Located on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Locarno is easily reachable by train from Lugano in less than an hour and it’s a pretty and lively town. One of its attractions is the beautiful Old Town, where a maze of alleys and streets await to be explored; the Casino, too, is very popular, as is the pier from where you can start exploring the lake by ferry.
A mere 30 minutes away from Lugano, Ticino‘s capital city Bellinzona is a real jewel steeped in history. Home to three medieval castles that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the town is mostly pedestrianised with quaint cobblestone streets, outdoor cafes and pretty pastel-coloured houses. Castelgrande, the biggest of the three castles, features a restaurant with incredible views over the town’s roofs.
A must for mountain lovers, Valle Maggia is a valley located over Locarno that is very popular with locals seeking peace, quiet and fresh air. The drive up the valley is quite scenic and there are a number of interesting stops along the way: one is the village of Bosco Gurin, a German-speaking hamlet in Ticino; the other is Grotto Pozzasc, a very typical restaurant overlooking a waterfall in the woods.
A natural retreat only one hour away from the town centre, the Ritom area has everything a hiking enthusiast might wish for: picture-perfect alpine lakes, fields dotted with flowers, cows and marmots and a wonderful thematic path that explains the unique habitat of the area. For those looking for a bite to eat, there are two great restaurants, easily accessible on foot, where you can enjoy the exquisite local cheese called piora.
Mountain passes can be a wonderful day trip when trying to get away from the heat or noise of the city. The Passo della Novena, also called Nufenen Pass, is the second-highest paved pass in Switzerland. From here, enjoy the incredible drive up Val Bedretto as well as unforgettable views over the cantons of Ticino and Valais once the summit is reached.
The sleepy town of San Bernardino, located at the bottom of the eponymous pass, is the perfect starting point to explore one of the prettiest areas in Graubünden in the Lepontine Alps. The drive from Lugano is very pretty, especially as the road starts climbing up the steep mountainside, and once you arrive, the walking and hiking paths are equally beautiful – perfect for all types of mountain-goers.
Since the inauguration of a new railway tunnel in 2017, travelling from Lugano to Zurich has become faster and more comfortable, making it easier to take a day trip to one of Switzerland’s most exciting cities. Once in Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse is a mecca for those who want to shop, while the Old Town is perfect for finding small cafes and restaurants or for taking a stroll by the river before embarking on the evening train back to Lugano.
Just one hour away by train from Lugano, you can reach downtown Milan. The possibilities for activities in this beautiful and fun Italian city are seemingly endless. From sightseeing to shopping, Milan is a popular destination for those who want to enjoy incredible art, avant-garde restaurants and a lively cultural scene.
Neighbouring Lake Como is famous for its beauty and should be on everyone’s list of things to see while in the Lugano area. Just after the border with Italy, the darling town of Como is a maze of medieval alleys and pretty squares and it’s a real pleasure to visit no matter the time of year. On the lake, famous villas such as Villa Carlotta and Villa Olmo are worth a visit, as are the grand hotels, which offer the chance to enjoy a drink with a lake view.