Lugano

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Lugano [1] is a lakeside city in Cantone Ticino, the only majority Italian-speaking Canton of Switzerland. Located at the extreme south of the country, Lugano is part of a temperate micro-climate, offering palm trees, picturesque boulevards, stunning views of the lake and the Alps, and plenty of opportunity for outdoor and indoor activities. Lugano also makes a good base for visiting other cities and sites in the area. The city is a pleasant place to relax in the summertime and is only half an hour away from the italian cities of Como and Varese.

The lake view at night

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Lugano has a small international airport, Lugano-Agno airport [2] located in the nearby municipality of Agno with flights arriving from many European cities especially Italy, England, France and Germany. These are typically connecting flights through Geneva or Zurich.

Milan's airports are 1 1/2 hours away by bus or train and are served by EasyJet and Ryanair. Of these, Milano Malpensa may be the best choice for Lugano due to the high volume of flights and its location well towards Switzerland. Swiss International Airline [3], Flybaboo [4] and Darwin Airline [5] offer discount web special prices to Lugano from many parts of Europe. For shuttle transfers from Malpensa please refer to the "By Bus" section below.

By train[edit]

Lugano station is located on the Gotthard railway which crosses the alps connecting Kanton Schwyz, Uri, and Cantone Ticino. It primarily serves FFS (aka SBB, aka CFF, the national railway operator), TILO (Joint operation between FFS and Italy's Trenord), EC, and the local metre-gauge FLP.

FFS trains leave for Zurich (3hr), Basel (3:34) and Milan (a good hour) as well as Geneva (via Zurich or Locarno-Domodossola: 5h30' with 1 or 2 train-change, 6h30' via Milan with 1 train-change). Note that getting to Geneva or points west it is faster to go via Zurich or Locarno as the trains are more frequent and faster.

FLP trains depart from a separate platform about 50 metres down the hill from the FFS platforms. This line travels to Ponte Tresa on the Italian border via Lugano-Agno Airport.

By car[edit]

Due to physical geography, Lugano has good North-South oriented links and non-existent East-West ones.

Lugano is on the A2 motorway (just "2" on a red background on Swiss road signs) which spans the width of the country from Basel on the French/German borders to Chiasso on the Italian. This is part of the European Route E35 from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Rome, Italy. Like most Swiss roads, the condition is usually very good and speeds are good, nevertheless distance makes journey times relatively long, particularly when travelling from the north of the country. (But then again, what do you expect, you're crossing the alps! Just imagine that you're Hannibal and enjoy it). Lugano is about 3h from Berne or Zürich, in optimal conditions. Note that this route passes through the San Gottardo tunnel, which is a bit of a bottleneck, so budget some time for traffic jams.

Coming from the south, you have more choices on the flat Po plain but the main route is the A9 motorway from near Milano to Chiasso (where it becomes the Swiss A2). This motorway is fast and relatively uncongested, just beware the somewhat more carefree driving style of the Italians compared to the Swiss. Note also the changes in speed limits when crossing into Switzerland. Lugano is about 1h30 from Milano and 1h10 from Malpensa airport, in optimal conditions. Travelling on the A9 does incur one toll near Como, around 2.20EUR as of 2016.

NB. crossing customs is usually a pain-free exercise. Switzerland is part of Schengen, so they're (currently) not interested in your passport (if you're European) but they are not part of the EU and may be interested if you're carrying anything you need to declare; make sure you know the duty-free limits.

By bus[edit]

There are three airport shuttle services between Lugano and Milan Malpensa Airport (both terminals). The services are very similar to each other, so if you are short of time just pick the one that's going to arrive next:

  • Lugano Services [6]
  • Malpensa Express [7] NB. This should not be confused with the Malpensa Express train service to Milano città; probably best to ignore all signs except for the ones to the bus stops. The bus service is operated by a company called Giosy Tours, so look for the busses branded with that name on the side.
  • Jetbus [8]

Features:

Embarkation: All serve both terminals at Malpensa, and are fairly easily located just outside the arrivals areas; there are signs in front of their pickup points/bays that all say Lugano and have timetables on them.
Dropoff: All shuttles stop at Lugano FFS (at Piazzale Besso just behind the stazione). Lugano Servizi and Malpensa Express make one or two intermediate stops, while Jetbus is non-stop. Malpensa Express contines on to Bellinzona.
Cost: All cost roughly the same amount and all accept payments in either CHF or EUR. All baggage is carried free of charge.
Tickets & Reservations: All permit tickets to be purchased on board; reservations are not usually necessary but can be made online
Return tickets: All offer returns which are more economical and validity is within one month (keep hold of your receipt)
Frequency: All offer a roughly two-hourly service
Journey time MXP-LUG: All roughly the same, regardless of stops. It's often quicker than driving a car since the busses use Telepass for tolls and so do not need to stop, and do not use the general lanes at Swiss customs.
Fleet: All companies' vehicles are comfortable minibuses or coaches


There is also a daily bus service during summer to Tirano, Italy with train connection (Bernina Express [9]) to St. Moritz (Switzerland).

Get around[edit]

Lugano from across the Lake

Lugano is small enough to get around on foot, and many of the streets are pedestrian-only, but the hills above the lakefront are very steep so bus or funicular from the center of town might be a better option. This is probably particularly pertinent if you have a lot of bags and need to get from the Stazione FFS to your hotel in town.

Taxis can also be found on the main roads. They are metered and the fares (quite high compared to other cities) are set by the city, so no haggling or shopping around is required. Ferries and Funiculars are great options for seeing the views.

Tickets[edit]

For public transport, Ticino is divided into fare zones, and tickets typically have a valid time period within a zone, as opposed to validity for a single trip.

APE cards (Arcabaleno Prepay Easy) can be used throughout Ticino. This is a contactless card which isn't quite as smart as, for example, London's Oyster Card. The Arcobaleno card cannot itself be used to pay for travel on the bus/train but it can be used to buy tickets at machines which do not accept credit cards, and it prevents you from having to hold a paper carnet (although when you validate (obliterare) your journey, you will receive a paper receipt that provides evidence of the validation). In Lugano, cards can be purchased from ticket counters and machines on the platforms at Lugano Centro bus station. Apparently also from drivers.

Tickets may also be purchased using the Autopostale app for all scheduled bus services (including TPL, ARL) but not SNL boats.

Funicular[edit]

For more information:

  • Funicolare Lugano Citta - Stazione (telephone +41 91 800 72 28/29, you'll never need to call!). This funicular links the old center of the town on the lake shore to the railway station higher up the hill. Starting 05.20 till 23.50, always, there is one every 5-10 minutes. As of 20160312 this is closed for renovation until end-2016. There is a replacement bus service, called Funibus, which maintains the same departure times and prices. The journey is longer however (10-15mins compared to 2-3).
  • Funicolare Lugano Paradiso - Monte San Salvatore, telephone +41 91 985 28 28. A funicular which runs from Lugano to the top of the Monte San Salvatore, with spectacular views of the Lake of Lugano, the isthmus of Melide, the Monte Generoso and the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia on the other side of the lake. [10]
  • Funicolare Monte Brè - Monte Brè, A funicular which runs from Lugano to the top of the Monte Brè for 14 fr. one way and 20 fr. round trip. [11]

Bus[edit]

For the most part, bus tickets can be purchased at bus stops, however not all machines (particularly true the further from the town centre you are) accept credit cards or banknotes.

  • Trasporti Pubblici Luganese TPL provides local services in and around town. Busses are gray with blue and green highlights. The main TPL station
  • Autolinee Regionali Luganesi ARL provides regional services to the environs. Busses are white with red highlights.
  • Autopostale (aka Postbus) busses provide regional and national services. These iconic Swiss busses are yellow with red highlights.
  • Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano SNL provide routes to Campione and Gandria. Busses are white with blue highlights.

The main bus hubs are Lugano Centro for TPL and ARL, and for Autopostale the nearby underground station beneath the Autosilo Balestra. There are also good connections from the Stazione FFS and by the lakeside.

There is usually no requirement to show drivers your tickets, the honor system is used here. However, there are ticket inspectors and fines for freeriding are high so don't try to abuse the system.

You may have mixed results with trying to buy your ticket on the bus, particularly with an APE card. Although most busses seem to have machines capable of doing so, it isn't standard practice and drivers may seem at a loss. The standard procedure is to buy your ticket before you get on; note that in the polite and relaxed Luganese society, busses will wait patiently for you to purchase your ticket and then board (make sure you acknowledge the courtesy with a respectful "Grazie!").

Boat[edit]

Regular Ferry services are operated by Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano (SNL) and serve many locations around the lake. Main routes are to Gandria, Ponte Tresa, and Porlezza (IT).

SNL also operates tourist cruises.

  • While much of Lake Lugano is in Switzerland, a large portion of it is in Italy so take your passport when on a boat.

Talk[edit]

Italian is spoken in Lugano as a primary language. English is spoken by many of the individuals that interact with tourists but away from the tourist trail it is much less common so some Italian and German would be useful.

See[edit][add listing]

View of Lago di Lugano from the Parco Civico in Lugano
  • Swiss Miniature Village, Via Cantonale, Melide-Lugano. Tickets: Adults CHF17, Children below 6 years gratis, 6-15y CHF12 and Senior Citizen (over 65) CHF15. (Price in 2010) [12]
  • Parco Civico (Ciani park) A peaceful park with a wide variety of flowers and trees located near the heart of Lugano's tourist area.[13]
  • Old Town
  • Cantonal Art Museum [14] Highly recommended!
  • Museum of Modern Art [15]
  • Monte San Salvatore (San Salvatore funicular) [16]
  • Hermann Hesse museum[17]. The museum is in Montagnola and you can get there in fifteen minutes from the Lugano railway station by a bus number 36 (direction Agra). Check the time tables, the bus frequence isn't very high. Get off at bus stop Bellevue. The museum also offers an audio guide for a walk in the steps of Hesse, which is a extremely good choice on a beautiful day. Besides the exhibition there is also a film on Hesse shown, duration approximately 50 minutes. In the summer season (March-October) opened daily from 10.00 to 18.30, in the winter season only on weekends from 10.00 to 17.30. Tickets: CHF 7.50/CHF 6.00, discounts for families and groups. Friendly and helpful staff. English, German and Italian spoken.
  • Gandria, (Walk, boat or bus), [18]. Gandria is an unspoiled, picturesque lakeside village at the foot of Monte Brè. Perched on the steep mountainside it is a community of narrow streets, inaccessible to cars, with a delightful surprise round every corner.  edit
  • HC Lugano [19], the city's hockey team. In the top flight National League A, they play at the Pista La Resega in Porza.

Do[edit][add listing]

Monte San Salvatore seen from Lugano
Lido di Lugano is a great place to swim right in the city center: beach, 3 swimming pools & bar.
  • Boating
Boat rental options include paddle boats and speed boats.
  • Hiking
Mount Brè
There are numerous rustic trails that lead up from towns surrounding Mount Brè to its apex and the Funicolare Monte Brè.
A trail map is available from the local tourist information.
Olive Tree Trail
Path along the streets from Gandria to Castagnola which is marking with signs that describe the history of olive trees in the region.
Trekking Lugano and Malcantone region
  • Mountain biking
Bike rentals:
  • SFR Railway Station Lugano, Tel. +41-512-215642
  • Balmelli Sport, Via Pioda 12, Tel. +41-91-9235867
  • Casinò Lugano [21], via Stauffacher 1, Tel. +41-91-9737111, Fax +41-91-9737149, email: info@casinolugano.ch. Open every day from 12AM-4AM (Fridays and Saturdays closing time at 5AM). Tables open at 2PM.
  • Special Events
As the major city in the region, Lugano is often the focal point for festivals and special events throughout the year. A list may be found below but for a comprehensive listing check out AgendaLugano[22](in Italian)
  • Blues to Bop Festival - Free open air music festival with multiple stages throughout the heart of Lugano in late August. Starts at 9:00 PM and goes until 1:00 AM to 2:30 AM depending on the evening.[23]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Many major labels and designer boutiques (Versace, Hermes, Paul & Shark, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier) can be found here, as well as the usual Swiss and Italian knick-knacks. Via Nassa in the city center is the main place for shopping high street brands.

  • Manor - Large department store in the centre of town. Sort of a cross between John Lewis and Debenhams (if you're from the UK). Also has smaller locations dotted around town.
  • Foxtown, Mendrisio, Via A. Maspoli 18 (Can be reached by train from the Central Station (direction Mendrisio-Chiasso)), [24]. 11-19. Huge designer outlet in just 20 km from Lugano.  edit

Malls[edit]

Not very common in this part of Switzerland. The ones you do find tend to be smaller than British or American ones.

  • Centro Lugano Sud, Grancia - Decent range of stores located in and around this mall. Main reasons you'd go there: Ikea, Qualipet, Mediamarkt, Coop, some sport and fashion stores.

Eat[edit][add listing]

If you like Italian-style cuisine with a Swiss twist, you're not going to go hungry here. The main draws are the Grotti, but there are many smaller ristoranti and caffè where you can get excellent food. Indeed it can actually be quite difficult to find non-classy food here.

In terms of "fast food", the locals love their piadine, an Italian-style wrap with various fillings (usually cold cuts, cheese and veg) and served grilled. Essentially an Italian version of a quesadilla; delicious right? Go try one now.

