MORCOTE – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TOWN AT LAKE LUGANO
In this post, you will find out about a beautiful village named Morcote. Wait, did I say A beautiful village? I actually meant THE most beautiful village in Switzerland. Here is more about the best things to do in Morcote, how to get there, and many more travel tips.
Morcote – a small village located in the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland – was named the most beautiful village in Switzerland in 2016. Each year, the Swiss public chooses the most beautiful village with less than 3000 inhabitants (Morcote has less than 1000 inhabitants actually). Morcote beat more than 100 competitors. But is it really that beautiful? Well, I chase gorgeous places in Switzerland – I am a huge fan of this small country and am always on the hunt for stunning locations.
IS MORCOTE WORTH VISITING?
Yes, Morcote is worth visiting for a few hours or a day. I can say that Morcote is indeed the most beautiful village in Switzerland I have visited so far. Once you visit, you will quickly understand why. Morcote is just the perfect mix of Switzerland and Italy, and you just have to love it! It is an exceptionally pretty place – Morcote, I have fallen in love with you! Let me take you on a journey through beautiful Lugano.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost to you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
SWISS TRAVEL PASS
Before talking about the best things to do in Morcote, I quickly like to introduce you to the Swiss Travel Pass, because I will keep mentioning if I talk about the best Morcote activities.
If you use public transportation, I recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass.
- It allows you to use trains and buses without any extra costs.
- You can also do boat cruises without additional costs – and cruise Lake Lugano with the regular boats to get around.
- It also gives you a 50% discount on most mountain rides (you can get up via cable car/funicular for half of the price).
The prices are quite high – but I have bought them myself, and it pays off if you get around via public transportation and are active. If you just plan to visit Morcote and stay there for a few days, it might not make sense financially.
So, check out prices for boats and trains and then calculate if it is a good option for you. For me, it usually makes sense as I am very active and use public transportation/ mountain rides often (even if I road trip Switzerland). I also love boat rides – which means many, many boat cruises for me.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MORCOTE
Okay, let´s talk about the places/things to do in Morcote. As mentioned, it is a tiny village so there might not be tons of activities, but these attractions are pretty great! At the end, you will find many general travel tips for Morcote.
Visit the Church Santa Maria del Sasso
- Free activity in Morcote
- Address: Sentee da la Gesa, 6922 Morcote
One of the most outstanding attractions in Morcote – if not in all of Ticino – is the Santa Maria del Sasso Church. It might look like any other church in Ticino, but its location makes it very special.
If you hike down from San Salvatore, you will be pleased to hear that you do not have to climb the 404 steps to get to the church. You can just walk your way to the church on your hike down. However, if you come from the promenade or the old town, you will have to do some serious stair climbing if you want to get that epic view with the lake in the background.
Nonetheless, it is worth it! It was – is – one of the most charming and Italian-like places I have seen in Switzerland. Every single step was worth it.
Also, you will find the Sant’Abate Church and a small square in front of it, where you can take a rest, and you can, of course, also visit the church. Next to it is also the cemetery that might be worth checking out.
Swing the Swing
- Free attraction in Morcote
- Geolocation: 45.92374, 8.91415
Okay, once you are at the church, you are almost at “the“ swing. Do not give up yet, but continue going up. You will find small signs pointing you to the direct location.
After another 5 minutes or so you will see THE swing. It offers excellent views of the village and is fun. Especially after all the steps, swinging also gives you a fresh breeze.
You are wondering which swing I am talking about? “Swing the World“ is a project by two young people from Ticino with a goal in mind: encouraging people to spend more time outdoors. The homemade swings are in unique spots around Ticino (and now also outside in the beautiful area of Valposchiavo).
You will find more swings, e.g., in Ascona and also when you hike down from Monte San Salvatore to Morcote.
Stroll the Promenade of Morcote
- Another free activity
Of course, you have views of the fantastic Lake Lugano when strolling the promenade. But you will also find historic buildings along the promenade from the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings have been restored and belonged to royals – you might see coats of arms on the houses that tell you about the owners.
Here, you will also find the boat station, restaurants, and small little shops selling unique products and souvenirs.
Discover the Town
- Free thing to do in Morcote
The small medieval village center of Morcote has cute narrow streets with charming old buildings. Pay attention to the small details – like the facades. This is what makes the old town cute and special.
You will also find the small San Rocco church which is dedicated to the patron saint of plague victims. It was built between 1548 and 1553 by Morcote’s villagers.
