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Salt & Wind Travel

5 Unique Day Trips from Lake Como to Switzerland

Yes, Lake Como is well worth a visit, but it’s also a perfect base for day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland. Its proximity to the Swiss border offers opportunities to experience the Alps, stunning lakes, and charming towns. Here, we’re sharing the five best day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland: Lugano, Ascona, Bellinzona, the Bernina Express, and St. Moritz.

As travel planners who curate itineraries to Italy and Switzerland, we intimately know the southern Swiss and Northern Italy regions. We specialize in helping clients develop personalized itineraries, and, seeing as this area checks the box on so many things — local food, quality wine, history, and adventure — we work here often.

One way to explore the region is to stay in Northern Italy (say, the Italian Lakes) and do a day trip or overnight stay in Switzerland. Here, we’re sharing our choice of five unique day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland that are just as fitting for a first-time visitor as a frequent traveler. 

Day Trips From Lake Como To Switzerland
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5 Day Trips from Lake Como to Switzerland

The easiest-to-access day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland are Lugano, Ascona, and Bellinzona in the Ticino canton. This area feels Italian not just because of its proximity to the border but because it was controlled by the lords of Como and dukes of Milan until the Swiss took over in the 15th century.

Today, you’ll find Italian influence in everything from the food and language to the architecture. Lakes and the Swiss Alps define the region, yet the mountains feel more accessible than other parts of Switzerland. You can dine at a cafe with a view of the Alps rather than trek extensively to see them. 

The Swiss love Ticino for its mild climate, laid-back vibes, and as home to the best sunsets in Switzerland. Our travel clients mostly visit this area from spring through fall because it doesn’t have the winter sports culture you’ll find in Zermatt or Saas Fee. Aside from St. Moritz, these all can be visited on an easy day trip. But we also included some of our favorite hotels in case you decide to spend the night. 

Lugano Switzerland

Lugano

Distance from Como town: About 40 minutes by train

The Vibe: The most classic of the day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland is a visit to Lugano, thanks to its proximity. Many Swiss stereotypes are fulfilled in this town, defined by banking, its lakefront location, and views of the nearby Alps. Set on the shores of mountain-rimmed Lake Lugano, this is the largest city in the Ticino canton and the country’s third most important banking center.

Head past the banks and modern section to explore the historic city center, made up of cobblestoned streets, boutiques, quaint cafes, and fronted by a lakefront promenade. The town has a bit of it all with the historic Santa Maria degli Angioli church, art galleries, and beautiful gardens a short walk from the historic center. On a recent trip, we enjoyed a lovely meal at Osteria Trani including a handcut steak tartare and their homemade lasagna.
How To Get There: You can get here by car, but the road from Como to Lugano is notorious for traffic, so a train is best. There are direct connections from Como to Lugano station, which take about 40 minutes each way. 
Need To Know: As a luxury destination, Lugano can be expensive, and it gets crowded during summer.
Where To Stay: The View – This modern luxury hotel is a lovely contrast in a region with a deep history. Contact us to book the hotel with perks like a property credit of up to US$100, a room upgrade, and daily breakfast.

Bellinzona Switzerland

Bellinzona

Distance from Como town: About one-hour train ride or drive

The Vibe: The least frequented of the day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland we’ve listed is to under-the-radar Bellinzona. Ticino’s low-profile capital is at the junction of roads to the St. Gotthard, Lukmanier, and San Bernardino passes. Though it is home to fewer than 20,000 residents, Bellinzona has three medieval castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro), which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Bellinzona is known not just for the castles but also for a lovely Saturday market, a flower-clad historic center, Renaissance churches, and piazzas brimming with cafes. If you stay the night, fellow Salt & Wind travel planner Kristen recommends you book a table at Ristorante Castelgrande, where she had a memorable fine dining experience within the castle!
How To Get There: The best way to travel from Como to Bellinzona is by train. The journey takes approximately 2 hours and requires a change in Lugano. Driving from Como to Bellinzona offers flexibility and usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
Need To Know: There is not much to dislike except that it takes a while to get to, so many of our clients opt to stay overnight. 
Where To Stay: Hotel La Tureta is a quaint option in the middle of town.

Ascona

Distance from Como town: About 90-minute drive

The Vibe: One of our favorite day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland is to the colorful town of Ascona. Located on the northwestern shore of Lake Maggiore, Ascona and nearby Locarno hold Switzerland’s record for the most annual sunshine (at more than 2,000 hours). 

Ascona is known for its Mediterranean atmosphere, offering a mix of beautiful scenery, art, and culture. The town’s lakefront promenade is lined with cafes and boutiques, and the old town is a maze of narrow streets filled with medieval buildings. 

An overnight here allows you to dive deeper into the area including experience like boating to islands like Isola Bella, taking the funicular to Orselina, hiking the Val Verzasca, or a day trip to the quaint village of Corippo.

Though Ascona is adjacent to Locarno, they have different vibes. While Locarno is more of a residential town, Ascona is more geared toward tourism and visited mainly by Swiss German travelers.

