Welcome to Lugano

Guide to Lugano, Switzerland
"I went on to Lugano...this morning, I saw all my beloved mountains before me, each one a mountain of memory." Friedrich Nietzsche

Lugano was created to be photographed in Kodachrome; its blue lake, red flowers and terracotta roofs a celebration of holiday colour, freedom and Mediterranean sun. It would be impossible to see its image in a holiday brochure without assuming it had been retouched to resemble everyone's imaginary dream resort, one where people stroll through lush green parks eating ice-cream, and steer pedalos lazily across water that sizzles and spits with light. But Lugano itself really does glow with the cartoon brightness of a 1950s postcard. Its uniqueness is due not only to the electric blue lake and pine-stippled mountains, but also its border location. 

Here, Switzerland's neat efficiency is supplanted by the ease and charm of Italy; sleek Alpine style giving way to a warmer, more joyous sensibility. The city is rich but enjoys its largesse without ever retreating into pinched sobriety, and its two mountains, Monte Bré and Monte San Salvatore, book-end each end of the waterfront like benevolent guardians. Though it has been described as 'the Monte Carlo of Switzerland,' Lugano is very different from that tiny principality- its coffee is affordable, its citizens are subtly elegant, and there is still a sense that here, money is less important than the simple happiness of passing a sunny afternoon on a bench overlooking the sunlit water.

Guide to Lugano, SwitzerlandGuide to Lugano, Switzerland


Museo Cantonale D'Arte

The Museum is worth visiting for anyone who harbours dreams of capturing in a painting or photograph the extraordinary light which suffuses Lugano more
Via Canova 10 6900 Lugano 091 910 47 80

Parco Civico

Lizards slalom between spike-leaved palm trees, and dogs bound after swans, lost in the giddy excitement of a sunny day by the lake. more
Viale Carlo Cattaneo 6900 Lugano

Museo Cantonale D'Arte

The Museum is worth visiting for anyone who harbours dreams of capturing in a painting or photograph the extraordinary light which suffuses Lugano more
Via Canova 10 6900 Lugano 091 910 47 80


Osteria Penel

Everyone has a mental image of the perfect, cosy neighbourhood restaurant. This may come close more
Via Moncucco 35 6900 Lugano 091 967 10 70

Grand Cafe Al Porto

This grand old cafe has a gilded, panelled ceiling which wouldn't be out of place in a great Renaissance palace. more
Via Pessina 3
6900 Lugano 091 910 51 30

Bottegone del Vino

Simply decorated, with tables clustered in the small square outside, this appealing little restaurant prides itself on an excellent wine list more
Via Massimigliano Magatti 3 6900 Lugano 091 922 76 89

Guide to Lugano, SwitzerlandGuide to Lugano, Switzerland


Caffe Monte Cristo

Good cocktails and background rock music make this hip, crowded little bar an atmospheric choice for an aperitif more
Via Canova 17 6900 Lugano 091 921 02 48

La Zattera

La Zattera is found on the lakeside deck of the Grand Hotel Eden more
Riva Paradiso 1 6900 Lugano

Cafe Soho

This chic and stylish bar attracts Lugano's beautiful people, all chatting in hectic Italian and gesturing wildly over the wine glasses and cocktails more
Corso Pestalozzi 3 6900 Lugano 091 922 60 80


Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola

This 5 star hotel, which once belonged to Russian aristocrats, has been a hotel since 1885 - so they know how to do it properly. more
Viale Castagnola 31 6906 Lugano

Hotel Splendide

Like a grand hotel in a 1920s novel, the wonderfully named Splendide sits on the shores of Lake Ceresio. more
Riva Antonio Caccia 7 6900 Lugano

Villa Sassa Hotel Residence and Spa

Up in the hills, looking down on the city, this pink-painted, 19th century villa is a boutique hotel with an emphasis on ‘wellbeing.' more
Via Tesserete 10 6900 Lugano

Guide to Lugano, Switzerland

In The Mood


Bloomability- Sharon Creech

Lugano Holiday- Virginia C. Taylor


Goldeneye. (The opening scene was filmed in Ticino.)


Faure: Penelope, by Charles Dutoit (Faure composed the opera in Lugano)

Before The Storm- Jack Savoretti (Jack lives in Lugano).


Pack comfortable walking shoes- many of Lugano’s attractions are outdoors, and uphill walks may be required.

Assume the weather could be changeable, whatever the time of year. Bring waterproofs and sun-block, particularly if you’re going out on the water, as it’s easy to get sun burned.

Most of the hotels welcome non-residents for drinks or dinner, and the best views of the lake tend to be from the hotels’ terraces, so ring to check.

Do dress up- Lugano is very Italian, and at night, the look is glamorous.

Though Italian is spoken, German is fully understood, and most bars and restaurants will have at least one English-speaker.

Ask for the English menu- you may not automatically be handed one.

Take the funicular up Mont Bre, from Suvigliana FMB for a spectacular view of the Gulf of Lugano and a lovely woodland walk to San Fedele church.

Getting Around

 Car: It is quite difficult to drive and park in Lugano, though there is a large car park nearby the station: Piazzale di Besso/ex-Pestalozzi. It is quite expensive, with six hours at CHF 16. Other car parks are marked with ‘P’ around the town – though it is easily small enough to travel around on foot. Hotels normally provide valet parking for a charge.

Public Transport: Buses and funiculars (because of the steep hills that surround the lake) are the two main ways to get around Lugano. Taxis are stationed on most main roads. The Funicolare Lugano Citta at Lugano Station links the station to the town. The funicular goes to the Piazza Cioccaro, in the city’s historic centre. The funicular is free with a Swiss Pass. Other main funiculars run out of Lugano, one to the summit of Mt. San Salvatore (from Lugano Paradiso station) and the other to the summit of Mt. Bre for a round trip of 20 SFR.

On Lake Lugano itself, there are inexpensive daily ferries between the lake shore towns (note – as Lake Lugano has shores in both Italy and Switzerland, it might be necessary to take a passport on a day out).

Bike Rental: The Stadio and the Fornacio are just two of six stations from which Velopass offer bicycles to rent at a reasonable daily rate.

Tourist Information: Riva Giocondo Albertolli 6901 Lugano, Switzerland 091 913 32 32

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