You may be wondering, is Bellinzona worth visiting for your next travel location? The answer is yes! Bellinzona is the capital of the Ticino canton in Switzerland and has lots to offer for those visiting. Bellinzona is the place of Ticino where you can explore castles, shop at the weekly market and hike for the most gorgeous valley views.
There are activities all year round in Bellinzona, with the Christmas Markets being one event that everyone should experience at least once!
Keep reading to see exactly where Bellinzona is, facts, our personal recommended things to do, where to hike and a place to sleep in Bellinzona. We also share a place to eat and more info on the market!
About Bellinzona Switzerland
Where is Bellinzona?
Bellinzona is located in the Ticino canton of Switzerland in the very south of the country. It is the capital city of the Ticino canton and home to around 45,000 residents. The city is surrounded by the Lepontine Alps to the east and west, and the Lugano Prealps to the south.
It is easily reachable with many direct trains, such as from Zurich, Lugano and Locarno! You can check the SBB for the best time for your visit depending on where you are coming from in the first place.
Facts About Bellinzona
Curious what unique factors Bellinzona has? See here our top facts about Bellinzona:
- Bellinzona only receives an average of 102.8 days of rain or snow per year
- The coat of arms is a shows a serpent in silver on a red field
- The name derives from zona bellica, referring to “war zone”
- The German name of the town is Bellenz
Weather In Bellinzona
Like the most of Ticino, the weather is usually rather sunny, but it can be a bit windy based on the valley location. During summer time, you can expect the usual temperatures of 30°C in the shade. Whereas winter averaging around 1°C as the maximum. So depending on when you visit, make sure your prepared with warm jumpers or suncream!
Based on the weather, it’s of course most popular to visit during the Spring and Summer seasons. Ticino is a popular destination for Swiss nationals visiting from the North as well as tourists, so plan ahead to not miss out.
Things To Do In Bellinzona
The Three Castles Of Bellinzona
The three gorgeous and historical castles in Bellinzona are the top highlights of the city. Each one is unique, but all served an important role in history. Since the year 2000, they combine the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castelgrande is the main castle that you can find right in the city centre of Bellinzona. There is a sloping walkway to the top, else to grab the lift from Bellinzona Piazza. You can enter the castle grounds for free, which allows you to see the beautiful walls and city from above. For those who want to learn more, make time to visit the museum, which covers the history from when it was a Neolithic village to the 20th century.
Many get a local bus to this one, but it’s easy to reach for those who are active. Just like the Castelgrande, the views are beautiful and the castle itself is well worth visiting. The Sasso Corbaro castle is located the highest of the three, it is not within the city walls. There are also temporary exhibits to see here, and to learn more about how the tower was once a prison!
The uniqueness of Montebello is that it’s the only one of the three castles that has deep moats surrounding the walls. It is also very easy to spot the different years of construction to the castle, such as the 13th century walls to the 17th century buildings. Montebello also has a little chapel, which is one of the few buildings that was erected within the castles. You can also visit the Archaeological and Civic Museum here.
Hike To Ponte Tibetano Carasc
The Ponte Tibetano Carasc bridge is a great place to hike to on a good, dry day. You can start by taking the funicular first, and then hiking from Curzutt village. This is easily doable within half a day, else you can hike from the base to the bridge for a longer route.
We personally enjoyed this route on a late Autumn day, with the sun shining. It wasn’t busy and the bridge was really spectacular in person!
Hike Motto della Croce
Head to the Motto della Croce location found on google maps for some hiking. It’s nice to start the route from the square in Bellinzona, going up through the castle of Montebello, then Artore and up to Pian Laghetto in the woods up to the motto. For those with some hiking experience, it can take around 3 hours. Once at the top, the views on a clear day are magnificent.
Collegiate of SS. Pietro and Stefano
Located right in the city centre is this 17th century parish church is one of the most important religious buildings in Bellinzona. The church is renaissance style and covered with white-greyish marble, with inside having 5 side chapels and two holy water stoups. All surrounded by a pretty baroque interior.
You are free to walk inside and visit the church when open.
The Weekly Bellinzona Market
The weekly market is always a treat in Bellinzona, with local fresh items being sold to a few souvenirs for the tourists. You cannot miss it on a Saturday, as all the market stands are throughout the old city centre. Treat yourself to some of the local cheeses, fresh breads and top quality products.
When: Saturdays from 7.30 to 13.00 – full version of the market (all year round)
A Walk Along the River
If you want to take a longer walk from the city centre, head towards the river. The river through Bellinzona route allows you sit by the waters edge and enjoy some peace, making it also a great place to read a book on a summers day.
Dine Out For The Night
For those staying longer than a day, there are many restaurants worth visiting depending on what you fancy. A personal recommendation is Ristorante Pizzeria Grill La Lampara Bellinzona. Here you can relax inside or outside, with the most delicious and fresh dishes to choose from. The pizzas are perfectly cooked and highly recommended!
Bellinzona Piazza Square
Finished in 1999, this concrete designed square is located in the heart of the city surrounded by the shops and a supermarket. It is a place for locals to sit and relax in the sunshine. It is also the roof of the parking below the ground, so it’s central location is ideal for those visiting for a day with a car. On the side of the square you can view a decorative element, which is a fountain representing a snake, the heraldic emblem of Bellinzona.
Bellinzona Christmas Market
For the last two Sundays before Christmas, the Bellinzona Christmas Markets are in full swing. With enjoyable lights, festive activities and Christmas carols, the 200 market stand market is the place to be. Do you want to explore a Christmas Market surrounded by historical UNESCO castles? Then make sure you plan to visit!
Our full Bellinzona Christmas Market post shares all information on the day, what you can see and experience as well as what you can buy!
Easy Day Trip Locations From Bellinzona
From Bellinzona, you can also easily travel to other locations within Ticino from the main train and bus station. So if you are staying in Bellinzona as your base, this is perfect for the following day trips:
- Lugano a 20 minute train ride
- Locarno is also a 20 minute train ride
- Lavertezzo is 1 hour away with train and bus
- Ascona is a 1 hour train ride
- Mendrisio is a 40 minute train ride
- Como is a 1 hour 10 minute train ride
- Milan is a 2 hour train ride
All are within 1 hour of driving too, but we recommend taking public transportation, which is easy, efficient and enjoyable!
For more detailed day trips, check our full post of inspiration that you can all visit in a day!
For a place to stay, there are many hotels and cute B&Bs in Bellinzona. With lots to choose from, we can recommend the following with good reviews:
- Hotel Internazionale Bellinzona – excellent location in Bellinzona with outstanding hotel service
- Scarpapè – gorgeous apartments with a view of the city and BBQ and hot tub facilities
- Villa del Gusto – a pretty and peaceful place with garden and free parking
- V Apartments – large apartments for those who want to stay longer with kitchen facilities
We have also stayed in Bellinzona while pet sitting. This is always great as you can stay for free at someones home while you pet sit their animals. We did this with the most cuddliest cat for a long weekend in Bellinzona. Curious to do this too? check here!