How To Get There: The best way to reach Ascona from Lake Como is by car, which takes about 2 hours. 
Need To Know: The longer travel time makes it a fuller day trip, leaving less time to explore. Public transportation options can be limited, especially on weekends and public holidays, so many of our clients opt to stay overnight. 
Where To Stay: Giardino Ascona – Lean into Ascona Mediterranean vibes at this sunny retreat with poolside restaurants and lush landscaping. Contact us to book the hotel with perks like a property credit of up to US$100, a room upgrade, and daily breakfast. 

The Bernina Express

Distance from Como town: About 2-hour drive to Tirano

The Vibe: One of Switzerland’s classic trains, the Bernina Express, connects the Italian and German-speaking regions as it heads from the village of Tirano to Chur. The four-hour journey is one of the most scenic train rides in the world and the section from Thusis to Tirano is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This train journey offers unparalleled views of the Swiss Alps, traversing glaciers, mountain peaks, and beautiful alpine valleys. It’s a great way to see the stunning landscapes of Switzerland in comfort.
How To Get There: To board the Bernina Express, head to Tirano, Italy, about a two-hour drive from Lake Como. We love taking first-time visitors to Switzerland on the Bernina Express because you can see much of the country’s natural beauty in hours. 
Need To Know: The need to travel to Tirano first adds extra travel time to your day, and train tickets for the Bernina Express can be pricey. Booking in advance is essential, especially during the peak season.

St. Moritz

Distance from Como town: About 4 hours (accessed via Bernina Express)

The Vibe: The only one of the day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland on this list that is not in the Ticino canton, St. Moritz has been a winter destination since the mid-1800s. Set in the German-speaking Graubünden canton, St. Moritz is known as the winter playground for the rich and famous. St. Moritz offers luxury shopping, world-class skiing, and beautiful lakes and has a legit history of alpine sports, having hosted the Winter Olympics twice.

It’s a great day trip for those wanting to experience high-end Swiss culture, with attractions like the Segantini Museum and the Leaning Tower, a remnant of the 12th-century church of St. Mauritius. Summer offers beautiful hiking trails and a chance to enjoy the pristine natural beauty without the ski season crowds. But, as it’s one of the most legendary ski resorts in Switzerland, the best time for winter sports is from December through March. 

Whenever you go, stop at the historic Hanselmann pastry shop, which we feel has some of the best Engadine nusstorte —  a classic Swiss food made with shortbread, caramel, and nuts — anywhere in the country. 
How To Get There: St. Moritz can be reached from Lake Como via the Bernina Express, continuing the scenic journey. The fastest route would be to drive by car and would take 90 minutes to 2.5 hours each way depending on where on Lake Como you are starting.
Need To Know: St. Moritz is one of the most expensive destinations in Switzerland, and its focus on luxury may not appeal to everyone. It takes a while to get to, so many clients stay overnight.
Where To Stay: Kulm Hotel – This historic hotel is a bucket list stay with its stunning views and sprawling grounds. Contact us to book the hotel with perks like a property credit of up to US$100, a room upgrade, and daily breakfast.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the best day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland include visiting the cosmopolitan city of Lugano, which offers a mix of Swiss and Mediterranean cultures, the picturesque town of Bellinzona known for its three UNESCO-listed castles, and the alpine beauty of St. Moritz, a world-renowned resort town offering stunning lake views and luxury shopping. Each destination offers a unique glimpse into Swiss culture and natural beauty, easily accessible from Lake Como.

Traveling from Lake Como to Lugano, Switzerland, is convenient by car or train. The drive takes about 1 hour, offering scenic views along the way. However, many commuters use this road so it can get clogged with traffic during rush hour.

Alternatively, direct trains from Como San Giovanni station to Lugano take approximately 40 minutes, making it a comfortable and efficient option. Remember to check the current train schedules and whether any cross-border travel documents are required.

For a day trip from Lake Como to Switzerland, pack comfortable walking shoes, a camera, a valid ID or passport for border crossing, and weather-appropriate clothing since temperatures can vary, especially if you're visiting alpine regions. Also, consider bringing Swiss Francs for expenses in Switzerland, as not all places may accept euros.

Dive Deep Into Lake Como

Making the west or south part of beautiful Lake Como your home base is a perfect way to explore the Lombardy region of Italy and the Ticino canton of Switzerland.

We’ve already shared why Lake Como is so adored, from its gardens and villas to its rich history. From hiking and funicular rides to learning about WW2 or taking a boat ride on the lake, we have more than 14 ideas for enjoying Lake Como

Let Us Plan Your Perfect Day Trip

As travel planners who specialize in Italy and Switzerland, we curate many custom itineraries for travelers heading to this part of Europe. Whether you need advice on the perfect place for a day trip or help curating your whole trip, book a call, and we’ll help you!


Photo Credit: Opening photo Oleg_P; Lugano photo by Eva Bocek; Bellinzona by Olgysha; Ascona by Roman Babakin; Bernina express by AaronChenPS2; St. Moritz by Konektus Photo

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