Must-knows about the Lake Lugano region

  • The southern part of the Swiss canton Ticino is dominated by the large Lake Lugano.
  • Most of Lake Lugano is in Switzerland. A few parts are in Italy.
  • The weather is often mild and sunny.
  • The main town is Lugano.
  • You can make many trips into the green forested mountains that surround the lake.
  • The Gotthard Panorama Express and Bernina Express are excellent ways to reach the region.
Main towns: Lugano
Recommended season: late March to late October

Things to see and do around Lake Lugano Copy link to clipboard

1st class seat in panoramic Gotthard Panorama Express coach
Gotthard Panorama Express
Scenic boat trip, Scenic train tripMin. time required: 5:30
The Gotthard Panorama Express is a scenic boat and train journey between Lucerne and Lugano. Prepare with our info about the route, tickets, reservations and …
Ferry crossing Lake Lugano between Gandria and Lugano
Boat Lake Lugano
Scenic boat tripMin. time required: 0:30
Boat trips on Lake Lugano are a relaxed way to see the area, and can be combined with other activities like Monte Brè and Monte …
Lugano, Lake Lugano and green hills from Monte San Salvatore
Monte San Salvatore
MountainsMin. time required: 1:30
Monte San Salvatore is an easy-to-reach mountain top in Lugano, Switzerland. Learn about the funicular ride from the city and the great views from the …
View over Lake Lugano and Monte San Salvatore from Monte Brè
Monte Brè
MountainsMin. time required: 3:00
We visited Monte Brè in Lugano and share our tips. Learn about the funicular ride to the top and what to expect there: panoramic views, …
Fiore di Pietra designed by Mario Botta at Monte Generoso
Monte Generoso
MountainsMin. time required: 2:30
Practical tips for visiting Monte Generoso, the highest peak in the Lake Lugano area. Learn about the wonderful train trip up, and what to expect …
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Must-do's in the Lake Lugano region

These are our favorite day trips:

  1. 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.
  2. A boat ride on Lake Lugano is very much worth it.
  3. 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 Copy link to clipboard

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

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Map

When to visit Lake Lugano Copy link to clipboard

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 Copy link to clipboard

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.

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Weather forecast

Accommodation in the Lake Lugano region Copy link to clipboard

The city of Lugano has a wide choice of hotels in all price ranges. Our Lugano hotel guide helps you choose. In addition, you can consider holiday rentals or one of the campsites on the lake.

Cafes and hotels on Piazza Riforma in Lugano

Hotels in Lugano, Switzerland

Our selection of hotels in Lugano: close to the rail station, in the vibrant town center, or right on Lake …

Is Lake Lugano worth visiting?

Yes, we certainly recommend visiting the Swiss part of Lake Lugano for these 4 reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 scenery

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?

Locarno on Lake Maggiore and Lugano on Lake Lugano are less than 30 minutes by train from one another. So it’s easy to base yourself on one lake, and make day trips to the other lake.

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:

  • want to stay in or near a mid-sized city, which would be Lugano.
  • like to visit several mountain tops: there are more options here than around Lake Maggiore.
  • travel from or to Milano.
  • want to travel by Gotthard Panorama Express. The train stops in Lugano, but not in Locarno.

Other websites of interest

Schedules

More about the city of Lugano Copy link to clipboard

View of Monte San Salvatore from Ciani Park, Lugano

Lugano

The city of Lugano is located on a lake in a very scenic area in the Ticino, southern Switzerland. Lugano …

Itineraries that include Lake Lugano Copy link to clipboard

Panoramic Bernina Express train at Alp Grüm

Ultimate scenic trains

Enjoy a week of scenic rail traveling all across the Swiss Alps, including famous panoramic trains. A must-do for train …

Our blog posts about Lake Lugano Copy link to clipboard

Hiking path between Lugano-Cassarate and Gandria

Hike Lugano-Gandria

An easy and very scenic hike across Lugano, along the lake and via the Olive Tree Path to the picturesque …

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Annika
Page author: AnnikaSince early childhood I've been visiting Switzerland during my holidays and I just fell in love with the country. I spent many summers in the Bernese Oberland, which still feels like my second home, and then started to explore other areas. Traveling, hiking and photographing in the Swiss Alps are my absolute favorite activities.