Lugano is a lakeside city in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of southern Switzerland, and is the largest Italian-speaking city in Switzerland, or for that matter, outside Italy. Part of a temperate micro-climate, Lugano offers palm trees, picturesque boulevards, stunning views of the lake and the Alps, and plenty of opportunity for outdoor and indoor activities. Lugano also makes a good base for visiting other cities and sites in the area. The city is a pleasant place to relax in the summertime and is only half an hour away from Lake Como.
- 1 Lugano Airport. A small international airport with flights arriving from Zurich and Geneva. Swiss International Air Lines and Etihad Regional offer discount web special prices to Lugano from many parts of Europe.
Milan Malpensa airport is 1 hour away by shuttle (see the "By bus" section below) or 1 hr 40 min by train (see the "By train" section below) and is an EasyJet hub.
Lugano station is on the Gotthard railway, which crosses the alps connecting the cantons of Schwyz and Uri to Cantone Ticino. It primarily serves:
- FFS (SBB in German, CFF in French, the national railway operator) and EC. Long distance trains to International destinations and other parts of Switzerland.
- TILO (Joint operation between FFS and Italy's Trenord) which provides regional services, primarily to Lombardy. Direct service to Milano-Malpensa airport ~1 hr 40 min.
- FLP (metre-gauge) local services
FFS/EC Trains leave for Zürich (3 hr), Basel (3 hr 34 min) and Milan (40 min-1 hr) as well as Geneva (via Zürich or Locarno-Domodossola: 5 hr 30 min with one or two transfers, 6 hr 30 min via Milan with one transfer). Getting to Geneva or points west it is faster to go via Zürich or Locarno as the trains are more frequent and faster.
Since 2019, there has been a direct airport service from Lugano to Milano-Malpensa provided by TILO. It is slower (1 hr 40 min) than the bus shuttles (just over an hour) but provides more regular service. Approx Fr. 23 (Swiss francs) as of 2019. Tickets are referred to as "Transfrontaliero" on Trenord machines and "Internazionale" on SBB machines.
There are three shuttle services between Lugano and Milan Malpensa Airport. Each takes about 1 hr 10 min to get to Malpensa:
- Lugano Services(approx every 2 hr, 04:00–23:30; 1 hr 10 min; €25 one way; advance reservations on line or tickets directly on the bus)
- JetBus (approx every 1-2 hr; 06:00–23:10; €27 or Fr. 35 one way; can be booked at airport)
- Malpensa Express (every 2 hr; 08:35–23:35; €30 or Fr. 35 one way; can be booked at airport.)
Due to physical geography, Lugano has good North-South oriented links and non-existent East-West ones.
Lugano is on the A2 motorway (just "2" on a red background on Swiss road signs) which spans the width of the country from Basel on the French/German borders to Chiasso on the Italian. This is part of the European Route E35 from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Rome, Italy. Like most Swiss roads, the condition is usually very good and speeds are good, nevertheless distance makes journey times relatively long, particularly when travelling from the north of the country. Lugano is about 3 hr from Berne or Zürich, in optimal conditions. This route passes through the San Gottardo tunnel, which is a bit of a bottleneck on Sundays (northbound) and Friday (southbound), so budget some time for traffic jams. Jams can be up to 3 hours long during peak travel times such as Easter.
Coming from the south, you have more choices on the flat Po plain but the main route is the A9 motorway from near Milano to Chiasso (where it becomes the Swiss A2). This motorway is fast and relatively uncongested, and the Italians have a somewhat more carefree driving style than the Swiss. Speed limits change when crossing into Switzerland. Lugano is about 1 hr 30 min from Milano and 1h10 from Malpensa airport, in optimal conditions. Travelling on the A9 does incur one toll near Como, around €2.20 as of 2016.
Crossing customs is usually a pain-free exercise. Switzerland is part of Schengen, so they're not interested in your passport (if you're obviously European) but they are not part of the EU and may be interested if you're carrying anything you need to declare; make sure you know the duty-free limits.
Lugano is small enough to get around on foot, and many of the streets are pedestrian-only, but the hills above the lakefront are very steep so the bus or the funicular from the centre of town might be a better option on the way up to the train station if you have a lot of bags. Taxis can be found on the main roads. Ferries and funiculars (Brè and San Salvatore) are great options for seeing the views.
