With the opening of the Gotthard rail tunnel in December, Ticino is getting closer to the rest of Switzerland.
In the south of this Italian speaking canton lies Lugano, a paradise of a city that blends the best of Switzerland with the best of the Mediterranean world. Lugano has a very unique setting: It is surrounded by the southern Swiss Alps, gets fantastic sun exposure, and its lake will make you fall in love with the region.
Here is how to spend 48 incredible hours in Lugano:
Day 1: Check in and explore Lugano
Hotel Lugano Dante Center is a good choice for a hotel - right in the heart of town. From the train station, take a short walk downhill and you will not be able to miss it. The staff are friendly and breakfast has plenty to keep you happily fed.
After checking in, it is time to explore Lugano by foot. It is quite a compact town, so you will easily find the center. From there, wander to more remote piazzas and do some (window) shopping along fancy Via Nassa. Keep your eyes open for secret churches, a monastery and the most photographed gate in the world...
By the end of the afternoon, you will want to know more about what makes Lugano the perfect place to enjoy la dolce vita... Food and wine play a key role in the Ticino way of life.
I recommend booking a visit at Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein, an authentic vineyard with an excellent variety of wines, which is only 10 minutes away from the city center by bus.
Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein offer an authentic experience. After all that wine (sampling), it is time to head back to town for dinner. Lugano might be relatively small, but there are lots of hidden culinary treasures.
One of the must-go places is La Tinera, whose menu offers the best of Ticino cuisine.
Your evening wouldn’t be complete without two things: A gelato and a night cap. There is a great gelateria a few steps up from the hotel towards the station (before the cathedral). Finally, head along the lake for one final stroll and a last stop. The lakefront is very lively, and there is plenty to choose from, with all sorts of atmospheres and budgets. For a nice holiday feeling, try El Mojito, an outdoor bar on the beach that will take your mind off after a busy week.
After spending the first day in town, the following morning is all about gaining a bird's-eye view of Lugano. Monte Brè is a mountain not far from the city. A trip on the 1912 funicular will take you all the way to the top.
Nearly 1000 meters high, the view from up there is excellent, and a few restaurants allow you to soak up the sun and the view during lunchtime. You can also wander down to the village of Brè, where you can choose among more restaurants and grottos, local Ticino taverns, And if you decide to stay on the mountain until sunset, you will not regret it for a moment...
Once you are back in Lugano, take a relaxing stroll through the manicured park along the lake with its tropical plants. At the opposite end of Lugano is the LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura. The museum has a great reputation across Switzerland, and it clearly deserves it thanks to the permanent art collection, the temporary exhibits and the orchestra performances.
For dinner, Ana Capri offers a jaw-dropping view over the city and the lake. The food is excellent and the outdoor terrace will make you want to stay in Lugano forever. The restaurant is just in front of the railway station. Although it is now time to leave, you can proudly say: I'll be back!