11 Best Things To Do In Bellinzona, Amidst The Stunning Swiss Alps

things to do in bellinzona switzerland
| 9 min read

An idyllic peaceful Swiss city, skirted by the towering Swiss Alps, Bellinzona is more popularly known as the city of three castles! Literally, Bellinzona nearly means ‘Italy, away from Italy’! This city is located in the Canton of Ticino in Italy. The mighty ranges of the Lepontine Alps and the Lugano Prealps envelop this sublime city. The city has a strong Italian ambiance to it, with most of the period castles and their architecture, modeled in the Italian style. The three castles, Castelgrande, Montebello Castle and the Catello di Sasso Corbaro are the heritage landmarks, reminiscent of the rich History of Bellinzona. The city is known for its friendly people and the annual festivities there are sought after by visitors from everywhere! Bellinzona has more to it than just the charming views of beautiful Switzerland! A traditional,quiet town, which offers you an amazing choice of food, luxury and fun, Bellinzona is aptly referred to as ‘Bella Bellinzona’ (beautiful Bellinzona) indeed!

1. Castelli di bellinzona

Ramparts Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kiranchikkadi used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the marvels of European History has always been the grand castles! When I visited the Edinburgh Castle, I was stunned by its grandeur and gigantic look. These castles of Bellinzona, which are listed in the UNESCO list of World Heritage monuments, are gems of history! The three castles are the Castelgrande, the Montebello and the Sasso Corbaro. Located on a hilltop, this ancient landmark offers spectacular views of the valley. This is connected to the castle of Montebello. The Castello di Sasso Corbaro is situated very high up on the mountain. Those of you taking a car could begin your castle visit from Sasso Corbaro and after a short stop over at Montebello, proceed to Castelgrande. Free rides are offered fro Montebello to Castelgrande. The castles are of different sizes. Nevertheless, they have a lot to offer with respect to historic facts and narratives!.

Castelli di Bellinzona

Address: Organizzazione Turistica Regionale Sede Bellinzonese 6500 Bellinzona

Website: Castelli di Bellinzona

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2. Castelgrande

Castelgrande Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user H005 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the best Castle views in Europe, the Castelgrande has existed since the 1st century BC. History records indicate that Bellinzona was fortified only in the 13th Century. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the present views of the castle date back to between the 13th and the 16th Century, with a multitude of renovations undertaken in between. The period Castle entrance takes you into the wonderful monument, which houses a museum. You will comfortably reach the top of the castle, riding on an elevator. The elevator is organized to take you from near the foot of the rock to castle grounds. You could also reach the top by climbing up the steep narrow streets from the city center through the city wall. The museum at Castelgrande is one of its kind. The collections here exhibit the entire period beginning from the Neolithic village, well into the 20th century. The decorated ceilings of Casa Ghiringhelli and Albergo Della Cervia are also on display at this museum. You could take a peek into the Restaurant located to the west of the museum, for some refreshments. A great historic place to visit!


Address: Salita al Castello, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland

Website: Castelgrande

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3. Castello di Montebello

Castello di Montebello a Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vale-B*Girl used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The castle of Montebello is the second castle in Bellinzona, which resonates with the heritage of 14th century Bellinzona. This castle has a long history. Originally, the castle was built by the Rusconi family, who occupied this castle for a lengthy period. Records suggest that the Rivellino, a walkway which opens up some trapdoors, were constructed between 1462 and 1490. Earlier, the castle was called Castello di Svitto, later renamed as Castello di San Martino. This was when Ticino was an independent Canton. Later, by the end of the 18th century, the Montebello castle was acquired by the Ghiringhelli family. A chapel was dedicated to St. Michael in the seventeenth century. The castle was modified finally in 1974 to house a museum. Views from the castle are amazing. You can even sight Lake Maggiore from atop this place. The easiest way to reach this place is by foot, starting at Piazza Collegiata. You could also access the place from ‘Nocca,’ which is a residential hub. A bus ride from Viale Stazioneis, yet another alternative to reach this castle.

Castello di Montebello

Website: Castello di Montebello

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4. Castello Sasso Corbaro

Bellinzona Castello di Sasso Corbaro
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ovedc used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Castello Sasso Corbaro was built within six months in the year 1479. Benedetto Ferrini was the military engineer who had planned and constructed this famous castle, which is perched atop a rocky terrain, at 230 meters (754 Feet and 7 inches) above the town. This is also known by the name, Cima Castle. This castle is a great vantage point for sweeping views of the towering Swiss Alps which engulf the city. Castello Sasso Corbaro has also had its share of history. Three families had taken over this place from the Canton. However, this monument was returned in 1919 after which the place was reconstructed. The Rivellino, the 17th-century chapel, the well and the Entrance, were all renovated. The location of Castello Sasso Corbaro proves hat strategically, this place was a key position to control all the movement between the southern and the Northern Alps. You could hop on the mini train which travels up to the castle. There is a picnic area between the parking and the castle. Kids could have a lot of fun running around the strange tunnels here. You will enjoy looking around the museum that is housed here. The Restaurant within this place is open to the public between the months of April and October. The Castello Sasso Corbaro is also listed on the UNESCO world Heritage list of monuments. A rare fort that you must explore!

