Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. I’ve been to several cities like Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne, Crans-Montana and Lugano, and the nature and greenery in each of these cities always leave you feeling so serene and peaceful. You should be warned, Switzerland isn’t a very big foodie destination, but they are famous for their ah-mazing chocolate (Lindt and Läderach are just one of the many)
The reason we specifically chose Lugano out of all Swiss cities was that it was very close to Milan, where we already were.
How to get there?
Again, similar to my trip to Florence, I would suggest the train as the quickest, cheapest and most convenient way to get to Lugano. We used Tren Italia from Milano Centrale to Lugano, with the whole journey taking 1 hour and 15 minutes approximately. Tickets can be bought for as cheap as € 24 for normal coach tickets and € 33 for first class tickets.
Lugano has a domestic airport Lugano Agno Airport with only Swiss Airlines and Darwin Airlines flying into it, which means that if you’re coming in from outside of Switzerland, you would have to fly into Zurich or Milan and take a bus or train to arrive to Lugano.
What to do?
1) Take a walk through Parco Civico – Ciani: A beautiful park with the most colorful tulips. We walked through the park for around an hour and then sat on one of the benches staring out at Lake Lugano from there. Parco Civico is also home to the Natural History Museum, Lugano Cantonal Library and Villa Ciani, where art exhibitions are often held.
2) Go up Monte San Salvatore: You can take the funicular from Paradiso to the top (the whole journey will take around 15 minutes and cost Fr. 30 for a return trip ticket). The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking! There is a terrace near Restaurant Vetta that has a panoramic view, photos would look nice from there. There is also a chapel that is a bit of a tiny hike from the terrace. I would definitely recommend going there and going up the roof of the chapel. The view from there is breathtaking! You can see the whole city, my phone even caught some Italian signal! Some people might choose to hike up or down from Monte San Salvatore back to the city, the trail is quite visible and takes around 2 hours to go up and around 1.35 hours to go down. One of the advantages of the funicular is being able to take in the view as you go up from Paradiso to Monte San Salvatore. Believe me, this is one thing you definitely do not want to miss doing in Lugano.
3) Take a tour of Lake Lugano: Did you know that Lake Lugano has 63% of its waters located in Switzerland and the rest in Italy? There are different types of tours, I would recommend the classic tour, it lasts around 80 minutes and takes you around a good area of the lake. You can choose to combine the tour with walking tours as well of the Swissminiatur and other points of interest. Prices start at Fr. 27 for the classic tour.
4) Walk through Old Town: The architecture is absolutely beautiful, and the city is bustling with people doing some shopping. You have a range of stores there, from local Swiss boutiques to the likes of Rolex, Prada, Louis Vuitton. I would definitely recommend a trip to Laderäch for amazing Swiss chocolate, you can sample some of the many flavors that they have. Walking through Old Town, will lead you to Piazza della Reforma which is the main square of the city, with a lot of cafes for you to sit at.
5) Walk along the Lakeside Promenade: It stretches from Paradiso to Parco Civico and it’s a beautiful walk and exercise when the weather is nice. What we actually did was walk from Paradiso where the San Salvatore funicular is all the way to Parco Civico and stopped in the Old Town on the way.
Where to eat?
1) If you’re looking for a place in Piazza della Reforma, I would recommend Vanini Dolce e Caffe, perfect for tea or coffee and some dessert
2) Arte Al Lago: One of the unique things about this restaurant is that it is located inside an art gallery, it is also has one Michelin star. It is the only Michelin starred restaurant in Lugano. Prices range between Fr. 100 – Fr. 170 per person for a three course meal.
3) Ristorante L’Argentino : Recommended by a friend for their pizza!
4) La Cucina De Alice: Located on the Lugano Lake, this is somewhere you can go for a nice dinner/lunch that won’t necessarily break the bank. They are famous for their homemade pastas! Prices range between Fr. 40 – Fr. 80 per person for dinner/lunch exclusive of alcohol.
Where to stay?
While I cannot personally recommend any hotels as we were only there for the day, I did my research and can recommend these hotels
1) Hotel Splendide Royal ($400-$500): This 5 star hotel has a perfect location, right on the lake of Lugano. This is a recommendation from one of my friends who also said their service is impeccable and breakfast is served in the restaurant with a perfect view of the lake!
2) Villa Principe Leopoldo ($500-$700): This hotel was once the home of an actual prince, so safe to say, you will be feeling royal. It also has an in house luxurious spa. While the location isn’t as central as Splendide Royal, this hotel also is situated on the Lake of Lugano
3) Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola ($400-$600): While this hotel didn’t house a prince, it housed a noble Russian family. It is also home to the 1-star Michelin restaurant Arté D’el Lago. Location is also not as central as Hotel Splendide but it does have its own private park! It also houses two other restaurants, La Rucola and Le Relais
For recommendations that won’t break the bank, there are these hotels which are quite central and range between 3 to 4 stars: