Part 3: A Tale of Three Cities in Switzerland

Lugano, Pontresina, and Zurich are examples of Switzerland’s appeal; something for everyone.  In Lugano, one gets the feeling of stumbling into Italy, because of the language and food.  In Pontresina, while hiking, you expect either Heidi or the Von Trapp family to pop up over the next hill.  Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland (400,000+), is urban and urbane. It is the financial center and transportation hub of the country.  Where else can you find a hotel with a pawn shop in the lobby? 

Here is my ‘to do” list for each locale.


  1. Ciani Park’s 15.5 acres borders Lake Lugano. First developed in 1845, today it is divided into two parts: one near its original villa and the other extending to the mouth of the Cassarate River.  Walk the winding paths throughout this gem and enjoy the fountains, statues, flower gardens, and native and imported trees.
  2. Take a boat ride on picturesque Lake Lugano, also called Lake Ceresio. The coastline shares approximately 40% of its boundary with Italy.  
  3. Ride the cablecar up Monte San Salvatore for panoramic views of the city and Lake Lugano, with the Alps as a backdrop.
  4. Piazza della Riforma is the main square in the city and its action spot.  Restaurants, bars, bistros, and cafes are plentiful. It’s great for people watching.
  5. Stay at the centrally located, recently renovated, Hotel City Lugano.  Its rooms and public space are imaginatively decorated and colorful. 


  1. Make certain to ride the panoramic Bernina Express to or from Pontresina. It will be one of the sightseeing highlights of your trip to Switzerland. Reservations are required.
  2. Pack your hiking shoes for this charming mountain village.  There are over 100 trails, including 10 long distance treks. 
  3. For an unusual activity, visit the largest herd of ibex in the Alps.  Also referred to as wild mountain goats, they descend from higher altitudes to graze in the spring. 
  4. Take a side trip to Pontresina’s world famous neighbor, St.Moritz; only 4+ miles away and a quick 10 minutes by train. 
  5. Check into the “Typically Swiss” Hotel Steinbock.  Its family owned tradition goes back 300 years.  It is one of the oldest hotels in town, but completely updated.


  1. Purchase the Zurich Card for 24 or 72 hours time periods. It offers travel by train, tram, bus, boat, and cablecar throughout Zurich’s environs. You can visit 40 museums, either free or discounted.  
  2. Wander through Old Town. Stop by the craft candy and ice cream shops and watch the  chocolatiers at work.
  3. Cruise Lake Zurich or take a Dream Boat outing that includes either brunch, fondue, or dinner.
  4. Visit the Zurich West District.  It’s close to 25Hours Hotel (see #5) and has reinvented itself from an industrial locale to a trendy, hip neighborhood with bars, cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops. 
  5. I fell in love with the quirky, stylish 25Hours Hotel Langtrasse.  The lobby is a cacophony of colors, mobiles, and bric-a-brac. That’s also where a pawnshop is located. You can bring in a collectible and, if it’s accepted, the cash value is credited toward your room rate.  The central station is a short walk away and the hotel overlooks the rail yard, giving a fascinating view of Switzerland’s busiest train center. The hotel is very customer focused: no standard check out time and the Sunday brunch at NENI (in the hotel) is available until 4 PM. 

Travel Tips

Slow down and enjoy your visit to Switzerland; be flexible. If your plan includes two days in a spot, most likely you will need a third.  

Purchase the Swiss Travel Pass to get unlimited use of trains, buses, and boats. It also provides entrance to attractions and over 500 museums.  You can choose 3, 4, 8 or 15 day passes.

Download the Swiss Travel Guide App.

There is a tourist bureau in almost every destination in Switzerland; just ask Google.

Hotel breakfasts are included throughout Switzerland. Gratuities at restaurants, cafes, and bars are built into the price.  For carry-out, wine, beer, snacks, etc., look for a COOP or Migros store.


Remember, it’s a small country.  All of Switzerland is easily accessible.  Public transportation is on time, clean, safe, and affordable.

From San Diego, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando or Tampa Bay, fly Edelweiss Air.


Logon to for all the information you will need for your trip. 

The Swiss Travel Pass – 

Edelweiss Airline –

The Zurich Card –

Hotel City Lugano –  (4.6 Stars)

Hotel Steinbock – (4.6 Stars)

25Hours Hotel Langstrasse –  (4.3 Stars)

This is the last of a three-part travel series featuring Switzerland.  To read the trio, plus how to prepare for the adventure, Logon to

Let’s go!

Howard Hian

Thanks to various websites for photos, information, etc.


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