My new series was initially aimed at featured major tourists cities… but then I realised that actually it’s fascinating reading to find out more about the amazing spots around the globe that cater for kids… and that the series is more than just a travel series, it’s also a glimpse into life around the world and a really interesting way to meet moms from other countries who are passionate about promoting their cities – to tourists and potential new residents!
Sooooo today in the My City (with kids!) post I’m sharing my space with a trio of Swiss mama’s, Augusta, Jenny and Alexandra, who together are the three bloggers behind www.minimeexplorer.ch. The are sharing their best things to do in Lugano, Switzerland.
I’ll let them introduce themselves…
We are two teachers and a nurse and we blog in Italian and English about traveling with children, abroad, as well as in Switzerland. Our blog has a focus on activities in our local area (Ticino). Between us we have 8 kids in total, aged 2 to 8 years old.
Minimeexplorer was born in the village of Melide, on the shores of Lake Lugano…
We’re talking mountains and palm trees – Italian food and Swiss organization, which makes it quite an interesting combination!
Lugano is the largest city of the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, with a population of just under 70 000 people. In other parts of the world, it would be classified as a small town – here it is “the city”!
Top 10 things to do in Lugano, Switzerland
VISIT THE CITY CENTER
Lugano is a pretty and compact city, with a lake, mountains and palm trees. Sadly, it offers very little in terms of child-friendly activities. The city center offers two great museums – the Museum of Natural History and the Museo in Erba. The Museo in Erba is very interesting, as it allows kids to approach the works of renown painters, thanks to interactive exhibits and games. A fun family activity is to rent a “pedalo”, (pedal boat), and “cycle” on the lake. Some have a little slide, by the side, if kids want to swim in the lake. If you are looking for a playground, the one inside Parco Ciani has a huge turbo tube slide.
Gandria is a village belonging to the municipality of Lugano, and a great example of traditional fishing village of the past. There are no roads, only narrow alleys and ancient houses dating back to the 16th and 17th century. You can walk there along the Gandria Trail. It is about 30 minutes’ walk from Lugano on a flat but scenic trail. Take a boat across the lake and visit the very interactive Museo Doganale Svizzero (Customs Museum), to learn all about life on the Italian-Swiss border and smuggling! You can return to the city centre by boat.
Carona, like Gandria, belongs to the municipality of Lugano. It is a quaint hillside village with old and well-preserved stone buildings. Families should not miss the Parco San Grato, a free botanic park with thematic trails (I recommend the “Azalea legend” with kids), artwork, two playgrounds and a green maze. Not far from the park, there is one of the area’s best swimming pools, in a leafy garden surrounded by trees. The 4-leveled diving board is for true daredevils, with the highest level positioned at a height of 10 metres.
TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM MONTE SAN SALVATORE
Monte San Salvatore is Lugano’s “home” mountain, and the place to go for the most amazing views of the city. Getting there is part of the fun, as there is a steep funicular ride, which takes you there, from Lugano-Paradiso. On top, there is a tiny playground, a large panoramic terrace and a bar/restaurant. There is also a small museum, and kids will like room 4 (geology, with local fossils), room 5 (speleology, with everything you need to know about caves) and room 6 (lightning flashes, and precious info on how to avoid being struck).
HAVE FUN AT MELIDE
Melide is a small village 8 minutes by train from Lugano, which every Swiss kid has visited at least once in their life. The reason is simple: it is the “home” of the Swissminiatur Park, with over 120 models at scale of 1:25 of all the most important Swiss buildings, monuments and transportation means. Tittle trains run along the tracks, boats sail over small lakes; cable cars go up and down miniature mountains. After the park, take your children to the local swimming-pool. The pool itself is tiny, but has a nice slide. Older kids can swim out to the floating swimming-pool in the lake, or enjoy the floating bouncing castle. Life vests are mandatory (and available for rent) so you don’t need to worry about safety.
ENJOY THE CHOCOLATE AT CASLANO
Caslano is all about chocolate, and it is 25 minutes by train from Lugano. The Alprose Chocolate Factory is located there and can be visited without reservation. There is also a chocolate museum inside, a free tasting area (!!!) and a store. If you have had too much chocolate, you can burn some calories by hiking around Mount Caslano: it takes about 90 minutes and it is mostly flat (but not accessible with strollers). A lazier alternative is the Caslano mini-golf center, where you can also find trampolines and tiny electric cars for toddlers.
