The BEST of Lugano – 1 Day Trip

Lugano is full of posh streets, exquisite shops, lovely people and amazing mountains to hike on. We have created the perfect itinerary for a 1 day trip for you!

Lake Lugano, with its surprisingly opaque colour

Where to stay: If you are looking for an affordable hotel that still offers a little bit of Swiss luxury and great views, you should stay at Bigatt Hotel & Restaurant.

When to come: We came at the end of August and experienced very nice weather.

How to get there: Lugano used to have an airport which got liquidated in the times of the Corona crisis. However, Milan airport is close and from there you can easily reach Lugano within 2 hours by train. Check your flight options on Skyscanner.

How long to stay: we decided to stay for 6 days in the Lombardy in order to visit Lake Como, Milan, Bergamo and Lugano. Here’s our full itinerary. However, if you only plan to explore Lugano, 1 day should be enough to cover everything.

Arriving in Lugano

We visited Lugano coming from Argegno. First we took a bus to the city of Como and from there a train to Lugano. You will pay €20 for a return ticket that you can purchase at the machine or at the ticket counter at the Como train station. Both are located in the building. You will definitely know that you reached Switzerland and are no longer in Italy when you look at the price tags in Lugano, so just be prepared for this little culture/price shock.

Hike up Monte Bré and follow the Olive Tree Trail
Other side of the lake from Monte Bre, with a view of the village

In Lugano, you have the option to hike up Monte Bré or Monte San Salvatore. If you come unprepared like we did, choose Monte Bré as San Salvatore will require a solid pair of hiking shoes. The hike up to Monte Bré took us a little over two hours and was definitely manageable. You will be walking in shaded forest areas for most of the time, so you don’t have to worry about the sun hitting you too hard.

The views from the top of Monte Bré over lake Lugano are breathtaking and you can even enjoy a coffee on the mountaintop (the second reason to choose Bré over San Salvatore). If you don’t feel like hiking, you have the option to use the funicular. However, this will cost you around CHF25.

The Olive Treet Trail
Panoramic view over Lugano city on the way down from Monte Bre

After Monte Bré we hiked down to Gandria and followed the Olive Tree Trail, another hiking trail surrounded by olive trees on the one side and lake Lugano on the other. We were accompanied by hundreds of lizards crossing our pathways and leading us the way (okay, fine, they were probably running away from us, but ours is a nicer image we think 😉

Parko Ciani
Parko Ciani with a white building and grass and flowers in front

For lunch we headed to Migros, the major supermarket chain in Switzerland and bought some walnut bread (don’t miss out!), Swiss cheese and ready made salads. We enjoyed those after the hike in the Parko Ciani featuring lakefront views, flower decorated paths and manicured lawns, before heading to the city centre of Lugano.

If you plan to climb a mountain and have a rewarding beer afterwards, keep in mind that until 2021 Migros did not sell any alcoholic beverages. According to news reports from Switzerland, this might change in 2022.

Centro Storico
Centro Storico in Lugano with people sitting in a cafe outdoors

The Centro Storico is the old centre of Lugano and magnificent to walk through. First you have the Piazza Riforma, which is great to stroll through in the evenings when people enjoy a nice drink or their dinner and the whole square is filled with lights and life. In the south you have the Neoclassical city hall, housing the tourist office and on Tuesdays and Fridays you can visit the market on Piazzale Ex Scuole.

Cathedral San Lorenzo and Chiesa di Santa Maria
Cathedral San Lorenzo and Chiesa di Santa Maria in Lugano

Cathedral San Lorenzo is Lugano’s Renaissance cathedral made out of limestone and marble dating back to the 16th century. The Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli is a former monastic church that is a bit underwhelming on the outside but supposed to be magnificent on the inside. Unfortunately, this church was closed when we visited in August 2021 around 5pm although as per Google it was supposed to be open. If you follow the street down, you will find the cultural centre of Lugano.

The best thing about Lugano city were the nice people we came by and the luxury we got to admire that emitted from every corner of the city. We fell in love with it and think that you will too.

If you are interested in combining your visit with a holiday to Lake Como please check out our 3 to 6-day itinerary.