Bellinzona: the hosting city

The skyline of Ticino’s cantonal capital is dominated by the fortress of Bellinzona, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It consists of three castles, a defensive wall and ramparts around the entire valley. The fortified ensemble is the only example of medieval military architecture of this kind in Europe.


Bellinzona has a strategic location where the valley narrows on the way to the Alpine passes of St. Gotthard, San Bernardino and Lucomagno. The city is the gateway to Italy for those travelling from the north and to the Alps for those coming from the south.


The picturesque corners and squares, the courtyards, the neo-Classical, Italian-style theatre and the sympathetically restored old buildings are testament to the rich history of what is culturally a Lombardy town. Its alleyways are lined with richly decorated patrician houses and beautiful churches. Yet behind the austere charm of the medieval town is all the dynamic life of a modern meeting-place. Numerous boutiques, cafés and specialist shops offering culinary delicacies invite you to linger and window-shop. Every Saturday, there is a large weekly market in the historic city center.


The strategic importance of the city was already recognized by the ancient Romans, who built a “castrum” here in the 1st century, which was fortified in the Middle Ages and developed into a fortress that was impregnable for quite some time. On account of its location, Bellinzona was repeatedly a bone of contention between the Dukes of Milan and the Swiss. It was only in 1516 that the town first became part of the territory of the Swiss Federation.


The fortifications of Bellinzona are among the most important examples of medieval defensive architecture in the Alps and have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since the year 2000. The three castles afford magnificent views of the city and the surrounding mountains, all the way to Lake Maggiore.


The fortress is the symbol of Ticino’s capital and plays hosts to a variety of activities. A little museum in the Castelgrande documents the history of Bellinzona’s castles and town centre. In Montebello, the “Archaeology of Montebello” exhibition displays a selection of archaeological finds from Ticino, focusing on the Bellinzona Region and the upper valleys.


Castelgrande and Sasso Corbaro also both regularly hold temporary exhibitions on a wide variety of topics.


Bellinzona is in an ideal location for trips to the nearby holiday resorts of Locarno and Ascona, over the pass of Monte Ceneri into southern Ticino with its main city of Lugano, into the romantic Ticino side valleys or to the north into the Leventina with its Bedretto Valley or into the sunny Blenio Valley.

ente regionale per lo sviluppobellinzonese e valli