont Salève – or, for life-affirming views, paraglide from the mountainside.

What to pack: Sneakers and outdoor gear for forays to the mountains.

Don’t miss: The cogwheel train that climbs from nearby Montreux to the top of Rochers-de-Naye.

All offers and experiences available at time of publication. Please contact the relevant hotel team for more information.