Imagine: Glittering lakes with the Swiss Alps in the background, fertile valleys, a mild and pleasant climate, beaches with palms, combined with historic villages, alleys, piazzas and the Italian dolce vita. Yes, I’m talking about Ticino in Switzerland, the southernmost region of Switzerland, near the Italian border. Ticino is just beautiful! You will find nature, art, culture and a delicious cuisine. In this article you will discover the best things to do in Ticino in Switzerland and find many useful tips for your stay.
- 20 tips and things to do in Ticino Switzerland
- Discover Locarno
- Sail to the botanical garden | Top things to do in Ticino Switzerland
- Take the funicular to the top of the mountain
- Visit the monastery
- Discover the Maggia Valley of Ticino in Switzerland by bike
- Have a drink in an authentic Grotto
- Visit Ascona
- Go supping on Lake Maggiore
- Experience a wine tasting at Terreni alla Maggia | Culinary things to do in Ticino Switzerland
- Stroll along the Maggia River
- Other places of interest and things to do in Ticino Switzerland
- Restaurants in Ticino
- Where to Stay in Ticino Switzerland
- How to reach Ticino in Switzerland
- Why do you want to visit Ticino in Switzerland
- Prices in Switzerland
- Pin and save “Things to do in Ticino” for later
- More about Ticino in Switzerland
20 tips and things to do in Ticino Switzerland
One of the best things to do in Ticino Switzerland is to visit Locarno, located on the Lake Maggiore. And one of the highlights here is the boulevard, where you could easily come back every day to go for a walk or take a seat on one of the many benches. Moreover, in the summer there are several food stalls and music concerts taking place.
Interested in learning more about Locarno? Discover the best things to do in Locarno in Ticino, Switzerland in the next article.
The piazza grande is the central square of the city and is known for its architecture and pastel colored houses. A great place to take pictures and to settle down on one of the terraces.
Sail to the botanical garden | Top things to do in Ticino Switzerland
As long as I have been traveling, I love to visit botanical gardens. But the botanical garden of Ticino Switzerland is unique and among the best things to do in Ticino. Because of its unique location on an island at the Lago Maggiore. The only way to get to the Brissago islands is by boat. The garden has more than 1500 species of plants, from different parts of the world. You walk through Asian bamboo forests, past exotic flowers, plants from Australia, Madagascar and California including medicinal plants. And everywhere you look, you have an amazing view of the lake and the mountains. You can take a dip in the lake from the small beaches, or enjoy a drink on the terrace of the lovely landhouse.
The botanical garden was created by the Russian Baroness Antoinette Saint-Léger in the 19th century. Due to the mild climate and location of the garden, protected by the surrounding mountains, the plants have the perfect circumstances to grow.
Brissago Island can be reached by ferry from Locarno (one hour) and Ascona (20 minutes). The ferry runs at specific times, so it is recommended to check the ferry schedule in advance. For this boat trip you can use your Swiss travel pass, about which more at the bottom of this article.
Take the funicular to the top of the mountain
When you think of Switzerland, you immediately think of mountains, cable cars and viewpoints. At least I do. From Locarno you can visit the top of the 1700 meter high Cimetta mountain. With a funicular you travel from the center of Locarno to Orselina, where the monastery Sacro Monte Madonna del Sasso is located. Here you change to the cable car to the 1400 meter high Cardada mountain. The views of the lake and the surrounding area are already so beautiful. On arrival in Cardada you can take a walk or have a drink in the chalet.
But you actually want to go straight to the highest point: Cimetta. In an open two-seater cable car you float up the mountain and once at the top you really feel on top of the world! Go for a walk, swing in the swing of the world and take a moment of silence to take in the breathtaking views of Ticino in Switzerland.
Visit the monastery
High above the glittering Lake Maggiore, halfway up the mountain, you’ll find the Santo Monte Madonna del Sasso Monastery, located in the municipality of Orsolina. And if only because of the beautiful location, a visit to this monastery should not be missed. A path consisting of steps, surrounded by greenery, leads you from the center of Locarno, towards the entrance up the mountain in about half an hour. Inside the monastery there are murals, works of art and a small museum with information about its history. And of course you enjoy amazing views over Lake Maggiore.
