Bellinzona is a city in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Ticino, at the foot of the Alps and traversed by the Ticino River. It preserves its medieval atmosphere while offering modern services.
Motorways A2 and A13 are the main roads connecting the city. The A2 heads north through the Gotthard Pass to Lucerne, Basel and over the border with Germany, as well as south towards Lugano and on to Italy. The A13 heads north-east towards Austria, passing the San Bernardino pass and Chur.
Bellinzona is also conveniently connected by the Gotthard railway, and is a standard stop for many intercity trains between Zurich, Lugano, Chiasso and Locarno. Regional services here are operated by TiLo and connect the town to the nearest airport (Milan-Malpensa (MXP IATA)), and to Biasca and many other destinations.
Plenty of bus services can be found at the train station. They're operated by PostBus Switzerland and offer alternative ways to travel to a range of destinations in the region.
In 2000, the Castles of Bellinzona were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- 1 Castello di Sasso Corbaro (Sasso Corbaro Castle) (postal bus #4 from the train station (Piazzale Stazione), direction Artore (schedules)), ☏ . Jul-Aug dialy 10:00–19:00; Apr-Jun, Sep-Oct daily 10:00–18:00. The castle dominates the town 462 meters up the hill. It was built in only six months in 1479 as the highest fortification in Bellinzona.
- 2 Castello di Montebello (Montebello Castle) (a few hundred metres SW from the train station via Piazza della Collegiata; alternatively descend by road from Sasso Corbaro), ☏ . Jul-Aug dialy 10:00–19:00, museum 10:00–18:00; Apr-Jun, Sep-Oct daily 10:00–18:00. The most picturesque of the three. Probably built in the 13th century and restored in the 1970s, the Montebello Castle is a spectacular example of a medieval castle and houses a very interesting civic and archeological Museum. 5 Fr; combined ticket for 3 castles: Fr. 15.
- 3 Castelgrande (from Piazza della Collegiata; from here follow the San Michele path up), ☏ . Museum: Jul-Aug daily 10:00–19:00; Apr-Jun, Sep-Oct daily 10:00–18:00; Nov-Mar daily 10:00–16:00. Inner court: Tu-Su 09:00–22:00, M 10:00–18:00; Murata sforzesca: Summer 10:00–19:00, Winter 10:00–17:00. Remodeled in the last years by Aurelio Galfetti with bold architectural solutions, among which the elevator in the rock and the helicoidal ramp to reach the summit directly from the Piazza Mario della Valle. There is a historical Museum in one wing of the castle, with an architectural section as well as an artistic-historical one. In the south building, there is an elegant restaurant with its annexed wine cellar where almost all of Ticino's wine production can be tasted.
- 4 Monastero di Santa Maria (Saint Mary's Monastery, Claro Abbey) (postal bus #191 from the train station (Piazzale Stazione), direction Claro (or Airolo FFS)). In the northern part of the city, the monastery is build in the top of an hill. From there there's a view on the Riviera valley and the northern part of the city. You can reach the monastery by walking (on an ancient trail in the wood) from the neighbourhood of Claro (it takes 25-30 minutes) or by car (following the mountain road that lead to the monastery). Anyway, by car you should pay 10.- to reach the monastery, at the barrier situated at the beginning of the mountain road.
- 5 Ponte della Torretta (Tower bridge) (Follow the ramparts from Castelgrande in direction west, until the Ticino river). An historic broken bridge, surrounded by a park long the river. There are some public grill-places around it, that can be used in the summer.
- Carasc Suspension Bridge - Hike the trails or take the Monte Carasso cable car partly up the slope of Mornera, disembark at the second station (Corte di Sotto) and hike to San Barnàrd church, known for its frescoes, then follow the trail beyond the church to Semetina Valley where the 270-m bridge hovers 130 m above the valley with sweeping views. It is Switzerland's longest Tibetan-style suspension bridge.
From Castelgrande follow the wall, also restored, which once went all the way to the Ticino River. A footbridge crosses the part, which was knocked down to allow transit on the Viale Portone. The view from the wall sweeps over the very modern buildings, the pride of Ticino's architects (Casa del Portone, Casa Bianca, Casa Nera, Casa Fabrizia) with the green background of the sports centre with its public pool and tennis courts on the river's edge. From the walkway return to the station either through Città Vecchia from via Orico, or following the Viale Portone or via Mirasole.
- 1 Lido di Arbedo (beach bar on the Ticino River), Castione-Arbedo (go north along the Via San Gottardo. Just before you get to the Highway exit Bellinzona Nord, on your left hand side, there is a stair leading down to a parking with signs to the beach and its bar.). estimated: M-W 12:00–18:00, Th 10:00–22:00, F-Sa 12:00–03:00, Su 10:00–01:00. Beach bar, where the Moesa river from Graubünden joins the Ticino River, which gave the canton its name. Only open in Summer. Drinks, music, possibility to barbecue and swim. Beware of the strong current and the cold water. free.
- 1 Giardino, Via Orico (On the corner of Piazza Governo, South West (or left turn) down Viale Stazione from the main train station.). Hidden ristorante/pizzeria frequented by locals offering good quality medium-priced Italian cooking only 7 minutes walk from the main train station.
- 1 Hotel Internazionale, Piazza Stazione 35 (Directly opposite the train station), ☏ , fax: .
- 2 Hotel Gamper, viale Stazione 29, ☏ .
- There is a possibility to stay in old historical houses at the Humanità Hostel [dead link] in Cabbiolo, about 25 km from Bellinzona. +41 91 830 14 81, firstname.lastname@example.org
- 3 Bellinzona Youth Hostel (Istituto Santa Maria), Via Nocca 4, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00-19:00, check-out: 08:00-10:00. This youth hostel is located in the building of an old boarding school. Dorm from Fr. 36.