How to spend a perfect day in Lugano, Switzerland

by | Apr 14, 2022 | City Getaways, Switzerland | 0 comments

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Visiting Lugano, the largest city in Southern Switzerland, feels like escaping to the South of Europe for a day. Set on the shores of Lake Lugano, close to the Italian border, Lugano boasts Mediterranean vibes and averages over 2.000 sunny days per year.

In addition, Lugano is conveniently accessible from other popular Swiss destinations like Zürich or Lucerne. In less than two hours, you can be exploring Lugano’s quaint and colorful old town, wander along the lakefront with a gelato, or sip a glass of wine on the Piazza.

In this post, I am going to tell you everything, from when to go and how to get there, to the best things to do for a perfect day in Lugano.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

The best time to spend a day in Lugano

Lugano is located in Ticino, the southernmost canton in Switzerland. Dubbed the sunroom of Switzerland, Ticino boasts a milder, more Mediterranean climate and more sunny days than the rest of Switzerland.

Lugano can be considered an all-year-round destination, although I would definitely recommend planning a trip during spring, summer, or early autumn, rather than during winter.

Thanks to the mild climate and often sunny weather, Lugano (and Ticino in general) is a popular holiday and day trip destination amongst Swiss people. Especially during public holidays like Easter, it gets pretty busy in Southern Switzerland.

Check Switzerland’s public holidays here if you’re planning to spend a day in Lugano.

Spending a day in Lugano

How to get to Lugano

Travelling to Lugano by train

The easiest and most convenient way of getting to Lugano is by train. Lugano Stazione (the main station) is located within walking distance of the old town and the lakefront. You can get to Lugano with a direct train in:

  • just under 2 hours from Zürich
  • 1 hour 40 from Luzern
  • 1 hour 15 from Milan

Travelling to Lugano by car

The Alps separate Southern Switzerland from the rest of the country. It’s important to consider this when planning your drive to Lugano.

There are a few different routes, the most popular one being the one past San Gottardo. The almost 60 km long Gotthard tunnel connects the two towns of Göschenen and Airolo. As it is such a popular route, traffic jams are quite common.

If you choose this route, make sure you get through early. An alternative during the summer months is the pass road, taking you across the Gotthard pass.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

How to spend a day in Lugano

Despite being the biggest city in Southern Switzerland, Lugano is actually relatively small. You can easily explore the city on foot, or hop on a local bus if you want to go somewhere a bit further away from the city center. This means that you can see a lot of the city, even with just one day in Lugano.

Explore Lugano’s old town

Start your day in Lugano with a stroll through the old town. The Swiss-Mediterranean mix of the region is visible in the architecture of the colorful houses framing the cobbled streets. There’s a lot to discover in the alleys, and you might even come past a little market, selling fruit or local delicacies.

Probably the most famous street in Lugano is the Via Nassa. Once a place where local fishermen met to sell or trade their goods, the street is now lined with exclusive jewelry and fashion boutiques.

The Piazza Della Riforma is the heart of the old town and Lugano’s main square. The picturesque piazza is framed by colorful houses. Many restaurants and cafes have tables on the square, making it a great place to sit and relax, enjoy the sun, and watch the hustling and bustling around you.

2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Enjoy Lake Lugano and its surroundings

Enjoying the lake is a must when spending a day in Lugano. And you’re spoilt by choice – depending on the weather, you can go for a swim in one of the public swimming areas, rent a paddleboat, or hop on a lake cruise, and explore Lugano’s beautiful surroundings.

If you want to explore lake Lugano on a boat, you can pick from various different cruises. Time tables differ between summer and winter, so make sure you check them in advance here. Some of the places you could stop at during your cruise:

Gandria | perched at the foot of Monte Bré, Gandria is considered one of the most beautiful lakeside villages in the region

Morcote | another picturesque lakeside village with small alleys and typical houses. Morcote is part of the Swiss Federal Inventory of sites worthy of protection.

