Introducing Locarno

Its backdrop may be the Swiss Alps, but Locarno is less of a mountain hideaway – and more of a lakeside retreat. Luxury breaks in this Italian-speaking town are about taking things slow. Wander along the waterfront promenade, explore the Renaissance old town, and savour every moment.

Things to do

Make Piazza Grande your starting point, and soak up the atmosphere of old town Locarno. The town’s turbulent past is captured by landmark buildings such as Castello Visconteo. Originally held by the Dukes of Milan (and rumoured to have been designed by da Vinci), the castle and town became part of Switzerland in the 16th century. In more recent times, the Locarno Treaties were signed in the town, which redefined territorial boundaries after the First World War.

Make the most of Locarno’s celebrated sunshine with plenty of outdoor activities. Visit the botanic gardens, with their palm-fringed avenues and fragrant subtropical flowers. Take in the mountain scenery around you on a boat tour. Or head into the hills with a hike up to the Cimetta-Runde peaks, or to the peaceful sacred mount, Sanctuario della Maddonna del Sasso.

Every August, Piazza Grande transforms into one of the world’s largest open-air cinemas for the Locarno International Film Festival. Thousands of people gather to watch feature-length, short films and documentaries by leading auteurs – as well as up-and-coming talents. The top prize is the respected Golden Leopard, with past winners including legendary directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Stanley Kubrick. 

Top Tip from SLH

If you’re here as a family, visit the Falconry to watch amazing displays by majestic birds of prey, as well as impressive horse riding events.