It wasn’t until I zoomed in on a map of Lake Como, looking for nearby places to visit, that I saw how close it was to Lugano, Switzerland. I then decided I’d spend a few nights in Switzerland, just to say I’ve been. Little did I know, I could get from Italy to Switzerland in just 25 minutes. And while Lugano is the perfect day trip from Lake Como, I happened to stay there a few nights although I only recommend two nights maximum.
My favorite thing about Lugano is the fact that I didn’t need to try and decipher yet another language as this town is located in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland. Three of the four national languages of Switzerland are Italian, French, and German, so if you know any of those, you’re good to go.
How to Get From Italy to Switzerland
The simplest way to get from Italy to Switzerland is by train although driving is fine too. I bought a $23 train ticket from raileurope.com to go from Lake Como to Lugano and the ride was a breeze. While my ride took exactly 39 minuets, the quickest route is 25 minutes. Driving time is typically 35 minutes so if you insist on driving, it should be an easy trip. Do keep in mind that you’ll have to find somewhere to park once in Lugano.
Check car rental prices here.
Looking at Lugano via map and in person reminds me so much of Lake Como, but once you see the two in person you can tell the difference. The areas around the lake are also vastly different as Lake Como seemed a lot more lively whereas certain parts of Lake Como seemed deserted to me. I could walk blocks over from the lake and maybe see a few other people on the street. I think the area is more akin to a downtown area that isn’t busy on weekends but you’re liable to see people going to and from work.
Easy Day Trips From Lugano
I hope no one is offended by this, but I didn’t feel as though Lugano had all that much to offer. The one person who was in my hostel longer than me actually took day trips every day, which is why I don’t recommend staying here more than two nights. There were exchange students everywhere so if you’re younger than 22, you may have a more exciting time than I did. However, the best thing about this area are the easy day trips from Lugano.
Day Trip to Lake Como, Italy
If you didn’t spend time in Lake Como prior to coming to Lugano then I highly recommend giving it a visit. Read here for my top recommendations of things to do in Lake Como. Some of my recommendations include visiting Bellagio, taking a walking tour of old town Como, and having a dining experience at a locals home.
Bellinzona is home to three medieval castles: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro. All three castles make one UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can purchase a ticket to tour them here. Because I had such trouble finding things to do in Lugano, I hopped on the train to Bellinzona one morning and walked from castle to castle and roamed around the grounds. While I’ve seen castles further east in Europe, they definitely weren’t medieval. This was a very cool experience and one of the best day trips from Lugano.
Also check out this amazing food tour that allows you to taste the area of Bellinzona like a local. This self guided tour leads you to four places that are all within walking distance of each other. Bellinzona is definitely a walkable city so once you get off of the train you can either get around on foot or hop on the bus.
The train from Lugano to Zurich takes just a little over 2 hours and for some of us, that’s an easy day trip. Since Lugano is located in Switzerland’s Ticino region, the Italian speaking region, Zurich is a stark contrast. Also anticipate the weather being much cooler in the northern city of Zurich.
If you decide to spend a full day in Zurich, consider purchasing the Zurich Card. The pass, valid for 24 or 72 hours, can help you save on museums, restaurants, attractions, and tours.
Also be sure to check out these tours in and around Zurich:
- 4-Hour City Tour by Ferry, Cable Car and Coach
- Thermal Baths and Spa with Panoramic Views
- 2-Hour Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Day Trip to Grindelwald & Interlaken
San Bernardino, Switzerland
San Bernardino is a village in Switzerland known for its mountains. The San Bernardino Pass is extremely popular among hikers and because it’s located in the Swiss Alps, it’s a great place for skiing in the winter as well. There are several ski resorts in San Bernardino. If you’re not into hiking or skiing, you may want to skip this area.
If you’ve never been to Milan, one of the fashion capitols of the world, then it’d be a great day trip away from Lugano. The train ride is only about an hour and after visiting Milan on two occasions, I think it’s nice for a day trip versus spending an extended about of time there.
When researching things to do in Milan two tours will always be recommended. 1. Visit the duomo and I personally recommend exploring the rooftop of the cathedral. Grab a rooftop ticket here. And 2. seeing the Last Supper painting. Book a guided tour for that here.
The Best Hotels In Lugano
Everyone knows that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries on earth. I even hear residents constantly complain of how much things cost, so you know it’s bad. Hotels in Lugano are no different than restaurants and other activities. They’re expensive. In fact, that’s probably what you’ll spend the bulk of your money on, so be sure to choose wisely.
Here are the 7 best hotels in Lugano, Switzerland:
- Lugano Dante Center
- Hotel City Lugano, Design & Hospitality
- Villa Sassa Hotel, Residence & Spa
- Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola
- Hotel Walter au Lac
- Splendide Royal Lugano
- Hotel Federale