Two people sit on a bench watching boat sail across the harbour in Lugano, Switzerland
Photo by Patrick Nouhailler  –  Link

Lugano

Switzerland

The lakeside city of Lugano in southern Switzerland is characterised by a tantalising blend of Mediterranean and Swiss cultures. Its elegant villas and gorgeous gardens blooming with camellias, olive trees and sub-tropical plants might have you convinced you're in Italy. Meanwhile, the majestic mountains surrounding the glacial Lake Lugano are quintessentially Swiss. In the traffic-free old town, posh designer boutiques sit alongside welcoming pavement cafes and top-notch restaurants, drawing visitors from far and wide to its stunning shores. Whether you're after outdoor activities, a relaxing holiday or a culture fix, this scenic lake city has it all, and then some.

Things to do

Discover the old town - Lugano's traffic-free centro storico is a delight to wander around. To get a sense of Lugano's history, pay a visit to the neoclassical Palazzo Civico (town hall) and the Santa Maria degli Angioli church. To shop for local products, go for a stroll along Via Pessina.

Visit the new LAC arts centre - This cultural centre, which opened in 2015, is dedicated to music, the performing arts and the visual arts, with rotating exhibitions featuring international artists. It's housed in a strikingly modern building with stunning views of Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains.

Walk the Olive Trail - The 3km-long Sentiero dell'Olivo winds through the countryside along the shore between the towns of Castagnola and Gandria, passing through ancient olive groves and newly planted trees.

Explore the lake - The real star of Lugano is its glittering lake, and there are a few ways to enjoy it. We recommend renting a boat for the afternoon and sailing to different towns around the shores.

Scale Monte San Salvatore - This verdant hill offers wonderful panoramic views of Lugano and its neighbouring lakeside towns. You can climb the mountain yourself, or take the 10-minute funicular ride from Paradiso station

Where to next?

Lake Lugano is shared by Switzerland and Italy, so you have both countries at your fingertips if you're travelling onward. The ultra glamorous Lake Como is an hour's drive away, as is the mountain town of Varese, known for its picturesque valleys and majestic castles.

There are a number of small, charming towns sitting along the banks of Lake Lugano that are easy to get to from here. Porlezzo, on the eastern shore, has a pleasant medieval town and ancient churches. Brusimpiano, which is right on the border with Switzerland, enjoys spectacular views of the lake below.

And if you're visiting Lugano in the wintertime, the popular Swiss ski resort St Moritz is between three and four hours away by car.

Getting there

The nearest international airport to Lugano is Milan Malpensa, which is about 1.5 hours away by car. If you're travelling from Milan, you can also hop on a direct train. The journey takes between one and two hours, and single tickets start at €24.