Varese: what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening

Varese is such a beautiful city but often underestimated as it is too close to the indispensable Milan that always captures the interest of all tourists. But are you really sure that Varese is a city to be excluded from your itinerary? We don’t and for this reason we offer you a complete guide on what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening in Varese

What to see in Varese

1 – Palazzo Pretorio and Monument to the Battle of Varese

The Palazzo Pretorio and the Monument to the Battle of Varese are two symbols for the city , both located in Piazza Podestà one in front of the other. The building is one of the few testimonies of Varese’s municipal past, seat of the Town Hall for more than 300 years , it is a three-level structure dating back to 1566 characterized by an arched portico, quadrangular windows and a small bell tower on the roof active since 1589 to mark the time of the curfew and the closing of the taverns. Inside it has maintained its original sixteenth-century shape with some changes made in the 19th century and houses the headquarters of the Northern League plus some private homes. As for the monument, however, it is a tall bronze statueraised on a block of marble depicting Garibaldi in memory of the bloody battle of Biumo Inferiore in 1859 .

  • How to get: it can be reached in a few minutes on foot from every point of the historic center or by buses A, B, C, H, P and Z to the Veratti stop 14 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

2 – Palazzo Estense

Palazzo Estense is the current seat of the municipality of Varese , a building from the second half of the 18th century built as the residence of the Duke of Modena and Governor of Lombardy Francesco III d’Este , who was impressed by the city during a stay with the family Varese Menafoglio. For its construction an ancient villa was restored and some houses were demolished to create more space to be used for the rich and sumptuous parties of the time. Outside the building there is a large eighteenth-century garden among the most beautiful in Lombardy consisting of avenues, flower beds and a large pool, while in the interior rooms you can admire decorations with stuccos and a Hall of Honor. Every summer Palazzo Estense is illuminated on the occasion of the unmissable Sound and Light show and some rooms are used for conferences and concerts.

  • How to get: it is located outside the historic center but close, in fact it is possible to reach it on foot but also by buses B, E, N and Z to the Sacco stop right in front of the building 
  • Timetables: every day from 8:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: the building cannot be visited as it is the municipal seat, while the entrance to the gardens is allowed free of charge

3 – Villa Mirabello

Villa Mirabello is an elegant villa located in the gardens of the Estense Palace , built in the 18th century by Count Gaetano Stampa di Soncino and then thoroughly modified in 1839 with the addition of the stable. Since 1948 it has become the property of the municipal administration which has set up the Archaeological Civic Museum and the Risorgimental Section of the Civic Museums to collect historical and archaeological evidence of the Varese area enriched by the collection donated by the Marquis Andrea Ponti, financier and promoter of archaeological research. . The museum exhibition is divided into different eras starting from Prehistory and passing through the Metal Age and the Roman era. It also houses a lapidary, the Mummy of Villa Mirabello and a room for temporary exhibitions.

  • How to get: you can get there through the gardens of the Estense Palace which can be reached by buses B, E, N and Z to the Sacco stop
  • Timetables: every day from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: full € 4.00 – reduced for groups and children € 3.00 – reduced for school groups € 1.00

4 – Villa Menafoglio and the Panza Collection

Villa Menafoglio, also called Villa Litta and Villa Panza due to its multiple owners over the years, is an elegant eighteenth-century villa surrounded by a bright garden of about 33,000 square meters. Inside it houses a collection of contemporary American art among the best known in the world put together since the 1950s by Giuseppe Panza, a count passionate about art with a particular preference for the American one. The count also invited some of the famous artists of that time to work in some rooms of the villa to transform themselves into works of art still visible together with the 100 artistic works including monochromatic canvases and minimalist sculptures. Temporary exhibitions are organized periodically, designed and adapted in accordance with the architectural and museum context of the building.

  • How to get: it is located outside the historic center, but can be reached by buses A and AB which lead directly in front of the villa 
  • Timetables: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: full € 12.00 – reduced from 6 to 12 years € 6.00 – reduced for students up to 25 years € 8.00 – free for children under 5 years

5 – Basilica of San Vittore

The Basilica of San Vittore is the main place of Catholic worship in Varese , located in the historic center and dedicated to San Vittore. It was built between the 16th and 17th centuries following a mix of different architectural styles, for example the bell tower is in Baroque style, the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Gothic style and the neoclassical external facade . Inside, on the other hand, there are different decorations of considerable beauty such as the entire series of fresco decorations and the numerous marble statues depicting angels, little angels and the Risen Christ.