Castello Sasso Corbaro

Address: Osteria Sasso Corbaro, Luzzi Athos, Via Sasso Corbaro 44, 6500 Bellinzona - TI, Switzerland

Website: Castello Sasso Corbaro

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5. Palazzo Civico di Bellinzona

Palazzo Civico Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Italo72 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Municipal Palace of Bellinzona, which is the Town Hall, was constructed between 1921 and 1923. The construction work by the architect Enea Tallone, was on until 1926. This palace has seen many major renovations through the 19th century and the earliest known relic of the palace was known to exist way back in the 14th century. You will find that an interesting observation made about this Palace of Bellinzona indicates that the Haematstil style (‘Haematstil’ refers to a Swiss-Italian patriotic style which existed through World war II times) is very prominent in the Palace architecture. The Palace entrance is beautifully arcaded and takes you back to the age of Renaissance style buildings. Narrow windows and wooden roofs give this Palace an old world charm. The approach to this wonderful monument is through the tapering streets of Bellinzona. The buildings here are engulfed by ramparts and also a moat which could be accessed through three different gateways. An architecturally attractive place to visit!

Palazzo Civico di Bellinzona

Address: Bellinzona Turismo Palazzo Civico 6500 Bellinzona

Website: Palazzo Civico di Bellinzona

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6. San Bernardino Pass

Alpen before San Bernardino pass
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vitold Muratov used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The San Bernardino Pass is one of the most splendid high altitude passes in the Swiss Alps. The Bernardino Pass connects the two beautiful Alpine valleys, Hinterrhein and Mesolcina. The Pass is between Thusis and Bellinzona. The Thusis and Slugen route first became operational in the 15th century and was referred to as the Via Mala. It was between 1821 and 1823 that the route along the San Bernardino Pass was very thoroughly developed, partially financed by the Kingdom of Sardinia. Your journey through the San Bernardino Pass is one of those incredibly memorable experiences. Towards the southern part of the Pass lies the asphalt simmers that get your wheels sparkling into a glow! A further journey takes you to Bellinzona. In the north, you reach Splugen through Hinterrhien and Nufenen. The Spa Village of Andeer is not far from here. The San Bernardino Pass is accessible only during the summer season. It is shut off during winter months. Verdant green valley views are incredibly welcoming on your journey through this pass. Mountain biking and hiking are a favorite passion here for many tourists visiting this part of Switzerland. You would be delighted to know that the movement of heavy vehicles is prohibited along this pass. As you reach the top of the mountain, you would have reached a great vantage spot to enjoy one of the best views of the Swiss Alps!

San Bernardino Pass

Address: Ente Turistico Regionale del Moesano, Strada Cantonale, Casella postale 22, 6565 S. Bernardino, Switzerland

Website: San Bernardino Pass

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7. Cheisa collegiate dei ss pietro e Stefano (The Collegiage Church of Saints Peter, Paul and Stephen):

Chiesa collegiata dei Santi Pietro e Stefano di Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vale-B*Girl used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This ancient church is a building associated with the Renaissance period. It belongs to the Parish of Ticino. You will be completely astonished to find great works of art from the 15th to 19th centuries! Artwork related to the aquatic plant, Fontana Trivulzio, could be found at this Church, which dates back to 1465.

A triangular Tympanum which is a part of this church, consists of three statues, mirroring the Madonna and two angels. Splendid sculptural marvels, portraying King David and King Solomon, would leave you stunned! The Frieze decorations would further draw your attention, with two distinct images of a pelican feeding its little ones and the phoenix rising from the ashes, symbolic of passion and resurrection, respectively.

Glorious statues of Saints San Stefano and San Lorenzo will leave you glued to sculpting skills that you might never have seen before! Colorful decorations welcome you to the interior, including paintings by Giovanni Airaghi and Federico Boni, from the late nineteenth century. Wonderful artwork indeed!

