The 10 Best Museums in and around Locarno, Switzerland
Piazza Grande in Locarno, Switzerland | © Hermann / Pixabay
Locarno, and its surrounding area, is famous for beautiful views over the waters of Lake Maggiore, for being home to a popular casino and for the Locarno International Film Festival, but this area is also a great destination if you are looking for a place with a varied museum offering. From sacred art to contemporary paintings and from falcons to clowns, here are the 10 best museums in and around Locarno, Switzerland.
Museo Castello San Materno
Located in the historic Castello San Materno, this museum hosts a permanent collection of over 40 artworks by great artists from the Germanic region, from the end of the 19th century up until the post-Great War era. Today, the castle has been returned to its original splendour after a thorough restoration process and it’s a must-see in the area, not only for its collection, but also because the building itself is a work of art.
Museo Casa Anatta
Located on the lush and beautiful Monte Verità above Ascona, the Museo Casa Anatta is home to a permanent exhibition about Monte Verità itself. Here, in 1902, a group of various artists founded a naturist colony, where they lived for 18 years following a strict vegetarian diet as well as a very alternative lifestyle. Today, this fascinating story can be discovered at Museo Casa Anatta’s exhibition, which includes a wealth of materials linked to the history of Monte Verità.
Madonna del Sasso
Perched on a hill above Locarno, the Madonna del Sasso is located in a wonderful spot with an incredible view over Lake Maggiore
. Reachable by taking a path up from Locarno or with the Orselina cable car, the church is embellished with incredible frescoes and it’s home to the Museo Casa del Padre, a must for those who want to admire some of the finest sacred art in the area. The Friars’ Library, with its 14,000 volumes, is definitely worth a visit as well.
Archaeological and Civic Museum
Located in the medieval Visconti Castle, Locarno’s Archaeological Museum displays local finds dating back to the Bronze Age and up to the Middle Ages. The collection of Roman glassware and ceramics discovered in the Canton Ticino is particularly interesting and so is the documentation of prehistoric Locarno. The museum is also home to a new permanent exhibition, ‘Locarno, city of the Reformation. From the Protestants’ exile to the setting up of tolerance’, which retraces the town’s more recent history.
Pinacoteca Comunale Casa Rusca
Casa Rusca, one of Locarno’s old stately houses, is now home to the Pinacoteca, which was inaugurated in 1987. Here, you will find varied collections, such as the paintings and sculptures of Jean Arp, his contemporaries and friends; paintings and engravings of approximately 150 Oeuvre-Gravée School of Paris artists from the 1920s to the 1970s and a collection of paintings by Filippo Franzoni (1857-1911). The gallery also hosts temporary exhibitions that display artworks by Swiss and international artists.
Amusement Park, Living Museum, Zoo
Very popular with kids, the Falconeria is one of Locarno’s most popular sights and it gives visitors the chance to learn more about birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, marabous, ibis and storks. The skilled trainers will show you how these incredible and intelligent birds have been taught to work alongside humans since the Middle Ages. The one-hour show is not only fun, but also very educational and a hit among those who visit the Falconeria Locarno.
Fondazione Ghisla Art Collection
The Fondazione Ghisla Art Collection was founded in 2014 with the objective of sharing an artistic heritage of international value with the public. The foundation is housed in a futuristic-style building in the town centre only a few metres away from the ferry dock and features pop art, art informal, abstract works and New Dada masterpieces. Alongside pieces by well-known painters, the museum also features artworks by young emerging talents that are not yet known by art enthusiasts.
While visiting Brissago, right between Ascona and the Italian border, don’t miss the chance to see the Museo Leoncavallo, open to the public since 2002. The building itself is beautiful: historic Palazzo Branca-Baccalà is a stunning Baroque mansion that deserves a visit and that offers incredible views over the village and the shores of Lake Maggiore. Inside the palace, you will find documents and private objects that belonged to Ruggero Leoncavallo, a famed Italian composer who lived for a long period in Brissago at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s.
San Sebastiano Parish Museum
This Parish Museum is located in the oratory of Saints Fabian and Sebastian, which dates back to the 9th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in Ascona. The museum is home to documents and accounts about the history of the building itself, as well as sacred furnishings from the parish. Numerous sacred objects date from the Baroque period. Of particular interest are the altarpiece depicting the Madonna with Saints Fabian and Sebastian by Giacomo Damotti from Palagnedra and The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio’s pupils.
Museo Comico Dimitri
Quite the unique museum, the Comedy Museum, opened in 2000 by Swiss clown Dimitri, is home to over 600 pieces from all over the world, collected by Dimitri himself during his long and successful career. The first room is dedicated to elephants, the clown’s lucky charm since the 1970s, and you can see examples of every size and form. The second room contains musical instruments, while the third room is dedicated to comic masks with the possibility of watching performances from the greatest clowns in the world on a large screen. The last room is dedicated to clowns, puppet theatres and comic theatre companies of all shapes and sizes.
These recommendations were updated on June 5, 2018 to keep your travel plans fresh.