  • How to get: it is located in the heart of the historic center, easily reachable on foot in a few minutes from any other point of interest –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

6 – Bell tower of the Bernascone

The Bell Tower of Bernascone is the Bell Tower which is part of the complex of the Basilica of San Vittore, built right next to it. Its height is almost 80 meters while its base is 10 meters per side, a structure with a remarkable architecture whose works began in 1617 by the architect Giuseppe Bernasconi from whom it takes its name, but only ended in 1773. All inside the tower a stone staircase of 230 steps leads up to the spacious floor of the bells and to the large terrace from which you can admire the view over Varese .

  • How to get: it is located in a very central position and can be easily reached on foot in a few minutes from any other point in the historic center 
  • Timetables: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:30 and from 16:00 to 19:30
  • Ticket cost: free

7 – Baptistery of San Giovanni

The Baptistery of San Giovanni completes the complex of the Basilica of San Vittore and consists of the religious building dedicated to St. John the Baptist, whose statue already stands out on the external facade. It was built with the shape of a parallelepipe in the sixteenth century on an old building of which it still retains the immersion baptismal font together with a series of frescoes added over the years.

  • How to get: it is located in the historic center, reachable on foot in a few minutes from any other central point of interest –
  • Timetables: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:30 and from 16:00 to 19:30
  • Ticket cost: free

8 – Sacro Monte of Varese

The Sacro Monte di Varese is a mountain that respects all the canons to be defined as such, both from the natural point of view as it is located in an environment of significant landscape interest, and from a religious point of view since it has always been a destination of pilgrimages. It is part of the Sacri Monti of the Piedmont and Lombardy group and since 2003 it has been included in the World Heritage Sites by Unesco . In fact, on the mountain it is possible to follow different paths to discover the fourteen chapels that lead to the sumptuous Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte , or the fifteenth chapel. Artists of great importance from the entire Duchy of Milan participated in the artistic realization of the Sacro Monte.

  • How to get: the Sacro Monte is connected to the city both by bus C which makes several stops between the various chapels and by the historic funicular –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

9 – Masnago Castle

The Masnago Castle is an architectural complex born as a medieval fortress which later became a stately home , immersed in the splendid setting of the botanical garden that is the Mantegazza Park. This building also has different styles in fact the tower belongs to the Middle Ages, the main structure is from the fifteenth century while the wing that made it more elegant is from the eighteenth century with its picturesque frescoed interiors. The castle is famous above all for the cycle of frescoes found in the Sala degli Schiavi and in the Sala dei Vizi e delle Virtù , considered artistic examples of great refinement attributable to the International Gothic style.

  • How to get: the castle is a 30-minute walk from the historic center, but the best way to reach it is by bus H or P getting off at the Crispi 130 stop
  • Timetables: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: full € 4.00 – reduced up to 25 years and € 2.00 for groups

10 – Villa Pogliaghi – House Museum

Villa Pogliaghi is a house built and inhabited by Ludovico Pogliaghi, which has now become the museum for his art collection . It is located on the Sacro Monte di Varese and hosts a series of archaeological finds, works that are divided between paintings and sculptures ranging from the Renaissance to the Baroque era, and plaster casts, drawings and drafts by the artist himself. Visiting this house-museum means immersing yourself fully in an ancient but evocative environment, enjoying the panorama offered by the height of the mountain which on clear days gives the opportunity to see even the highest spire of the Milan Cathedral .

  • How to get: being on the Sacro Monte it is possible to reach it by bus C or by funicular – 
  • Timetables: open only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 to 18:00 – open during the week only for groups by reservation
  • Ticket cost: full € 5.00 – reduced from 4 to 12 years and for groups € 3.00 – free for children up to 4 years and for the disabled

One day itinerary in Varese

Visiting Varese in one day becomes a bit complicated, but it’s not impossible. Due to the location of the points of interest that we have listed, it will be necessary to focus on the historic center to the detriment of the Sacro Monte whose visit takes a long time and consequently Villa Pogliaghi also located on the mountain. Here is the tour that we suggest you follow in one day in Varese:

  • Morning : in the morning we leave not far from the historic center having breakfast at Caffè Garibaldi and starting the tour from the nearby Villa Menafoglio and Collezione Panza. Immediately after, we head towards the center and visit the entire structure of the Basilica of San Vittore including the Bell Tower of Bernascone and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. At lunchtime we advise you to have a good meal at the La Piedigrotta pizza restaurant .
  • Afternoon : after lunch it is the turn of Palazzo Pretorio , the Monument to the Battle of Varese and Palazzo Estense whose gardens lead up to Villa Mirabello. To finish, instead, head to the Castle of Masnago.
  • Evening : we conclude our itinerary, once the visit of the Castle is finished with a dinner in the nearby restaurant La Baita dello Stadio .

