Lugano and its surroundings aren’t just all about beautiful nature, picture-perfect lake views, and snow-capped mountaintops. The area also offers a nice variety of museums that range from the classic – think beautiful art, paintings, and sculptures – to the quirky – who wants to discover all there is to know about chocolate and bootlegging? We’ve picked the best museums to visit in and around the city of Lugano, Switzerland.
The newest addition to Lugano’s cultural offerings is Lugano Arte e Cultura, with its imposing and stark modern architecture that’s impossible to miss. The green marble facade overlooking the lake is a work of art itself and can be seen from afar. LAC, as locals call it, is an art museum in constant evolution that hosts all the best temporary exhibits in town and in the region – from the works of contemporary photographers to those of painting masters such as Picasso. The museum also features a large auditorium where dance, music exhibitions, and plays take place year round, making it the number one cultural pole in Southern Switzerland.
Traveling with little ones? The Museo in Erba in Lugano might be a great option for you if you want your children to get passionate about art. This small but wonderful museum was developed with kids in mind, so expect a high dose of creativity and fun involved in your visit. Interactive games and creative labs and workshops keep the young visitors entertained while they teach them not only to make art, but also to appreciate the masterpieces and different techniques used by famous painters such as Paul Klee, Vincent Van Gogh, and many others.
Minerals, rocks, fossils, animals, plants, fungi – the Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale is home to a collection of more than half a million items, with a specialized library for those who want to further investigate the fascinating natural heritage of the region. Its permanent exhibition showcases the different aspects of the area’s natural landscape. Large habitat reconstructions display the most significant plant and animal species, while an important section is dedicated to rocks, minerals, and fossils such as those of the famous reptiles found on Monte San Giorgio. Don’t miss the mushroom exhibition that offers an exhaustive overall view of the fungi of Ticino.
Follow the bootleggers' footsteps at Museo delle Dogane
A museum unlike any other in Switzerland, the Museo delle Dogane is wonderful and unique in more than one way. Reachable only by ferry, private boat, or by taking a pleasant hike from Campione d’Italia, this much-loved attraction is housed in a small villa overlooking the lake that once served as the residence of customs officials. Inside the museum, you will discover the interesting history of the long battle between bootleggers, who tried to illegally bring cigarettes and other goods from Switzerland to Italy, and the customs agents who tried to stop them. The house has been left much like it used to be at the beginning of the 1900s, with the office, the holding cell, and many ingenious artifacts with which the bootleggers hid their loot still intact.
A fun outing for children and adults alike, the Alprose Chocolate Museum offers a comprehensive view of the history of chocolate with free tasting. In the Alprose factory, you can observe chocolate being made, processed, and packaged. There are detailed explanations of these processes amidst the gentle aroma of chocolate wafting through the air, making for a memorable experience. Visitors can later taste chocolates as well as buy souvenirs in the Alprose museum and shop, an absolute must-do for chocolate lovers of all ages.
See all of Switzerland in one hour at Swissminiatur
Park, Curiosity Museum
Switzerland is a small country, but did you know that you can see all of its highlights in less than 60 minutes? A stone’s throw away from Lugano is the Swissminiatur, a miniature version of Switzerland spanning a scale of 14,000 square meters. Here you will find detailed miniatures that show several well-known sites such as Chillon, Heidi’s house in Maienfeld, and the Matterhorn. There are several rail tracks and miniature trains, cable cars, and ships (all of which are moving!), surrounded by 15,000 flower species and several thousand trees as well, making it an ideal retreat and a favorite for kids and adults alike.
Love to fish? Then the Museo della Pesca in Caslano is the place for you! This quirky museum is dedicated to all things fishing, from an interesting look at the species present in the local lakes to a detailed history on how the art of fishing has evolved from prehistoric to more recent times. There is a room that focuses entirely on equipment, from nets to poles and even boats all around Villa Carolina, which houses the Museo della Pesca. One can take a look at fascinating pictures showcasing the hard life of fishermen during the last century. The exhibition has been designed particularly with children in mind and includes a learning area with a very hands-on approach.