Welcome to our fully-loaded, high content Ticino Guide! Ticino is a stunningly beautiful region located in the south of Switzerland, bordering Italy. It is known for its picturesque landscapes, crystal clear lakes, and charming towns and villages.
We’ve written this Ticino guide for you, answering top question about Ticino as well as listing local things to see, do and explore with each season in Ticino: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This includes local Swiss hiking, must-see hidden gems, Ticino festivals, charming stone-housed villages, mountain peak views and more. The canton is also home to a number of cultural attractions, including art museums, castles, and churches, as well as a rich culinary scene too.
Whether you are a first-time visitor to Ticino or a seasoned traveler, our Ticino Guide has something for everyone. So come and discover the beauty and charm of Ticino with us!
*This guide is written fully by us, with our own personal views, experiences and recommendations for each season in Ticino Switzerland.
Top Answered Questions About Ticino
Is Ticino in Italy or Switzerland?
Ticino is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, and so it’s officially in Switzerland, however with a very strong Italian vibe! When checking the geography of Ticino, you can see that the Northern part of Lake Maggiore and many surrounding Southern mountains are half Swiss half Italian.
What language is spoken in Ticino?
Ticino might be based in Switzerland, but the main language spoken is Italian! Ciao!
If you do not speak Italian however, you can get around with some basic English or German in many places like supermarkets, restaurants and shops. Of course knowing the basics is always fun to speak and practice while visiting. It is much nicer to know a bit of Italian so we suggest to learn at least the following words:
Here are ten basic Italian words with their translations:
Ciao – Hello
Si – Yes
No – No
Per favore – Please
Grazie – Thank you
Scusi – Excuse me
Buongiorno – Good morning
Buonasera – Good evening
Buonanotte – Good night
Arrivederci – Goodbye
If you speak a little bit of these Italian words, this will be nice, helpful and appreciated by the locals!
P.S: We also have a list of Fun Italian words that don’t exist in English. Did you know there we’re so many!?
Currency In Ticino
The local currency used in Ticino is CHF = Swiss Francs
The cash notes are very colourful that makes you not want to spend them. However you can also use EUR in quite a few local locations, since Ticino is located so closely to the Italian border. For example we paid for parking with our car when taking the train to Monte Generoso with euros.
Additionally, card payments is widely accepted in shops, restaurants and touristic activities. However some smaller attractions or really local things (like selected parking) it is best to have cash.
What is Ticino known for?
To name a few, Ticino is known for:
Sunshine, palm trees, beautiful lakes, swans, stunning hiking routes, delicious pastas, funiculars, hidden waterfalls, crystal clear waters, tasty aperitif, dog friendly, flowery parks, ice cream and everything else linked to the dolce vita!
Weather In Ticino
Ticino gets over 2300 of sunshine exposure in total per year. Thats pretty special for a Swiss location!
Based on the geography, the Alps protects the canton of Ticino from the colder Northern European weather. So you can experience warm and moist summers, and also milder winters.
What Is The Capital City?
The city of Bellinzona is the capital of the Ticino canton.
Bellinzona is 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 also stunning location with 3 UNESCO castles all within walking distance from the main train station.
More information on Bellinzona can be specifically found here.
Is Ticino worth visiting?
There is only one answer: Si / Yes!
Get inspired with all seasonal activities and things to do shared below with our ultimate Ticino Guide! As there are many thing to do all year round. So every season has something special.
How do you get to Ticino Switzerland?
So it all depends on how you would like to visit Ticino and with what mode of transportation, so we will highlight the easiest ways to get to Ticino Switzerland.
If you are already in Switzerland, you can travel from another canton to Ticino fairly easy when it comes to using public transportation. Else also the same from if you are already in Northern Italy. There are trains running from Zurich or Milan multiple times a day straight to the heart of Ticino.
For example, From Zurich or Milan to Lugano:
- There is a direct train which takes 1 hour 53 minutes with the local SBB train to Lugano. On most days it is departing every hour.
- There is a direct train which takes 1 hour 15 minutes from Milan to Lugano on the local RE80 SBB train. Or you can also get tickets on the EC high speed rail instead.
Seasonal Things To Do In Ticino – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter
Spring In Ticino
Here is our list of recommended activities and things to do in Ticino during Spring as part of our Ticino Guide.
Local Village Explorations
We find that Spring time is the best time to visit some smaller villages in Ticino. These are always very pretty with all the plants and flowers opening their petals to the fresh sun and warm temperatures. Spring season is also not as busy as Summer, so you are able to enjoy village life with locals and take your time exploring.