The main problem is that the locals don't seem to have discovered spicy food and you may have a hard time finding anything that requires chilli peppers. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Regarding times, note that mealtimes are rather strictly adhered to (this is Switzerland after all), so if you come from a 24-hour city then you may be in for a surprise when you find that absolutely nowhere is serving at 1545 when you finally decide to get out and go for a meal, and your stomach may just have to grumble a bit until you get to dinnertime.

If you need delivery then your best bet, aside from the ristoranti themselves is probably Home Sweet Home who have a reasonably wide selection of restaurants that will deliver, but you're going to miss out on the pleasantness and vibrancy of actually dining out in Lugano.

If you need groceries, then the main supermarket chains are Migros, Coop, Denner, Aldi. On Sundays, you're kind of screwed but the Picobello in Stazione FFS (which is also a good option for out of hours shopping as it opens fairly late), or perhaps a Migrolino ought to tide you over. You could also cross the border but remember the import limits.

Budget[edit]

The cafeteria in the Manor Department store (Piazza Dante 2) offers a wide variety of tempting International dishes, ranging from sushi to pasta. Fresh fruits and vegetables arrayed in stylish displays are almost a painting themselves. Wine and beer are available as are a wide range of other beverages.

And if you simply get tired of delicious local cuisine, there is a McDonald's and a Burger King by the lakeside. Go ahead it's fine, no judgement here, honest. Turkish-style kebab places are also reasonably common, serving Doner and Felafel. There's even a Mexican taqueria near the parco civico, which is well-priced and tasty. Still not spicy though...

Mid-range[edit]

Don't focus too much on the list below, the numbers of places that serve pizza is far too high to list recommendations. Suffice to say that the vast majority are excellent and reasonably-priced for Switzerland.

  • Argentino, Piazza Riforma, Tel. +41-91-9229049. Excellent pizza, great service. They offer 2 sizes of pizza, price ranges around CHF15-20.
  • Tango, Piazza Riforma, Really great tasty pizza, quick service (6-7 min per pizza). Price ranges around CHF 15-20.
  • Ristorante Etnic in Quartiere Maghetti, serves a variety of "International" dishes, all quite good.
  • Ristorante Antico, CH-6978 Gandria - Lugano, 091 971 48 71. Italian cuisine in the village of Gandria with dining on a terrace with views of Lago di Lugano  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

In the summer your best bet is just to wander along the lakeside promenade and open air bar/cafes. Check local listings for clubs and shows as venues come and go with the seasons. Spring-Autumn, Bar Mojito (p.za Manzoni, directly at the lakeside)

There are clubs in the city (discos). Nix (under the Casinò), Privilege (near Manor, a department store), Tito's Place (quartiere Maghetti), Club One and The Cube are all located in the downtown.

Oops (via Maderno 24) and Bibliocafè Tra (Salita dei Frati, Piazza Molino Nuovo) are a great place to have beer in the evening. Near University [25]. Another hint:

  • Arte, Lungolago. Amazing decor, (also an art gallery), great food and views of the Lake!  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are a wide range of hotel options right in town, from atmospheric B&Bs to posh four stars to comfy and communal hostels. Be sure to book ahead in the summer, but the rest of the year it's possible to just show up and find something as long as your budget is flexible.

Budget[edit]

