The sunny canton of Switzerland “Die Sonnenstube” is a well known alternative name for Ticino.
Ticino is one of the places within Switzerland that we return to time after time thanks to its diversity, beauty and outstanding nature. And on top of all this, it is easily accessible by train from pretty much all over Switzerland.
Yet, although we have not explored fully this southern most Swiss Canton, we have seen a fair bit of it. With this article I will help you plan the best Ticino trip and recommend family friendly things to do in each of the four Ticino Regions – Bellinzona, Locarno, Lugano and Mendrisio.
Don’t forget to pin this article to always come back to when planning a family trip to Ticino – Switzerland.
The Four Ticino Regions – Switzerland
To make your planning a bit easier you can see in the map below the 4 different regions within Ticino. All four Ticino regions offer something different but they all share one thing – natural beauty! A holiday in Ticino means nothing less than outdoor activities, excursions & relaxation, in both nature and the city! Plan your trip so you do not have to choose between the four Ticino regions, go and visit them all.
- The Four Ticino Regions – Switzerland
- How to use this Best Ticino Moments Guide
- Region of Ascona – Locarno – Locarnese
- Region of Lugano
- Region of Mendrisiotto
How to use this Best Ticino Moments Guide
In the article I have linked to many of our other Ticino blog articles where you will find further suggestions, itineraries and the best way to get to a place. Make sure you are clicking on these links and come back to this article so you will get the best out of the Epic Ticino Moments guide and plan your amazing holiday in this southern most canton of Switzerland. Every Ticino trip should include a visit to the Castelgrande in Bellinzona, the capital city of Ticino. Immerse yourself in to the Medieval atmosphere “Step back in time when the princesses were guarded by fire dragons and the princes were the bravest”. You will have the possibility to visit not one but actually three castles – Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro. These castles were built in the 1500s, and were part of a fortress protecting Switzerland from Italy.
In 2000 they became part of the UNESCO World Heritage and with the old walls still standing, it is the sole medieval military complex in the Alpine region.
How Best to visit the Bellinzona Castles
Of course, if you have a lot of time go and explore them all but allow the whole day. The castles are pretty similar to each other with towers to climb and walls to walk on. Yet each and every one gives you a different feel and view of the city.
If you are short on time definitely head to the Castelgrande which is within the city centre and only 500m from the train station.
Let the kids play with their fantasy. The castle visit is free of charge and if you wish to know more about the history, you can always visit the museum, this is payable though. The whole visit was fun and we were pleasantly surprised of the beauty of the whole Bellinzona area. We left wondering why we had never spent the night and explored it further? Bellinzona is definitely on the list for our next Ticino visit.
The city of Bellinzona is easily reachable on train from anywhere in Ticino and will make this trip ecofriendly, fun and perfect for a day trip wherever you are staying. We also highly recommend to visit the Bellinzona area just for the day even if you are not staying in Ticino. From pretty much all over Switzerland you can be in Bellinzona by train in under 3h.
Region of Ascona – Locarno – Locarnese
Probably the most visited region of Ticino due to its famous Valle Verzasca and Valle Maggia. The mild climate, the palm trees along the Piazza Grande and its close proximity to the mountains makes the Ascona – Locarno region of Ticino a family favourite.
I have previously put together an in-depth guide to this region with 11 of the most beautiful places to see in the Locarno Region with your children. Head over and get inspired by 11 places in Ticino you should visit.
From all of these 11 places if we would have to pick a favourite family activity in the Ascona – Locarno Region, then there is one particular place that the kids are always asking to go back to and this is the Theme Trail – Bobosco, in the beautiful Valle Verzasca.
With this suggestion you can tick off two, oh actually three beautiful sightseeing places in Locarno, because the theme trail ends at the romantic Roman bridge Ponti dei Salti in Lavertezzo, Verzasca. And the other stop you may want to do when driving up or down the Valle Verzasca is the James Bond 007 dam wall from where the famous bungee jump was filmed for the movie Golden Eye.
How Best to Hike the BoBosco trail?
If you are arriving by car, park in Lavertezzo and take the bus to Brione where the trail starts. If you are arriving by bus, exit at Brione.
Before starting the theme trail don’t forget to purchase your Bobosco, a wooden ball made of chestnut. During the season you will find an automated machine in Lavertezzo at the bus stop and another one in Brione. The latter machine is also available during off season and the cost is Chf 5.- for one large wooden marble.
Now, that the kids have their wooden ball, let the fun begin. Following the crystal clear water of the Verzasca river, a 5.5 km trail allows the kids to let the ball roll down several different giant obstacles. This will take you several hours as the kids for sure will want to let their ball roll along these obstacles several times. On the way you will find many secluded beaches right by the water and other picnic places. But best is definitely to stop at one of the stations, and let the kids just play.
When you get to the Ponte dei Salti back in Lavertezzo, enjoy this beautiful place and don’t forget to dip your toes in to the crystal clear Verzasca river.
Region of Lugano
Lugano. History, art and culture, the city that has it all. But what makes Lugano so desirable is the quick escape to nature. Peaceful and quiet mountain tops with vistas that will leave you in awe. Hop on a boat and visit the hidden small Italian influenced villages around Lago di Lugano with ancient olive trees and beautiful architecture.
