One could argue if you have ever visited Lugano if you did not stand on a mountain top overlooking the city. With several mountains close to the Ticino city, conquering the heights is a very popular activity for visitors of Lugano. In this article, you can read everything about taking the trip up to Monte San Salvatore, just south of the city centre of Lugano.
Monte San Salvatore is 912 meters high and has a prominent spot on the horizon wherever you are in Lugano. Located next to the Lugano lake bay, the top offers breathtaking views of lake Lugano and surroundings mountains. Especially the highest viewing platform on San Salvatore gives a truly amazing vantage point with 360 degree views.
The top of San Salvatore is best reach by the San Salvatore funicular from Paradiso. However, there are also several hiking trails leading up the mountain. Taking one of these hiking trails is a perfect way to stay active during your holiday and save money on the funicular ride. However, most visitors do opt for the funicular ride up Monte San Salvatore.
How to get there
The base station of the San Salvatore funicular is located in Lugano-Paradiso, a short walk from the Lugano city centre. There are also busses stopping nearby and the Lugano-Paradiso train station is right around the corner. Tickets for the funicular can be bought both at the base station and at the top. While most people opt for return ticket, you can buy a one way ticket up and make your way down by foot. Taking the trail will take you approximately 2 hours, depending on the numbers of breaks you take along your hike.
The funicular ride up Monte San Salvatore actually consists of two different cable trains. Once the funicular has taken you halfway up the mountain, you switch to a second train that brings you to the top. The entire ride to the top (or down) takes only 10 minutes.
Especially in the summer, the funicular is heavily trafficked. This means that you might need to wait until you get a place on one of the trains. The funicular leaves every 30 minutes from the base station.
On the top of San Salvatore
In order to not having to rush during your visit to San Salvatore, make sure you have at least an hour on the top of the mountain. This allows you to explore the different areas, viewing platforms and additional sights.
Right by the top station of the Funicular, you find restaurant Vetta. This restaurant that seats 200 people primarily has Italian dishes on the menu. but also serves several Ticino specials. Here, you can get typical Ticinese vegetable soup and several styles of polenta, which is a Ticino staple. The restaurant also has a large dessert menu. The restaurant terrace has a mindblowing view over the southern part of the canton.
A little further, a former hospice now houses a museum about the San Salvatore mountain. Here, you can learn more about the pilgrimages to the church on the top of the mountain, but also about the general history of San Salvatore. Entrance to this museum is free if you have a funicular ticket. The museum is open from Wednesday until Sunday from 10.00 until 12.00 and again from 13.00 until 15.00. In the winter period, the opening times and days may be adjusted.
From the funicular station, it is an additional short climb to the true top of the mountain. Here, you can climb the stairs of an old church to enter the rooftop. This rooftop rewards you with astounding views of Lake Lugano to the north and southern Ticino to the south.
A tip that might speak for itself: visit the top of Monte San Salvatore on a clear day! The mountain is mainly worth visiting for its majestic views, and it would be a shame if clouds would ruin those views for you! On sunny days, the top gives you a splendid panorama of the beauty that canton Ticino has to offer.
As with many funiculars and cable cars in Switzerland, tickets to the San Salvatore funicular don’t come cheap. A single ticket for an adult costs CHF 23, with return tickets costing CHF 30. However, there are several ways to get a good discount. Holders of the Ticino ticket only pay CHF 24 for a return ticket up the funiculars. Are you travelling through Switzerland with a Swiss travel pass, you even get 50% regular prices for the San Salvatore cable train!
As mentioned earlier, if you want to save money or want to burn off some pizza calories, there are hiking trails up and down the mountain too.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting Lugano, consider bringing a sweater for your visit to Monte San Salvatore. Temperatures up there can be a bit more chilling than in the city of Lugano.
During the summer season running from March until October, the funicular runs daily from 9 AM until 5 or 6 PM. In the weekends, you can ride the funicular until 11 PM. For exact running times, visit the Funicular Monte San Salvatore website.