We are taking the Rick Steves Best of Switzerland in 12 Days tour in early September and we have a free day at Lake Lugano. His tour book has a full day recommendation of 1.) old city walking tour, 2.) boat ride and 3.) funicular to San Salavatore. I'd like to hear from anyone who has done as he recommends and what your thoughts are - what did you like, not like, wish you had spent more time, etc., etc. I'd also like to know if there are hiking opportunities at the top of San Salavatore, in which case we might forego the boat ride and spend more time up top. Thanks!
We visited Lugano for a day at the end of this past May. We thought the San San Salvatore funicular was best (provided you get good weather). There are lots of different viewpoints as you walk your way to the top from the funicular station, and we got our best photos of our three week trip there. Also a nice cafe at the top with view to the south. We stayed up there for a couple of hours, then took funicular back down and walked back to hotel in center (we'd taken the bus to come to the funicular). Lakeside walk is beautiful, too. But weather is key, it would all have been a different experience if we had not had a mostly sunny day. You might need to make your plans at the last minute to see how much visibility you're going to have.