Not in the mood for a walk? Then take the train up the mountain. Within a few minutes you are in Orselina. Are you staying at Hotel Belvedere? Then there is a cable car station next to the hotel. But, from here, you can also walk up the mountain within 10 minutes.
Discover the Maggia Valley of Ticino in Switzerland by bike
One of the best things to do in Ticino in Switzerland is to go on a tour through the Maggia valley. The Maggia valley is dominated by the Maggia river and everywhere you have a view of green valleys, ravines, crystal clear water and the Alps. Beautiful!
It is nice and special that along the way you come across fountains with drinking water that comes directly from the mountains. So you can fill your bottle with water everywhere.
I myself made this trip with an e-bike. A nice experience as you get to explore a large part of the area in a relaxed way. You pass lovely villages such as Gordevio, Avegno and Mogheno with stone houses, religious murals, historic fountains and small churches, which take you back in time. Park your bike for a while and take a walk through the villages and get in the atmosphere. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
At different places along the river, there are fine sandy beaches from where you can take a refreshing dip in the river, especially in summer! And strangely enough, there are countless palm trees here, which grow up to 1000 meters because of the Mediterranean climate.
The trip through the Maggia valley won the Prix velo for best cycling route in 2016. The route is also part of the Swiss Mobil Route 31 “Percorso Valle Maggia”, the first part of which runs from Bellinzona to Locarno (22 kilometers), and the second part from Locarno to Cavergno (35 kilometers). Read more about a trip through the Maggia valley in Ticino Switzerland here.
Have a drink in an authentic Grotto
Have you ever heard of a Grotto? Grottos are natural caves that used to be storages places for food and drinks, because it stayed cool in there. And in Ticino in Switzerland there are many. Some of them are still in use. But nowadays grottos are especially nice places to go for a bite and drink. Making a stop at a grotto is one of the best things to do during your visit to the Maggia valley in Ticino Swittserland. A recommmended grotto is the Grotto America. Here you have a view of the river and surroundings.
Ascona is a town beautifully situated on Lake Maggiore and is known for its pedestrian promenade with numerous restaurants. Make sure to also take a look at the small streets behind the boulevard. Here you will find alleys, sights such as the 16th century church and typical shops with local specialties of Ticino. And if you want to take a nice picture, there is a swing of the world with a view of the glittering lake.
Did you know that Ticino in Switzerland:
- has more than 2170 hours of sunshine per year?
- has 4000 kilometers of hiking trails?
- contains 130 small mountain lakes?
- has inhabitants that speak Italian?
Go supping on Lake Maggiore
Stand-up paddle boarding is always a fun activity, but paddle-boarding on Lake Maggiore is somethig different. The blue lake, with the mountains in the background, is a view that you will never forget. You rent a board from Wilson SUP and have plenty of time to paddle across the lake. You can paddle to one of the beaches or towards the Maggia river. If you are a bit more experienced, take a cool box with you and find a nice spot for a drink and snack. For me one of the top things to do in Ticino Switzerland for sure.
Experience a wine tasting at Terreni alla Maggia | Culinary things to do in Ticino Switzerland
Another place where you want to keep coming back, because of its perfect location and delicious products. Terreni alla Maggia is a 150 hectare plantation and farm where wine, rice, pasta, corn, polenta, fruit juices and spirits such as grappa, gin and whiskey are produced. The mild (micro) climate makes this region ideal for growing these products and everything is done organically.
The rice from the Ascona region is perfect for making risotto and has become popular with many haute cuisine chefs in Switzerland.
You will be able to get a tour of the grounds and learn about the region’s products and farming techniques. And afterwards you can of course taste everything during a wine tasting. Terreni alla Maggia is one of the best things to do when in Ticino Switzerland. Don’t forget to have a look in the shop. Here you can buy fine products to take home as souvenirs.
Nice to know: Terreni alla Maggia produces 80 tons of rice, 105,000 bottles of wine, 40 tons of corn and polenta, 80 tons of pasta and 2800 bottles of grappa annually.
Stroll along the Maggia River
I always enjoy walking. In Ticino you can go for a nice walk from Locarno to Ascona. You walk most of the route along the Maggia River. Along the way you have a view of the river and you can take a seat on one of the benches. The entire walk takes about 1 hour.