For more information:
- 2 TPL (Trasporti Pubblici Luganesi). For bus services in the city. A short-journey ticket (30 min) costs Fr. 1.90, 1-day travelcard for 1 zone — Fr. 7.20, short-journey multi-journey travelcard (6 trips) — Fr. 9.50, the later can be used by multiple people.
- 3 Funicolare Lugano Citta - Stazione, ☏ . This funicular links the old centre of the town on the lake shore to the railway station higher up the hill. From 05:20 till 23:50, always, there is one every 5-10 minutes. This is not a sightseeing funicular (as the journey is only around 90 seconds and the main purpose is to provide step-free access to the town centre), however, it is quite interesting, as it passes through a hotel. Fr. 1.10.
- 4 Funicolare Lugano Paradiso - Monte San Salvatore, Via delle Scuole 7, Lugano Paradiso, ☏ . 17 Jul–15 Aug daily 09:00–23:00; 8 May–11 Jul & 21 Aug–26 Sep F Sa 09;00–23:00; the rest 09:00-17:00. It links Lugano with the top of the Monte San Salvatore, with spectacular views of the Lake of Lugano, the isthmus of Melide, the Monte Generoso and the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia on the other side of the lake. Single: Fr. 23; Return: Fr. 30.
- 5 Funicolare Monte Brè, Via Ceresio di Suvigliana 36, CH-6977 Ruvigliana (bus lines 2, 11, 12 to Cassarate-Monte Brè), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A funicular between Lugano and the top of the Monte Brè. Single: Fr. 16; Return: Fr. 25 see the end of the page linked for promotions..
- 6 (from Lugano Paradiso), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Runs ferry services across the Lake Lugano. They also offer a number of cruises. While much of Lake Lugano is in Switzerland, a large portion of it is in Italy, so take your passport when on a boat.
Italian is spoken in Lugano as a primary language. English and German are widely spoken by many of the individuals that interact with tourists.
- 1 Centro Storico (Old town).
- 2 Palazzo Civico (Palazzo Riva), Piazza Riforma, 1. Lugano's City Hall
- 3 Parco Civico (Ciani Park). A peaceful park with a wide variety of flowers and trees located near the heart of Lugano's tourist area. Villa Ciani is located there.
- 4 Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (Cathedral of Saint Lawrence).
- 5 Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angioli. It has an impressive full-wall 16th-century fresco by Bernardino Luini.
- 6 Museo Cantonale d’Arte (Cantonal Art Museum), Via Canova 10, ☏ .
- 7 Museo d'Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art).
- 8 Hermann Hesse museum (the museum is in Montagnola and you can get there in 15 minutes from the Lugano railway station by a bus number 36 (direction Agra); Check the timetables beforehand as the buses aren't frequent. Get off at the bus stop Bellevue), ☏ . Summer season (Mar-Oct) daily 10:00-18:30; otherwise F-Su 10:00-17:30. The museum also offers an audio guide for a walk in the steps of Hesse, which is an extremely good choice on a beautiful day. Besides the exhibition there is also a film on Hesse shown, duration approximately 50 minutes. Friendly and helpful staff. English, German and Italian spoken. Fr. 7.50, Fr. 6.00 discounts for families and groups.
- 1 Gandria (Walk, boat or bus). Gandria is an unspoiled, picturesque lakeside village at the foot of Monte Brè. Perched on the steep mountainside it is a community of narrow streets, inaccessible to cars, with a delightful surprise round every corner.
- 2 Museo Doganale Svizzero (Swiss Customs Museum) (from Gandria by boat across the lake). There is also a grotto restaurant nearby.
- 3 Sentiero di Gandria (Gandria Trail). A path from the end of the Lugano promenade to Gandria. It is marked with panels which describe the history of olive trees in the region. That is why it is also known as Sentiero dell'olivo.
- 4 Monte Brè (Mount Bre). There are numerous rustic trails that lead up from towns surrounding Mount Brè to its summit and the Funicolare Monte Brè. A trail map is available from the local tourist information.
