48 Hours in Lugano, Switzerland – How to Get the Best from Your Trip

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.

Lake Lugano SwitzerlandThe town centre is also very picturesque, with many independent food stores, such as Gabbani.

Lugano shops
There are some very luxurious boutiques if you’re in the mood for some retail therapy!

Boutique in Lugano, Switzerland
A farmers’ market is held in the charming main square, Piazzale Ex-Scuole, from 7 am to 12 noon on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Lugano Town Hall
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.

LAC LuganoWhat 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.

Swiss Miniatur TicinoA 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.

Monte Bre, Lugano, SwitzerlandAnother 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.

Parco San Grato Lugano
The panoramic views here are phenomenal.

Parco San Grato panoramaWhere 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.

Grotto Tigini LuganoGallery 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!

Arte Lugano, a Michelin starred restaurant by the lakesideThe Grand Café Al Porto is something of an institution in Lugano, famed for its tempting chocolates and cakes.

The Grand Café Lugano, love the cakes here!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.

Villa Castagnola, Lugano, Switzerland
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?

48 Hours in Lugano, Switzerland

  • It looks gorgeous! What blue skies! I love places like this that are bit off the tourist trail.

    • Well the sun came out on our last day this time, normally it’s incredibly sunny all year round

  • I’ve yet to go to Switzerland altogether despite having lived in Germany for a year now.. Shame on me a little bit 😉 This is totally bookmarked!

  • Switzerland is just so beautiful! I’m a sucker for mountain and lake views so I’d love to take in as much of this on my visit to Lugano. Parco Scherrer looks amazing and taking the funicular up for panoramic views of the mountains would be a great photo-op. I’ve only been to Switzerland in winter. Clearly, I need to get back to take in the summer beauty.

    • The advantage of visiting Lugano in Summertime is that all the funiculars are open. It’s not a skiing area so they’re not all open in Winter – the views from the top are breathtaking

  • You can see the Italian touch in the architecture. And that dessert!

  • This is where my mum grew up! I’ve been before but when I was quite small but I remember loving it there. The scenery and food make it such a great place to visit.

    • Ooh sounds like you need a return visit to see whether it’s changed much. There’s a new funicular taking people up from the town to the train station now, as well as the art museum

  • One thing that made me fall in love with Switzerland are its lakes! It’s such a picturesque country and Lugano is beautiful. I took my parents last summer but we didn’t get to do all that much as they tire quite easily but we did make it to Mont Bre – the views are incredible!

    • The lakes really are stunning in Switzerland, aren’t they! It’s great that you went to Monte Bre, we drove up but the funicular looks like a picturesque way to visit it too

  • Just love the look of this! Gallery Arté al Lago’s food looks beautiful!

  • Melody Pittman

    I enjoy writing posts like this, too, to let others know how best to spend their day. You have done a great job of including everything that a traveler would need to know! I would definitely like to visit Mont Brè for the view and visit the farmers’ market. You pictures are great!

    • Thanks Melody, I’m glad that you found it helpful. The farmers’ market is great and I’d highly recommend the view from the top of the mountain!

  • I’ve never been to Switzerland but I can imagine how peaceful it is. I want to spend time by the lakes and enjoy the fresh with some good coffee. Thank you for sharing this, Suze!

    • The air is so fresh there, it’s something my husband had always told me and it’s true!

  • This looks beautiful Suze. I’d love to go to Switzerland one day 🙂 x

  • How charming, idyllic and luxurious all at the same time. You captured it all so beautifully. <3

  • I been to Switzerland but never to Lugano. Looks like I have to go back now 🙂

  • I would love to go there. Looks like such an amazing and charming town. Gemma x

  • Jen Ryder

    Lugano looks incredible!! What a picturesque and charming place. That dessert at Grand Café Al Porto is so tempting, and Villa Castagnola looks stunning!

    • The desserts at the Grand Cafe are so tasty, and Villa Castagnola itself is a lovely place

  • Breathtakingly beautiful; the location is ideal and your breakfast view from Villa Castagnola is spectacular! Ah, I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve now tempted me with Switzerland!

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

  • Switzerland is my parents’ favorite country! I would love to look at the lake and write poetry just like the Romantic authors, haha. And the shopping sounds amazing.

  • Lugano looks like such a magical lakeside town!! I love the contrast between the brightly colored buildings and the deep blue of the river!


  • Elisa Subirats

    fantastic post! switzerland is not my cup of tea (i prefer warmer places) but I may reconsider my thinking after reading your proposals for lugano (especially because you say it one of the sunniest places in switzerland). thanks for sharing

    • You’d be surprised how warm it gets! Although for you I’d recommend travelling from June onwards when it really is hot

  • it looks so beautiful!

  • Lucy

    Looks wonderful. I have always wanted to visit Switzerland, it is so picturesque. The food looks wonderful Lucy x

  • Hayley Rubery

    I absolutely LOVE the fact that the lake is part in Italy, and part in Switzerland – best of both worlds?! I’ve been to Switzerland and absolutely adore it! Great post lovely!

    Hayley xo

  • This place looks amazing! It is definitely now on my bucket list! 🙂


  • megan_claire

    Lugano looks beautiful, you’re right, I hadn’t come across it before! I’ve traveled throughout a lot of Switzerland and loved every minutes of it, so would love to head back to check in at some of the towns I missed 🙂

    • You could do an amazing road trip, taking in Lugano and some of the other lovely towns and villages in Switzerland

  • It has brought back so many beautiful memories of Switzerland. I loved Lugano, the Swiss Miniatur, the casinos , the dinner cruise on the lake and so on. I also remember driving through one of the longest tunnel through the Alps. Now I don’t remember the name. Thanks for rekindling my memories 🙂

    • Isn’t Swiss Miniatur fun! My hubby, who is Swiss, says it’s the Gotthard tunnel!

  • Wow, what an epic breakfast view and spread!! Lugano looks absolutely stunning, you captured it beautifully. With or without kids, I’d visit all of the places you’ve listed. Especially shopping 😉

    • The shopping is great and I forgot to mention that there’s also a shopping outlet called Foxtown very close by – I’ve picked up a few bargains there from time to time

  • So pretty. Especially the food shops. I looove food shops that just SCREAM “LOOK AT MY CHEESE” or chocolate, or wine, or charcuterie or whatever. Love.

  • OH WOW! I knew Switzerland was beautiful but your pictures are actually breathtaking! I hope I get to visit during my life!
    Kate xx


  • Kim

    My friend had recommended this place to me before! It truly looks amazing!

    Simply Lovebirds

  • I haven’t been to Switzerland yet – and you have just convinced me to move it up to the top of the list!

  • Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe

    Wow, Lugano is certainly a hidden gem. The spectacular views across the lake and the wonderful gardens would really draw me in, but then there’s that dessert… I can’t believe I was so close in Milan and missed this charming town.

  • I’ve not heard of Lugano until reading your article, but it looks absolutely amazing. All those scenic spots and that balcony breakfast with a view, wow!