Chesia Collegiate dei ss pietro e Stefano

Address: Piazza Collegiata, 6500 Bellinzona

Website: Chesia Collegiate dei ss pietro e Stefano

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8. Trenino Artu

Il trenino Artù fà sorridere grandi e piccini

Posted by Società dei commercianti di Bellinzona on Thursday, 26 March 2015

The ‘Artu’ is a wonderful train that you could take on your visit to the three famed castles of Bellinzona. You could take the train from the historic center. The castle tour takes about an hour, could carry 36 passengers and the tickets are made available at the Infopoint, Bellinzonese and also at Ticino Turismo. You are allowed about 15-minute stops at each of these castles. Children will absolutely love this journey! A total fun ride on the cards, absolutely assured for you, traveling via the Trenino Artu for the entire family!

Trenino Artu

Address: Bellinzonese e Alto Ticino Turismo, 6500 Bellinzona, Switzerland

Website: Trenino Artu

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9. Verzasca dam or Contra Dam - Popular for the James Bond legacy!

Verzasca Bungee
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Corradox used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Those of you visiting the Ticino Canton in Switzerland would be delighted to know that this Italian speaking part of Switzerland is nestled in a very green and picturesque valley at the foothills of the mighty Alps.Ticino is a very popular place for outdoor adventure treks, mountain biking, hiking and a host of many sporting adventures. The Verzasca valley is located very close to the town of Locarno in the Ticino Canton. The Verzasca dam is a marvelous construction. This massive 220 meter (720 feet and 9.4 inches) dam creates a reservoir called Lago di Vogorno, near Tenero in the Ticino Canton.

Adventure lovers would be delighted to visit this place for more reasons than one. The Verzasca dam caught world attention in 2002 after the bungee jumping opening sequence for the James Bond movie, ‘Golden Eye,’ was filmed here! This stunning act was also voted as the best movie stunt of all time in a 2002 poll on the Sky movies channel! The Verzasca dam is today, an extremely favored bungee jumping spot. The Verzasca river too is a much sought after river diving destination. A car drive will take you through streets lined up with ancient stone cottages of Ticino and age-old churches with tower-bells. The town of Ticino is located on the way to valley Verzasca and the train station here connects Bellinzona with Locarno. Trekking expeditions from this place are very popular.

The emerald green river flows ever so sprightly gurgling into the rocky cliffs of the valley! The valley offers amazing sights. A must visit destination, renowned for many thrilling and adventurous activities!

Verzasca dam

Address: Gordola, 6632 Vogorno

Website: Verzasca dam

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10. Per Bacco - Traditional wine making during the Bellinzona harvest festival!

Grape Stomping - Pigeage
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jeffrey Keeton used under CC BY 2.0

Per Bacco is a reference to the annual wine making festivity of Bellinzona. This fiesta is organized for 4 days. In 2017, Per Bacco is scheduled between the 31st of August and 3rd of September. The historic streets of Bellinzona reverberate with great musical melodies amidst a choice of the best wines on offer. The Canton of Ticino brings to holidaying visitors, an interesting display of superlative wine-making traditions followed here through centuries! A wonderful Country tradition and a rare sight. You will certainly revel in the carnival atmosphere here!

Per Bacco

Address: PO Box 1417, CH-6501 Bellinzona

Website: Per Bacco

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11. The Teatro sociale - the only 19th Century Theatre in Switzerland

Teatro Sociale Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user WPestana used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Teatro Sociale in Bellinzona is a center of vibrant musical concerts and is internationally acclaimed for hosting some of the best shows. The building, constructed in the 19th century in Neo-Classical style by Von Mentlen, is in itself an architectural marvel. The construction was based on a similar style as Milan’s La Scala . Further renovation by Giancarlo and Pia Durisch, gave it a grand look. A great place to visit! Soak in the classical ambiance at this wonderful architectural setting!

Teatro Sociale

Address: Social Theater, Government Square 11, 6500 Bellinzona

Website: Teatro Sociale

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A great place for adventure!

Castelgrande, Bellinzona
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user WPestana used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Bellinzona, the gorgeous city in the picturesque canton of Ticino, is one of your best choices for a memorable holiday. Enveloped by panoramic views and green pastures, the place is also synonymous for Switzerland’s best sporting and adventure options! You would be happy to know that apart from the famous bungee jumping site of the Verzasca Dam, which is a few miles away from Bellinzona, Centovalli and Valli Maggia are well known canyoning destinations in the canton of Ticino.The world mountain biking championships were held here, at Ticino in 2003. The breathtaking biking route chosen during these championships via the Gotland pass to the Ticinese capital is also worth considering for a biking trail! Many tour operators in the Canton of Ticino offer plenty of choices for scenic trekking routes. The city of castles, Bellinzona, is a wonderful mix of adventure, heritage and luxury, promising you a totally relaxing holiday!

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