Switzerland is known for its beautiful scenery, yet many visitors are yet to discover Lugano, one of Switzerland’s most charming towns. Nestled at the base of the Swiss Alps and overlooking Lake Lugano, it benefits from a micro-climate with almost constant sunshine. We’re sharing some of our favourite places to visit with 48 hours in around Lugano, Switzerland and hope that it will inspire you to visit.
What to See in Lugano, Switzerland
Lake Lugano is a definite highlight and at nearly 50 square kilometers it can rival nearby lakes Como and Maggiore. In fact 37% of the lake is in Italy, and 63% in Switzerland.
The town centre is also very picturesque, with many independent food stores, such as Gabbani.
There are some very luxurious boutiques if you’re in the mood for some retail therapy!
A farmers’ market is held in the charming main square, Piazzale Ex-Scuole, from 7 am to 12 noon on Tuesdays and Fridays.
For contemporary art and concert performances, head to the LAC, aka Lugano Arte e Cultura. With its striking architecture and lakeside setting, it has some interesting temporary exhibitions. When we visited, there were two interesting exhibitions of the works of Meret Oppenheim and Craigie Horsfield. It’s open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Monday, and until 8 pm on Thursdays.
What to Visit near Lugano, Switzerland
The area of Ticino, which Lugano is part of, has many interesting attractions. Whether you’re visiting with children or not, Swiss Miniatur is great fun. From ski stations to castles and Heidi’s village, it’s a great introduction to the variety of Switzerland’s landscapes and open every day from 9 am to 6 pm between 11 March and 22 October.
A few kilometres from Lugano, in Morcote, a picturesque lakeside village, you’ll find Parco Scherrer. This stunning botanical garden has the most spectacular views over the lake, and a series of exotic pavilions. It can be visited from 15 March to 31 October.
Mont Brè is also well worth a visit at 925 meters high, and is one of the sunniest spots in Switzerland. You can reach it by cable car or drive to the top. On the other side of Lugano, you can take a funicular to Monte San Salvatore, at 912 meters high.
Another photogenic spot is Parco San Grato, with its outdoor sculptures and far reaching views. There’s a vast collection of azaleas, and conifers and rhododendrons spread over its 62,000 square meters, as well as a restaurant for refreshments and a series of walking trails.
The panoramic views here are phenomenal.
Where to Eat in Lugano
No guide to Lugano would be complete without some dining suggestions and the area is well known for its cosy “grotto” restaurants serving authentic local dishes. Some of the best are Al Bosco and Grotto Tigini, both up in the hills, Grotto della Salute, in a quiet residential area and Il Grotto del Lago, with a lovely lakeside setting.
Gallery Arté al Lago is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Lugano, and also an art gallery which features interesting temporary exhibitions. The views over Lake Lugano are spectacular and the food presentation is as impressive as the artworks!
The Grand Café Al Porto is something of an institution in Lugano, famed for its tempting chocolates and cakes.
How to Get to Lugano
It’s an easy 1 hour 15 minute train ride from Milan to Lugano or 2 hours from Zurich, and the station has just been renovated. There’s also an airport with regular connecting flights to Zurich.
Where to Stay in Lugano
For old school glamour, incredible lakeside views and Michelin starred cuisine, Villa Castagnola is the place to stay. They have a fantastic fine dining restaurant, Le Relais, as well as Gallery Arté al Lago on the lake.
As you can see, there’s so much to do in the town and the surrounding area that 48 hours in Lugano, Switzerland might be a little too short! Let’s take a tour of the lake before we leave, shall we?
Have you ever visited Lugano? Do you have any tips for visitors?