During my little road trip around Italy I visited Milan for two days, I decided to cross the border and to check what Switzerland has to offer and can it be magical enough for one day. We decided to go to Lugano, it’s near the border so it was the best option.
If you have already been in Lugano, share your story with me, I want to hear it! 🙂
Lugano is a city in southern Switzerland in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino bordering Italy. It has a population (as of December 2016) of 63,932, and an urban agglomeration of over 145,000. The 9th largest Swiss city, it is the largest in Ticino and largest with an Italian speaking majority outside Italy. The city lies on Lake Lugano, surrounded by the mountains of the Lugano Prealps.
Don’t let its location on the Swiss side of the border fool you: Lugano lends its name to both a fashionable town and charming lake in Italy’s Lake District, and the region bears the hallmarks of both its Swiss heritage and its Italian proximity.
Lugano is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. The city is home to a number of historic buildings and museums, whilst the surrounding area has many natural sights.
Both Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains provide a wide variety of outdoor activities. The area surrounding Lugano is home to over 300 kilometers (190 mi) of mountain biking trails, the largest net of trails in Switzerland.
This tranquil lakeside park was once the private residence of the Ciani family. The villa grounds maintain a wide selection of outdoor modern sculpture, and offer many quiet paths along the shoreline for a romantic evening passeggiata.
The villa itself is now the Municipal Art Museum of Lugano, housing great Impressionist paintings as well as the works of the most important Ticino artists from all periods.
SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGIOLI
The stoic church of Santa Maria degli Angioli is not Lugano’s oldest church, but is its most famous. Built in 1510 by the Franciscans, it is enriched by the finest Renaissance frescoes in the Ticino. The church contains Bernardino Luini’s luminous version of Christ’s Passion, frescoed in 1529, which covers the tall partition dividing the choir and nave.
The smallest of the three lakes (and the most politically confusing), Lake Lugano zigzags 35 kilometres (22 miles) through the Swiss canton of Ticino, and reaches back into Italy with its eastern extension. Along the way, it passes by the enigmatic, self-contained Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia, just south of the city of Lugano (more on that below).
The emerald-green sub-alpine lake was created by glaciers during the last Ice Age, and reaches the astounding depth of 279 meters (915 feet). The steep, fjord-shores, which are considerably less developed than both Italian lakes, enhance its natural setting, giving it an austere intimacy that is typically Swiss.
Funicular railways run in two sections from the edge of Lugano to Monte Brè, the scenic mountain above the lake basin and the vibrant city. The short lower section to Ruvigliana was opened in 1908, before the railway reached Monte Brè in 1912. It is considered the sunniest mountain in Switzerland, which may explain why it is home to the rare and protected Christmas rose, otherwise found only in Southern Europe.
Our advice is stop for a while on the “summit” – where two restaurants with a sun terrace welcome you. Descents down to Lugano or the lake, always via the Brè village, are in part pretty steep, as are the nature and archaeological trail to Gandria.
The romantic little Brè village with its grottos has succeeded in maintaining its original character of country settlement – further embellished by numerous works of art.
Interesting Facts about Lugano
- Lugano is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland due to its cultural and natural attractions
- Lugano is the largest Italian speaking city outside Italy
- It was founded in the 8th – 9th century, although some items found on the shores of Lake Lugano are as old as the Stone Age
- The population of the city is approximately 64,000 people, which makes it the ninth biggest city in Switzerland
- The climate in Lugano is humid subtropical, which is quite unusual for Switzerland
The most fascinating sight in Lugano is, perhaps, the lake.
- Lake Lugano: Surrounded by the southern Swiss Alps, Lugano Lake looks especially astonishing in clear and sunny weather. Take a walk by the shore, and visit the city park called, Parco Civico Villa Ciani, together with a fine arts museum complex called, Museo Civico.
Cultural Attractions in Lugano include:
- The main square: Piazza della Riforma.
- A famous Renaissance church: Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli (With frescos, painted by Bernardino Luini; a student of Leonardo da Vinci).
- Other stunning churches: Cattedrali di Lugano, Cathedral of San Lorenzo (9th and 15th century,) and Church of San Rocco, (15th century).
The Best Viewpoints in Lugano
- Monte San Salvatore & Monte Bre: To get the best panoramic view of Lugano, climb Monte San Salvatore or Monte Brè, that are not far from the city, on foot or by funicular.
Where to Eat in Lugano
- Wine: Lugano is famous for its sophisticated cuisine inspired by Italy. If you are fond of wine, give Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein, one of the best vineyards in the area with a great selection of local wines, a try.
- Cafes & Restaurants: Old town and the waterfront of Lugano offer a great choice of cafes and restaurants for any taste, with outdoor terraces. For example:
- Locanda Gandriesi
- Restaurant Miralago Gandria
- La Tinera
- Ana Capri
- Gelato: Make sure to try local gelato, an authentic cheese fondue with fruit and vegetables, and dishes with chestnut, for example, a cake vermicelles.
OR just buy food at local supermarkets – they’re everywhere 🙂
More Interesting Facts about Lugano
- Lugano was the first town to host the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956.
- The non-stop festival season in Lugano lasts from April to September, starting with the Lugano Festival, followed by the Jazz Festival, and the Long Lake Festival, ending with the Blues-to-Bop Festival
- A lot of famous people moved to Lugano. Example, one of the greatest German writers and Nobel prize winner, Hermann Hesse, chose Lugano as his residency.
- The Alprose Chocolate Factory is also located in Lugano. A great choice for a rainy day if you are traveling with kids
- The famous, Miniature Switzerland, is situated only within 10 minutes drive from the center of the city, in Melide – a 14.000 square meters park with all Switzerland’s attractions on a smaller scale, from houses and castles to monuments and parks.
- There are plenty of activities to do in Lugano, whether you are traveling alone or with family or friends. You can as well take a train or a bus to travel around the charismatic canton of Ticino and visit Locarno and Bellinzona. Visit these lively towns (best in summer) for an authentic experience of a southern town, or in low season in winter for unforgettable views of the Alps
Lugano was the perfect for us to explore everything in one day and I would recommend it for sure!
It was fascinating to walk through it streets and I hope I will return very soon to check did anything changed! 🙂
Where are you traveling next?! Maybe I’ll see you somewhere around 😉