Capolago | catch the rack railway from Capolago to the top of Monte Generoso for some different, but equally stunning views of Lake Lugano and the Alps.

Enjoy the view of Lugano from above

Being surrounded by mountains, Lugano boasts a great variety of awesome viewpoints. Two of the most popular ones are Monte San Salvatore and Monte Bré. Both are easily accessible with funicular railways and provide stunning views over Lugano, the lake, and the alps in the distance.

Monte Bré

Monte Bré is said to be Switzerland’s sunniest mountain. A funicular railway runs from Cassarate in the east of Lugano to the top of Monte Bré in two sections. While you’re there, you can also explore the village of Bré, a traditional local village on the slopes of the mountain.

How to get there | hop on a local bus from Lugano Stazione (the main station) to Cassarate, Monte Bré. From there, it’s about a 2-minute walk to the funicular railway station called Cassarate.

Costs | a return ticket costs CHF 25.- per person. You can check discounts, combo offers, and timetables here.

Monte San Salvatore

Monte San Salvatore is one of Lugano’s most iconic landmarks. You can reach the top in just 12 minutes with the funicular from Lugano-Paradiso. At the top, you’ll find a restaurant, various hiking trails, viewpoints, and a small chapel with a viewing terrace on the roof.

How to get there | catch a local bus from Lugano Stazione or Lugano Centrale to Paradiso Stazione/Scuole or Paradiso Geretta, or hop on the ferry from Lugano Centrale to Lugano Paradiso. It’s about a 5-minute walk from any of these stops.

Costs | a return ticket costs CHF 30.- per person. You can check discounts, combo offers, and timetables here.

Water fountain on lake Lugano
2-week Namibia itinerary

Wander along the Lake Front

The best way to end your day in Lugano is with a stroll along the lake promenade. You can take a break on one of the many benches along it, or visit one of the parks along the lakefront, like the Belvedere gardens or Parco Ciani.

The lakefront is also a great place to sit down with an ice cream or a drink (drinking in public is legal in Switzerland), for some people-watching, or just to soak up Lugano’s vibe and enjoy the view of the lake.

Whenever I travel abroad, I always use Airalo to get an eSim with local data. It’s the easiest way to stay connected abroad!
2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Where to stay in Lugano

If you have more than one day in Lugano, give yourself a bit more time to explore the city and surrounds, and book yourself into one of Lugano’s many hotels, in the charming old town, on the lake shore, or on the slopes of Monte Bré.

  • For a cozy and central place to stay, check out LUGANODANTE in the heart of Lugano’s old town. Guests staying at LUGANODATE receive a complimentary Ticino Ticket, which gives you free access to public transport in the Ticino region, as well as various discounts for funiculars and other attractions.
  • Located directly on the lake shore, Hotel Lido Seegarten is the perfect place to stay for a relaxing getaway in Lugano. It boasts a beautiful pool with stunning views over the lake, various restaurants, and bars, and all of it is only a short stroll away from the city center.
  • And if you’re travelling on a budget, Hotel Dischma in Lugano-Paradiso is a great option for you. A short walk from the train station, the San Salvatore funicular, and the lake shore, Hotel Dischma is a simple, but charming family-run 3-star hotel.
Do you have any questions about spending a perfect day in Lugano? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to pin this post on Pinterest to save it for later!
2-week Namibia itinerary
2-week Namibia itinerary

Related posts

Christmas in Zürich: the 9 most magical spots to visit

Christmas in Zürich: the 9 most magical spots to visit

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.While I'm more of a summer person, I certainly see some perks to wintertime, and especially the...

The 5 best coffee shops in Kigali, Rwanda

The 5 best coffee shops in Kigali, Rwanda

This post about the best coffee shops in Kigali contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.Did you know that Rwanda produces some of the finest coffee...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to my world!

Hi, I’m Sara, a twenty-something Swiss on a mission to become a full-time travel writer and digital nomad.