We spent nine days in this wonderful town located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore.
The official language is Italian which adds an extra charm to the whole experience.
In my opinion, the top 12 reasons to go to Locarno are:
1. The Lake. Lake Maggiore is very scenic not only because its clear waters but also because it is surrounded by the Alps, transforming the scenery in a fairy tale vision. It’s possible to swim in its crystalline waters and also travel by boat to several villages that are located along its shore. There’s an island on Lake Maggiore that should not be missed: Brissago Island (Isola di Brissago,)
2. Bike till you die. It’s difficult to find a better place to ride a bike than Locarno! You can choose paved paths, gravel paths, scenic bridges and also along river shores and forests. Bicycles are very popular in Locarno and there are several facilities dedicated to bike riders.
3. Valle Verzasca hiking. One of the most scenic hiking in the world _ if not the most scenic!
The way to go there is by post bus to Sonogno. Tickets can be purchased at Locarno Train Station.
The bus tickets cost SFR 28.00/ each (Locarno to Sonogno and from Lavertezzo to Locarno as our planned hike route was from Snonogno to Lavertezzo).
Sonogno‘s altitude is 919m. The tiny village has marvelous houses built many centuries ago, most of them made of stones _ even the roofs!
The hiking trail has many signs pointing directions and travel times. When we started the yellow sign showed it would be a 4h20 hike. It took us 5h15! We lack experience hiking in alpine territory and also stopped many times to take pictures of the amazing scenery.
We had it all there: Grass, gravel, stones, steps, suspension bridges, bridges with two guard rails, bridges with just one guard rail and… bridges with NO guard rail at all! OMG!
Valle Verzasca should be in everyone’s bucket list. It’s on mine to return there!
There are several pictures, because this way you can have a glimpse on one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world!
4. Ascona. This small town is located very close to Locarno. We went there many times during our staying in Locarno. It’s a scenic drive by bike as the path goes along the lake most of the time.
Ascona has several small trendy restaurants, live shows on the shore and fireworks once a week! Not to be missed is the local market that happens once a week selling interesting arts and crafts.
There are several delightful hiking trails, one of them departing from behind the city’s cemetery. Don’t miss it. You will walk through an amazing forest and when you reach the top go visit the “Sculpture Park” __ this is an amazing place with many wood sculptures.
5. Go on a boat ride! One of the best ways to visit the towns around Lake Maggiore is the “one day pass” (SFR 28 / each) where it’s possible to use the boat like a “hop on – hop off”.
There are several boats linking the towns. At the time we bought our tickets we received a map containing itinerary and schedules. This is a very convenient way to visit the towns around the lake without the hassle of driving and looking for parking space.
6. Locarno Film Festival. If you love movies (who doesn’t?) go to Locarno during August. The Locarno Film Festival is a must! Several artists, directors and people related to the movie industry come to Locarno annually to attend the festival. There are several movies played on a huge screen located on Piazza Grande. Better yet: It’s free to watch!
7. Go swimming! Swim in the lake! Swim in the river! Go swimming! Maggia river has crystal clear waters. Yes, it’s cold as the water comes from a glacier many miles above but… it’s d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s!
Another great thing about Locarno is that it’s usually warm. One of our favorite activities was to stop by the lake at the end of the day and jump in the water, even while wearing our biking suits! 🙂
When swimming in the Maggia River it’s good to have appropriate shoes. It’s tough to walk on the pebbles! 🙂
8. Lido di Locarno – Oh…. How we miss this place! The Lido di Locarno is huge and it is fabulous! There are several pools _ indoor and outdoor. There’s also a large grassed area, a bar selling delicious extra-cold beers and a “private beach” _ a small part of the lake where only people who paid the Lido’s entrance fee are allowed to enter.
It is cheap to get in : SFR 12.00 / each plus SFR 2.50 for a locker.
At the entrance of the Lido there’s a huge bike-parking where we parked our bikes.
Despite paying the entrance, if you want to seat on a chaise-long you have to pay SFR 14.00/ each plus SFR 30.00 as deposit. No thanks! We did as everyone else and seat on the grass! 🙂
9. Golf . We don’t play but if you are into golf, Locarno is fabulous! The golf course is huge, beautiful and within walking distance from Locarno and Ascona!
10. Go on a day trip to Bellinzona! We went on a day trip _ by bike_ from Locarno to Bellinzona. The distance is approximately 21 km.
We started in Locarno on a dedicated bike path that goes around the lake. After passing through Muralto and Minusio we continued on a regular road with low traffic, probably due to Swiss National Day with few people on the streets.
(Swiss National Day: celebration of the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy in 1889).
Our map didn’t show route details to travel by bike, so we got lost near the Locarno Aero Club. After a while we found the right path and continued on a small road between orchards in direction to Bellinzona.
Before entering Bellinzona we crossed a bridge over the Ticino River. On our way to Old Town Bellinzona we saw wonderful trees along the way and the outbark was something I had never seen before. Very interesting indeed!
Bellinzona is a very nice town. After parking our bikes we visited the castle (Castlegrande) with its incredible views to the city and to nearby castles.
We also visited Collegiata dei SS Petro and the Old Town.
After biking and walking a lot, we stopped for an ice cream and went to visit the Church of S Biagio (Chiesa di S Biagio) and the Villa dei Cedri.
We went by bike to the train station, bought our tickets and ran to take the train that was going to depart 9 minutes later!!!
We managed to put our bikes inside the train but it is not a very easy operation as they are heavy and the steps are high!
Anyway, we returned comfortably seated at the first class! The guy at the station told us to place our bikes at the rear part of the last train so…… we just sat there and relaxed enjoying the views and seeing how far we have been today!
I highly recommend you visit Bellinzona when you stay in Locarno. It’s magnificent!
11. The Food _ Of course, being in one of the most Italian cities in Switzerland, food has the Italian influence and is absolutely delicious everywhere you go!
12. The Post Bus _ Don’t miss an opportunity to take the post bus in Locarno and travel to one of the steepest little villages, like Bignasco and Cavergno. We have been to both and it’s a ride with a lot of adrenaline circulating in your veins while the post bus goes up and up on a hair pin road!
From Locarno to Bignasco it was a double-deck bus (operated by Fart) packed with tourists. The road till Bignasco is steep but it is not scary. There is heavy traffic, indeed.
When we arrived in Bignasco we waited 10 minutes to get to the Post Bus to go to Fusio.
Very few people went on this route, most of the tourists that were on the first bus stayed at Bignasco waiting for the bus to San Carlos.
Wow…….. WHAT a road!!! It is really steep and the bends are so narrow and make a zig-zag like a roller coaster! I would never, ever be able (emotionally) to drive there!
When the cars that are coming in the opposite direction, it’s necessary to stop and go backwards till the road has enough space for the car and the post bus!
I do not recommend going by car from Bignasco to: Mogno or Fusio! No way! Get the post bus and you will see what I mean when I tell you it’s a scaring road to travel!
13. Flowers, fruits and public gardens. There are amazing gardens and flowers! We saw many exotic flowers that we had never seen before!
Of course, in a region that produces many wines, we found grapes everywhere. Yes, they were delicious! Indeed! 🙂
We traveled to Locarno in August 2012.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as we enjoyed our trip! Happy travels! 🙂