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A Short Guide to Lugano

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The Swiss-Mediterranean mix of cultures found within this beautiful Italian-speaking city, found in the Ticino region of Switzerland, is what truly sets Lugano apart. And to top it off, it is close to Italy’s northern Lombardy region, which means you can simply hop from one country to the next if you made Lugano your final stop in Switzerland.

What is most enjoyable about this city is its phenomenal natural views, as it stands atop a glacial lake called, Lake Lugano.  Furthermore, find to your delight ancient- and modern architecture, cuisine from both Italy and Switzerland (and often a mix of both), and stunning mountains.

The Best time to Visit Lugano

The best time to visit Lugano would be Spring, March and April since the weather is not too cold and views are spectacular. Summer, from May till October, is good for relaxation too.

Fun Facts about Lugano

  1. International banking is the major source of revenue in Lugano, apart from tourism.
  2. Ticino, the canton containing Lugano, is the only Swiss Canton entirely situated in the south of the Alps.
  3. Italian is an official language in Lugano.
  4. In fact, the town was ‘taken’ from Milan by the Swiss in the 16th century.
  5. Though Ticino’s capital is Bellinzona, Lugano is its largest city.

Top 9 Attractions in Lugano

9. Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli
Built between 1499 and 1500, this Romanesque church used to be a Franciscan monastery. From outside it is simple but it contains some great early Renessaince masterpieces like Luini’s (da Vinci’s disciple) crucifixion frescos; Luini’s ‘Last Supper’ and Madonna and Child with Saint Giovannino; and a 1728 portrayal of St. Francis. The chapel is situated on a promenade on the lake and has the best views.

Piazza Bernardino Luini 6, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

8. Museo Cantonale d’Arte
This museum located in the city center, was inaugurated in 1987 and houses the works of best modern local artists in the region. The building itself were erected in the 15
thcentury. Works here are primarily from the 19th and 20th century; it also has temporary exhibitions. Although small, this is a great place to see typical artworks from Ticino.
7. Cattedrale di San Lorenzo
This 16th century early Renaissance church is absolutely breathtaking, fresh from its renovation in 2016. Go inside to see some ornate frescos and baroque statues in the numerous chapels inside, made by Italian artists. Outside, you will be able to see the slate roof of the church with its bell tower.

Via Borghetto 2, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

+41 91 921 49 45
6. Piazza della Riforma
The Piazza della Riforma is the city’s main square and a tourist hub. Back when it was called Piazza Grande, it was the site of a battle between the Napoleonic Cisalpini and Italy’s Volontari Luganesi for Ticino’s independence in 1798. The battle ended with the victory of Volontari Luganesi. What remain now are an 1844 neoclassical Municipio (town hall) and Palazzo Civico. Come here for the Tuesday and Friday markets.

Piazza Riforma, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

5. Museo delle Culture
This museum is situated in the east of Lugano in a park and boasts of some of the best European art collection and some exhibits from South East Asia and Oceania. Exhibits focus on tribal marks and statuettes. Outside, the Heleneum Park has a mix of camellias, lemon trees and wisteria. You can take a bus to reach this museum 1.7 km away.

6976 Castagnola, Switzerland

Museo delle Culture+41 58 866 69 60
4. Lake Lugano and Parco Civico
At about 1700m, the Lago di Lugano is set against a backdrop of rugged mountains. Take in the beauty of the lake or simply walk into one of the many cafes and restaurants on its promenade. You can book tours on the lake too. Visit the Parco Civico-Ciani which is a 63,000sq. m. park on the shore and has centuries-old trees, statues, fountains and manicured lawns. It is also home to important buildings like the Convention Centre, Villa Ciani, the Natural History Museum and the Cantonal Library.

