Italy is a big, beautiful country, full of art, history, and mind-blowing food. Its sun-drenched Mediterranean coasts in the south are gorgeous.
But pull up a map. Northern Italy borders Switzerland along the Pennine Alps and it’s simply one of the most scenic and interesting areas in Europe.
So, if you’re looking for a way to fit a visit to Switzerland into your Italian vacation, it may be easier than you think with day trips from Lake Como to Switzerland.
From this enclave in the foothills of the Alps, you’re only a few hours away from experiencing fantastic Switzerland.
And an unforgettable Swiss visit to this Italian-speaking region can be done in one day from Lake Como!
We’ve got a terrific list of Lake Como day trips that will give you a satisfying taste (Swiss chocolate, anyone?) of Switzerland.
Many of these single-day trips will also show you the best of Lake Como in Italy and its stunning surroundings.
In the northern regions, Italian lakes, including Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore, are famous for their crystal blue waters and exciting resorts.
And, it’s easy to find one-day trips from Lake Como to explore them.
Here’s our first tip. Pack a plug adaptor for use in your Lake Como hotel or resort. This travel adaptor kit with dual USB ports is a good one that should be compatible with all your travels in Italy.
Table of Contents
- Lake Como to Switzerland
- How to Get to Switzerland from Lake Como
- Lugano: 1-Hour Express Discovery Tour
- Como, Italy, & Lugano, Switzerland, Private Full-Day Trip
- E-Bike Tour Lake Como and Swiss Vineyards
- Lugano and Bellinzona Private Full-Day Trip
- From Como: Three Lakes Tour to Ascona, Lugano, and Bellagio
- Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan
- Lucerne: 1-Hour Cruise on Panoramic Yacht
- Mt. Pilatus by Cable Car and Cogwheel Train & Lake Cruise
- Zurich: 2-Hour Sightseeing Bus Tour
Lake Como to Switzerland
It’s surprising how close Lake Como is to Lugano in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. We’re talking less than 30 kilometers.
And it’s fun to cross an international border without any fuss thanks to the Schengen Agreement. This treaty amended the practice of border checks for people in the area traveling across borders.
You are truly free to move about the country here.
Located on the northern edge of Lake Lugano, the city of Lugano, and the surrounding area is pure alpine mountain beauty.
The people who live and work in the southernmost part of Switzerland speak Italian. So if you’re learning how to communicate in Italian, you’re in luck.
You’ll be able to practice in Lugano! That’s so much easier than whipping out your German and French translation books just to go across the border for a day or two.
The area is also known for its Swiss-Mediterranean combination of culture, architecture, and food. It’s elegant and historical. And did we mention beautiful?
There are a few other Swiss cities you can also easily reach by fast trains. But read on to discover all the best ways to travel from Lake Como to Switzerland.
How to Get to Switzerland from Lake Como
Part Mediterranean, part Swiss, this is a fascinating area to explore on a day trip. Several modes of transportation are available to take you there.
The cheapest way to travel is by bus and it will take you about an hour and 16-minutes. Not bad when you consider the ticket is about $6!
You can also rent a car for a half-hour do-it-yourself drive which is a good choice for the freedom of movement. You won’t need a car in Lugano necessarily though.
The public transportation throughout the city is fantastic and cheap.
In fact, if you’re a guest of a hotel or campground in the area of Ticino, which encompasses Lugano, you can ride the trains, busses, and boats for free with the Ticino Card.
The card also gets you discounts on attractions.
Still, if you want to visit the area outside of the city, especially the Bellinzona which is a UNESCO world heritage site, then you’ll likely need a car.
The third and most European method of getting to Switzerland from Lake Como is by train. The trains are fast–less than 40 minutes–and inexpensive.
A tunnel connects Italy to Switzerland. Then you’ll make a brief stop while Swiss border patrol take a walk-through and the crew makes a switch from Italian to Swiss.
There’s a flurry of announcements in a multitude of languages welcoming you to Switzerland. Then you’re off again to Lugano where you’ll arrive on time…always.
They don’t mess with transit times around here.
The train station is uphill from town. Once you leave the station, you’ll see you can ride the funicular to the city centre or walk down and enjoy the view and your day.
Depending on the time of year and how much brilliant sunshine you’re getting, you may want to explore the museums and squares of Lugano.
You can head to the mountain hiking trails and explore the surrounding summits.
OR if it’s the middle of summer and the lake is beckoning you instead with shimmering turquoise waters, head to the swimming complex of Lido di Lugano for a cooling dip.
There you’ll find an Olympic-sized swimming pool, green spaces to work on your tan, and a relaxing beach on the shores of Lake Lugano.