Other places of interest and things to do in Ticino Switzerland
- Bellinzona is the capital of Ticino and is known for its historic center, sights and 3 castles that are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Restaurants in Ticino
There is nothing better than enjoying a good glass of wine and great meal on a terrace after a day full of impressions. And it will come as no surprise that you can eat and drink deliciously in Ticino. I personally love fish and then you are in the right place in Ticino. These are my tips for the best restaurants in Ticino.
Typical products and specialties from Ticino include farmhouse cheese, salami, polenta and Merlot.
If you like fish, you really want to eat at restaurant Blu in Locarno. All kinds of fish dishes are part of the menu, of which the seafood special is exceptionally delicious. You can also opt for a tasting menu where you get the best of the menu. And I haven’t even mentioned the location. You eat here with a view of the lake.
On the cozy square on Via Borghese in Locarno, you will find restaurant Osteria Pozze. A must-eat here is the menu of the day, which consists of three courses of fresh fish. Try to get a seat on the terrace so you can watch daily life pass by.
At restaurant Curt Bandida you are located on the boulevard of Ascona with a beautiful view of Lake Maggiore. Super romantic in the evening. You can eat delicious starters, pasta and of course a lot of fish.
Riva restaurant is located on the same boulevard in Ascona and is also a nice place with tasty fish dishes and pastas.
If you are staying at the Hotel Belvedere, make sure to have dinner at least one evening in the restaurant La Fontana. Here you sit idyllically in a courtyard and the dishes and wines are of a high standard.
Did you know that the Ticino law of Switzerland states that a restaurant needs to serve you free tap water?
Where to Stay in Ticino Switzerland
Are you looking for a nice place to stay in Ticino? Then definitely stay at the Hotel Belvedere, located on a mountain with amazing views over the surroundings and Lake Maggiore. The hotel has a swimming pool, restaurant and a nice garden. There are several fully equipped rooms spread over different buildings. Try to get a room on the top floor for the best views. It is well worth the money.
Curious about Hotel Belvedere? Check here the availability and current prices of Hotel Belvedere in Ticino Switzerland. Looking for another place to stay in Locarno? Click here for an overview of the best hotels in Locarno.
From Belvedere you can walk to the center and discover the many things to do in Locarno in Ticino within 10 minutes. It is also a 10 minute walk up the mountain towards the Monte Madonna del Sasso monastery. Belvedere also has its own cable car station which takes you directly up the mountain.
How to reach Ticino in Switzerland
Several cities in Ticino have airports. But due to the good great railway network, Ticino is very easy to reach by train from several Italian and Swiss cities. Sustainable and very comfortable! I myself traveled from Amsterdam to Basel within 7 hours and then via Zurich to Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino. A long day but very comfortable. Especially during the crowdy days at European airports. It is also recommended to purchase the Suisse travel pass. This gives you unlimited travel access throughout Switzerland. Find more information about traveling by train here and for public transport in Switzerland here.
Did you know that the Gotthard Base tunnel connects the Ticino region with the rest of Switzerland? With a length of 57 km, this is the world’s longest rail and deepest road tunnel. And it is said that the weather after getting out of the tunnel is always nice, because of Ticino’s Mediterranean climate.
A very good concept of the Ticino region in Switzerland is the Ticino ticket. As soon as you check in at a hotel or campsite, you will receive the Ticino ticket included with your overnight stay. With this ticket you can make free and unlimited use of public transportation during your entire stay. You will also receive discounts at different places in Ticino. Here you can download the app with all the information.
Why do you want to visit Ticino in Switzerland
I am so impressed by this region in Switzerland. If you are looking for a nice combination of nature, culture and good food. Then you are in the right place in Ticino. I would love to come back and explore more lovely towns and amazing hiking trails. Besides that, summer and winter in Ticino are a complete different experience.
Prices in Switzerland
Yes! Switzerland is expensive, but you also get quality in return. Moreover, you can make your trip and accommodation as expensive and cheap as you want. Most activities in nature, including going on beautiful hikes, enjoying a bench by the lake, are completely free of charge. Then you can spend a little more money in the evening on a delicious meal and a glass of wine. It is important to budget your trip and make choices that way.
Pin and save “Things to do in Ticino” for later
More about Ticino in Switzerland
Are you as excited as I am about Ticino? and do you want to know more about the many things to do in Ticino in Switzerland? Then take a look at the website of Ticino. Want to know more about Locarno? Have a look in my guide with tips for things to do in Locarno.