Lago di Lugano, Viale Castagnola 12 6900 Lugano

Lake Lugano and Parco Civico +41 (0)91 971 52 23
3. Museo del Cioccolato Alprose
Unlike any other, this museum is the evidence that the Swiss are obsessed with chocolate! Here you will be able to relive the history of chocolate while biting into some – there is a free tasting! Before you leave you can visit the shop next to it. To reach this, you will have to take a train. Best enjoyed by families.
2. Monte Brè
At an altitude of 925m, this mountain is one of the few surrounding Lugano. Considered the sunniest mountain in the country, it is home to the rare Christmas rose. Take the funicular to the summit of Monte Brè where you can hike or go on mountain biking trails. Get spectacular views of the lake and the city. There are two restaurants at the top. The Brè village is at the bottom with numerous grottos to explore.

Società Funicolare Monte Brè, Via Ceresio 36, 6977 Ruvigliana

Monte Brè+41 (0)91 971 31 71
1. Monte San Salvatore
This mountain stands at a height of 912m and gives an astounding 360° view over the lake and further south to the Alps in the west. It is believed that in the 13th century, pilgrims climbed the summit to pay respects to the Son of God, who rested here before his heavenly ascent. Take a funicular (which has been there since 1890) to the top where there is a church. You can also do a three-hour ridge hike to Morcote.

Monte San Salvatore, 6912 Lugano

Monte San Salvatore+41 (0)91 985 28 28

The Top Activities in Lugano

  • Watch a football match at the Cornaredo Stadium, home to the local FC Lugano.
  • If you like a little gambling, visit the Casino Lugano with its luxurious and trendy ambience.
  • Hang out at the Lido Comunale Di Lugano which is complete with four pools, a beach, kids play area, table tennis and some football.
  • Plan a picnic with your family at Lugano’s Zoo Al Maglio, home to over a hundred species complete with a petting area.
  • Book a hiking tour on the Olive Trail accessible from Castagnola. The path will show you ancient olive trees in the region.  
  • Watch an ice hockey match at the Pista La Resega ice hockey stadium.
  • Go bike riding through the city which has the most picturesque biking routes.
  • Take a free walking tour through the city center and important historic landmarks in Lugano.
  • Take the Foxtrail tour in which participants indulge in a treasure hunt across the city.
  • Take one of the many photo tours and take back unique DIY postcards.

Top Events in Lugano

  1. Lugano Festival takes place between April and June every year is devoted to classical music and other aspects of Ticino culture.
  2. Estival Jazz: Lugano’s most popular event with free open-air jazz concerts has been going strong for 37 years now. Annually in June or July.
  3. Festa d’Autunno or the Autumn Festival in October features a gastronomic fiesta with local delicacies, wines and regional produce.
  4. Blues to Bop: A music festival spanning three days on different genres at multiple stages in the center of Lugano. During August or September.

What to eat in Lugano

  1. Try vegan pizza at Natural Food: Eat good wholesome calzones, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas here. All food is made with fresh gluten-free produce. Best for vegans and Vegetarians.
  2. Best vegetarian food at Ristorante Il Radicchio: Find Lugano’s best vegetarian food here. Dishes to look out for are seitan gulash, mashed potatoes, black rice and lentils and some warm homemade carrot cake.
  3. Takeaway delicious food from Sapori Bio: This restaurant doesn’t have seating and is best if you are on-the-go and want to have a light vegetarian salad, some focaccia or pizza.
  4. Healthy vegetarian options at Pestalozzi Lugano: Their specialties include pumpkin cream soup, zucchini potato soup, ravioli with ricotta and spinach, cereal balls with tomato-herbs-sauce and a soufflé of grilled egg plants.
  5. Eat some good homemade pasta at Paste e Pesto: The best part is that they make fresh pasta every day and you can choose from a variety of vegetarian ingredients. Enjoy with wine!

Getting To Lugano  

Fly into the Lugano-Agno airport about 15 minutes from the city near the A2 Milan-Basel highway. Keep in mind the two airlines that service this airport – Darwin Airline and Swiss International Airlines. A shuttle bus will take you to the city center. You can also fly into Milan’s Malpensa airport and catch an express bus to Lugano. The Milano Centrale railway station also provides rail service to Lugano. Alternatively you can take the Autobahn A2 from Zurich or Autostrada A9 from Milan if you hire a car.