However, as cute as the old town is, it surely is not the highlight of Morcote. It is really small and I think, you will be “done” in less than 30 minutes. However, make sure to also road some other parts of Morcote without having a fixed route but just take your time to walk along.
Scherrer Garden / Parco Scherrer
- Closed in the winter months
- Free entrance
- Opening hours: 5. March 2023 — 30. June 2023 from 10:00 am to 5 pm, from 01. July 2023 — 31. August 2023 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, and from 01. September 2023 — 05. November 2023 10:00 am to 5 om
The beautiful Scherrer Garden gives Italian vibes! Known as the “Garden of Wonders“, Anton Scherrer built the park.
He bought the land in 1930 and created this little place on Earth – a veritable Garden of Eden covering more than 15,000m².
The statues, the design, the architecture – here you will find Italy at its best. It seems that quite some people skip the park and just go for the Santa Maria del Sasso church and the views – this, my dear friends, would be a huge mistake. Scherrer Garden is pretty and does not have an entrance fee! I mean, enough reasons to visit, or?
It is about 500 meters from the boat station, and there is some steep climbing in the park, but nothing major. Also, this is another perfect place to rest.
Hiking to/from Morcote to Monte San Salvatore
- Free/cheapish thing to do
- You might want to use a funicular to get up Monte San Salvatore which does cost about 20€ one way – 50% off with the Swiss Travel Pass
As mentioned before, hiking around Morcote is a wonderful way to explore this region. One of the most popular hikes is from Monte San Salvatore (912 meters above sea level) to Morcote at about 272 meters above sea level.
You can get to Paradiso station from Lugano and then take the funicular to get up to beautiful San Salvatore.
From there, hike down to the cute village of Carona Vico Morcote and then continue your downhill hike to Morcote. You can also do it the other way around and hike from Morcote to San Salvatore.
If you plan to do this, schedule in about 3-6 hours at least.
Lake Lugano Boat Trip
- Free with a Swiss Travel Pass
One great way to see Morcote from a different angle – but also other beautiful villages on the shores of Lake Lugano – is by doing a boat cruise.
I visited Morcote. And boat cruises on Lake Lugano are really scenic – so I went to Morcote a second time within a few days. Just because I wanted to spend time on a boat. Also, some fresh breeze seemed to be a great idea on hot days.
Lake Lugano has a gorgeous watercolor, and cruising is so much fun! Also, you can reach places like Lugano quite easily by boat. The cruises on the Swiss part of the lake are covered with your Swiss Travel Pass. The boats do not run very often but several times a day, so check the times.
Swimming in/Around Morcote
- Free activity in Morcote
Lake Lugano is one of my favorite lakes in the country – it has a stunning color that shimmers nicely on a sunny day.
And though I am not so much a (lake) swimmer, I have found out that Lake Lugano is one of the best places to hop into the water. You are not allowed to just hop into the water at the boat station of Morcote.
If you want to dip your feet into the lake, you can do it near the boat station. However, If you plan to take a day off and swim in the lake, you can do so at several places in Morcote e.g., either near the Garavello multi-story car park (towards Figino) or at the lakeshore at San Bartholomee.
Visit Vico Morcote
- Things to do Near Morcote for Free
Above Morcote sits the beautiful town/village of Vico Morcote, at 442 meters above sea level. The church looks pretty stunning, and when I hiked down from Monte San Salvatore, I got confused and thought it was the church in Morcote, but that is another one.
However, the streets here look very Mediterranean and were beautiful with all the flowers.
If you do not plan to do any hiking, take the bus up there and just stroll the streets and enjoy the views.
Of course, Lugano is a must-see if you are in Morcote. You might do a day trip from Lugano to Morcote. But if you make Morcote your base, make sure to add this beautiful and lively city to your Morcote itinerary.
It is much bigger than Morcote so it is great if you are looking to have more action, then head to Lugano for a day or a few hours.
Whether you get there by car, bus, or train – Lugano is worth a visit. Check out my Lugano post for more information.
If you stay one full day – or longer – in Lugano, you can also visit Morcote Castle (Castello di Morcote), which sits at 475 meters above sea level. It was built on the ruins of a Lombard Tower around the year 1100.
It was gifted to the Paleari family in the 16th century, who had previously bravely refused to support the Dukes by sending troops – which ended in the victory of the Confederate forces. Two underground corridors connected the fortress with the village.
I did visit it myself – just saw it from a distance – but that is the info I got from a leaflet from the tourism office in Lugano. If you plan a visit, I recommend asking the tourism office for more details.
- The entrance fee for adults is around CHF 19
- 10% discount if you buy tickets online, 50% off with a Swiss Travel Pass
Between Lugano and Mercote you will find a small village named Melide. Here you will find Switzerland’s largest open-air museum: SwissMiniature.
