15 Lugano sights recommended to visit
The city of Lugano is located on the shores of the lake of the same name in the Swiss canton of Ticino, south of the first ridge of the Alps. As a tourist area, this place hardly needs an introduction. The wild beauty of the lake shore, the dominating mountains of San Salvatore and Bre all speak for themselves, the very description of these places is enthralling.
There is Italian architecture, promenades and parks along the lake, chic shopping streets and lively squares with arcades and restaurant tables. The remote villages on the mountain slopes above the lake are also worth a visit.
What is really striking about this lake is how wild it looks. On each shore you can see a mountain whose forested slopes descend to the water. The lake is long and winding, filling the valley between the peaks.
Because of the mountains, only one part of the lake is visible on the shore from Lugano. The rest can be viewed on a boat cruise. The most popular are the morning cruise and the panoramic cruise, which last three hours each. There are also night tours, during which you can see the lights of the city of Lugano, shimmering on the water surface of the lake at night.
Address: Lago di Lugano, Switzerland.
Mount San Salvatore
Mount San Salvatore.
In Lugano you can find the San Salvatore mount, which rises more than 900 meters above sea level. From the top of this mountain you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the lake. It also offers a view of the western part of the Alps.
The cable car takes just 12 minutes to reach the top, taking you up the steep mountainside from the suburb of Paradiso. If you like extreme climbing, then Mt. San Salvatore is just the beginning of your adventure. From here you can follow the trails to Carona, or go even further along the ridge to the coastal town of Morcot. It is also possible to go down on foot, the descent takes just over an hour.
The address is Monte San Salvatore, Lugano, Switzerland.
Bre Bre Mountain
View from Mt Bre.
The suburb of Cassarate, east of Lugano, is a springboard for climbing another mountain. The funicular at this location has been in operation since 1912, has a maximum gradient of 60.5% and boasts a more vintage look than the San Salvatore funicular, although it is actually newer.
At the top, 925 meters above sea level, there are two restaurants. From here you have a wonderful view of Lugano and the surrounding scenery all the way to Italy. Mount Bre is positioned as the sunniest mountain in Switzerland.
Thanks to the abundance of sunshine on the slopes of the mountain grows the Christmas rose, a flower that usually only takes root in Mediterranean climates. On the mountain’s slope is the picturesque village of Brè, which you will pass during the ascent and descent.
The address is Monte Brè, Lugano, Switzerland.
The old center of Lugano is a very interesting area that is simply overflowing with Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries and arcaded squares. The first thing to see in Lugano is Riform Square.
It boasts tall houses painted in pastel colors and is particularly active in the evenings and weekends. On the southern border of the historic center you can see the bright façade of the neoclassical town hall.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, be sure to wake up early and go shopping for fresh produce at the market in Piazzale Ex Scuole. Here you can buy meat, flowers, cheese and fruit. In Piazza Cioccaro you can see the Riva Palace with its trapezoidal arched facade, which was built in 1740 at the request of a count.
Address: Piazza Riforma, Lugano, Switzerland.
Via Nassa. | Photo: wikimedia.
This street begins in the southernmost part of the city, runs one block from the waterfront and enters the old city center. On Via Nassa you can do some shopping. The street itself is adorned by a long succession of arcades that date back to the 17th century. In the past, these arcades served as shelters for merchants. Now they provide shade for the tourists, and boutiques, jewelry stores, department stores, grocery stores, and cafes can all be found under these arches.
Address: Via Nassa, Lugano, Switzerland.
To the east of the city center is Civico Park. It is a charming lakeside park that also houses the cantonal library and conference center. Beyond the curve of the bay you have a magnificent view of Lugano, which is especially impressive after sunset.
During the day you can enjoy a wonderful view of the mountains of Bré and San Salvatore. Closer to the city center is the Villa Siani, which is steeped in well-kept gardens with flowerbeds, palm trees and shrubs. To the east, on the banks of the Cassarat River, there is a forest of maples, sycamores, oaks and linden trees.
Address: Parco Civico, Lugano, Switzerland.
Church of the Virgin Mary with the Angels
Church of the Virgin Mary with Angels.
A former monastery church, the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli looks very restrained on the outside, but all its value lies in the interior. At the entrance is the most beautiful Renaissance fresco in Switzerland.
It was painted in 1529 by Bernardo Luini and depicts the passion of Christ and the crucifixion. It is one of three Luini paintings in the church, the other two depicting the Virgin and Child and the Last Supper. As you walk through the arches, you can see the altar from the 1700s.