You can also take one of these organized day trips to Switzerland by train.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Rome, Italy
Lugano: 1-Hour Express Discovery Tour
Take the train from the San Giovanni railway station in Como to visit Lugano, Switzerland for an easy day trip.
Get an excellent overview with a 1-hour Lugano, Switzerland, tour to start. Meet a local guide at the Museo Delle Culture who will give you an intimate perspective of this exciting lakeside city.
By the end of your hour, you’ll have completed a fantastic history and cultural lesson that will propel the rest of your day.
Learn where the best streets are for cafes and shopping and discover parks and monuments. You won’t find a better way to get to know bordering Switzerland.
Make sure to visit Piazza della Riforma, Lugano’s main square, to see the neo-classical, pastel-colored buildings called pallazi.
Como, Italy, & Lugano, Switzerland, Private Full-Day Trip
At the start of the Como, Italy, & Lugano, Switzerland, Private Full-Day Trip, you’ll experience Como’s San Fedele Church, the Cathedral, and the Roman city walls.
The Como, Italy, a portion of the trip is a two-hour walking tour that’s followed by an hour for a lakeside lunch on your own.
Then buy your tickets from the San Giovanni station for the 35-minute ride to Lugano and the two-hour walking tour of the Swiss city.
Lugano’s Cathedral is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Lawrence (or Cattedrale di San Lorenzo). Established in the High Middle Ages, it had to be rebuilt in the late 15th century.
The Renaissance façade was completed in 1517. Inside, you’ll find many incredible frescoes and Baroque appointments, including the bell tower.
Not only is the cathedral adorned in cherubs, but there are busts of King Soloman and King David. Look outside and you’ll have mesmerizing views of the town and mountains.
It serves as the seat of the Diocese of Lugano and is dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome.
You’ll stroll through beautiful Parco Ciani on Lake Lugano, taking in the perfume of brightly colored flowers and the beauty of azure lake waters.
The park is part of the Gardens of Switzerland so you’re surrounded by gorgeous color and greenery at all times.
Sit on one of the park’s iconic red benches and admire the peaks of Monte Bré and Monte San Salvatore and the enclave of Campione d’italia.
You’ll also see Lugano’s main square, Piazza Della Riforma, filled with bistros and restaurants, but was also the site of several important political conflicts.
One of those events was the assassination of the progressive newspaper Gazzetta di Lugano editor, Abbot Vanelli.
You’ll also see one of Lugano’s most important buildings, the Santa Maria degli Angioli church. The church was built in 1499 and 1500 and was at one time a monastery for friars.
It houses one of the most famous Renaissance frescoes in existence.
The “Passion and Crucification” of Jesus Christ was painted by Bernardino Luini (1480-1532), an Italian artist who studied under Leonardo da Vinci.
The dynamic fresco contains more than 150 figures with some on horseback.
Jesus is on his cross along with the two thieves surrounded by Roman soldiers (some playing dice for shreds of Jesus’ garment), throngs of witnesses, Saint John kneeling with Mary Magdalene, and grieving women soothing his mother Mary.
Loggias in the background depict Christ encountering Thomas and carrying his own cross. Other pieces in the background portray the praying in the Olive Garden and the ascension.
Other pieces completed by Luini at the church are his painting of the Last Supper and his fresco of the Madonna and Child.
Saint Francis as painted in 1728 by Giuseppe Antonio Petrini is found in the second chapel.
After gazing at the art and attempting to fathom all the history in this one space, it’s time to see the much more modern LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura.
You may be able to squeeze in a visit to Lugano’s Monte Carlo-style casino.
After some free time in Lugano, meet back at the train station for the return to Como and the end of a full, fun day.
E-Bike Tour Lake Como and Swiss Vineyards
Explore breathtaking Lake Como and the adjacent Swiss vineyards by E-bike on this relaxing small-group day trip.
Forget the map and follow your knowledgeable guide through a rolling, picturesque landscape.
You’ll get to cross the border into Switzerland for an incredible view of Lake Como. You’ll also visit quaint villages and gorgeous Merlot vineyards.
This day trip is 20 to 30-miles (30 to 50 km) and is suitable for most riders.
Lugano and Bellinzona Private Full-Day Trip
One of the easiest ways to get to Switzerland from Lake Como is by purchasing train tickets to Lugano.
Once you are in Lugano–only a 35-minute train ride, you can enjoy Lugano and Bellinzona on this private tour.
This tour includes a tour of the shoreline of Lake Lugano and a walk through the UNESCO World Heritage Site Castelgrande in Bellinzona with a private guide.
Bellinzona is famous for its three castles that look like the stuff of fairytales. It’s also the southernmost capital of Switzerland.
But it’s the castles that are the best-preserved medieval castles in existence that will make you go wow.