A few village suggestions (that we have been to ourselves) include:
Gandria – For explorations in a car-free village, Gandria is your place to visit. It is only a short bus ride North East from Lugano, else you can walk there in 1 hour along the Olive Path. Alternatively you can also enjoy a ride with the local boat from Lugano directly! There are a few local restaurants here with balconies hanging over the water, which all provide great service, food and a stunning view of the boats.
Morcote – An award winning prettiest village that you can arrive by boat or bus, located South of Lugano. You can climb the stairs to the top and enjoy the surrounding views, before heading back down and enjoying a drink in one of the lakeside restaurants.
Melide – Home to the Swiss Miniatur Museum, the village of Melide is also perfect for those wanting to enjoy a walk along the lakeside and swim from the designated area. There’s lots of parking, as well as easy to reach from Lugano with a short 7 min train ride.
Sonogno – A charming, cobblestone and stone-housed village at the very end of the Verzasca Valley. There are a few little restaurants, a grotto, some locals selling products and a huge waterfall 10minutes from the village. It’s beautiful to visit all year round, but Spring being exceptionally special with all the flowers, insects and the large amount of water coming through the fall.
Bissone – A small historical fishing village is on the lake front where the trains and highway passes over towards the village of Melide. You can walk around the lake front and stop at the local restaurant while soaking in some sunshine.
Ascona – One of the prettiest lakeside villages (in my opinion) to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat while watching the boats on Lake Maggiore. There are also some lovely boutique stores in Ascona for shopping. Else to take a hike up to one of the viewpoints above the village!
Foroglio – Much further from the others mentioned here, its a hidden gem in the valley North West from Locarno. You can get there easiest by car, or with a 1 hour bus ride from Locarno. The village has one grotto restaurant serving typical Swiss food – perfect after exploring!
Visit the Swiss Miniatur Museum in Melide, featuring miniature models of Swiss landmarks
Perfect for those wanting to see a lot of Switzerland in a short amount of time, the Swiss Miniatur Museum features miniaturised versions of the country’s landmarks. The park has lots of items moving, such as the trains and boats, making it great to watch how it all is. It’s suitable for families, but also great for adults too.
Enjoy all the Switzerland models and park area first before stopping at their cafe for a drink or ice cream.
Visit the Botanical Garden On The Brissago Island
Close to Ascona, the Brissago Islands are a short 15 minute boat trip away. The main island is visitable with a stunning botanical garden and restaurant. You can stroll around and discover up to 1500 plant species here. The bamboo forest is most stunning to walk through and they even have a swing on the beach area to enjoy the view!
We recommend visiting first thing in the morning, and staying for a few hours with an early lunch. During summer touristic season it can get very busy with lunch and afternoon visiting times.
Info: Tickets cost 10 CHF per adult or discounted if you are in possession of the Ticino Ticket. The islands are open for visitors usually between April and November, but for 2023 the dates it will open are from 29th March to 5th November.
Enjoy a picnic at Parco Ciani
Lugano is home to many green, well kept spaces for the public to enjoy. The main one located on the lakeside front of Lugano is Parco Ciani. You can sit on one of the many bright red benches throughout the park, up to the beach area at the very end.
A picnic here is great as you can also sit on the grass or beach directly. So bring a blanket, some snacks and your book for relaxing afterwards. Springtime is already perfect for this with temperatures reaching above 15°c.
The Locarno Parco delle Camelie
With over camellia flowers, the Locarno Camellia Park is really the Ticino place to be during Spring time. From mid March the park is perfect for visiting, with many camellias already in bloom from the warm Ticino sunshine.
The park recently received the International Camellia Society Gardens of Excellence designation and is part of the Gardens of Switzerland network, which brings together the most beautiful gardens of Switzerland.
Info: Opening times are from 1st March to 30 September, daily from 09:00 – 18:00. For the cost, this was last advertised at 10 CHF per adult.
Easter Weekend Markets
While in Ticino, Easter weekend is a lot of fun in the larger locations. You can expect some fun Easter markets, with great food and events for all ages. Lugano specifically has a large market area throughout the city. Kids can play the local games while adults shop local for treats.
You will spot a lot of bunnies, chocolate eggs and usually warm sunshine!!
Lugano Blossom Trees
When visiting at the exact Spring moment for cherry blossom trees, head to Via Beltramina near the ‘Polizia Comunale Città di Lugano’. If you walk around the courtyard of the building you will find more than 20 picturesque cherry blossom trees!
