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An Afternoon Exploring Brissago Island, Switzerland


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Lexine Mcdermott



Welcome to Brissago Island, a hidden gem in the heart of Switzerland. Nestled in Lake Maggiore, this island paradise offers a serene escape from the bustling cities and a chance to reconnect with nature. With its lush botanical gardens, historic villas, and breathtaking views, Brissago Island is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.


As you step onto the island, you’ll be greeted by a sense of tranquility that can only be found in this pristine natural oasis. The beautiful gardens, filled with exotic plants from around the world, create a peaceful and enchanting atmosphere. Whether you’re a devoted horticulturalist or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, the gardens of Brissago Island will leave you spellbound.


But Brissago Island isn’t just about its gardens; it also boasts a rich history that dates back centuries. The island was once home to a monastery in the 9th century and later became a private estate. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the gardens were opened to the public. Today, visitors can wander through the island’s paths and discover the remnants of its storied past.


Getting to Brissago Island is a breeze. From the nearby town of Brissago, you can take a short boat ride across Lake Maggiore to reach the island. The journey itself is a delight, as you cruise along the peaceful waters and take in the picturesque views of the surrounding mountains.


Once you arrive on the island, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of natural beauty. The meticulously maintained gardens span over an incredible surface area, showcasing an impressive variety of rare and exotic plants. From vibrant flowers to towering palm trees, the botanical wonders of Brissago Island never cease to amaze.


But it’s not just the flora that makes Brissago Island special. The island is also home to the main villa, a magnificent building that exudes elegance and grandeur. This historic villa has been impeccably preserved and offers a glimpse into the lives of the aristocracy who once called this island home. As you explore its ornate rooms and admire its architectural marvels, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.


Brissago Island also boasts a diverse array of wildlife. From graceful swans gliding across the lake to colorful butterflies fluttering through the gardens, there’s no shortage of animal encounters to be had. Bird watchers will particularly enjoy the island’s avian inhabitants, including various species of herons and waterfowl.


If you’re in the mood for outdoor adventures, Brissago Island won’t disappoint. The island offers a network of well-marked hiking trails that crisscross through its forests and provide stunning views of Lake Maggiore. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the rugged beauty of this hidden gem.


How to Get to Brissago Island

Getting to Brissago Island is a seamless and enjoyable experience. The first step is to make your way to the charming town of Brissago, located on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Switzerland. From there, you can embark on a short boat ride that will take you directly to the island.


Brissago is easily accessible by car or public transportation. If you’re driving, you can follow the well-connected road network that leads to Brissago. There are ample parking spaces available in the town, allowing you to leave your vehicle and continue your journey to the island stress-free.


If you prefer to use public transportation, there are several options available. Brissago is well-served by buses, with regular routes connecting it to nearby towns and cities. You can check the bus schedules to ensure a smooth journey to your destination.


Once you have arrived in Brissago, you’ll find a picturesque lakeside promenade where the boats depart for Brissago Island. The boat ride itself is a highlight of the journey, offering stunning views of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains.


There are several boat companies that operate regular transportation services to Brissago Island. You can purchase tickets at the ticket office located near the pier. Be sure to check the boat schedules in advance, as they may vary depending on the season.


The boat ride from Brissago to Brissago Island typically takes around 10 to 15 minutes. As you cruise across the crystal-clear waters, you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of the lake and the anticipation of what awaits you on the island.


Upon arrival on Brissago Island, you’ll disembark at the pier and step onto the shores of this enchanting paradise. Take a moment to breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sound of nature, and prepare yourself for a day of exploration and relaxation.


Keep in mind that boat services may be limited during the winter season, so it’s advisable to check the schedules and plan your visit accordingly. Additionally, it’s recommended to arrive early, especially during peak tourist seasons, to avoid long queues and ensure a smooth journey to the island.


Brissago Island awaits you with its mesmerizing gardens, historic treasures, and breathtaking views. So, make your travel arrangements, hop on that boat, and get ready to embark on a memorable adventure to Brissago Island.


The History of Brissago Island

Brissago Island has a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries. Originally inhabited by monks in the 9th century, the island went through several transformations before becoming the idyllic destination it is today.