The address is Santa Maria degli Angioli, Piazza Bernardino Luini, Lugano, Switzerland.
St. Lawrence Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Lawrence.
The main facade of this cathedral in Lugano is Renaissance in style – a true treasure carved out of white limestone and Carrara marble.
The cathedral dates from the early 16th century and was built over a much earlier Romanesque structure. The cathedral has three Renaissance-style portals, which are decorated with elements typical of the period.
Between the portals are marble relief busts of King Solomon, David and the four evangelists. Above all this is a window decorated with cherubs and sculpture from the 1570s. This elevated area has a terrace with a balustrade from which you can admire the view of the lake and the mountains.
Address: Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Via Borghetto, Lugano, Switzerland.
Hesse Museum | Photo: wikimedia.
The German writer Hermann Hesse, a Nobel Prize winner, moved to the village of Montagnola on the lake shore in 1919 and remained there until his death in 1962. In his first house in the village, the Hesse Museum was established.
It was here that he wrote his famous novels Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Narcissus and Chrysostom. In Torre Camuzzi you can view a treasure trove of memorabilia, such as correspondence with T. S. Eliot and Freud. Hesse’s typewriter, books, photographs and watercolors with which he painted can also be seen here. Tourists can also take an audio tour of Montagnola in Hesse’s footsteps.
Address: Museo Hermann Hesse Montagnola, Ra Cürta, Collina di Oro, Switzerland.
The town of Gandria.
Gandria became officially part of Lugano in 2004. It is a charming seaside village, which is located on the eastern slopes of Mount Bre. Gandria looks much the same now as it did a hundred years ago, when the village was an area of illegal trade.
High customs duties on goods such as cigarettes and meat have made this remote stretch of the Swiss-Italian border the main point of circulation for these products.
Here you can simply stroll the streets, or check out the 15th-century church of St. Villo, whose facade bears historic memorials to members of important local families. There is also the Museum of Swiss Customs, which details the cunning schemes of smugglers and the efforts of customs officers to counter them.
Address: Gandria, Lugano, Switzerland.
The Olive Trail
The Olive Trail.
Olives are another part of Gandria’s heritage, along with smuggling and the silk trade. The sunny slopes of Mount Bre are densely planted with olive trees, and tourists can take a leisurely stroll along these groves along the 3.5-kilometer trail.
The path stretches from Gandria to Castagnola, and the scenery is more Mediterranean than Central European. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old, and new young trees are constantly being planted here. The trail is well marked, during the trip you will see 18 panels with information about the olive trees.
The address is Sentiero dell’olivo, Lugano, Switzerland.
The Art Museum of Italian Switzerland
Museum of Art of Italian Switzerland.
This museum was created in 2015, and since then it has been showcasing a variety of art collections from the canton of Ticino and the city of Lugano. The museum’s exhibits are presented in two locations – in the new LAC building in the south of the city, near the beginning of Via Nassa, and in Palazzo Reali in the city center.
The LAC hosts contemporary art exhibitions and major temporary exhibitions. The Palazzo Reali houses permanent collections from the 15th to the 20th century. The museum features outstanding works by Swiss-Italian Baroque masters such as Giovanni Serodin and Giuseppe Antonio Petrini.
Address: Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana Lugano – LAC, LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura, Piazza Bernardino Luini, Lugano, Switzerland.
Swiss Museum in Miniature
Swiss Museum in miniature.
On the Melide Dam at the foot of Mount San Salvatore there is an open air museum that, as its name implies, shows all the major sites of Switzerland in miniature. There are 130 models of churches, manors, castles and landforms (among them the Matterhorn).
Almost all models are made at a scale of 1:25, surrounded by flowerbeds and trees. Children will especially appreciate the miniature railroad that runs through the park. It has a length of 3.5 kilometers, and 18 model trains whizzing by on its tracks. Also be sure to see the funiculars, cars on the freeways and boats on the lake.
Address: Swissminiatur, Via Cantonale, Melide, Switzerland.
Lido di Lugano Resort
The resort of Lido di Lugano.
Located just east of the Civico Park, Lido di Lugano is a kind of holiday resort that is just a short walk from the city.
There are several outdoor pools: one with toys and obstacles for children, an Olympic-sized pool, a middle pool and a diving pool.
The Lido also has a sandy beach where you can relax and enjoy the views of San Salvatore and Sigignola, which are on the opposite shore. You can also swim in the lake, dine at the beach bar and in the summer evenings you can watch open-air movies.