Want to know more information, check our Spring Gardens post.
Tip: Follow local instagram tags like #lugano to see when the trees are blooming in Spring best, as every Spring the dates are different and they don’t last long. For 2023, they were already blooming from March 16th!
Gambarogno Botanical Park
Get lost for a few hours at the beautiful Gambarogno Botanical Park. The botanical garden has numerous variety of camellias and magnolias. There is ample parking, but once you’ve found a spot, we believe its worth it.
At the gardens you will first see the building and store where you can buy local plants and gifts. Then at the entrance further down from the parking you will enter the botanical garden.
In the park you can walk through each pathway and down to the river, where you also have an amazing view towards Ascona and Locarno with the mountains!
Address: Gambarogno Botanical Park, 6575 Vairano
Rainy city walk and museum visit
Since this section is about Ticino during Spring time, it would not be complete with a rainy walk in the city and a visit to a local museum. Ticino has many museums throughout the canton with some of the top ones visited in Spring include:
- Museo Cantonale d’Arte: located in Lugano, this museum features a collection of modern and contemporary art.
- Museo delle Culture: located in Lugano, this museum is dedicated to exploring the diversity of cultures around the world.
- Museo d’Arte della Svizzera Italiana: located in Lugano, this museum showcases a collection of Swiss and international art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Museo Vincenzo Vela: located in Ligornetto, this museum is dedicated to the works of the sculptor Vincenzo Vela.
- Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna: located in Ascona, this museum features a collection of modern and contemporary art.
- Museo d’Arte Sacra: located in Ponte Capriasca, this museum showcases a collection of sacred art.
- Museo Civico Villa dei Cedri: located in Bellinzona, this museum is housed in a historic villa and features a collection of art and artifacts from the region.
- Museo di Storia Naturale: located in Lugano, this museum features exhibits on natural history and the environment.
- Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale: located in Lugano, this museum is dedicated to the natural history of Ticino and its surroundings.
- Museo delle Arti e delle Tradizioni Popolari: located in Minusio, this museum features exhibits on the folk art and traditions of Ticino.
We also have a detailed post about things to do in Lugano specifically in the rain!
Gardens Of Villa Heleneum
Officially located in the Castagnola district of Lugano, the Villa Heleneum and park area was built and designed in the Liberty style in 1931. The gardens here have a rich Mediterranean vegetation, with the most stunning, fresh smelling plants. Famously beautiful camellias, known to the canton, can be spotted here in rich pinks and reds.
We loved our visit there as they have also the prettiest purple wisteria flowers here during Spring. They last only about 2 weeks so you have to time it perfectly!
It is one of many Spring Parks in Lugano worth visiting that we have personally experienced too.
Visit the historic Castelgrande in Bellinzona, a UNESCO World Heritage site
While you can visit Bellinzona as the capital of the canton, the highlight are the 3 beautiful castles all located in the area. These 3 historical castles are equally 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.
The Sasso Corbaro castle is located the highest of the three, it is not within the city walls. Here you can enjoy the temporary exhibits on show here, and to learn more about how the tower was once a prison!
Lastly there is the Montebello castle, which is 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.
For full in depth information on Bellinzona, our Ultimate Guide To Bellinzona shares more!
Summer In Ticino
Here is our list of activities and things to do in Ticino during Summer as part of our Ticino Guide.
Join A Summer Festivals
There are many local festivals during Summer in Ticino, with some of the bigger ones to attend include;
- Locarno Film Festival
- Ascona Jazz Festival
- Vintage car shows in Lugano and Locarno
- Summer Jamboree on the Lake (American music and culture of the 40s and 50s)
For all information on these plus more events, check the Lugano Events Calendar.
Rent A Paddle Boat In Locarno
If you want to be enjoying Lake Maggiore directly from the water, stop at one of the local boat and paddle rentals. You can rent small boats, paddle boards, and paddle boats on an hourly basis. This is perfect if you want to be on the water in the Summer sunshine.
Our personal favourite is to rent a little paddle boat (with chairs for sunbathing) from Tinoleggiobarche just a short walk along the lake promenade of Locarno.
Swimming and water activities
Ticino is the perfect place for swimming in the lake or at a local pool and spa during Summer. This is due to the warm lake waters that’s been heated up with the summer sunshine. So pack a picnic, take your book and your towel for a day at the beach or water’s edge.
We have personally swam in the waters of Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, which reach temperatures of 22 °C in July and August!
