We wanted to start by smashing stereotypes about Swiss people, but that didn’t work. The train that took us from Milan to Lugano was incredibly punctual! It’s okay, though, we still managed to work on debunking all the myths you might have about this town in Ticino, one of Switzerland’s Italian-speaking cantons. We were invited to explore the town by Lugano Turismo, who hosted us for 48 hours, treating us to culture, amazing views, excellent food and nightlife. So, here is a mini-guide, for experiencing Lugano on a small budget for young people!
Try to take the train early in the morning, so you get to have the whole day ahead, because there is actually a lot to do in Lugano. The first thing we suggest is a visit to LAC, Lugano Arte e Cultura, a multi-purpose space that includes a museum, a theatre and an exhibition center. A truly multifaceted place! Their exhibitions are gaining in popularity every year, but what struck us most was the theatre hosted there: a new concert hall that hosts 1000 seats, entirely decorated in wood, and equipped with a modular, removable acoustic shell — a true treasure in which you can enjoy your favorite concert.
After getting your fix of culture, it is time to take care of your stomach, because you will probably be hungry by now: our tip is to go eat in one of the tallest, most panoramic terraces in the area, in the restaurant in THE VIEW hotel, which was also our accommodation, in the Paradiso area. This restaurant opened just a short while ago, but it is already winning the hearts of both local and tourists, with its revisited Mediterranean fare. Our tip on what to order: orecchiette with seasonal vegetables, and salmon on cous cous. Great food + lake views = never ending enjoyment!
After lunch, it is time for some outdoor fun: did you know that you can practice a lot of different sports on the Lake of Lugano? Canoeing, kayaking, and Stand Up Paddle, too! We tried SUP: if you don’t know, it is all about managing to stand on a surfboard, with the aid of just one oar. If you can do this well, make your way to the center of the lake… You will see amazing scenery from there.
The evening is coming: enjoy a good shower and then a dinner in a grotto, a typical Italian-Swiss place, hosted in a stone structure and surrounded by greenery, rigorously offering traditional local food. We definitely recommend the Grotto Cavicc in Montagnola: the place is really appealing, furnished with wooden tables and small string lights framing everything. Definitely have a meat dish, like spare ribs, for instance: this is not a tip, it’s an order!
After dinner, if you still have some energy, have a walk on the lake promenade. It is very lively on summer evenings, and young people invade the streets to go out for a drink. Thursday night is when the weekend really starts in Lugano: Mojito, a small bar in the city center, is the place to be, and it is located on a great spot on the lake. Can you think of anything better than a cocktail to wrap up such an intense day?
Even if your alarm goes off early, opening the blinds of your room on to a beautiful, blue lake, with clear, sunny air and mountains framing an already perfect picture, you will still feel like leaving the house as soon as possible. Before you leave, though, enjoy a good breakfast, and remember that you just can’t leave the city without testing THE VIEW’s hotel SPA. Imagine, it is one of the best organized, largest SPAs in town. Let their qualified staff take care of you, get an incredible massage, and enjoy their covered rooftop pool!
After this well-deserved moment of relaxation, go to Via Pessina, in the city center, and sit in the Grand Café al Porto, one of the canton’s most iconic cafés. Not only is their staff exceptionally nice — the lady at the bar is adorable, and their chocolate cakes are the bomb! This is the best breakfast you can have, trust us!
To walk off the cake you just had, have a stroll in the alleys of the city center. You will run into the Mauri Concept, at one point, which is definitely a place to go in Lugano: you will find everything here, from design objects to hairdressers, from beauticians to restaurants. A beautiful, modern surprise!
Time flies, and it is already time for lunch! Since you might still be feeling guilty about that cake you had for breakfast, we suggest a light, takeaway lunch. Yes, that’s right: you can also have a picnic in Lugano, you don’t have to necessarily spend a ton of money at a restaurant. So, make your way to Natural Food, a small shop that sells mostly vegan products that respect the environment and its inhabitants, using mostly locally sourced products and no animal based products. You will find small pizzas, piadina, cold pasta salads and vegan sushi: choose what you like in their shop window, and let them prepare a small lunch box to take to the park for you. Parco Ciani is the best choice for your picnic, as it is just a few steps away from Natural Food, and it is beautiful, too. Sit on one of the many benches, or on the lawn if you are more comfortable, why not? It’s quick, it’s delicious, and it’s outdoors!
Now that your tummy is happy, we would like to suggest a new place that has already grabbed local attention, as well as tourists with sensitive taste buds: we are talking about Forziere del Vino, hosted in one of Switzerland’s most beautiful hotels, the Splendide Royal. The ambience at the Forziere is effortlessly chic, it hosts and exhibits over 400 selected wines from all over the world, among which some excellent local Ticino wines. If you are in a group, you can try their Blind Tasting, and have a competition among friends: see who recognizes most wines among you!
Speaking of alcoholic beverages, you should also have one last apéritif before you leave. Go back to the small square where LAC is, this time not to enjoy an exhibition but to taste some of the area’s best cocktails at the Lac Café by Gabbani, the trendiest place for an aperitif in summer.
Now the saddest time of all has come, as it is time to leave. We made our way home from Lugano with a lot of positive energy, and the new knowledge that, despite the city being rich and elegant, there is also space for young people to have fun and enjoy themselves without spending a fortune.