10 things to do in and around Locarno in winter

titlewinterI had in mind this blog entry for a long time, actually since I started the blog back in August, I was just waiting for the right time to write it, and the right time must be now, before the winter is over. Well, actually, to tell you the truth, although winter has technically started a few days ago, if I look out of the window I just see blue skies, the sun and not a lot of snow. But what can you do in and around Locarno once it gets really cold and wintery (no worry, I’m sure that time will come even this year)? Here are a few tips…

  1. Go ice-skating at Locarno-on-Ice. Every year, for about 6 weeks, a huge ice-skating ring takes over Piazza Grande, the main square in Locarno. From early morning until late at night you can see small children, their parents and a lot of teenagers ice-skating on the historic square. But that’s just half of it, next to the rink there are three igloos where you can sip hot chocolate or have a glass of prosecco, a big bar for the mulled wine and beer, a dozen tiny chalets with food and a stage where they hold concerts from Thursday to Saturday night. And then there’s the special events, just visit the official website to discover it all. Now for the bad news, today is the last day of Locarno-on-Ice, so you’ll have to wait for next November, sorry!
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  2. Stroll around Ascona and marvel at the wonderful Christmas fairy lights. For the whole month of December you can admire this small town in a new light, and if you want to get in the Christmas spirit maybe that’s the best place to start. Ascona is a beautiful place all year long, but at Christmas it becomes magical. My mum goes there two or three times a week just to look at the lights, I’m not kidding!
  3. Go skiing or snowboarding in Bosco Gurin or Cardada-Cimetta. So they may not be your number one choice when planning a skiing trip, but both are great places to spend a few days, or even only a few hours on the slopes. Bosco Gurin, in Vallemaggia, is bigger and provides more slopes. It’s also easier to find snow up there as it is higher (well, not much snow there so far). Cardada-Cimetta is much smaller but you can reach it very easily from the centre of Locarno and it provides and absolutely amazing view over the Maggiore Lake. Yes, skiing or boarding with a view on the lake, that’s pretty unusual isn’t it? There are of course other places to ski in Ticino, check them out here.
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  4. Loose yourself in some amazing modern art exhibition. I am planning to do a blog entry about Ticino’s art museums as there are many interesting ones to see, but for now let me tell you about the main ones in the Locarno area. I would start with a visit to the Ghisla Art Collection. The red cube holds many very interesting paintings, pictures and sculptures created by famous artists from all over the world. Another interesting place to visit is Pinacoteca Casa Rusca, it holds works by Jean Arp and changing exhibitions, often by local artists. In Ascona you could visit the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna which often helds interesting exhibitions too.
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  5. Relax in Locarno’s own Termali Salini & Spa. Book a massage, a body compress or simply enjoy the different pools with hot waters, waterfalls and bubbles. One of the main pools is located outside just next to the lake and offers an amazing view over the Lago Maggiore and the surrounding mountains.
  6. Get dressed up for La Stranociada or one of the other many Carnivals in the area. Carnival is very big here in Ticino, and the festivity comes in many different sizes and shapes :) Some are excellent for children, they are often held in the main village squares and offer you the chance to eat a typical ticinese meal, sometimes risotto with luganinga, other times polenta with some meat. The children run around dressed up as pirates, cowboys and princesses and throw around confettis that often end up in your plate. Other places focus more on the evening entertainment with bands playing big hits and people dancing, drinking and being merry. Some of the bigger carnivals have many different decorated tents and bars with DJs playing music and people walking from location to location to drink and dance to the different kinds of music, often there are the Guggen music bands playing in the streets. And then there’s the really big ones, the Rabadan in Bellinzona is the biggest carnival in the area, where you can even see different parades, the main one is usually broadcasted live on TV.
  7. Sip a hearty cioccolata densa in a nice patisserie. There is hot chocolate and hot chocolate, the cioccolata densa is really really thick and you often need a spoon to drink it. You can virtually see your hips getting larger when sipping one but who cares, it’s not the bikini season anyway ;) This kind of hot chocolate now comes in different flavours, like hazelnuts, white chocolate, almonds, with orange, nougat, and many more. Enjoy! The one in the picture is from Caffé BarTolomeo.
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  8. Pick up some snowshoes and go hiking in the snow covered mountains. Ok, so I’m not somebody who can give you good tips on snowshoes walking trails as I’ve never been on one, but I have many friends who love spending their Sundays in the mountains walking around with these strange looking things attached to their feet. I’ve seen their pictures and I bet it’s an amazing thing to do on a sunny afternoon. This site has some great tips for you, so what are you waiting for?
  9. Go outlet shopping in Foxtown. So this is not exactly in the Locarno area, it will actually take you nearly one hour by car to get there, but you will be rewarded with some interesting outlet shops. Personally it’s not my favourite place to spend my day, even though I love shopping. For some reason I don’t particularly like the place, but if you’re looking for a bargain you might want to go there anyway.
  10. Boil some water and try some teas from the Casa del Té. In Locarno’s old town you will find this cute little shop selling tea mixes from all over the world. The owner of the shop (he speaks English too!) will be more than happy to explain where it all comes from and suggest what to buy. Of course you can buy cute little tea-related presents too.
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