One day itinerary at a glance

  1. Breakfast at Caffè Garibaldi – 
  2. Villa Menafoglio and Panza Collection – opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: full € 12.00 / for reductions consult the
  3. Basilica of San Vittore – opening hours: always accessible – ticket price: free
  4. Campanile del Bernascone – opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:30 and from 16:00 to 19:30 – ticket price: free
  5. Baptistery of San Giovanni – opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:30 and from 16:00 to 19:30 – ticket price: free
  6. Lunch at La Piedigrotta – 
  7. Palazzo Pretorio and Monument to the Battle of Varese – opening hours: always accessible – ticket price: free
  8. Palazzo Estense – opening hours: every day from 8:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: free
  9. Villa Mirabello – opening hours: every day from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: full € 4.00 – reduced for groups and children € 3.00 – reduced for school groups € 1 .00
  10. Masnago Castle – opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 to 12:30 and from 14:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: full € 4.00 – reduced up to 25 years and for groups € 2.00
  11. Dinner at La Baita dello Stadio


Where to eat in Varese

  1. La Piedigrotta Neapolitan pizzeria that serves both classic and gourmet pizzas with quality ingredients and tasty DOP burrata, but also creative and well- prepared dishes equally appreciated
    Average price per person: € 25.00
    Address and contacts: Via gian domenico romagnosi, 9 – 
  1. La Baita dello Stadio restaurant and pizzeria offering typical Italian and Lombard dishes prepared with local ingredients, but also pizzas cooked in a wood oven with the possibility of choosing the kamut mixture
    Average price per person: € 25.00
    Address and contacts: Via Giuseppe Bolchini, 24 – 
  1. Ripoli La Griglieria meat-based menu ranging from grilled specialties to super-stuffed sandwiches, with generous portions and the possibility of gluten-free meals
    Average price per person: € 35.00
    Address and contacts: Piazza Cesare Beccaria, 4 – 


What to do in the evening: nightlife areas and the best clubs

For those who want to have fun, Varese offers mostly between discos located in the areas surrounding the historic center . In the center there are not many evening / night clubs where you can party or where to spend quieter evenings but in any case it will be impossible to get bored between the two best clubs in the city and a place that offers live music of alternative genres, something to do you always find it.
Here are the 3 best places that we offer you in Varese

  • Babi Club : modern disco that offers aperitifs with DJ sets and thematic evenings with house music and commercial music
    Address: Via Felice Orrigoni, 7 – 
  • Deep Club : disco that in addition to the usual music also offers smooth and Latin and offers the possibility of aperitifs and dinners in its restaurant-pizzeria
    Address: Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII – 
  • Cantine Coopuf : night club that organizes different types of evenings alternating DJ sets, Latin American and live concerts of all musical genres until late at night
    Address: Via C. de Cristoforis, 5 – 


Plan your stay in Varese: info and useful tips

  • How to get: Varese offers several possibilities to reach it and the best way is always to take Milan as a reference point. By plane the closest airport is in fact that of Milan-Malpensa from which it is possible to move around the city with one of the different transfers or by renting a car and in both cases it takes about 30 minutes. By train and bus, Varese is reached by lines from all Italian cities and the best connection is always Milan. In fact, from Milan it is possible to choose between various motorway companies and multiple railways per day. Finally, for those who choose to reach the city by car, you can arrive from Milan via the A8 motorway, from Genoa via the A26 and from Switzerland via the A9.
  • How to get around : the historic center of Varese can be easily visited on foot, while to move from the center to the neighboring areas the city offers an excellent urban service at a cost of € 1.40 per ride with the possibility of buying a carnet of 10 rides for only € 13.00 or a weekly ticket at the price of € 9.40
  • Where to park : the historic center is surrounded by parking areas. The most convenient and closest are the San Martino Parking  and the Via Luini Parking  with blue pay stripes or parking disc. There is also a covered and monitored car park near the center, the Piazza Repubblica car park  obviously with higher prices. Finally, there are also several parking spaces along Via Como
  • Where to sleep: Hotels and b & b from € 58.00 per room –
  • What to see in the surrounding area : certainly during a stay in Varese you cannot miss a visit to Lake Varese just 15 minutes away and if you like lakes then you will have fun among Lake Maggiore  at 40 minutes away and its Borromean Islands reachable with a pleasant boat trip, and Lake Como  an hour and a half drive from which to take advantage to visit the city which is only 50 minutes from Varese

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