Address: Lido di Lugano, Via Lido, Lugano, Switzerland.
Villa Fogazzaro Roi
Villa Fogazzaro Roi.
This beautiful villa Fogazzaro Roi is located in Italy, on the shores of Lake Lugano, just a few minutes drive from the city. It is a quiet and beautiful place, full of flowers, plants and greenery, and it is where Antonio Fogazzaro, the famous Italian writer, spent most of his life.
It is clear from his letters that this is where he drew inspiration from time to time. A tour of the villa is a great way to spend the day, and there are still some of the writer’s memorabilia stored here. The garden is beautiful and the view of the shimmering lake is breathtaking.
Address: Via Antonio Fogazzaro, 14, 22010 Oria CO, Italy.
The 14 most popular tourist attractions in the Lugano, Locarno, and Ticino regions
Surrounded by mountains, Lake Lugano is a central part of the Ticino region of Switzerland, a southern canton where Italian is the official language. You’ll notice more than a single Italian accent in cuisine, architecture, relationships and a more casual way of life than you’ll find elsewhere in Switzerland. Lugano is the largest and most important city in Ticino; its beauty and great facilities make it one of the most popular resorts in Switzerland. Lugano is not the only lake in the region. The northern end of Lake Maggiore stretches from Italy to Swiss Ticino, and on top lies Locarno, its villas and gardens overlooking the lake. Locarno and nearby Ascona are connected to the Italian cities of the lake by regular boat services and a coastal road.
See also: Where to stay in Lugano
1 Lake Lugano
Beautiful Lake Lugano is a Ticino landmark, and tourists can enjoy it in a variety of ways: tour one of the white steamers (since 1848, boat trips to the lake), rent a boat for a self-guided walk, or choose any of dozens of mountain or shoreline vistas and look at it. The steep, wooded mountains that form much of its vertiginous shoreline give a wild, unspoiled view to all but a few valleys where rivers flow from the mountains. Not only do the mountains give Lake Lugano a stunning backdrop from almost any angle, but they also provide some of Europe’s best vantage points to admire it. Some favorite spots around the lake are best accessed by boat, a great way to get to traditional grottoes , or small informal restaurants along its shore. One of the other popular things to do here is to combine a boat cruise with a walk, Gandria and head back to Lugano along the Sentiero dell’Olivo .
2 Lugano Lakeside Parks and Waterfront
Lakesano Lakeside Park
Spacious green parks border the lake in the northern part of Lugano, shaded by trees and illuminated by flower beds. Surrounded by venerable trees and subtropical plants, the Parco Municipale is the congress center of Palazzo dei Congressi and the 1843 Villa Siani, which houses historic and artistic collections. The long lakeside promenade follows the shore along the entire length of Lugano to the southernmost landing of the boat Paradiso , In places it widens to park dimensions with subtropical gardens and modern sculptures lining the avenue. Old buildings, including the 18th-century Palazzo Riva , stand out in front of it, with views of the lake framed by the surrounding mountains at every point of the promenade.
3 Monte San Salvatore
Although it is only 912 meters high, the summit of Monte San Salvatore offers one of the most beautiful and panoramic perspectives in all the Alps. Below you can see Lake Lugano, which winds its steep way among the steep wooded slopes that surround it. The red tiled roofs of Lugano are scattered across the mountain slopes of the town, and other villages around the shore. Turn your back on the lake and the city to find a sea of alpine peaks stretching to the horizon, topped by Monta Rosa and Valais Alpes. You can climb Monte San Salvatore, but most tourists prefer the 10-minute red cable car ride from the Lake Laugano station in Paradiso. At the upper station you will find a restaurant, a terrace and hiking trails leading to Carona, Melida, Morcot and Figino. You can return to Lugano from any of these by rail, postal bus or boat.
Official website: http://www.montesansalvatore.ch/it/home/
4 Santa Maria degli Angioli
Santa Maria degli Angioli Jean-Pierre Dalbera / photo modified
The church of the former monastery of Santa Maria degli Angioli stands in front of the lake at the end of the most fashionable shopping street of Lugano. Inside is one of the most impressive artistic treasures of Ticino, a complete wall covered with a single fresco, an early 16th century masterpiece by Bernardino Luini depicting the Passion and Crucifixion. The fresco measures 30 meters by 12 meters and is filled with larger figures modeled after patrons and family members. On the side wall is Luino’s Last Supper, moved here from a monastery that stood nearby.