The first recorded mention of Brissago Island dates back to the year 866, when it was referred to as “Insula Luparia” in a document. At that time, the island was home to a Benedictine monastery, which played a significant role in the region’s religious and cultural life.


For centuries, the monastery flourished, providing a haven for monks seeking solitude and spiritual enlightenment. The tranquility and natural beauty of the island made it an ideal location for such contemplation.


In the late 18th century, however, the monastery was dissolved and the island was sold to the Serbelloni family, who transformed it into a private estate. The Serbelloni family, known for their wealth and influence, saw the potential of Brissago Island and began to develop it into a place of grandeur and sophistication.


Under the guidance of celebrated architects and landscape designers, the island underwent a complete transformation. Opulent villas were built, and the gardens were expanded and embellished with an impressive collection of exotic plants from all corners of the world.


In the early 20th century, Brissago Island changed hands once again, this time falling into the possession of the wealthy German businessman Max Emden. Emden continued the development of the island, expanding and enhancing the gardens while preserving its historical and cultural significance.


After Emden’s death, Brissago Island went through a period of uncertainty until it was eventually acquired by the Canton of Ticino in 1950. The island was designated as a public park and opened to visitors, allowing everyone to experience its natural and architectural wonders.


Today, the historic villas and gardens of Brissago Island are meticulously maintained, reflecting the grandeur and elegance of times past. Guided tours, informative displays, and exhibitions offer visitors a glimpse into the island’s remarkable history.


As you wander through the gardens and explore the island’s pathways, you can’t help but be transported to a bygone era. The echoes of monks chanting, the whispers of aristocrats, and the echoes of nature’s wonders linger in the air, creating an enchanting atmosphere that is unique to Brissago Island.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply seeking to immerse yourself in the beauty of the past, Brissago Island provides a captivating journey through time.


Exploring the Gardens

Brissago Island is renowned for its breathtaking gardens, which have garnered international acclaim for their beauty and variety. Spanning over 20,000 square meters, these meticulously manicured grounds are a haven for plant lovers and horticultural enthusiasts.


As you step into the gardens, you’ll be greeted by an explosion of colors and fragrances. With over 1,700 species of plants from around the world, including tropical flowers, towering palm trees, and exotic shrubs, the diversity of flora on Brissago Island is truly astounding.


The gardens are divided into various themed areas, each displaying a unique collection of plants. From the Japanese Garden, with its serene ponds and meticulously pruned bonsai trees, to the Mediterranean Garden, adorned with vibrant bougainvillea and aromatic herbs, there’s something to captivate every visitor.


One of the highlights of the gardens is the stunning collection of azaleas and rhododendrons. During the spring months, these vibrant flowers bloom in a riot of colors, creating a magnificent tapestry of pink, red, and purple. Strolling through the trails surrounded by these magnificent blooms is a truly magical experience.


The peaceful atmosphere of the gardens invites visitors to take their time and explore at their own pace. As you wander along the winding paths, you’ll come across charming little bridges, hidden alcoves, and tranquil water features, all adding to the enchantment of the surroundings.


For those seeking a moment of reflection, the shade of ancient trees and comfortable benches provide the perfect spots to sit and soak in the beauty of the gardens. Take a deep breath, listen to the melodies of birdsong, and let the serenity of Brissago Island wash over you.


The gardens are not only a treat for the eyes but also a source of inspiration and knowledge. Informational signs and plaques throughout the grounds provide valuable insights into the plants’ origins, characteristics, and historical significance. It’s a great opportunity to learn and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.


Photography enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to capture the beauty of the gardens. Each corner presents a new and captivating scene, whether it’s a vibrant flower bed, a picturesque viewpoint, or a quaint pathway framed by foliage. Don’t forget to bring your camera and immortalize the memories of your visit.


If you’re lucky enough to visit Brissago Island during the summer months, you may have the chance to attend one of the garden concerts. Held amidst the blooming flowers and towering trees, these concerts offer a unique and enchanting musical experience.


Whether you’re an avid gardener, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates beauty, exploring the gardens of Brissago Island is an unforgettable experience. Let yourself be captivated by the colors, scents, and serenity of this botanical paradise.


