Ascona Travel Guide: 12 Best Things to Do

Imagine a place where the charm of pastel-colored buildings meets the serene shores of Lake Maggiore—welcome to Ascona, Switzerland! Stroll the picturesque Lungolago, where each step reveals a new cafe or boutique begging to be explored. Whether you’re hiking Monte Verità or savoring a sunset at a lakeside restaurant, Ascona is the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

What are the Best Things to Do in Ascona, Switzerland?

Ascona is located on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, has one of the most beautiful lakeside promenades and is a paradise for travelers looking for both relaxation and adventure. This Ascona Travel Guide will take you through the best things to do in Ascona, when to visit, how to get there, where to stay, and much more.

1. Stroll Along the Lungolago

The Lungolago, Ascona’s stunning lakeside promenade, is the heart of the town. Lined with colorful buildings, bustling cafes, and chic boutiques, it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. Enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains, or simply relax at one of the many outdoor terraces.

Tip: Don’t miss grabbing a gelato from L’Angolo dei Golosi—perfect for a sweet treat while strolling along Ascona’s picturesque Lungolago.

2. Explore the Old Town

Ascona’s Old Town is a maze of narrow, winding streets and historic buildings. Don’t miss the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna, which houses an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art.

3. Visit the Chiesa parrocchiale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo

Step into the Chiesa Parrocchiale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo and be transported back to the 16th century with its stunning frescoes and intricate architecture. This historic gem in Ascona’s Old Town is a must-see for art lovers and history buffs alike!

4. Relax at the Lido di Ascona

For a day of sun and fun, head to the Lido di Ascona. This popular lakeside beach offers pristine waters, a sandy beach, and a variety of water sports. It’s a great spot for families and anyone looking to unwind by the lake.

5. Visit the Brissago Islands

A short boat ride from Ascona takes you to the Brissago Islands, home to the stunning Botanical Gardens. These gardens boast over 1,700 species of plants from around the world. The journey there only takes about 30 minutes. You can find the departure times on the timetable. The islands are a peaceful retreat, ideal for a stroll away from the hustle and bustle.

6. Charter a boat and explore Lake Maggiore on your own

If you want to explore Lake Maggiore by more than just a tour or water cab, you should hire a motorboat. There are various stations in Ascona where you can do this. Don’t worry, you don’t need a driver’s license. In Switzerland, you can drive motorboats up to 8 hp without a license. So what are you waiting for? Anchors away!

7. Hike Monte Verità

Monte Verità, or “Mountain of Truth,” is a hill overlooking Ascona with a fascinating history. It was a hub for artists, intellectuals, and free thinkers in the early 20th century. Today, it offers beautiful hiking trails, a museum, and a tea house with panoramic views.

8. Enjoy Water Sports on Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is ideal for a variety of water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. There are several rental shops and schools in Ascona where you can get equipment and take lessons.

9. Experience the JazzAscona Festival

If you visit in late June or early July, don’t miss the JazzAscona Festival. This internationally renowned event brings together top jazz musicians from around the world for ten days of incredible performances along the Lungolago and in various venues around town.

10. Day trip to Locarno

Just a quick 15-minute hop from Ascona, Locarno is your gateway to more lakeside bliss and historic charm. Start your day with a scenic funicular ride up to the Madonna del Sasso for jaw-dropping views of Lake Maggiore. Don’t miss the Piazza Grande, where vibrant cafes and eclectic shops make for the perfect afternoon stroll.

11. Explore the local cuisine

Another top activity among the Best Things to Do in Ascona is definitely trying out the local cuisine. In Ascona, the local cuisine is a delicious fusion of Swiss and Italian flavors, making every meal an adventure. Savor fresh lake fish, handmade pastas, and rich risottos at quaint lakeside restaurants. For an authentic experience, dine at a traditional grotto, where you’ll enjoy hearty Ticinese dishes in a cozy, rustic atmosphere.

12. Dive into Ascona’s Lively Nightlife

Ascona’s nightlife pulses with vibrant energy, where chic lakeside bars and cozy wine lounges come alive after sunset. Sip on expertly crafted cocktails while enjoying live jazz at one of the town’s trendy hotspots. Whether you’re dancing the night away or relaxing with a glass of local Merlot, Ascona’s after-dark scene is all about stylish relaxation and unforgettable fun.

Best Time to Visit

Ascona enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is therefore an ideal destination all year round.

Spring in Ascona brings vibrant blooms and mild temperatures, perfect for leisurely walks along the Lungolago or hikes up Monte Verità. Fewer tourists make it an ideal time to explore the charming Old Town and enjoy outdoor cafes.

Summer transforms Ascona into a lively hotspot, with sun-soaked days perfect for lounging at the Lido di Ascona or swimming in Lake Maggiore. Enjoy the JazzAscona Festival, alfresco dining, and vibrant nightlife by the lake.