There are many popular but also hidden waterfalls throughout Ticino. There are a few we visited in the Summer last year that we will definitely head back to next Summer. These include:
- Foroglio Waterfall and village
- Ponte Brolla waterfall and beach area
- Cascata del Salto 60 meter waterfall
- Cascata La Froda 70 meter waterfall
- Cascata La Botta waterfall
- Cascata Di Val Moett waterfall
Ticino Guide Tip: Take some snacks, a drink and a blanket or towel with you for staying refreshed and relaxed after being in the water. Always take your trash with you afterwards too.
Take A Larger Boat Ride
Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore are the perfect places for a boat ride during Summer. With both boats you can also choose to visit the picturesque towns around the lake. For example, you can get a day ticket and hop on and off at each village.
It’s an easy and fun option in our Ticino Guide for all ages!
A popular location to start at is at Lugano Paradiso on Lake Lugano. From here you can enjoy a short journey to the village of Gandria or all the way south to Morcote. Alternatively if starting in Locarno or Ascona with Lake Maggiore, you can also visit many Italian villages south of the lake.
Visit Monte San Salvatore
Located next to the sweet Swiss city of Lugano is the mountain of Monte San Salvatore. With a bright red funicular ride to the top, you can see the stunning views and the delightful highlights of Monte San Salvatore.
The main highlight of the mountain is of course the gorgeous 360° views of Lake Lugano and looking down to the smaller villages surrounding the lake, a great place to eat and a few local hikes that can be started from the top.
Autumn In Ticino
Here is our list of activities and things to do in Ticino during Autumn as part of our Ticino Guide.
Hike A Local Mountain
There are many local mountains still enjoyable to hike during the Autumn season. As long as you dress appropriately, we can personally suggest the following when the weather is suitable:
- Monte Generoso
- Monte Lema
- Monte San Salvatore
- Monte Bar
- Monte Tamaro
- Monte Boglia
- Monte San Giorgio
- Monte Bre
- Monte Gambarogno
Ticino Guide Tip: Take some snacks, a drink and suitable clothing with you.
Autumn Centovalli Railway Scenic Train Ride
If you are looking for an easy travel route between Ticino, Switzerland and Northern Italy, or want to enjoy a scenic Autumn train ride for a day trip, the Centovalli Railway is a journey you should check out. The distinctive white and blue trains run daily and suitable for everyone wanting to travel along the pretty scenic route via Locarno and Domodossola.
Ticino Guide Tip: Book tickets in advance, as it can sell out for popular weekends.
Visit the Lugano Autumn Festival
During Autumn, many locations have events and celebrations for the Autumn season. We didn’t experience all festivities yet, but we did visit the Lugano Autumn Festival which was really local and lovely. It’s an easy option in our Ticino Guide for all ages in the city centre.
This Autumn Festival in Lugano (Festa d’autunno) is one of the city’s free highlights for October, with gorgeous oranges, yellows and brown trees surrounding the city.
As well as the events and live music, the Autumn Festival you can buy local cuisine, Swiss gifts, vintage items and join a game or two!
Explore The Breggia Gorge Park
In Autumn, take a stroll through the Breggia Gorge Park. This gorge area is an industrial location along the river, but dates back with 200 million years of geological history.
You can follow an official geography route, through the colourful clay, limestones and colourful mineral rocks. Alternative you can choose a more historical route to explore, crossing an iron bridge and discovering the historical industrial buildings. Check the map for the walking Breggia routes!
Stay Off Grid In A Tiny Home
For a cosy night stay in a tiny home, off grid and right in the middle of nature – book a night at Momo Bellavista. It is located in Mendrisio, south of the city of Lugano. This hidden, wooden home located not far from the peak of Monte Generoso is perfect for star gazing, relaxing with a book and enjoying nature.
We loved our stay at this tiny home, where we relaxed during the day and slept under the starts at night. We combined our stay with a dinner at the local restaurant, but you can also enjoy a BBQ at the designated area.
Visit Monte Bré
Located not far from Lugano city centre, you can take the funicular or local bus to the top to visit Monte Brè. There are some amazing views looking down to Lugano and the lake. From Spring onwards to Winter you can also enjoy food and drink at the local restaurant Vetta Monte Brè. It’s an easy option in our Ticino Guide for all ages
Else to consider Grotto Castagneto or Osteria for more delicious food options in the village of Brè.
Winter In Ticino
Here is our list of activities and things to do in Ticino during Winter as part of our Ticino Guide.