RIDE THE RAILWAY TO THE TOP OF MONTE GENEROSO
Monte Generoso is the highest mountain in the Lugano area, with its 1904 meters above sea level. You can get there by cogwheel railway from Riva San Vitale, a village 28 minutes by train from Lugano. Expect plenty of cows when you reach the top, and a panoramic restaurant with playground. The best thing, however, is the 30 minutes hike to the Bear Cave, where over 50 000 bones belonging to cave bears (dating back to 35,000-65,000 years ago) have been found. A guided visit takes you to the excavation area and explains all about paleontological diggings, and kids are given real bones to hold (and sometimes to take home).
CATCH A CABLE CAR TO THE TOP OF MONTE TAMARO
Monte Tamaro is the best mountain to go to, if you have active kids. It can be reached by cable car from Rivera, 30 minutes by train from Lugano. Once on the mountain, you are spoiled for choice: great hikes, mountain bike trails, a thrilling coaster bob ride, an adventure park with three kids’ trails (ages 4 and up), a playground, a restaurant and amazing mountain views. Adults should not miss the The Santa Maria degli Angeli chapel, designed by our very own Mario Botta – the architect who designed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
HAVE FUN IN THE SUN AT RIVERA SPLASH AND SPA
The very best (and only) aqua park in the Lugano area is in Rivera, just like Monte Tamaro. It is called Splash and Spa and it is mostly indoor, but we do get a) steaming hot summer days, b) miserable rainy days – so why not? This aqua park is divided in two parts, the splash area with toboggans, a wave pool, an outdoor pool with whirlpool, a pool bar and a kids’ area, and the spa area for adults. On Wednesday afternoon, families with kids over 6 years old can use the spa together: saunas, steam baths, Kneipp paths, aromatic showers, and pools with underwater music.
EXPLORE THE SESSA GOLDMINE
Sessa is another little village 30 minutes from Lugano, by car. A newly-restored goldmine, which stopped operating in 1953, is the reason to get there. The village of Sessa, together with other nearby villages, used to form Switzerland’s largest mining district. Visitors are taken along the old goldmine tracks on a 372 meters long journey into the mountain, from where 500 kilos of gold were extracted. On your visit you can learn all about gold, but you will not see any (don’t tell your kids, ok?!) except in the small museum at the entrance. Still, the visit is amazing!
My City (with kids!) – Lugano, Switzerland (Augusta answers…)
How long have you lived in your hometown? How old are your kids?
I was born here. My son is 8 years old.
Our favourite spot to visit as a family in our home town is…
The LAC museum… we all love art, and there as always great exhibits (Magritte, right now). There are occasionally free workshops for children, but need to be booked months in advance.
My kids favourite outing in our home town is…
The pumptrack in Mendrisio (20 minutes drive from Lugano). He loves mountain
The most iconic place/ don’t miss tourist attraction in our home town to visit (that the kids will also love) is…
In front of the Gabbani Deli, in via Pessina. There are huge salamis hanging out – I remember that as I kids I always asked my mother to take me there, thinking they were real. So does my son!!!
Our favourite family-friendly good weather outing is…
The chocolate factory in Caslano followed by a hike around Monte Caslano
Our favourite family-friendly BAD weather(indoor) outing is…
Splash and Spa!!!
The best free outing in our home town is…
The Museum of Natural History
Our “insider” tip for visiting our home town is…
First of all, don’t visit on Sunday… it’s really dead, and most places (museums, restaurants, shops) are closed. The second tip is to see what the local tourist information office has to offer. There are three free guided tours of the city a week (depending on the season) and three cheap ones to local places of interest. They cost 10 CHF (more or less 10 USD) and they are great value for money, as transportation in included.
The best family-friendly restaurant is…
Ristorante Ciani, with an indoor playground
Be sure to try this kid-friendly local food…
There’s no real typical food, the local cuisine is Italian. So pizza and pasta are local favourites. We have great local cheese, and our traditional Torta di Pane (bread cake).
The easiest way to get around with kids is…
The city is small, and public transport is efficient, it’s easiest NOT to rent a car! If you buy your kids a Railway Junior Card (30 CHF) they can travel for free on trains, buses, boats.
The best family-friendly neighbourhood to stay in is…
In the center. The area in Paradiso is a bit of a red-light district (though very safe)
Thank you so much to Augusta for sharing more about her home town of Lugano, Switzerland! If you’re planning a visit to the area and want to find out more about the area be sure to follow their blog or find them on Facebook and Instagram.
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