Day 1 in Lugano

Welcome to Lugano, the largest city of the stunning canton of Ticino! Upon arrival, make your transfer to your destination, arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do.

Lugano makes the best first impression. You get off at the train station, and the first thing you see is palm trees, sparkling water in the distance, and the tower of Cathedral San Lorenzo set against hills and a blue sky.

To start off your day, head into old town to explore. Lugano hides some interesting history, a short self-guided tour will help get yourself oriented, or just grab a gelato and wind your way through the city center`s arcades and lakeside promenade.

Take some time to admire the main façade of Lugano, Cathedral San Lorenzo, carved from white limestone and Carrara marble. The cathedral dates to the turn of the 16th century, and was constructed over a much earlier Romanesque building. In the center, look up to admire the rose window, adorned with cherubs and sculpted in the 1570`s. On one high ground there`s a terrace with a balustrade to enjoy the view of the lake and mountains.

Enjoy a relaxing lunch at the Grand Café al Porto. This elegant establishment is the most historic café in town. The 1803 above the fireplace is the date it opened - and also when Ticino joined the Swiss Federation. The café evokes the 19th-century days when Giuseppe Mazzini and fellow Italian patriots would huddle here (safely over the border) playing their next move to unify Italy.

After lunch, make your way to Piazza della Riforma, the main square of Lugano. This is where the open-air cinema takes place, along with markets (Tuesday and Friday mornings), and local festivals. Make sure to spend some time strolling Via Nassa, one of Lugano`s main shopping streets. This is a perfect street to stroll, window-shop and people watch.

Another square to discover is the park-like Piazza Indipendenza. The giant head on its side is the work of Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj, who has decorated squares all over Europe with similar sculptures. This square is home of the sterile casino building. Though it`s blocky, modern style doesn`t quite fit the otherwise elegant architecture of this area, it does have an elevator leading up to a lovely lake view.

Next, head to the City Park (Parco Civico Villa Ciani). The park`s centerpiece, the Villa Ciani, houses a fine-arts museum. Sprawling from the lake, this lush park is filled with modern art and exotic trees from around the world. The flower beds are organized to show off maximum color all year long. If the weather is nice, spend some time relaxing and exploring in this amazing landscaped space. The park is lit at night and particularly good for a late, romantic stroll.

As the evening approaches, head to the lovely waterfront promenade at sunset to enjoy the striking views of the surrounding mountains complimented with botanical gardens and palm trees that line this beautiful stretch from Paradiso to Parco Civico.

After an exciting day of exploring the beautiful city, grab some dinner at one of the many restaurants in town before heading back to your hotel for a restful night sleep.

Day 2 in Lugano

Wake up early today to enjoy some of the sights near Lugano. There are two beautiful mountains, San Salvatore and Monte Brè, that border Lugano`s city center, and you can conquer either one, without breaking a sweat, by lifts. If you choose to travel a bit further out of Lugano, you can explore the tallest mountain of the area, Monte Generoso.

At about 2,900 ft., San Salvatore, Lugano`s own mountain, is the easiest and most rewarding peak on the lake, thanks to its beautiful panoramic views. A funicular carries you up the precipitous slope from the suburb of Paradiso in just 12 minutes. At the top you`ll find perfect 360 ° views of Lugano, the lake and views of the Alps to the west, as well as a playground, a self-serve cafeteria, and a restaurant. From the lift, be sure to climb five more minutes to the actual summit. On the way, stop in the Salvatore Museum to admire the small collection of religious arts and exhibits on local geology. And at the very top of the mountain, there`s a small church that you can enter for far-reaching views. You can also choose to walk down instead of catching the funicular, for a hike of just over an hour.

If you decide to tackle Monte Brè you`ll catch the funicular in the suburb of Cassarate. The way up offers some of the best views down on the lagoon of Lugano. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy lunch at either of the two restaurants while you survey Lugano and the landscape as far as Italy. On the way down, check out the Brè Villaggio stop to look around the exceptionally beautiful village of Brè that sits on a steep slope of the mountain.

Another option is Monte Generoso, the tallest mountain in the area, but also the farthest from Lugano. Monte Generoso stands at almost 6,000 ft, high enough that you can see some of the more distant peaks. A cogwheel train climbs up from the station at Capolago in about 35 minutes which drops you off at Generoso Vetta, a 10-minute walk below the summit.

After an adventurous day on the mountain, head back into town to take in the ambiance of Lugano at night over a relaxing meal.

Day 3 in Lugano

Spend your last day in Lugano cruising Lake Lugano with a stop in Gandria. There are lake boats that serve as regular transportation to a couple of the car-free spots on the lake. You can either ride the boat around the lake or hop on and off the boat to explore. You can also take advantage of one of the boat excursions that offer lunch and a grand tour of the lake, amongst many other choices.

Whatever boat ride you decide on, we recommend a stop in the charming and unspoiled lakeside village towns of Gandria located at the foot of Monte Brè. This town has a very nostalgic ambiance, being that it has remained unchanged for almost 100 years. A dense cluster of houses hang over the lake with a several inviting restaurants. The only `streets` here are stairways and cool, narrow passageways between the lake below and the road above. Wander along the streets and stairways that are creased with sharp hair-pin turns, and pop into the 15th century Church of St. Viglio, the façade of which has historic memorials to members of important local families. You`ll also find several inviting restaurants to choose from. There are a few restaurants right at the boat dock which are fine, but we think it is worth seeking out something deeper into the village for a bit more authentic meal.

You can take the boat back to Lugano, but another option is to walk back to Lugano along a great 45-minute lakeside path through restored Olive Grove Trail. The trail has multilingual signposts telling you all about olive cultivation. This path brings you to Castagnola, a suburb of Lugano. The walk is an easy, relaxed walk, allowing you to enjoy the countryside and the beautiful olive trees.

If time and energy allow, pay a visit to the Alprose Chocolate Factory in Casiano, a small town near Lugano. This makes for a fun outing for children and adults alike. The museum offers a comprehensive view of the history of chocolate and has generous free tastings. In the Alprose factory you can observe chocolate being made and processed and packaged.

Finish you day by watching the sunset over the lake with some gelato or coffee in hand - perfect!

Additional Days in Lugano

Should you be able to spend additional days in Lugano we recommend a visit to the lovely little town of Vico Morcote. The houses in the area date from the 17th and 18th century and there is a stunning baroque church which offers panoramic views over the Alps and the valley. There are several hiking trails which are easily accessible from the town, and many of them offer a variety of Mediterranean and Alpine flora.

You may also want to check out the Museo Hermann Hesse, situated not far from Lugano. This is a lovely museum where the famous writer lived for the last 43 years of his life. Casa Camuzzi, as it is known, is a beautiful brick building and now houses many items and memorabilia that once belonged to Hesse, such as a typewriter and various books and photos from his life. It was here that he wrote his most famous works, including classics such as Siddhartha and the fantastic Steppenwolf. For fans of his work, there is also a great audio-guide tour which takes you around the quaint village where he lived – it was here that he became a Nobel Prize winner in 1946.

Your Last Day in Lugano

Depart your hotel for the train station or airport where you will head home or make your way to more Switzerland adventures. Savor the memories of a very special time in Lugano, the stunning canton of Ticino.