There are 128 models of houses, castles, and monuments distributed throughout the 14,000 square meter park – including well-known sites such as the Heidi Village, the castles of Burgdorf and Chillon, and the Federal Parliament in Bern.
18 model trains travel between the buildings on approximately 3.5 kilometers of tracks. There are also operating rack-railways, cable cars, suspension railways, and ships.
This place is – like many places I have mentioned here in my Mercote travel guide – the perfect place for families and people of all ages.
You can get there from Morcote by boat, bus, or car.
FAQ – MORCOTE
If you plan to visit Morcote – and also fall in love – here, you will find my travel guide for Morcote. Find out what makes the place extraordinarily beautiful, where to go plus more tips.
Morcote is located in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino – at the southern shores of beautiful Lake Lugano. It is one of the most southern areas in all of Switzerland, but just 10 km south of Lugano.
Where to Stay in Morcote
Though I have not stayed in Morcote myself, I do think it is a great little village to stay overnight. While there is not that much to do, it must be lovely to experience Morcote when all the many visitors are gone. You can enjoy sunrises and sunsets without the crowds!
- The Swiss Diamond Hotel & Spa is a beautiful luxury hotel is located on the shores of Lake Lugano. It also features an outdoor – as well as an indoor pool. But of course, you can expect even more luxurious facilities at this hotel. Check out rates here.
- Casa Angiolina is a more budget-friendly place to stay in Morcote. It has a great location and the terrace offers beautiful views. Here you can find out more about the rates.
- The Casa Angiolina – Holidays – Appartamento Dolce Letargo might be a good choice if you are looking for an apartment with a kitchen and several bedrooms. Check out prices for the apartment here.
How to Get to Morcote
Morcote is a bit remote, so getting there might be time-consuming. However, it can be quite a scenic way to arrive to Morcote – and it is worth it!
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: If you are in Lugano, you can take a public bus to get to Morcote. It takes about 30 minutes. Buses run quite frequently (but not very often), and if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you can use the bus for free.
- BOAT: The most scenic way to get to Morcote is undoubtedly by boat. From Lugano – and other villages on the shores of Lake Lugano – you can hop on a boat and get an impressive first glimpse of Morcote from the water. Boats run frequently – check out the times here. The timetable might look a bit messy and confusing at first, but once you have figured out from which village/city you want to start, it is easy to navigate through. Also, pay attention to which days the cruises are.
- HIKING TO MORCOTE: There are several hiking trails – you can just walk from Lugano to Morcote. However, the most scenic and popular way to hike to Morcote is from Monte San Salvatore to Morcote. The hike takes a couple of hours and includes some steep downhill hiking, but it is worth it. The views you get along the hike are top-notch.
- CAR: You can also get to Morcote by car from Lugano or Italy. However, it is a small village, and parking might be difficult – especially during peak season.
Best Time to Visit Morcote
Morcote, and Ticino (like Locarno) in general, can be visited at any time of the year. Thanks to its southern location and its climate, you have milder temperatures in fall, winter, and spring compared to the rest of the country.
- While it gets colder in the winter months, it normally does not snow at low altitudes, and you can explore Ticino off-season.
- I normally suggest for Europe: Avoid the months of (late) June, July, and August. If possible, visit in May/June or September and early October because it will be – as far as we can rely on the climate these days – still warm yet not hot, and hotel prices should drop in expensive Switzerland.
- Even though quite a lot of Swiss visitors come in these off-season months, it is still less crowded than in the busy summer months, when it can get also quite hot.
In Switzerland, there are four official languages.
- Romansh (a small minor language)
In Ticino, Italian is the main language, but many people also speak German and in the tourism sector, basic English is also widely spoken.
Save Money in Morcote
Besides the Swiss Travel Pass, you can save money by bringing a water bottle with you. There are some water fountains spread throughout Morcote where you can refill your bottle with fresh water. It is better for your wallet and better for the environment – and in Switzerland, you will be happy about every $ you can save (yes, Ticino is also very expensive).
- For more budget tips in Switzerland, check out this post.
CONCLUSION: BEST MORCOTE ACTIVITIES
Morcote was rightfully – if I may say so – named the most beautiful village in Switzerland. It is also definitely the prettiest town/village around Lake Lugano.
It ticks all the boxes of a charming and pretty village. It is medieval, colorful, lively & lovely, offers great views as well as many options to rest and relax. Morcote, I am sure I will be back, and in the meantime, enjoy your ti