Get to Know Lugano, Switzerland Like a Local

Its Mediterranean climate, lively lakeside and breathtaking green spaces make Lugano, Switzerland a must for adventure-seekers who enjoy blending urban joys with back-to-nature escapes.

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The Mediterranean lifestyle reigns supreme in Lugano, in the Swiss holiday hotspot of Ticino. From the piazza-style squares that make up the traffic-free centre, to the Italianate Lombard architecture dotted throughout town - not to mention the Renaissance churches and Belle Époque hotels - the destination oozes a laid-back but sophisticated "let's do aperitivo" vibe. Culture lovers will find sanctuary in Lugano's many museums and pop-up events: the Art Museum of Switzerland (MASI Lugano) houses works by Klee, Jawlensky, Renoir and Degas, but there are plenty of more low-key gems to discover, too.

Seeking a healthy dose of nature? Make a beeline for Lake Lugano, which is surrounded by the verdant Parco Civico. Belvedere Gardens, meanwhile, is brimming with camellias and magnolias, and home to a diverse array of subtropical plants. A little further afield, you'll find Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, the summits of which offer fabulous panoramic views of the town, Lake Lugano and the surrounding alpine scenery. Soaking up the rays with a picnic among the palm trees should also feature high on the agenda.

Whether you're in the mood for a post-gallery brunch or a blow-out dinner after an adventure-packed day, this Swiss escape has you covered.

Explore the best of Lugano with our pick of the city's hotspots

Eat and drink the evening away

Combining the best of its Meditteran roots, Lugano is packed full of top-draw restaurants where the platefuls of pasta are plenty, locavore produce leads the way and delicious Swiss wine is always on ice. There's something very appealing about a restaurant only being reachable by boat, so the Grotto dei Pescatori instantly stole our hearts. Set on the only wild shore of Lake Ceresio, it serves traditional Mediterranean cuisine worth making the voyage for. Looking for a more refined, contemporary affair? Book a table at Ristorante META, whose head chef Luca Bellanca is all about "Med-fusion" with an exotic twist. Dark and moody speakeasy tones meet delicious Italian dishes at Vitti - a good place to make a night of it. There's fun to be had on the waterfront at La Cucina di Alice, which scores top marks for its hearty bowls of pasta and generous wine list. For a casual pizza moment, make tracks to Acqua e Farina, then swing by Vizi e Sfizi for a sweet Sicilian takeaway treat. The top-notch coffee and vegan bites at Natural Food, meanwhile, have made this a popular spot among locals. Lugano's convivial culture and climate lends itself to the aperitivo hour: Caffé Caruso is where we'll be heading for it. If all this eating and drinking has got you in the mood for dancing, Auberge is the place to continue until dawn.

Bed down in style

If an endless view of the water appeals, The View is your spot. Nestled in the hills of Lugano Paradiso, with terraces overlooking the lake, the boutique hotel has been designed in the style of a giant yacht. Looking for some pampering? Make tracks to the on-spite spa. Art lovers should head to the more maximalist Villa Castagnola. Nestled within a private subtropical park, the property's grounds are as spectacular as its interiors. The Restaurant Galleria Arté al Lago is the real draw, though. Twice a year, local and international artists exhibit their work in this picturesque setting. For a more laid-back, urban vibe, right in the thick of the action, in the historical centre, make LUGANODANTE your crash pad. The in-house Flamel dining and drinks lounge is a fun place to grab a cocktail.

Take to the water

The action-packed Lido di Lugano is a magnet for water babies, being home to a heated Olympic swimming pool, a diving pool with trampolines, a children's paddling option with water games and a beach volley court, plus a five-a-side football pitch. For something altogether more chilled out, soak up the views of Lake Ceresio from the fine sandy beach. Prefer to glide along the lake? Book a tour with Lugano's Navigation Society: from lunch cruises to scenic routes, there's something to suit every taste.

Stroll around Piazza della Riforma

A browse around the centre begins in Piazza Della Riforma. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were in Italy, going on the architecture and café-culture buzz in this district. The main building in the square is the striking 19th-century Town Hall. Stroll around Via Nassa, coffee in hand, stopping to pop into chic boutiques, antiquarian bookshops and jewellers. Maurio is a cool concept store-meets-barber shop, where covetable design finds sit alongside must-know beauty brands.

Enjoy the great outdoors

You're never far from greenery and nature in Lugano. The Parco Ciani is a short hop from the centre, but feels a world away from urban life. An afternoon meandering among the flower beds and fountains overlooking the lake is one well spent. Follow the promenade along the waterfront towards Paradiso to find Belvedere Gardens - the ideal place to take a break and admire your surroundings. From the Paradiso area, you can take the funicular all the way up to Monte San Salvatore. Born out of an ancient sea in an environment that was very similar to that of today's Bahamas archipelago, it has 360-degree views over the lake, far south and to the Alps in the west. Those up for an active adventure can do the three-hour ridge hike to pretty Morcote.

Alternatively, overlooking Monte San Salvatore is Monte Brè. Also accessible by funicular, it is thought to be the sunniest mountain in Switzerland, and is home to the Christmas rose, otherwise only found in Southern Europe. Take a lunch break at one of the two restaurants - both of which have sun terraces - that form part of a scenic hike. There are several trails to choose from, via the grotto-lined Brè village, including an archaeological trail to Gandria.

Soak up some culture

The art and architectural scene is thriving in Lugano: Luigi Snozzi and Mario Botta are among the many notable architects stemming from the area. LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura champions contemporary creativity from southern Switzerland. The building itself, designed by Ticino's Ivano Gianola, houses an ever-changing line-up of exhibitions, as well as a theatre and concert hall. For something more historical, visit the former home of writer Hermann Hesse: the Hermann Hesse Museum in Montagnola showcases his personal objects, photos, books and watercolor paintings. Some of Hesse's most important works, including Siddhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund and Klingsor's Last Summer, were written in this little castle, which has beautiful views of the nearby lake.

The Lowdown

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