Situated to the South of Switzerland, in an area that’s most popular (and populous!) in the summer months, the towns of Locarno and Ascona can be found on the shores of the glittering Lake Maggiore. Perfect for a getaway from it all, this area is characterised by glaciers, snow-capped peaks and azure blue alpine lakes. Here’s how to spend a weekend in Locarno, Ticino.
How to spend a weekend in Locarno (and the best time to visit Locarno)
Come summer or winter, spring or fall, the South of Switzerland is a holiday destination worth visiting. While the warmer months of the year promise endless days and plenty of hours of sunshine, visiting in the European shoulder seasons, or even the offseason (in this case, winter!) have their benefits too.
After all, a visit in December guarantees fewer tourists, meaning that for much of the time, you’ll get the place to yourself. Though not all the boutiques and museums will be open (or, at the very least, they’ll have shorter opening hours), you’ll soon discover that restaurant bookings are easy to make and hotel prices are significantly lower.
Day One: Ascona
Though Ascona has little by way of attractions, the true nature of the town lies in its laid-back vibe and wealth of breathtaking architecture. Colourful houses can be found in abundance and you can’t go wrong by picking up a gelato (or hot chocolate depending on the season!) and dedicating a couple of hours to wandering around the old town.
Elsewhere in the town, there are several museums and one of the best views of the area is to be found if you take the steep stairs leading up towards Losone. From the winding roads that snake their way around the mountainside, you’ll soon discover stunning vistas of the church tower, glittering lake, and wider borgo (old town).
During the summer months, Ascona is home to a whole host of water-based activities. From taking a relaxing cruise to the shores of Italy, visiting the islands of Brissago, to learning how to sail, there’s no shortage of fun to be had. For more ideas and inspiration for planning a visit to Ascona, check out this guide to the best things to do in Ascona.
Day Two: Locarno
While Saturday of this weekend in Locarno itinerary is more laid back in nature, when it comes to Sunday, start your day by enjoying a filling breakfast. After all, Locarno has plenty to do and even more attractions to see. As such, you’ll want to start your day off early in order to see everything the alpine town has to offer.
Prior to wandering around the Borgo (old town) or admiring the many Italianate churches in the area, be sure to clamber up the hundreds of steps to reach the Madonna del Sasso. Taking around fifty minutes to complete, if you’re a little short on time (or not feeling the climb!) then be sure to take the funicular to the top instead.
For those already familiar with the Sacro Monte, the most famous being the Sacro Monte di Varese in Northern Italy, then you’ll likely know that these mountaintop ecclesiastical buildings often offer unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape. Similarly, it’s here where you’ll find a calvary leading up to the monastery at the very top.
Other highlights of Locarno include the Piazza Grande, which is often considered to be one of the most beautiful town squares in Switzerland, as well as countless quaint eateries. For one of the most ‘instagrammable’ coffee shops in town, you simply must head to the Casa Borgo (which is also a B&B you can book rooms in).
Check-in: Hotel Eden Roc
Truth be told, the real highlight of our trip was a stay in the ever so Swiss and impossibly luxurious, Hotel Eden Roc. As a bit of backstory, I and my friend Michelle had actually won a competition last year. The prize? Two nights at half board (including train transfers, breakfast, and dinner each night) at Hotel Eden Roc.
Located on the fringes of old town Ascona, our Junior Suite offered views of Ascona, the isles that dot the lake, and the snow-capped peaks of the Alps beyond. The mini bar was stocked with several types of waters and locals beers. Each morning we enjoyed a full breakfast buffet (complete with creamy cappuccinos and fluffy pancakes).
During the day, we’d wander the area, cameras in one hand, curiosity in the other. Snapping photos as we went along, we soon discovered the joys of visiting Ascona in the off-season and were more than a little lucky with the weather (think sunshine all day with not a cloud in sight!).
Come sundown (which, during the winter, is as early as 4 pm), we would check in to the sauna and pool area of the hotel, with the aim of checking out. The hotel also hosts weekly events; such as yoga sessions, and perhaps our favourite of all, a ‘mixer’ where we were invited to the hotel lobby to enjoy complimentary champagne against the backdrop of a thousand twinkling lights and live piano music.