Things to see and do around Lake Lugano
Must-do's in the Lake Lugano region
These are our favorite day trips:
- A trip up to Monte Generoso is wonderful, as that gives you an overview of a huge area, as well as a very nice train ride.
- A boat ride on Lake Lugano is very much worth it.
- If arrival or departure via the Gotthard Panorama Express fits your itinerary, then be sure to include that too.
If you're pressed for time, you can even enjoy our one-day Ticino trip to see the highlights.
A day trip to Lake Como in Italy
Como is at the southern end of the Italian Lake Como and can be reached by train from Lugano. If you want to travel to lakeside towns further up north, for example to Bellagio, you’ll have to get an additional bus or ferry.
Alternatively, you can use the bus line that connects Lugano and Gandria on Lake Lugano to Porlezza and Menaggio on Lake Como.
Use the links provided here to plan such trips.
The Bernina Express bus between Lugano and Tirano passes northern Lake Como too.
A day trip to Milan in Italy
Theoretically, you can make a day trip to Milan from Lugano or other larger towns in the Ticino, such as Bellinzona. A single ride takes 1h30 to 2h00.
If you leave early and get back late, you can spend quite some hours in Milan.
Map and travel info
How to reach Lake Lugano
Most of the Lake Lugano region can be reached and explored by public transport very well. Trains, boats, buses, and mountain transport will take you almost anywhere, including places where cars can't go.
Please find all of our detailed travel tips here:
Map of Lake Lugano
When to visit Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano in spring, summer, and fall
We prefer visiting Lugano and the lake from late March to late October. That's when the forested hills are very pretty, more so than during the winter months.
Lake Lugano area can get quite warm in summer. If you rather avoid the possible heat, try visiting in April-May or in October.
Lake Lugano in winter
In our opinion, Lake Lugano isn't an obvious choice for a winter trip. The wonderful hills, which are so impressive from spring to autumn, look less vibrant between November and March.
The city of Lugano has a lot to offer though. So if you can plan a short stay there during a winter trip, we think you'll still appreciate the area.
Weather and climate of Lake Lugano
Which temperatures to expect
The climate around Lake Lugano is mild in winter (with daytime temperatures of 7°C to 12°C) and warm in summer (with average daytime temperatures of 24°C to 28°C).
Relatively little rain
Rain can fall in all months. The wettest months are April to August, but this isn't something to worry about:
- Lake Lugano receives less rain than many other Swiss regions.
- You may see rain in the forecasts for many warm summer days. This usually concerns showers or thunderstorms that occur in the afternoon or evening, after a sunny and warm start of the day.
Low chance of snow
The Lake Lugano area is generally too low and too warm to receive snow in winter. Weather in Switzerland is changeable, so snow does occur in the Ticino, sometimes even in large amounts. It's best not to count on it though.
If you're looking for snow holidays, we recommend you stay in one of the many Swiss winter resorts at higher altitudes instead.
Accommodation in the Lake Lugano region
Is Lake Lugano worth visiting?
Yes, we certainly recommend visiting the Swiss part of Lake Lugano for these 4 reasons:
- It’s very diverse: there’s the vibrant city of Lugano, beautiful lakeside villages, the deep blue lake, and the steep green hills rising up all around it.
- The scenery is unique to this particular part of Switzerland. So if you plan to several other Swiss regions too, a stay in the Lake Lugano region will add significant variety to your itinerary.
- You can make all sorts of day trips: by train and by boat, all across the lake. In addition, there are several mountain tops you can visit by cogwheel train, funicular and gondola.
- It’s an excellent stop on your way to or from Italy.
What to expect in the Lake Lugano region
The shape of the lake
Lake Lugano is remarkably shaped, with outlets in all directions. It’s surrounded by Italian territory in the west, south and east. Parts of the lake are on Italian territory.
The lake is surrounded by steep forested mountains of around 1000 m high. The highest peak in the area is Monte Generoso (1700 m). In general, there are lots of colorful flowers and quite some palm trees.
Lugano: the main town
Lugano is on the northern shore of the lake. It’s a bustling town with a beautiful, long boulevard that allows for relaxed strolls. There are excellent train connections to Locarno and Bellinzona in the Ticino. Como, Milano and other Italian destinations can be well reached too. Learn all about this town in our Lugano holiday guide.
Authentic lakeside villages
Throughout the Swiss part of Lake Lugano, you’ll find lovely ancient lakeside villages. One of the best examples is the gem of Gandria, built on the steep slopes above the lake east of Lugano. Another village worth a visit is Morcote.
Green mountaintops to visit
The green hills and mountains can be discovered on foot, but there’s quite some mountain transportation too. You can make wonderful excursions to Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè close to Lugano, for example.
Where to stay on Lake Lugano
Consider these resorts in the Swiss part of Lake Lugano:
- Lugano is an attractive busy city right on the lake, with countless shops, restaurants and hotels. If you like a lively, central base with perfect train connections, this is the place to be.
- Other towns of medium size are Chiasso and Mendrisio. Both are in the very southern corner of the Ticino, close to the Swiss-Italian border. Both towns have a rail station and offer easy access to Lugano, and to Como in Italy.
- If you prefer smaller villages with a train station, consider the Swiss part of Ponte Tresa (west of the lake), or Melide (in the middle of the lake, roughly between Lugano and Mendrisio).
- A scenic village without a train station, but with bus connections, is Castagnola. It’s at the foot of Monte Brè and close to Lugano.
- One of the prettiest villages is Morcote, a lakeside town close to the Italian border. You can’t reach it by train, but there are buses to Lugano and Melide.
Which is better: Lake Lugano or Lake Maggiore?
Lake Maggiore is a good option if you:
- don’t want to stay in a larger city such as Lugano.
- value access to beautiful hiking valleys such as the Verzasca Valley and the Maggio Valley.
- want to visit the Brissago Islands and/or Ascona.
- enter or leave via the Centovalli Railway route.
Lake Lugano is better if you:
Other websites of interest
- www.asfautolinee.it: bus services in the Italian Lake Como area
- www.navigazionelaghi.it: boat services on the Italian Lake Como