A Weekend in Ticino

By Serena Pedrioli

Welcome to Canton Ticino, a charming region located in the southern part of the Swiss Alps, bordering Italy.

Ticino offers a mild and pleasant climate, making it the perfect destination for all seasons.

Despite its small size, Italian-speaking Switzerland has so much to offer its tourists, with towns, picturesque villages and nature full of surprises. For those who are visiting this area for the first time and have little time at their disposal, it can be difficult to get organized so as to have an overall view of Ticino. I therefore propose a two-day itinerary to discover its main cities: Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno.

Table of Contents

Day 1 - Saturday

Bellinzona: an enchanted medieval town

Our journey can only begin with the capital of Ticino: Bellinzona. It is a magnificent medieval town, built at a strategic point that connects(goes) the south with the north of the Alps.

The Market in the Historic Center

Start your day by immersing yourself in the unique atmosphere of Bellinzona's weekly market, a very important social and meeting moment for Bellinzonese. The stalls that frame the narrow streets of the historic center will offer you the opportunity to sample local gastronomic products, from cheeses to fresh cold cuts. The old town is small and easily walkable, surrounded by the imposing fortifications that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Breathe in the air rich in history as you lose yourself among the stalls and cobblestone streets.

Visit to Castelgrande

Don't miss the opportunity to explore the majestic Castelgrande, which towers over Bellinzona. It is the largest of Bellinzona's three castles and with, Montebello Castle and Sassocrobaro, are part of UNESCO. Reaching Castelgrande is easy thanks to the striking elevator embedded in the rock that starts at Piazza del Sole. For those who prefer to walk, however, it can be reached from Piazza Collegiata or Piazza Nosetto by walking up steep alleys. Access to the inner courtyard, in which there is a park with a bird's eye view of the city and the entire surrounding valley, is completely free. In addition, there is a museum (for a fee) inside the castle with an archaeological and an art section (Diaporama).

To purchase the Bellinzona pass (access to the three castles and discounts on other attractions in the Bellinzona region) click here.

Lugano - the small metropolis of Ticino

In the afternoon, head to nearby Lugano, which can be reached in about 20 minutes by train or 30 by car. Lugano is the largest city in Ticino, and we realize this as soon as we leave the train station, from which we can admire an overall view of its entire urban fabric, of Lake Ceresio and the magnificent mountains (the San Salvatore and Monte Bré) that surround it.

Walk through the city center

Although there is a funicular that provides convenient access to the city center, I recommend taking the pedestrian street that will allow you to stop and admire the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and lose yourself in the vertical alleys and their little stores until you quickly reach Piazza Reforma, the largest in the entire canton.

From here it is a must to take the lively Via Nassa with its luxury boutiques and exclusive jewelry stores.

At the end of this renowned street, you will come across the modern building of the LAC (Lugano Arte e Cultura). Opened in 2015, the center houses the Museo Cantonale d’Arte della Svizzera italiana(MASILugano) and collaborates with partners such as Compagnia Finzi Pasca and the Orchestra della Svizzera italiana (OSI).

For event info, purchase tickets or more, visit the official website.

The lakefront and Ciani Park

The view of the magnificent Gulf of Lugano will surely have captured your attention, you can then return toward the city center by taking a movie-like walk along the lake.

To end our walk along the lakefront, it is a must to get to Ciani Park, considered one of the most beautiful Swiss parks with manicured gardens and a panoramic view of the lake.

Come sunset time, the city on the lake lights up and you will soon realize that Lugano is the center of the canton’s nightlife. Indeed, there are numerous restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs that will allow you to spend an evening according to your preferences.

Day 2 - Sunday

Locarno: the sunny on Lake Maggiore

Locarno is a charming piece of paradise located on the shores of picturesque Lake Maggiore. It can be reached by train from Lugano in just 30 minutes, or within an hour by car. This charming Swiss city, thanks to its mild and temperate climate, proves to be the perfect destination to spend an unforgettable Sunday. Get ready to immerse yourself in its culture, taste local delicacies and enjoy breathtaking views.

Explore Piazza Grande and the old town

Start your day by immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere of Piazza Grande, which can be easily reached on foot from the train station by passing under the arcades where there are several stores, bars and restaurants. The Piazza is surrounded by colorful and characteristic town houses, among which the Municipal Tower with its striking clock stands out. It is an important meeting place, where many events such as Moon & Stars and the Locarno Film Festival take place.

All the little alleys that branch off from the Square will allow you to reach the historic center of the city: the Old Town. Strolling through these fascinating alleys, you must definitely stop to explore the Castello Visconteo, with its museum. Pass by the Rusca House Art Gallery, St. Anthony’s Square and Church, the House of the Necromancer, Palazzo Morettini now home to the Cantonal Library, the House of the Canons and the New Church.

Relaxation on Lake Maggiore

Now head to the shores of Lake Maggiore and enjoy a relaxing stroll along the lakefront, admiring the sparkling waters and surrounding mountains.

If you want to treat yourself to a spa break after this busy weekend, you can head to the Locarno Thermal Baths, located at the end of the lakefront promenade. This modern spa offers a variety of thermal pools, saunas, and spa treatments. Let yourself be pampered in a tranquil and rejuvenating atmosphere.

Pilgrimage to Madonna del Sasso in Orselina

On the other hand, if you are still full of energy and want to enjoy your weekend in Ticino until the last moment, I recommend visiting the Sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso in Orselina, which is located above Locarno. It is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Italian-speaking Switzerland; from which you can enjoy an unmissable view of the region. The shrine can be easily reached on foot from Piazza Grande, passing through the historic center and climbing the steps of the Via Crucis, with a path surrounded by fascinating natural scenery. For those who do not wish to walk, however, it is possible to ascend Sacro Monte thanks to the funicular railway open year-round that makes the Locarno-Madonna del Sasso route.

Religious services are regularly held inside and there is the Museum of Our Lady of the Rock in which guided tours are also organized.

For more information visit the the official website.

Practical information

Since 2021 there has been Ticino Ticket, a ticket available in both paper and digital form for all those staying overnight in Ticino hotels, youth hostels or campsites partnered with this initiative. Thanks to Ticino Ticket you will be able to travel free of charge on all public transportation in the canton during your entire stay, as well as take advantage of discounts at all tourist attractions affiliated with Ticino Ticket.

For more informations visit the official website.

This itinerary will take you through the treasures of Ticino, allowing you to discover its history, culture and outstanding natural beauty. Enjoy every moment of this little autumn getaway and be enchanted by the magic of this Swiss region. Enjoy your trip!


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