Fall casts a golden hue over Ascona, with cooler temperatures perfect for exploring the Brissago Islands or biking through scenic countryside. Indulge in local wine tastings and hearty Ticinese dishes during the harvest season.

Winter offers a peaceful retreat with a mild climate and festive decorations. Relax by a fireplace in a cozy cafe, explore the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna, or take a short trip to nearby ski resorts for a mix of lakeside serenity and alpine adventure.

In this Ascona Travel Guide, however, we particularly recommend the months from May to September.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Ascona, Switzerland?

A three to four-day stay is ideal to explore Ascona at a leisurely pace. This allows time to enjoy the lakeside, visit the main attractions, take a day trip to the Brissago Islands, and even venture into the surrounding regions. However, if you’re a nature enthusiast or a fan of outdoor activities, extending your stay to a week will give you ample time to hike, bike, and explore the beautiful Ticino region.

However, if you don’t have that much time, Ascona is also ideal for a sunny day trip.

Where is Ascona in Switzerland?

Ascona is located in the southern part of Switzerland, in the canton of Ticino. It lies on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, near the Italian border. The town is known for its Mediterranean flair, influenced by its proximity to Italy and its picturesque setting by the lake.

How to Get to Ascona in Switzerland?

There are various ways to get to Ascona. In this Ascona Travel Guide, we show you the three easiest.

By train: Switzerland’s efficient and scenic rail network makes traveling to Ascona by train a breeze. The nearest major station is Locarno, just a short bus or taxi ride from Ascona. Direct trains run to Locarno from major Swiss cities like Zurich and Milan, with stunning views of the Swiss countryside along the way.

By car: Driving to Ascona is an excellent option if you prefer flexibility. The town is well connected by road, and the drive offers beautiful scenery, especially if you’re coming from northern Switzerland or Italy. From Zurich, it’s about a three-hour drive. Parking in Ascona can be limited, so check with your accommodation for parking options.

By air: The closest major airport to Ascona is Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), about 120 kilometers away. From the airport, you can take a train or rent a car to reach Ascona. Alternatively, Zurich Airport (ZRH) is another option, with good train connections to Locarno.

How to Get Around in Ascona, Switzerland?

Ascona is a small town, and its main attractions are within walking distance of each other. The best way to explore is on foot, allowing you to fully appreciate its charming streets and lakeside views. For trips further afield, the local bus service is reliable and connects Ascona with nearby towns and attractions. Biking is also popular, with several rental shops in town.

Where to Stay in Ascona, Switzerland?

Luxury: Hotel Eden Roc
Hotel Eden Roc is a luxurious lakeside retreat offering elegant rooms with stunning views, a private beach, and a spa. The hotel’s beautiful gardens and exceptional service make it a top choice for a lavish stay.

Mid-Range: Albergo Carcani
Located right on the Lungolago, Albergo Carcani offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Its central location is perfect for exploring Ascona, and the hotel’s restaurant serves delicious local cuisine.

Budget: Hotel Polo
Hotel Polo is a great budget-friendly option, offering clean, comfortable rooms at an affordable price. It’s a short walk from the town center and provides a complimentary breakfast.

Where to Eat in Ascona, Switzerland?

Fine Dining: Ristorante Seven
Ristorante Seven is an upscale dining experience offering innovative cuisine and stunning lake views. The menu features a mix of Mediterranean and international dishes, crafted with fresh, local ingredients.

Casual: Grotto Baldoria
For a taste of authentic Ticinese cuisine, head to Grotto Baldoria. This cozy, family-run restaurant serves hearty, traditional dishes like polenta and brasato (braised beef) in a rustic setting.

How Expensive is Ascona?

Ascona is generally considered a mid to high-range destination in terms of cost. Here’s a breakdown of typical expenses:

Accommodation: Prices vary widely. Luxury hotels can cost upwards of CHF 400 per night, while mid-range hotels range from CHF 150-250. Budget options are around CHF 100 per night.

Dining: Fine dining restaurants may charge CHF 60-100 per person for a three-course meal. Casual dining can cost around CHF 20-40 per person, and a coffee at a cafe is about CHF 4-5.

Activities: Entrance fees to attractions like museums and the Brissago Islands are generally modest, ranging from CHF 10-20. Outdoor activities like hiking and strolling the Lungolago are free.

While Ascona may not be the most budget-friendly destination, its stunning scenery, rich culture, and variety of activities make it well worth the expense.

Ascona, Switzerland, is a hidden gem on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Whether you’re drawn by its historical charm, natural beauty, or vibrant cultural scene, Ascona offers something for everyone. From relaxing by the lake to exploring the old town and enjoying world-class cuisine, your time in Ascona will be filled with unforgettable experiences. So pack your bags, embrace the Mediterranean vibes, and get ready for a memorable Swiss adventure!

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