The town acted as a gateway to the Alps or to Italy depending on if travelers were heading north or south.
It was the Romans who saw the potential for mass defense and built the first castle here in the first century.
Within the city limits, you’ll find a charming mix of old fortifications, courtyards, and towers, mixed with modern homes and buildings.
The oldest and largest castle there is called Castelgrande and it offers the best views of Bellinzona.
Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro make up the three castles of Bellinzona, each with a museum documenting the area’s fascinating history.
From Como: Three Lakes Tour to Ascona, Lugano, and Bellagio
See the splendor of Swiss and Italian lakes by bus and boat on a three-lakes tour from Como. You’ll be picked up in Como before crossing into Switzerland to tour Ascona on Lake Maggiore.
Lake Maggiore is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. You’ll love Ascona’s Mediterranean architecture, promenades, and shopping.
Ascona’s old town is called Borgo. There you’ll find the beautiful church of San Pietro e Paolo which is a basilica established in the 16th century.
After exploring Lake Maggiore, you’ll travel to Lugano for a scenic drive around the lake before returning to Italy. Your driver will take you to the dock for a ferry ride to the famous Bellagio for shopping.
Your tour will end with a ferry back to Como.
Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan
Milan is less than an hour from Como. If you can get to Milan very early in the morning or stay the night in Milan, you can take this rail tour of the Swiss Alps.
The Bernina Express is a historic red Swiss mountain train that will take you on a breathtaking journey in the Alps. This is one of the most famous rail routes in the world.
Hop aboard the kid-friendly train especially designed to climb the steep Alps easily and it makes for an exciting ride.
Passengers take a motorcoach from Milan to Tirano in the foothills of the Swiss Alps to board the Bernina Express for the ride with a guide along the Bernina Pass to St. Moritz.
Enjoy spectacular views of mountains and glacier lakes, plus free time to explore fabulous St. Moritz.
See Related: Best Hotels in Interlaken, Switzerland
Lucerne: 1-Hour Cruise on Panoramic Yacht
Take the train from Como to Lucerne, Switzerland–the fastest trains get you there in less than three hours. Then enjoy a spectacular 1-hour yacht cruise from Lucerne towards Meggenhorn Castle.
Your cruise will take you past rolling hills and extravagant villas. An app is available with an audio guide of the area.
Snacks and beverages are available for purchase at the yacht’s bar.
Mt. Pilatus by Cable Car and Cogwheel Train & Lake Cruise
Spend a day hiking in Switzerland starting with a guided tour as you ride a comfortable motorcoach from Lucerne to Kriens where you’ll pick up a ride up Mt. Pilatus by cable car.
At the top of Mt. Pilatus, don’t miss the Dragon Trail where, in the Middle Ages, healing dragons were thought to live.
There are also wonderful restaurants with incredible panoramic views.
After exploring the easy and scenic trails on Mt. Pilatus, descend by the world’s steepest cogwheel train to catch your cruise (summer months only) back to Lucerne.
Zurich: 2-Hour Sightseeing Bus Tour
A fast train can get you to Zurich from Como in less than three hours. Once you’re in Zurich, take a couple of hours to see this exciting city on a guided city tour.
You’ll see the Renaissance-style Swiss National Museum, and the spectacular views from the Zürichberg, while learning about the city’s rich history as the cultural, financial, and industrial center of Switzerland and a must-visit for any Switzerland and Northern Italy itinerary.
A short, guided walk through Old Town will take you to the medieval-era Munsterhof Square.
You’ll also see the oldest parish church in Zurich, St. Peter’s Church, with the largest clock face in Europe. The church’s original foundation walls, laid in the 9th century, are still visible.
Plus, you’ll visit the famous college where Albert Einstein studied–the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
Your tour will end with a ticket to ride on the Dolder Railway
A fully private option is available as well. Hire a local guide and customize your own Zurich city tour. Your guide will be an expert on the neighborhoods of Zurich.
You’ll see the best places to eat and shop as well as learn the history and other interesting facts about Zurich.
Another great way to get to know Zurich is on an extended 4-Hour City Tour by Ferry, Cable Car, and Coach.
It includes all the sights like St. Peters Church, the Bahnhofstrasse, the Guild Houses, and the Limmatquai.
You’ll also see the harbor so you can take photos of beautiful Lake Zurich. Then you’ll drive along Zurich’s Gold Coast before getting on your ferry to cross the lake.
Finally, you’ll take a cable car from Adliswil to Felsenegg for aerial views of the Alps, Zurich, and the lake.
- Best Travel Books for Italy
- Lake Lucerne Travel Guide
- Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Switzerland
- Best Things to Do in Bolzano, Italy
- Best Hotels in Lucerne, Switzerland
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