Looking for something different on your next city trip? Something a bit more intimate, remote, yet exclusive and inspiring?

I have recently returned from a trip to Lugano, the largest city of the stunning canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Its gorgeous location, directly at the shore of Lake Lugano, surrounded by the soft hills of the Lugano Prealps, is bound to make you jump with joy as soon as you lay your eyes on it.

travel guide Lugano

View of Lake Lugano

The subtropical climate means that you get lots of sun and that “I’m-on-vacation” feel you’re looking for. Because Lugano is located in the Italian part of Switzerland, you will also get your fair share of Dolce Vita as you go along. No wonder Lugano has been nicknamed “the Monte Carlo of Switzerland”.

In this article, I want to give you an off-the-record introduction to Lugano, with tips on where to stay, what to do and where to eat.

Where to stay in Lugano

For me, it’s extremely important to set up my base somewhere nice and quiet. I am more than willing to spend a little more on the perfect accommodation that helps me relax after an active day of sightseeing. Here is my pick of the best hotels Lugano has to offer.

Collina D’Oro Luxury Spa Retreat

This hidden gem, set in the rolling hills of the Ticino Peninsula, is the ideal spot to unwind for a few days. It’s a ten minute-drive from Lugano train station and perfect if you are looking for a little more than a hotel. Collina D’Oro has a wellness area, complete with sauna, steam bath and a beautiful resting area. They offer massages, beauty treatments and various well-being tests. They also have a great gym, and a fantastic outdoor pool with breathtaking views. If you can stretch your budget, I would recommend staying in a junior suite.  

travel guide Lugano

Collina D’Oro Luxury Spa Retreat

If there wasn’t so much to do around Lugano, I probably wouldn’t leave Collina D’Oro for my entire stay.

Hotel Principe Leopoldo

If Collina D’Oro is booked up, Hotel Principe is a more than a suitable alternative, but it is a bit more expensive. They also offer spa treatments and have a great pool. In summer, you can enjoy your dinner on a gorgeous terrace with views over Lugano and the lake.

What to do around Lugano 

Lugano is ideal for a three-day trip. You can also visit it for a week as I did, if you like to combine discovering different places and relaxing in the spa. Here, I have arranged a little itinerary for you to give you an overview of the region.

Day 1 – Discover Lugano

First things first: Nobody will believe you that you have been on holiday if they can’t see it. So, in order to work on your tan, I know just the spot where to do it. Hotel Lido not only has a beautiful terrace directly at the lake – they also have a beach! There is no better spot in Lugano to soak up as much sun as possible.

After a relaxing morning at the shore, I would recommend heading to Domino for the best pizza in town. This will get you recharged for a busy afternoon of shopping, that’s right!

Lugano has a very, very well-sorted factory outlet called Foxtown. If you want to dress to impress without spending an impressive amount of money, this is where you want to go.

travel guide Lugano

Foxtown designer outlet centre

Here’s a short selection of the shops you can find there, with incredible discounts:

and many, more

So please treat yourself to something truly nice and spend at least one afternoon at Foxtown. You won’t regret it.

For dinner, you have many amazing restaurants to choose from. My two personal favourites are either Grotto della Salute or Osteria della Bella Vista. Both offer fantastic local specialties.

Day 2 – Make a day trip to Milan

Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, is only an hour’s drive away from Lugano. If you have never been, definitely plan in a day trip to this wonderful city. From Lugano, you can get there either by car or train. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Dome of Milan. It is one of the most magnificent churches in Northern Italy and definitely worth a visit. Take the lift to the top of the Dome and enjoy the stunning views over Milan.

travel guide Lugano

Rooftop of Dome of Milan

For lunch, don’t look any further than Il Bar Rinascente, with close-up views over the Dome. 

After that, I highly recommend you to check out the famous Vittorio Emanuele II shopping gallery, right on the opposite side of the Dome on Piazza del Duomo. It is one of the oldest malls in the world and is nicknamed “Milan’s Drawing Room” for a reason. With its many boutiques and cafés, it is one of the most vibrant meeting spots in Milan.

travel guide Lugano

Vittorio Emanuele II

To finish your cultural exploring with another overwhelmingly beautiful building, head over to the Opera, just behind the Vittorio Emanuele II Mall on Piazzo della Scala.

Now you’ve deserved your cappuccino and some gelato in one of the numerous cafés in the area, where people-watching and enjoying the sun are the must-dos. If you’re staying in Milan for dinner, head over to the Baglioni and indulge yourself with superb Italian cuisine.

Day 3 – Go to Como

One of the top destinations of this part of Italy, Como features not only one of the three biggest (and deepest) lakes in Italy, Lago di Como, but also a lovely medieval old town to get lost in.

travel guide Lugano

The old town in Como

Like many other cities in the Lombardy, Como, too, has a beautiful Dome to wander around in amazement. The church’s construction started in the 14th century and lasted over four centuries. You can find distinct architectural features of every era in it.

For lunch, you should not miss out on Nero China. They serve the best pasta I have ever tasted, hands down. In the afternoon, take the long way round the lake and enjoy the breathtaking views and laid-back vibes of Lombardy, before you return to Lugano and say your good-byes.

travel guide Lugano

Lake Como

When you’ve returned home, I am sure this trip will stay with you for a long time. Enjoy!