This past weekend my friend Elle and I forgot it was a three-day holiday, so we booked a last-minute lake vacation in Lugano. Switzerland is primarily split into German, French and Italian regions. Lugano is in the Italian part and almost at the border.

Though a long train ride for a weekend, we figured the trip would be worth it to eat delicious Italian(ish) food and see the famous scenery, and it was a great trip!

We stayed at a simple hotel – Hotel Colorado – which was reasonably priced (180 CHF/night for two people), well located (10-minute walk to train station, easy walk to “downtown” Lugano and Paradiso neighborhood). But the main reason – it had a vacancy.  That’s the trouble with searching for a hotel three days before a long holiday. An added plus – the hotel had three first-come-first-serve bicycles to borrow, which no one else seemed to take advantage of.

Elle and I found the Lugano tourism information well-done and helpful information. So over the course of 48 hours, we came, we saw and of course we ate.

Some highlights:

Scaled (via funicular) Mount San Salvatore for 360-degree, birdseye view of Lugano and surrounding areas (14 CHF with Swiss train card discount). There was also a quaint church on top of the mountain. Our hotel host said if we didn’t do this, it would be like going to Paris without going to the Eiffel Tower. Not quite, but we got his drift. We didn’t realize the first funicular up the mountain was at 9:00, so we took our ambitious, early rising selves for a stop by the lake – and a nearby patisserie.

Mount San Salvatore
Mount San Salvatore
View from church terrace on top of Mount San Salvatore
View from church terrace
Panoramic view
Panoramic view of Lugano from Mount San Salvatore

Cruised the lakes (two-hour tour for 25 CHF with Swiss train card discount). Again, spectacular scenery, and new towns to add to travel to-do list. There are longer tour options, but I felt two hours was plenty and it didn’t high-jack your day.

Morcote is now on my travel to-do list
Morcote is now on my travel to-do list

Hiked to Gandria. It was about an hour hike from Lugano, but easy and scenic (plus clean public bathrooms – though that’s common in Switerland). We walked the “olive oil” trail, saw beautiful houses that we envisioned owning in another life, and in super cute Gandria found a seldom-used dock that we parked ourselves on to lounge and read. It’s actually just at the border of the countries. We passed a cute hotel on the way, Hotel Moosmann, which I’ll consider for future trips.

Look closely and you'll see the walking trail rails
Look closely and you’ll see the walking trail rails
Sitting on the dock of the "lake", wastin time
Sitting on the dock of the “lake”, wastin time
We almost walked to Italy! The tiny orange dot across the lake shows where the Swiss-Italian border starts.
We almost walked to Italy! The orange dot across the lake shows where the Swiss-Italian border starts.

Lounged at the lidos (pools/beach areas with small admission fee). Al Lido near the Lugano park had a large beach and green area (11 CHF); family friendly, and had friendly families – including a holiday-ing manicurist who painted my nails for me after seeing me attempt to do them myself! We also went to one along the lake between Paradiso and our hotel. Forgot to get the name, but it seemed to be the only one. It was 6 CHF to swim, but free access to the bar. Elle, being her sporty self, went straight to swim. I went to the bar.

Al Lido. Hosts nighttime dance parties too.
Al Lido. Hosts nighttime dance parties too.
Other lido
Other lido

Walked through Old Town. Beautiful, but in a way – sterile. Everything was so pristine (as Swiss often are) that it felt you were on a movie set.

Loved the railings
Loved the railings

Separate post on some of the Lugano restaurants coming soon. Hope you’ve enjoyed Lugano so far!

Emmelle

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