If you want to visit a city in Switzerland with a distinct Mediterranean vibe then you have to put Lugano on the map. The city of Lugano is located in the canton of Ticino which is the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Everything is a little more laid-back here compared to the rest of Switzerland. With its close proximity to Italy and because of the language difference, you feel like you’re in a different country!
I’ve been to Lugano several times in my life and every time I’m here I discover another hidden gem. Each time falling more in love with the colourful buildings and architecural wonders of the city. Hello plant and flower covered buildings! I adore you. Definitely make sure to wander the less busy side streets for all the pretty little details.
I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to see and do in Lugano for anyone visiting for a few days.
#1 Lake Lugano
Take a stroll along Lugano’s beautiful waterfront and relax on one of the many red benches. The lakefront is the perfect place to sit and people watch or enjoy a gelato.
#2 Parco Ciani
Parco Ciani is a beautiful park with vibrant flowers and lots of green space. The park is located right in the city so many tourists and locals come here to relax or spend their lunch break. Perhaps one of the most Instagram-worthy pictures from Lugano is the gate to the lake located in the park. See my feature image at the top of this post! In the park, you will come across “Villa Ciani” which is a beautiful peach colored building.
#3 Shopping on Via Cattedrale
There are many cute, pedestrian friendly streets for shopping in Lugano. What I especially love about Lugano is all the cafes and restaurants in the piazzas where you can sit and enjoy the lively city atmosphere.
Via Cattedrale leads from the city centre up to the railway station. Along this pleasant walk, you’ll find many small boutiques, craftsmen’s jewellery shops, art galleries, antique shops, giftshops and many picturesque corners. This area has its own special atmosphere! It is typically Ticinese and is very lively thanks to a multitude of small boutiques that are lined up on both sides of the streets.
#4 Via Pessina and Gabbani
Via Pessina has the perfect mix of historical buildings and modern shops. You can also find local markets here and the well-known deli shop, Gabbani. You won’t miss Gabbani as there are huge salamis hanging from the entrance of the shop. Gabbani has everything from fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables, typical local cheeses, an exclusive charcuterie, and traditional tasting breads and pastries. We opted for a yummy sandwich and the choices were endless!
#5 Gelato Time
A gelato a day keeps the doctor away. Or that’s what I was telling myself anyways! During our few days in Ticino it was impossible to not have a delicious Italian gelato every day. There are just so many flavours to choose from! My favourite are raspberry, stracciatella and chocolate.
#6 Piazza Riforma
Riforma Square is the main square of the city of Lugano. The main building in the square is the Town Hall built between 1840 and 1844 in the neo-classical style. Visit one of the many restaurants in the piazza and enjoy a delicious coffee or a some traditional Ticinese cuisine.
#7 Monte Bre
For stunning views of Lago di Lugano and Lugano itself we took the steep cable car up to Monte Bre. It starts in the city and climbs to the summit of Monte Bre, located at 933m above sea level. At the top you can take short, easy hikes through the cool woods or longer more challenging hikes to even higher peaks. There are two restaurants located at the top of Monte Bre, each with a sun terrace that welcome you to amazing views of the surrounding area. You can easily spend half a day exploring Monte Bre and walking to the town of Bre, which brings me to my next point.
Bre is the adorable little village located on the eastern slopes of Monte Bre. From Monte Bre you can easily hike down (~15min) to Bre along a well-marked trail. The romantic little village with its grottos has succeeded in maintaining its original character of country settlement – further embellished by numerous works of art.
Gandria is an unspoiled, picturesque lakeside village at the foot of Monte Brè. If you love exploring narrow streets and discovering somethin delightful around every corner then this is the place to visit!
#10 Boat Trip to Morcote
Perhaps my favourite day excursion was taking a boat from Gandria to Morcote, voted the most beautiful village in Switzerland in 2016. We walked the arcades of old patrician homes and meandered are way through small alleys.
The walk up to the the church of Santa Maria del Sasso is a must-do despite the many stairs you need to climb to reach the top. The steps lead you to a beautiful complex made of the Church of S. Maria del Sasso, the cemetary and the Chappel of S. Antonio of Padova.
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If you have extra time and want to visit the Ticino valleys and mountains then make sure to check out my post on Exploring Lavertezzo And the Verzasca Valley!