5 Valle Verzasca
The 220-meter Verzasca Dam has the honor of being one of the tallest in Europe, but the world knows that James Bond made the fatal jump on the GoldenEye launching stage , But the dam is a modern intrusion that has not spoiled one of the most beautiful in many Ticino river valleys. As the river tumbles down a rocky course, its famous emerald-green waters form waterfalls and swimming holes surrounded by ledges for sunbathing. It passes under stone bridges and through ancient alpine villages. The most famous of these – and with a picturesque waterfall – is also Lavertezzo , Here the Ponte dei Salti with its stone wall crosses the river, and from the village church you can follow the Revöira hiking trail along a well-marked route used for centuries by villagers bringing their herds and their families to the high mountain pastures for the summer. Along the way, you will see the remains of ancient reservoirs and ponds carved into the rocks. Learn about these semi-annual migrations, called transhumans, at the Verzasca Valley Museum in Sonogno , a quiet stone village at the end of the valley.The bus route from Lugano follows close to the river with frequent stops, so you can get out and walk the trails from village to village without doubling over.
6 Monte Bré.
Monte Bré, whose distinctive cone rises at the north end of Lugano, can be reached by narrow roads, footpaths or a funicular to the summit at 933 meters. Along with the scenic terrace you will find two restaurants. On the eastern slope is the village of Bre, a tiny settlement of traditional Ticino-style houses, which is an artist’s favorite. You can follow the artists’ trail, and the Wilhelm Schmidt Museum displays the work of the Swiss painter. Monte Bré is considered the sunniest place in Switzerland, and it is also one of the most picturesque places, overlooking the Valais Alpes.
7 Castles of Bellinzona
The three castles of Bellinzona are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are worth exploring. Bellinzona was an important stronghold as a meeting point for three important north-south routes over the alpine passes of St. Gottard, San Bernardino and Lucomagno. All three may in the past have been enclosed by a barrier across the road to Bellinzona, giving it a strategic position for centuries. The three castles that still dominate the city are some of the most important examples of medieval defensive architecture in the Alps. They, along with the double chain of walls, were built or reinforced by the Milanese rulers in the second half of the 15th century.
The oldest, Castelgrande , was built over the center of the city over a Roman castle. The Castello di Montebello stretches along the slope on the east side of Bellinzona and is the most interesting example of the art of fortification built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The square-shaped Castello di Sasso-Corbaro was built in less than six months in 1479 to reinforce the valley’s defenses after a battle. Today the castles house various museums devoted to history, art, archaeology and local costumes. The old town is worth exploring, as well as its beautiful Italian-style townhouses and the magnificent 16th century wall paintings by Lombard artists in the former Franciscan church of Sta Maria delle Grazie .
Bellinzona Map – Attractions
8 Lugano Old Town
Old Town of Lugano
The old town of Lugano rises sharply from the three squares that surround its Palazzo Civico (town hall), on a street that is a series of stairs and terraces. Nearby, a funicular rises to a high-rise railway station. A wide terrace opens in front of the church of San Lorenzo , the Cathedral of Lugano. Originally Romanesque, it was enlarged in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and greatly altered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But it retains beautiful medieval frescoes in a different, mostly baroque interior. You can walk down the winding streets of the old town or follow the stairs that connect between parallel streets to make your way more directly to the lake shore.
One of Europe’s most scenic trains leaves Locarno, following the high paths that rise above the Melezza River and its tributaries. Over the millennia, snow melting from the Alps has caused each of these rivers to carve a deep valley — reputedly 100 of them, hence the name centovalli. Charming vintage railroad cars go slowly enough to see views into these steep wooded ravines as the train crosses 83 bridges on its way to Domodossola , the Italian town at the foot of Simplon Pass .
10 Gandria and Sentiero dell’Olivo
Gandria and Sentiero dell’Olivo
The promenade traces the coast through the terrace of Parco degli Olivi at the far northern end of the Lugano waterfront, turning into a wide walking path that hugs the slopes of Monte Bré as it parallels the coast. View after view unfolds as the path winds through the narrow streets of the embankments and among the gardens between them, shaded by cypresses, pines and olive trees. Panels along the way explain the history and cultivation of the olive trees. This Sentiero dell’Olivo, Olive Path, leads to the picturesque village of Gandria. Among its steep, narrow streets and arcaded alleyways you’ll find the Church of St. Vigilio , built in 1463, but with a baroque facade only completed in the late 1800s. The lake here is quite narrow, and just across the street (you can take a boat) is a grotto-restaurant and the Swiss Customs Museum with exhibits on smuggling and illicit trade.