Getting Around-and-About In Lugano

Most of the center of Lugano can be covered on foot with the exception of Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè that are accessible from funicular stations, about a 20-minute from the center. The other option is by local bus and all bus lunes converge at the Lugano Centro terminal. Tickets are available at any bus stop and you can buy a day pass if you want to save money. An important bus to remember is bus #2 that links Paradiso for San Salvatore, Castagnola for Monte Brè, the train station and Lugano Centro.

Where To Stay In Lugano

Luxury accommodation: 
Mid-range hotels: 
Budget options: 

List of Recommended Souvenirs

  1. The best souvenir to buy Swiss chocolate from Laderach Chocolaterie Suisse on via Pessina 17, with their own brand of chocolate. Every month has a new specialty.
  2. For magnets, postcards and the like there are many shops around tourist hotspots. There is one called Lungo-Lago Souvenirs, on the lakefront.

Top Tips for Travellers to Lugano

  1. Beware of pickpockets although the city is largely safe.
  2. Try booking tickets for most sights online so as to prevent standing in lines outside the attractions and get discounts.
  3. Carry enough currency and traveler’s cheques.
  4. Carry a physical map in case your phone’s GPS doesn’t work.
  5. Do not leave belongings unattended and keep an eye on them.
  6. Do not carry anything flashy so as to attract unwanted attention.
  7. Locals will appreciate it if you greet them in Italian.

Enjoying Lugano on a Budget

  1. Stay in hostels or budget hotels instead of in fancy ones. You’ll also meet interesting people.
  2. Use public transport like the bus and the local train instead of hiring an expensive taxi.
  3. Since Lugano is walk-friendly, walk to most attractions.
  4. Look out for inexpensive bars and street food.
  5. Buy small souvenirs instead of shopping for things you don’t need.

Day trips from Lugano

  • You can take a train to Lucerne which will take you 2.5 hours by train. The city is known for its townscape, historic Chapel Bridge and shopping areas. Consider going on the William Tell Express train which will also include a steamboat cruise on Lake Lucerne.
  • Those who love train journeys can go on a three-day self-guided rail tour on the Bernina Express that takes travelers through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges amongst the pristine Swiss landscape from Lugano to St. Moritz.
  • Milan is so much more than home to Valentino, Gucci and Prada. From the tall spires of the Duomo di Milano to Da Vinci’s, Last Supper; from the Museo del Novecento to the Columns of San Lorenzo, Italy’s most populous metropolis seamlessly blends both culture and modernity. The capital of Italy’s Lombardy will not fail to impress the eager history geek or cool fashionista.
  • Lake Como has been an inspiration for Hemingway and Dostoevsky, Twain and Mary Shelly, Ruskin and Stendhal. It piqued the interest of moviemakers. You can see the Lake in Casino Royal and A Month by the Lake. It takes you even beyond this planet in Star Wars Episode II. Let it become an inspiration for you as well.

Visitor Information & Useful Links

Tourist Office:

Palazzo Civico - Piazza Riforma, 6900 Lugano

Ente Turistico del Luganese+41 (0)58 866 66 00
Tourist Office:

Piazzale della Stazione,6900 Lugano

Ente Turistico del Luganese +41 (0)91 923 51 20

Emergency Contact Numbers

City of Lugano Police:

Piazza Riforma, 6900 Lugano

+41 (0)58 866 82 50
Ambulance: 144

Fire Department: 118

Police helpline: 117

Medical Help

Hospital: Clinica Luganese SA, Sede Moncucco

6900 Lugano, Switzerland

Clinica Luganese+41 91 960 81 11
Hospital: Ospedale Regionale di Lugano – Civico e Italiano
Clinic: Centro Medico Stazione Lugano

Stazione FFS 1, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

Centro Medico+41 91 913 76 76

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