If you’re looking for a destination that combines the sophistication and shopping of Milan or Florence with the azure alpine lakes and lofty peaks of Switzerland, look no further than Lugano. Situated a stone’s throw from the Italian border on the shores of Lake Lugano, it offers palm-lined promenades and sweeping views alongside historical piazzas and shopping boulevards.
As one of Switzerland’s centres of finance, Lugano’s atmosphere has something in common with larger cities like Zurich and Geneva, despite its size. The cobbled, narrow streets of its centre hum with activity, with no shortage of boutiques and restaurants to spend your time in. The Piazza della Riforma is the city’s meeting place, with its bistros a short walk from the lakeside. Just a few blocks away is the Parco Ciani, the best place in town to catch some sun while admiring views of the lake. Further on, the Piazza Bernardino and the Via Nassa are the city’s cultural and shopping centres, and border the breath-taking medieval church of Santa Maria degli Angioli.
Lugano is an excellent cultural destination as well. In addition to the architecture of its churches and squares, it also boasts a number of excellent art galleries and museums, including the Museum of Swiss-Italian Art, or MASI. Throughout the summer, a selection of music festivals enlivens the city, from classical music at the Lugano Festival to open-air jazz at Estival Jazz. And for visitors looking for something a little out of the ordinary, the Museo del Cioccolato Alprose will take you on a guided tour of Swiss chocolate, including plenty of opportunities to taste the results.
Visit the lakeside getaway and book a flight to Lugano now.
When is the best time to visit Lugano?
Lugano truly comes alive from May to September, when its balmy southern Swiss climate brings people to its terraces and lakeshore. The city does not see regular snowfall, so a winter vacation is likelier to be pleasantly mild rather than bitterly cold. It should be noted that many of the city’s attractions and restaurants, including the funicular railways, shut down over the winter, so a visit during these months is less advisable.
What language is spoken in Lugano?
As its position on the border with Italy may hint at, Lugano is solidly in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. Italian is the most widely spoken language, though as a city that sees its share of holidaymakers from abroad, English is fairly common as well.
What should my budget be on a trip to Lugano?
Though slightly less expensive than larger Swiss cities such as Geneva or Zurich, Lugano is hardly a budget destination. Average daily spends can total around £150-200, including accommodation. As with any trip to Switzerland, planning ahead will pay off – and your best first step will be booking your affordably priced travel on SWISS! When booking accommodation, look for options that include a self-catering option to save on expenses from eating out.
Fall in love with Luganos attractions
One of the main draws of Lugano is its stunning surroundings. Lake Lugano is a stunning, deep-blue glacial lake surrounded by mountains whose sheer slopes rise directly from the lakeshore. On a short trip from the city, take the funicular railway up the slopes of Monte Brè, then down to see the outdoor installations of the village of Brè. A slightly longer trip will take you to Monte Tamaro, by the town of Rivera, where a gondola will take you part of the way up to the 1,900-metre peak. At the gondola’s terminus, a uniquely designed church offers spectacular views of the entire valley in which Lugano is situated.
When you’re done exploring the city centre of Lugano, take a day trip up the gondolas of Monte Tamaro or across the lake to the enclave of Campioni di Italia.
Attractions of Lugano
Visitors to Lugano will get an excellent sampling of everything the southern Swiss region of Ticino has to offer. From wine and chocolate to historical churches and alpine peaks, there is no shortage of activities on a visit to Lugano.
- Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli
- Museo del Cioccolato Alprose
- Monte Tamaro
- Campione d’Italia
Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli
The simple, stark façade of Lugano’s most important church belies the splendours within: two vivid frescoes dating back to 1529 show the Crucifixion in powerful, colourful scenes.
Museo del Cioccolato Alprose
Don’t miss out on Switzerland’s chocolate culture on your visit to the city. A chocolate fountain and samples of Alprose products are highlights, while the museum teaches visitors about the history and process of making chocolate.
A 1,900 metre peak outside the city with stunning views of Lake Lugano and the surrounding countryside. The gondola terminus at Alpe Foppa leaves visitors near the Santa Maria degli Angeli church, an architectural marvel with a lookout over the valley below.
For a change of pace, head across the lake to the Italian enclave of Campione. The village is famed for its casino, once Europe’s largest at a full nine storeys. Each July, the village puts on a fireworks display that can be seen from the Lugano shoreline.
Whether you are drawn by the lakes and mountains or by shopping in the piazzas, Lugano is waiting for you! Book a flight to Lugano today.
For even more to see and do in Lugano, see our Lugano travel guide.
Discover the cuisine of Lugano
A trip to Switzerland’s sunny south is best spent nursing a coffee or glass of local wine in one of the city’s many piazzas or terraces. Lugano’s Swiss-Italian cuisine brings together the best of both worlds, while the region’s Merlot wines are not to be missed.
From survival food to specialties
The Ticino kitchen is based on poor people’s fare that grew into a beloved and highly cultivated cuisine. Chestnuts used to be the survival food for years of bad harvests, today you find several different sorts, each one a delicacy. Polenta is another example, it once was a cheap and well-filling meal, today it is very nearly an art form in the Lugano area. A typical Ticino getaway are the “Grotti”, little caves carved into the mountainsides to preserve food in a cool place. Today they are little restaurants with typical local foods and wines that are providing cool places when the summer heat is getting too intense. A typical piatto ticinese is served here, a plate with salami, ham, roasted meat and bread. Together with a glass of the aforementioned local Merlot wines, this makes a great afternoon in the shades.
Shopping in Lugano: No shortage of hidden gems
Lugano’s main shopping thoroughfares include the wide, pedestrianised Via Nassa with its fashion boutiques, and the steep, curving Via Cattedrale, ideal for a souvenir find. For fresher fare, Piazza della Riforma hosts a thrice-weekly market, with artisans’ stalls on the weekend. Exploring the city’s streets will be sure to turn up excellent finds, such as the rare wines of I Grandi Vini del Mondo or the handmade leather goods at Valextra, another local favourite.
There are even more shopping tips and places to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine in our guide about eat and drink in Lugano.