- 5 Monte San Salvatore. The top of this mountain has a restaurant, hiking paths and a look-out tower offering an amazing panoramic view of Lugano, the lake and surrounding area. It is possible to hike up to the mountain (about 2 hours), or take the cable car.
- Trekking Lugano and Malcantone region.
- SFR Railway Station Lugano, ☏ .
- Balmelli Sport, Via Pioda 12, ☏ .
- Casinò Lugano, Via Stauffacher 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 12:00-04:00, extended to 05:00 Fridays and Saturdays. Tables open at 02:00.
- Blues to Bop Festival. 21:00-01:00/02:30 depending on the evening. Free open air music festival with multiple stages throughout the heart of Lugano in late August.
- Swimming. The Lido di Lugano right in the city centre is a great place to swim with a beach, 3 swimming pools and a bar.
- Boating. Boat rental options include paddle boats and speed boats.
- 7 University of Italian Switzerland (USI), 13 Giuseppe Buffi St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Switzerland’s most international university. It is distinctive in the Swiss university system because of the originality of its degree curricula and areas of research.
- 8 University of Applied Sciences of Italian Switzerland (SUPSI), Le Gerre, Via Pobiette 11, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. One of the nine universities of applied sciences recognized by the Swiss Confederation.
- 9 Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA), Via Cantonale 6 (Galleria 1 Building), 6928 Manno, ☏ .
- 10 Franklin University Switzerland, 29 Ponte Tresa St (Sorengo), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. An American liberal arts institution in an international environment, Franklin is accredited in the United States by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and in Switzerland by the Swiss University Conference.
Many major labels and designer boutiques (Versace, Hermes, Paul & Shark, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier) can be found here, as well as the usual Swiss and Italian knick-knacks. Via Nassa in the city centre is the main place for shopping high street brands.
- Foxtown, Mendrisio, Via A. Maspoli 18 (can be reached by train from the Central Station (direction Mendrisio-Chiasso)). 11:00-19:00. Huge designer outlet 20 km from Lugano.
- 1 Manor, Salita M. e A. Chiattone 10, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland, ☏ . Department store with everything from clothing to home goods as well as some Swiss souvenirs. Grocery store in basement.
- 1 Manora, Piazza Dante 2. The cafeteria in the Manor Department store offers a wide variety of tempting International dishes, ranging from sushi to pasta. Fresh fruits and vegetables arrayed in stylish displays are almost a painting themselves. Wine and beer are available as are a wide range of other beverages. Meals starting from CHF12.
- Argentino, ☏ . Piazza Riforma. Excellent pizza, great service. They offer 2 sizes of pizza, price ranges around Fr. 15-20.
- Tango, Piazza Riforma. Really great tasty pizza, quick service (6-7 min per pizza). Fr. 15-20.
- Ristorante Antico, CH-6978 Gandria - Lugano, ☏ . Italian cuisine in the village of Gandria with dining on a terrace with views of Lago di Lugano
In the summer your best bet is just to wander along the lakeside promenade and open air bar/cafes. Check local listings for clubs and shows as venues come and go with the seasons. Spring-Autumn, Bar Mojito (p.za Manzoni, directly at the lakeside)
There are clubs in the city (discos). Nix (under the Casinò), Privilege (near Manor, a department store), Tito's Place (quartiere Maghetti), Club One and The Cube are all located in the downtown.
Oops (via Maderno 24) and Bibliocafè Tra (Salita dei Frati, Piazza Molino Nuovo) are a great place to have beer in the evening. Near University . Another hint:
- Arte, Lungolago. Amazing decor, (also an art gallery), great food and views of the Lake!
There are a wide range of hotel options right in town, from atmospheric B&Bs to posh four stars to comfy and communal hostels. Be sure to book ahead in the summer, but the rest of the year it's possible to just show up and find something as long as your budget is flexible.
- Montarina Hotel & Hostel, Via Montarina 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. The house is surrounded by a palm garden and has a nice swimming pool that all guests can use. Hostel guests can use a small communal kitchen. The hostel costs Fr. 25 per night whereas a single room in the hotel starts at Fr. 70. Breakfast at Fr. 12 per person.
- Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A very clean, family-run hotel with some en-suite rooms. English and German are spoken. Prices start at Fr. 64 for a single room without shower and toilet.
- San Carlo Garni, Via Nassa 28, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Fr. 65-190.
- Youth Hostel Lugano-Savosa, Via Cantonale 13, Savosa, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices start at Fr. 23 in a dormitory, provided you have a membership.
- Hotel International au Lac, Via Nassa 68, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00 onwards, check-out: 06:30–12:00. Family tradition since 1906, it is the right hotel for holidays or for business stays and the only one on the lake promenade in the centre of Lugano, with own indoor parking, restaurant, meeting room, garden with swimming-pool and terrace. W-Lan Internet Hot-Spot, an Internet workstation and an "Ethernet" connection for notebook computers are available free of charge at the Internet corner. “Historic hotel with honour”: the ICOMOS jury has granted the hotel this eminent UNESCO award. Fr. 115-310.
- Hotel Villa Marita, Via Lucino 49, Breganzona, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00-23:00, check-out: 10:00-11:00. Fr. 80-190.
- Lugano Dante Center, Piazza Cioccaro 5, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 1 minute from station, 200 m from the lake. WiFi access and meeting facilities. Multistore car park. Fr. 139 to 425 per night per room.
- Villa Sassa Hotel, Residence & Spa, Via Tesserete 10, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. On the hills overlooking Lugano, a few minutes walk from the centre of town. Single room in the hotel starts at Fr. 240. Double room starts at Fr. 240..
- Hotel De La Paix, Via Cattori 18, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Acquarello, Piazza Cioccaro, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00-23:00, check-out: 07:00-11:00. Has a direct connection to the station with the cable car and is in the city centre. Single room from Fr. 116, double room from Fr. 157 (season from October 2011, all included).
- Grand Hotel Eden, Riva Paradiso 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola, Viale Castagnola 31, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel Splendide Royal, Riva A. Caccia 7, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Villa Principe Leopoldo Hotel & Spa, Via Montalbano 5, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 2 km from the city. The historical main building – the Villa – is one of the most refined luxury hotel establishments in Lugano. Prices range from Fr. 450-1,950 per room per night.
There are a few internet cafes in town. As usual, try near the train station. Free Wi-Fi connection can be found along the lakeside and in the University campus (Via Buffi, 13).
Lugano is as safe as most cities in Switzerland, but the density of expensive purses, watches, and sunglasses may make pickpockets more of a problem. The usual cautions apply to walking alone late at night, especially after bars and clubs close before dawn.
Important telephone numbers
- Police (Polizia) – Emergency only: 117
- Fire Department (Pompieri): 118
- City of Lugano Police: +41 58 866 82 50 (piazza Riforma), +41 58-8668111 (Via Beltramina 20B)
- Civic Hospital (Ospedale Civico): +41 91-8116111 (via Tesserete 46 )
- Emergency Ward (Pronto Soccorso), Civic Hospital: +41 91-8116006
- Ambulances (Ambulanze): 144
- Poisonings (Intossicazioni): 145
- Doctor and dentist on call: 1811
- Emergency Service - Street aid: 140
- Lost Property Office (Ufficio oggetti smarriti), City of Lugano Police, Via Beltramina 20b; M-F 07:30-12:00, 13:30-17:00; Phone: +41 58-8668250
In nearby Melide is an attraction which is very popular among the Swiss:
- 6 Swissminiatur (Swiss Miniature Village), Via Cantonale, Melide, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open from mid-March to late October, 09:00 to 18:00. Switzerland in miniature as a theme park Adults Fr. 17, Children below 6 years free, 6-15 yr Fr. 12, and Senior Citizen (over 65) Fr. 15. (Prices in 2010).
- Bellinzona for castles nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage list
- Meride for Monte San Giorgio — another UNESCO World Heritage site, and the museum of fossiles
- Varese for its Sacro Monte — UNESCO World Heritage site
- Milan considered a leading global city, with strengths in the field of the art, commerce, education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, media, services, research and tourism, recognized as the world's fashion and the design capital
- Campione d'Italia, an Italian exclave just over the other side of the lake from Lugano