The Italian-speaking town of Locarno is located in the southern part of Switzerland, in the canton of Ticino, on the northern shores of Lake Maggiore, and offers the perfect blend of Switzerland and Italy. This charming town is known for its Mediterranean flair, which blends in beautifully with the Swiss region’s scenic landscapes. Locarno’s mild climate makes it an ideal year-round destination, so pack your bags and join us on a tour of the best things to do in Locarno, Switzerland.
- Take a stroll through Piazza Grande
The Piazza Grande is considered the heart of Locarno’s old town, and it’s hard to miss. The charming main square is situated on a lovely cobblestone road that dates back to 1825 and is made of river pebbles. The colorful facades of the buildings, combined with the Lombard architecture style, invite you to wander around and let the town work its magic. If you’re looking for an Italian-style meal with Swiss hospitality, the restaurants in the area are ideal.
Apart from restaurants, the square has a variety of shops, bars, and businesses to visit. The Torre del Comune (Municipal Tower), a medieval clock and bell tower built by the Visconti family, will be visible further along your walk. We recommend starting your tour in Piazza Grande because it is also the starting point for the rest of the city’s attractions.
- Attend the Locarno International Film Festival
The Locarno Film Festival is a ten-day event held every August during the hot summer months. It has become an important tradition that brings together film fans from all over the world, including those from the Swiss region. The 73-year-old festival is a must-see for visitors to Locarno, and it has featured films by directors like Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Aleksandr Sokurov, and Abbas Kiarostami before they became well-known. Every year, around 8000 people attend their open-air Piazza Grande venue. So, if you’re in Locarno during the summer, don’t miss out on this renowned European film festival.
- A Historical Glimpse in Castello Visconteo
The magnificent Visconteo Castle is only a short walk from the Piazza Grande. The oldest parts of this municipal and archaeological museum date from the late 12th or early 13th centuries. A Renaissance fortification designed and built by Leonardo da Vinci during the 16th century, known as Leonardo’s Rivellino, is a part of this castle that has remained intact to this day. In addition, the museum has a large collection of ceramics and Roman glassware, as well as various artifacts from the Ticino region.
- Madonna del Sasso’s Sacred Mount
To visit the Sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso in the municipality of Orselina just below Locarno, you can either climb by foot or take the funicular for a charming ride. After seeing the Virgin Mary on the night before the Feast of the Assumption in 1480, Franciscan friar Frá Bartolomeo built this sacred place of pilgrimage in 1487 as a place of worship. This complex now includes a monastery, a church, chapels, and a large forecourt with panoramic views of Locarno, Lago Maggiore, and the Maggia delta.
- Visit the Falconeria Locarno to see the raptors.
If you’re interested in wildlife, the Falconry Locarno is the place to go. Eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, marabous, ibis, and storks are among the majestic birds of prey that can be seen and photographed here. This animal-friendly falconeria has sheltered seats where you can watch the prey birds fly freely above your head. The program is available in Italian or German, making it an excellent opportunity to brush up on your language skills. Even if you don’t speak either of the languages, the show is entertaining in any case.
- Take a stroll through the Blooming Camelie Park is a park in Camelie, Italy.
The Camellia Park in Locarno, near the shores of Lake Maggiore, is the ideal spot for a stroll among the vibrant colors of the Camellia flower’s many varieties. Over 900 varieties of Camellias are planted in a labyrinth-like arrangement throughout the park. In addition, the park hosts an annual scientific exhibition featuring a variety of plant species from around the world. The Locarno Camellia exhibition, now in its 23rd year, will take place from March 19th to 21st, 2021.
- At Lido Locarno, you can swim away your worries.
If you feel like going for a swim (you are, after all, in a lakeside town!) You should go to Lido Locarno. If you prefer being near the water, this “lido”—the Italian word for “outdoor swimming pool”—on the shore of Lake Maggiore is a fun place to visit. Numerous outdoor and indoor swimming pools are available year-round, regardless of the weather. Recreational activities, sports, and modern bathing facilities are available for ultimate relaxation.
- Take in the sights and sounds of the Moon and Stars Festival.
The Moon and Stars Festival, the largest music festival in the Southern Alps, attracts art lovers from all over the world to the Piazza Grande once again. Thousands of festival-goers get to enjoy music performances by well-known international artists every July. Rita Ora, James Arthur, The Script, Snow Patrol, and Jamiroquai were among the artists who performed in recent years. Locarno’s ten annual open-air concerts provide an unforgettable summer experience.
- Take a trip to Ascona, a nearby village.
Ascona is a small picturesque village nearby that you can reach in about 12 minutes by city bus or by boat while taking in the sights of Lake Maggiore. This village is small and easy to navigate; you can practically walk around the entire village without getting tired. Italian-style dishes are served in the cozy restaurants located in the village’s cobblestone alleys, so you can get a taste of Italy here as well. Ascona has a charming local feel and is a lovely place to visit if you want to spend a relaxing day by the lake’s waterfront.
- James Bond-style bungee jumping in Verzasca Dam
If you’re looking for a thrill, the Verzasca Dam offers bungee jumping in the style of James Bond. A 20-minute bus ride from Locarno will take you to the enchanting Verzasca valley. The magical green river of Verzasca, as well as the surrounding villages with their beautiful house fronts, create a postcard-perfect scene. You can stop for a bungee jump adventure from the dam where the opening scene of the James Bond film “GoldenEye” was shot while on the bus ride there.