Taste Local Ticino Specialties
There are lots of traditional specialties to eat and drink in Ticino, with some of them more popular in Winter such as fondue. Here are 5 Ticino specialties to try in a local restaurant:
- Polenta: This is a traditional dish made from cornmeal that is popular in Ticino and throughout Italy. It is often served as a side dish or used as a base for other dishes, such as stews or grilled meats.
- Rösti: This is a Swiss dish made from grated potatoes that are fried until they are crispy and golden brown. It is an easy breakfast food in Ticino and is often served with eggs, bacon, and other toppings.
- Fondue: Fondue is a classic Swiss dish that is made by melting cheese in a pot and dipping bread or other foods into it. It is a popular winter food in Switzerland, with many local restaurants in Ticino serving this during Winter.
- Bündnerfleisch: Bündnerfleisch is a type of air-dried meat that is made from beef or pork. It is a specialty of Ticino and is often served as an appetizer or snack. You can usually find this also sold at the local Bellinzona market!
- Merlot: Merlot is a type of common red wine that is made from the grape of the same name. It is a popular wine in Ticino and is often served with local dishes such as polenta and fondue.
For more Swiss related food and drink, become familiar on our foodie post sharing more information on these.
Ticino Guide Tip: If you want to try many of these cheaply, consider cooking them yourself! You can buy many items in the local supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Coop and Migros.
Visit A Christmas Market
Ticino is home to many local Christmas markets during the December period in Winter. The largest of the markets include Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno. But you can also find lots of mini markets and celebrations in local villages and smaller areas throughout Ticino.
For Lugano, it’s always beautiful to visit, with live music, cosy restaurants and local things to eat and buy.
Enjoy A Spa Day At Termali Salini & Spa.
A well deserved spa day at Termali Salini & Spa is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a massage treatment and rest in the thermal heated pools. We visited the local Locarno spa during the winter with a local package that included also a private jacuzzi with prosecco and aperitif. Well recommended for a winter visit, but they are open all year round!
Discover The Local Chocolate Factory
Located in the Caslano neighborhood of Lugano is a chocolate museum and factory called Chocolat Alprose. This museum is great for all ages, with it starting at the beginning of the museum where you get a sample of ‘fresh’ chocolate from the small chocolate fountain. You can see how the chocolate is made here, which is rather fascinating. After the museum (or tour if you take it), you end up in the final chocolate shop where you get to taste more of the chocolate before you can buy it.
Enjoy Stargazing In The Mountains
Switzerland is a great place to see the night sky on a clear night. There are plenty of locations you can be at to enjoy stargazing in Ticino based on the low light pollution. If you are lucky, you will see a few shooting stars while watching. Make a wish to stay in Ticino longer for more Winter fun!
Get Romantic for Valentines Day
Since Valentines Day is in February during Winter, you could consider enjoying a local treat with your loved one at a local restaurant, trying a new activity like a cooking workshop or a visit to the local spa mentioned above. It all of course depends on what you and your loved one enjoys doing and if you celebrate Valentines together!
P.S You can also learn these Romantic Italian Love Phrases while in Ticino!
Rummage In 2nd Hand Vintage Stores
If you are looking for a day of shopping in thrift stores in our Ticino Guide, or as also known as a second hand stores in Ticino, we’ve got a great list for you!
This post shares the top 12 stores in the Ticino canton of Switzerland, where you can shop for something cheap, something vintage, something antique and something fun. Enjoy!
Stay warm with a cinema trip
An easy place to get away from the cold wintery weather is to visit the cinema. The CineStar cinema in Lugano has most films in Italian, but some of the top movies are also shown in English with Italian subtitles too. Make sure to check first online, where you can also buy the tickets, or by calling to see what films are in English for your visit.
Hike In The Snow!
Ticino, despite being the sunniest canton in Switzerland, does experience snow every year. This can vary from October onwards to as late as April. Snow usually stays on the higher elevation locations, such as from Monte Bré and above. This is around 925meters and higher.
When wanting to hike, please take correct precautions with the correct insulated clothing, shoes and equipment. For specific locations you can also rent snow equipment.
We personally have not hiked in the snow in Ticino yet fully, but we have been to Monte Brè (in photo below) when there was fresh snow that day. You can get there with a local bus and a short 20min walk to the viewpoint.
Thank you for checking out our Ticino Guide with all information and things to do in this wonderful Swiss canton.
Any questions or new suggestions we should add? Let us know in the comments!
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