Located on the northern, Swiss side of Lake Lugano and surrounded by mountains offering fantastic viewpoints, Lugano is the largest city in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. Thanks to its mild Mediterranean climate, stunning Italian Lombardy-style architecture and relaxed “dolce far niente” ambience, Lugano is a popular tourist destination, particularly in springtime when the camellias are in full bloom.
Nicknamed the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland”, Lugano has a population of around 60,000. It is a picturesque lakeside city and a beautiful place to spend a few days, whether your passion is browsing upmarket boutiques, cruising the lake, spending lazy afternoons among meticulously maintained parks and gardens, or using the city as a base for a hiking holiday.
Things to do in Lugano
Unsurprisingly, the main attraction in Lugano is its glacial lake, measuring about 50 square kilometres and located on the border between Italy and Switzerland.
Boating and plenty of other water-based activities are available, or you could just take it easy and enjoy the vista of citrus and cypress trees growing along the water’s edge.
Make sure you pay a visit to the lakeside park of Civico-Ciani, offering 63,000 square metres of lush greenery, with long tree-lined pathways, flowerbeds and fountains. You will also find the Natural History Museum, the Cantonal Library and Villa Ciani inside the grounds.
In the city, pay a visit to the 15th century San Lorenzo Cathedral and, if you are a fan of Swiss chocolate, the Alprose Chocolate Museum, which includes free tastings.
Two of Lugano’s closest mountains can be reached by funicular rail. Monte Bre and Monte San Salvatore are well worth visiting, if only for the magnificent vista afforded over the valley, city and lake below, as well as the Alps further to the south and west.
How to get around Lugano
Lugano is well-connected and getting there is easy. Flying to Malpensa Airport in Milan, the drive to Lugano will take around 80 minutes. There is a direct connecting express coach service to Lugano city centre or you can hire a car at the airport. The city is situated close to the main motorway linking Switzerland to Milan and the Mediterranean. Coming from Malpensa, follow the autostrada A9 towards Como-San-Gottardo and take the “Lugano Sud” exit.
If you prefer to make the journey by train from Milan to Lugano, it will take about one and a half hours.
Lugano also has its own airport (Lugano-Agno), situated about six kilometres from the A2 Milan-Basel motorway, and serving domestic flights to and from Zurich and Geneva.
Lugano’s town centre is easy to explore on foot, with the two main hilltop destinations, Monte Bre and San Salvatore, accessible via funicular stations that are about a 20-minute walk from the city centre. There is a well-developed bus service, and they all start and end at the Lugano Centro terminal. You can buy bus tickets from touch screen ticket machines situated next to individual bus stops.