Not that the Lugano Region makes it easier to choose the best things to do for families, but again there were two activities which stood out for us. Amongst many other great family friendly activities in Lugano, one is the bike route to Caslano and the other one is to marvel at the views over Ticino from the top of Monte San Salvatore.
The Bike Route to Caslano
If you are staying in Lugano City you would need to make your way on the train to Agno from where the cycling (or foot) path to Caslano starts. There is no need to book your bikes on the train but you do need a bike ticket, therefore do not forget to pay for it. Kids bikes travel free of charge if the parents have a payable ticket.
Once in Agno, the 4km bike path starts very close to the station and runs along the Lake of Lugano. On the way you will be passing some playgrounds, small harbours and at one point a residential area. It is here where you may encounter some cars but it is a 30km/h zone and the section is very short. We loved this part of the Lugano Region as it is different and feels like being close with nature. The scenery is pretty and there were no cars or any other dangerous parts to manoeuvre, which is always a big plus when cycling with children.
If you are there during the summer months bring your swimming gear, as there are many small beaches along the way to stop for a swim. You will return the same way, and if you need to wait for your train back to Lugano City, there is a large playground only minutes from the station and ideal to pass the time.
If cycling as a family would be part of your Ticino vacation, then check out our Guide to Biking in Lugano as a family. You will find other bike routes and suggestions on how best to go around Lugano with bicycles as a family.
Ride up to Monte San Salvatore
If you and the kids still have the energy you could cycle to the Monte San Salvatore Funicular station after you have arrived back in Lugano, and ride up to marvel at the beautiful late afternoon view over Lugano region and beyond. Of course, you could easily spend the day around the Monte San Salvatore Mountain including a beautiful hike to one of the Ticino Villages, but if you and the family do not have the time or energy for a hike, just ride up for the view.
Keep in mind on weekdays the last funicular descent from San Salvatore is at 6pm. If you miss it there is no other choice than to hike back down.
At the top you can race the kids up the many steps to the top viewing platform where jaw dropping vistas await the family. As you stand there you will understand why Ticino is such an attractive holiday destination. Mountains, the lake and the palm trees. Check out our little video on Instagram
Region of Mendrisiotto
Last but not least the Southern-most region of Ticino – the Mendrisiotto Region is bordering with the Lugano Region on its northern side and is surrounded on all other sides by Italy. Characterised by the gentle green hills dotted with vineyards and historic old-towns, it all awaits to be discovered by you. I have 3 great places for you and the family to visit in this beautiful region and they are all completely different. We have not been to these places, but I have investigated them fully and they are on our to do list for our next visit. Therefore if you are heading there before us, please do let us know some tips and further suggestions below in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
The Fossil Museum – UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte San Giorgio
Our suggestion here is a bit different and unique. If your children (like ours) LOVE fossils then a visit to the fascinating Fossil Museum is a must.
Not only is the Fossil Museum a cool place to visit, but it exhibits a selection of fossilized animals and plants from the unique UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte San Giorgio.Which by the way is one of the most important fossil sites in the world of the Middle Triassic. Did you know that?
If you have older kids a great audio commentary is provided and there are just so many educational and fun things to do. This could easily take you the day. The museum is located in the charming car free village of Meride which deserves to be visited in its own right, before or after the museum.
How to get to the Fossil Museum in Meride
Hop on a train and enjoy a stunning and comfortable train journey all the way to Mendrisio Station from where the onwards trip to Meride will be by bus. Meride is a car free village and parking may not be the easiest to find. However, should you still arrive by car, there are 2 paying car parks just outside Meride Village. The furthest parking is only 450m from the Museum.
Hike along the Breggia Gorge
Perfect for a hot Ticino summer day is a hike along the “Gole della Breggia» located in the lower part of the Valle di Muggio. The park stretches along the Breggia river showing interesting rock formations amongst beautiful nature. At one point you will reach the “Cascata della Breggia” waterfall, a perfect place to swim and enjoy the day.
On the hike itself you will find many signs explaining various geological features which can be seen from the trail.
A bit of history and facts to the park.
This Natural Park mainly woodland stretches along the river Breggia. The landscape is an important area for the geological study as the rocks that appear on the surface are hundreds of millions of years old. Not only is the Breggia Gorge one of the most important geo-topes in Switzerland but also the first Swiss geo-park.
The Breggia Gorge can be reached both by public transport from the Balerna train station or by car.
The trail in short
Start at the old Ghitello mill, located behind the parking lot of the Breggia Shopping Centre in Balerna.
The trail first leads to the little lake and continues along the river passing the cement factory and a brewery. After crossing the Breggia, the trail takes you up to the San Pietro hill where you will find ruins of a medieval castle and the «Red Church” la Chiesa Rossa which dates back to the 14thcentury. Not your usual Italian flamboyant church from the outside but still beautiful in its own right and the inside is decorated with beautiful frescos (a visit needs to be organized).
Head down to the bridge Punt da Canaa. It is along this stretch of the park where the most ancient rocks can be seen (190-million-year-old flint limestone). Further along the trail takes you along a deep and narrow gorge and back to the mill from where you started this hike. Here you will find a hiking map with more details.
Here are all the Ticino Articles that will help you plan the Best Ticino Moments
I hope that the information provided here will prove itself useful when planning your Best Ticino Moments – 24 Things to do & see!
If I have left anything out or you have a question, please ask your questions in the comments below so that other readers can join in the conversation and benefit from your queries also.
Thank you & Never Forget to Explore
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