  • Montarina Hotel & Hostel, Via Montarina 1, +41 (91) 966 72 72 (, fax: +41 (91) 966 00 17), [26]. The hostel would cost you CHF 25 per night whereas a single room in the hotel starts at CHF 70. Breakfast at CHF 12 per person.  edit
  • Hotel Pestalozzi, Piazza Indipendenza 9, +41 (91) 921 46 46 (, fax: +41 (91) 922 20 45), [27]. A very clean, family-run hotel with some en-suite rooms. English and German are spoken. Prices start at CHF 64 for a single room without shower and toilet.  edit
  • Youth Hostel Lugano-Savosa, Via Cantonale 13, 6942 Savosa, +41 (91) 966 27 28 (, fax: +41 (91) 968 23 63), [29]. Prices start at CHF 23 in a dormitory, provided you have a membership.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Hotel International au Lac, Via Nassa 68, 6901 Lugano, +41 (91) 922 75 41 (, fax: +41 (91) 922 75 44), [30]. checkin: 14:00-onwards; checkout: 6:30-12:00. . Family tradition since 1906, it is the right hotel for holidays or for business stays and the only one on the lake promenade in the centre of Lugano, with own indoor parking, restaurant, meeting room, garden with swimming-pool and terrace. W-Lan Internet Hot-Spot, an Internet workstation and an "Ethernet" connection for notebook computers are available free of charge at the Internet corner. “Historic hotel with honor”: the ICOMOS jury has granted the hotel this eminent UNESCO award. CHF 115-310.  edit
  • Hotel Villa Marita, Via Lucino 49, 6932 Breganzona, +41 (91) 966 05 61 (, fax: +41 (91) 968 11 18), [31]. checkin: 14:00-23:00; checkout: 10:00-11:00. CHF 80-190.  edit
  • Lugano Dante Center Swiss Quality Hotel, Piazza Cioccaro 5. CH-6900, +41 (91) 910 57 00 (, fax: +41 (91) 910 57 77), [32]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Located 1 minute from station, 200m from the lake. WIFI access and meeting facilities. Multistore car park.
    CHF 139 to 425 per night per room.  edit
  • Villa Sassa Hotel, Residence & SPA, Via Tesserete 10, +41 (91) 911 41 11 (, fax: +41 (91) 922 05 45), [33]. On the hills overlooking Lugano, yet just a few minutes walk from the centre of town. Single room in the hotel starts at CHF 240. Double room starts at CHF 240..  edit
  • Acquarello (Swiss Quality Hotels), Piazza Cioccaro, CH-6900, 0041(0)91 911 68 68 (, fax: +41 (91) 911 68 69), [35]. checkin: 15:00-23:00; checkout: 07:00-11:00. The Swiss Quality Hotel Acquarello has a direct connection to the station with the cable car and is situated in the city center. Single room from 116.25 CHF, double room from 157.50 CHF (season from October 2011, all included).
     edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Grand Hotel Eden, Riva Paradiso 1, +41 (91) 985 92 00 (, fax: +41 (91) 985 92 50), [36].  edit
  • Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola, Viale Castagnola 31, +41 (91) 973 25 55 (, fax: +41 (91) 973 25 50), [37].  edit
  • Hotel Splendide Royal, Riva A. Caccia 7, +41 (91) 985 77 11 (, fax: +41 91 985 77 22), [38].  edit
  • Villa Principe Leopoldo Hotel & SPA, Via Montalbano 5, +41 (91) 985 88 55 (), [39]. Villa Principe Leopoldo is located at only 2 Km from the city of Lugano. The historical main building – the Villa – is, together with the nearby Residence (of more recent construction), one of the most refined luxury hotel establishments in Lugano. Prices range from CHF 450 to CHF 1,950 per room per night.  edit

Learn[edit]

  • Universita della Svizzera Italiana
  • Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana
  • Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligience
  • Franklin College Switzerland: an internationally accredited college.
  • The American School in Switzerland (TASIS), an international secondary school.

Communications[edit]

Free Wi-Fi

  • The City provides a connection which can be found along the lakeside near to Piazza della Riforma - requires a phone that can receive text messages
  • Autopostale busses - requires a phone that can receive text messages
  • Free wifi can also be found in the University campus (Via Buffi, 13)

There are also a few cafes that provide internet in and around town; some aren't that obvious with it however so perhaps a good opportunity to try out your Italian and ask around ("Avete wi-fi?" and "Che é il codice?" might help).

Stay safe[edit]

Lugano is as safe as most cities in Switzerland, but the density of expensive purses, watches, and sunglasses may make pickpockets more of a problem. The usual cautions apply to walking alone late at night, especially after bars and clubs close before dawn.

National Emergency Numbers[edit]

  • European Emergency Number: 112 (Even though Switzerland is not part of the EU, they still implement the European standard number)
  • Police (Polizia) Emergency: 117
  • Fire Department (Pompieri): 118
  • Ambulances (Ambulanze): 144
  • Air Ambulance (REGA): 1414 or 161.300 MHz
  • Poisonings (Intossicazioni): 145

Important Numbers[edit]

  • City of Lugano Police: +41 (0)58 866 82 50 (piazza Riforma), +41-58-8668111 (Via Beltramina 20B)
  • Civic Hospital (Ospedale Civico): +41-91-8116111 (via Tesserete 46 )
  • Emergency Ward (Pronto Soccorso), Civic Hospital: +41-91-8116006
  • Doctor and dentist on call: 1811
  • Breakdown Service (Soccorso stradale): 140
  • Lost Property Office (Ufficio oggetti smarriti), City of Lugano Police, Via Beltramina 20b; Mon-Fri: 7:30AM - 12AM, 1:30PM-5PM; Phone: +41-58-8668250

Get out[edit]

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