Spending a day at the beautiful Swiss location of Lugano is perfect for those who are staying in the area or are passing through. This ultimate self guided Lugano walking route is for those who enjoy walking, have a full day in Lugano and not afraid of heights or boats. So make sure you have your comfy walking shoes are on, camera in your hand and you’re ready for exploring this beautiful location of Switzerland.
This 1 day itinerary is written based on experience, sharing a fantastic itinerary that you can do with friends, family and loved ones who only have 1 full day to experience Lugano.
Lugano Walking Route
This self guided Lugano walking route is on the map as a figure of 8. It’s a loop that takes you around Lugano, up Mount San Salvatore, on Lugano Lake to Gandria and then back again. You can start anywhere along the route of course, especially if you are already staying in Lugano for longer than 1 day. However based on timings we suggest you start at the train station or city centre of Lugano. That way you start the day and end the day in Lugano.
Who is this Lugano walking route for?
This is a self guided walking route suitable for all who are comfortable walking for at least 4/5 hours, which excludes breaks, the boat trip and a lunch stop. It’s best for those who wear good walking shoes too (so don’t bring your heels!).
Most sections are also suitable for those who may find walking difficult and need assistance. Such as Lugano centre and along the waters edge of Lake Lugano which is walkable on a flat pathway. Reaching the top of Mount San Salvatore is suitable for all as the funicular is wheelchair friendly.
When can you enjoy this route best?
Lugano is (in my opinion) a lovely destination to visit all year round. But indeed this route is most suitable in dry, sunny weather – for Spring and Summer. This is due to the funicular and boat timetables having winter vs summer timetables, so they do not run the same times. It is also more enjoyable to walk this day time route during nice weather.
The Lugano walking Route in more depth
Read on below see all sections in detail.
Breakfast & lake Lugano
If arriving by train, make sure to walk down into the city first, as you have an amazing view from the train station. From here you already have a great impression on how big Lugano is, spotting Mount Bre and the city directly straight from the station. There are viewpoints half way down the stairs too, with wider views of the Lake Lugano.
Fun fact: The lake is officially called Lake Ceresio, but known better as Lake Lugano.
Start the day first with a local Italian coffee and a small bite to eat at the Munger Tea Room. This bakery is located in the centre and have the best treats and sweet snacks.
Once you are fuelled up for the morning, start your walk from the tea room to the beautiful Parco Ciani. Here you can walk all the way through the park to the beach area. It’s a lovely spot in the mornings, quiet and peaceful, and you can often see little boats (in the summer) leaving the little Lugano port area. It’s also beautiful all year round, with seasonal flowers and plants for each season all looked after.
Lake Lugano to Mount San Salvatore
From the park, walk along the water’s edge of Lake Lugano all the way towards the Mount San Salvatore funicular. This section is only 30minutes to walk and extremely beautiful with all the trees and flowers. Once you reach the funicular, it has a specific timetable for summer and winter, and runs every 30 minutes, so check this before you arrive to be sure your day trip can include this. A return ticket is a little cheaper than two singles, so worth it with the timing of this 1 day itinerary.
Mount San Salvatore is 912m/2992ft high and provides 360° views of Lugano, the lake, towards Italy and the Alps in the west!
Arriving at the top, after a short ride up in the cute red carriages, you will arrive at the restaurant. But we suggest to go straight from the funicular to a higher point with some hiking on the left of the entrance. There are a few small paths to take, but they all take you to the same viewpoints. Depending on which one you take, you can see the whole of Lugano (which is amazing on a clear day!) and towards Monte San Giorgio. The whole 360° views are very impressive.
Take your time to take it all in, spotting the boats down below and the small airplanes at the local Lugano airport. Once you want to take a break, we suggest lunch at the Ristorante Vetta San Salvatore. This allow’s you to enjoy the views a little more from an outside table with a delicious meal (and a Swiss wine!). They have lots to choose from and not too overpriced either.
Mount San Salvatore To Gandria
After an enjoyable lunch, make your way back down the mountain by funicular. Else you can consider hiking down from the top instead (but keep in mind it will take you a bit longer). The next part includes a bit of good timing, as you can now get a boat from Lugano Paradiso station to Gandria. We bought tickets on the way down in the funicular using the local app. That way we knew we would make the boat with plenty of time and have valid tickets for boarding.
The boat trip takes only a short 10-15 minute journey to the idyllic and picturesque location of Gandria. You are free to walk around on the boat, enjoying the outside decking area or to relax inside. It’s best to sit outside on the lefthand side however, as you will arrive with Gandria on the left too. This little village is picture perfect while arriving along the waters edge. You can see cute little balconies, restaurants and greenery growing with each little house and building.
Gandria and Back To Lugano
So what can you do in Gandria you wonder? When we arrived, everything was actually closed (or closing early) as it was a Sunday afternoon, so we recommend doing this itinerary on another day if you want to enjoy the local village more. But for us it was perfect as we were able to explore and take in the prettiness of this Ticino location. We even spotted a local cat relaxing in peace from all the tourists. For those that visit on a day where things are open, consider a drink at a local place.
For the last part of the itinerary, it’s time to follow the Sentiero di Gandria (Gandria Trail) all the way back to Lugano. It’s a 50 minute walk, but you will for sure stop along the way to enjoy the view, flowers and the lake. This route is mostly flat and there are benches along the way to sit and relax at. The route is ideal to walk just before sunset, so that you arrive back in Lugano after sunset. This gives you a glimpse of Lugano in another setting, and to finalise the day after everything you have seen.
Tips for your visit to Lugano:
- Wear decent walking shoes and wear suitable clothes for the weather (and suncream for summer!)
- Carry water with you to stay hydrated
- Make time to sit along the waters edge, relax and spot the swans
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