11 Madonna del Sasso
Madonna del Sasso
The funicular from Via Ramogna, just below Locarno train station and to Piazza Grande, leads to a wooded cliff overlooking the Madonna del Sasso pilgrimage church overlooking the lake. You can also climb the church and its Capuchin monastery on foot, along a path with stations of the Cross, in 30-45 minutes. Founded in 1480, the church was rebuilt in 1616 and decorated in the 19th century. The most prominent works of the church are the Flight to Egypt , a major work by Bramantino in 1536, and the burial of A. Ciseri from about 1865. The former is to the right of the entrance, while Ciseri is in the second part of the chapel. The monastery museum contains a collection of church art and manuscripts. The view of Lake Maggiore from the terrace is superb.
Address: Via Santuario 2, Orselina
12 Valle di Muggio
Valle di Muggio
A unique open-air museum exploring traditional rural life spreads throughout the remote valley of Mugio, hidden between Lakes Lugano and Como.Along with a large museum building decorated with fascinating exhibits and artifacts, the Museo Etnografico Valle di Mugio includes a polenta watermill, raw artisans, an open-air laundry, a chestnut drying shed and other attractions. Start in the village of Cabbio , where a large relief map shows the valley and finds sights that are part of a museum that stretches for many kilometers and spreads over several towns.
Mulino di Brusella , a stone mill driven by a water wheel, sits deep in the valley and reaches a wide path through the forest – about a 30-minute walk from the road. The mill grinds rare, native red corn, a heritage crop revived through propagation and grown only in this region. You can watch the mill as it grinds and buy polenta here. At farms throughout the valley, you can also buy local honeys, chestnuts and cheeses made from the milk of goats grazing in the mountain pastures. This way of life, with one foot in the 2nd century and one century ago, is a stark contrast to the chic chic resort towns of the lake just a short walk away.
Address: Casa Cantoni, Cabbio
13 Isole di Brissago
Isole di Brissago Tambako Jaguar / photo modified
In Lake Maggiore, not far from the picturesque village of Ronco, are two small islands of Brissago. On the larger one is a botanical garden of Mediterranean flora, which presents about 1500 species of exotic plants arranged according to their geographical origin. Plants native to subtropical regions thrive outdoors at this latitude because of the warming of the lake. The gardens were begun in 1885 by Baroness Antonietta Saint-Leger, who not only collected plants but catalogued them in detail. Her work was continued in the 1920s by a German businessman who built the villa you see here today. Along with exotic plants native to Asia, South Africa and the Americas, the extensive gardens include a section devoted to local heritage vegetables, including the rare Ticino polenta corn. You can reach the island by boat from Porto Ronco, just north of the Italian border.
South of Locarno on Lake Maggiore , Ascona has developed from a small fishing village into one of Switzerland’s most popular resorts, with long sunshine and mild winters. Unfortunately, its popularity has led to extensive modern development which has largely swallowed up the old village, but its port area is still an attractive mix of Italian and Swiss architecture with a few old buildings.
The 17th-century House Serodina, now known as Casa Borrani , has a sumptuous baroque stucco facade with a frieze of mythical creatures and biblical scenes, and the Collegio Pontificio Papio from 1584 has one of the best Renaissance courtyards in Switzerland, with two-story loggias. The Dominican Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia , built between 1399 and 1442, is a cycle of late Gothic frescoes. The artistic colony here attracted artists, including Paul Klee, whose work you can see in the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna .
Where to stay in Lugano for sightseeing
The best hotels in Lugano are near the lake and the promenade along its shore. At one end is the Paradiso, where the funicular begins at Monte San Salvatore, and at the other end is the Cassarat area, with the funicular to Monte Bré. About halfway between the main shopping street, Via Nessa, and a warren of small streets rising steeply to the cathedral and the train station. These highly rated hotels in Lugano are convenient for sightseeing:
Luxury Hotels : The Splendide Royal Hotel, overlooking the lake and waterfront and a five-minute walk from the fashionable shopping street, has lake views from elegantly decorated rooms and the attention to detail expected of members of the world’s leading hotels. The Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola is located in a beautiful lakeside area, a short walk from the Civico Park with its swimming pool, tennis courts and lake views. The Lugano Dante Centre Swiss Quality overlooks the city and the lake from the steep pedestrian streets next to the Cathedral, close to stores and restaurants.