The Main Villa

At the heart of Brissago Island lies the magnificent main villa, a testament to the island’s rich history and architectural grandeur. This historic building, with its elegant facade and ornate interiors, offers visitors a glimpse into the opulent lives of past residents.


The main villa, known as “Villa Emden,” was originally constructed in the early 20th century during the ownership of Max Emden, a German businessman. Emden spared no expense in ensuring that the villa reflected the highest level of luxury and sophistication.


As you step through the grand entrance, you’ll be greeted by a beautifully adorned foyer, complete with marble columns, intricate moldings, and exquisite chandeliers. The attention to detail is evident in every corner of the villa, as no expense was spared in the creation of this architectural masterpiece.


The rooms of the main villa are a testament to the grandeur of the past. Lavishly decorated with antique furniture, priceless artworks, and intricate tapestries, each room tells a story of elegance and refinement. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the various halls, lounges, and private chambers, each filled with historical artifacts and furnishings.


One of the highlights of the main villa is the stunning ballroom. With its soaring ceilings, sparkling chandeliers, and intricately designed parquet floors, this space exudes a sense of grandeur and grandiosity. It’s easy to imagine the lavish parties and gatherings that once took place within these walls.


Another notable feature of the main villa is the extensive library. Housing a vast collection of books, manuscripts, and manuscripts dating back centuries, this room is a treasure trove of knowledge and history. Browse through the shelves and immerse yourself in a world of literary wonder.


Perhaps one of the most captivating aspects of the main villa is its panoramic terrace. Step outside and revel in breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding landscape. Take a moment to breathe in the fresh mountain air and soak in the tranquility that can only be found on Brissago Island.


Guided tours of the main villa are available, offering visitors a deeper understanding of its history and significance. Knowledgeable guides will accompany you as you explore the various rooms and provide interesting anecdotes and stories about the villa’s past residents.


As you wander through the main villa, you can’t help but be transported back in time. The echoes of laughter, the whispers of important conversations, and the elegance of the surroundings all contribute to an immersive and enchanting experience.


Visiting the main villa provides a unique opportunity to witness the architectural splendor and historical significance of Brissago Island. It’s a chance to step into the lives of the privileged few who once resided within these walls and to appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty that still resonates today.


Wildlife on the Island

Brissago Island is not only a haven for stunning gardens and historic villas, but it is also home to a diverse array of wildlife. As you explore the island, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter numerous animal species, from graceful swans to colorful butterflies.


One of the most iconic sights on Brissago Island is the presence of swans gracefully gliding across the crystal-clear waters of Lake Maggiore. These elegant creatures are a symbol of beauty and serenity, and their presence adds to the overall tranquility of the island. Bring a camera and capture the enchanting moments as they peacefully swim or glide in the sunlight.


In addition to swans, the island is a paradise for birdwatchers. With its diverse habitats and rich vegetation, Brissago Island attracts a wide variety of avian species. Keep an eye out for waterfowl, herons, and various other migratory birds that call the island home at different times of the year. Binoculars are highly recommended for a closer look at these feathered inhabitants.


But it’s not just the birds that add to the wildlife experience on Brissago Island. The gardens themselves are teeming with life, providing a habitat for countless insects, including butterflies. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and marvel at the vibrant colors as delicate butterflies flit from flower to flower. You might even spot rare or endemic species that are unique to the area.


Brissago Island is also known for its thriving aquatic life. The clear waters of Lake Maggiore are home to various species of fish, which can often be seen darting beneath the surface. Watch as they play hide-and-seek among the underwater plants, forming a harmonious eco-system that ensures the island’s natural balance.


While exploring the hiking trails on the island, you might come across small mammals such as squirrels, hedgehogs, or rabbits. These furry creatures add a touch of whimsy to your journey and remind you of the harmonious coexistence between wildlife and the natural environment.


It’s important to note that Brissago Island is committed to preserving its delicate ecosystem and protecting the wildlife that inhabits it. Visitors are encouraged to respect the natural surroundings and observe the animals from a suitable distance. Avoid feeding or disturbing the wildlife, and follow any guidelines or regulations that aim to maintain the island’s biodiversity.


Exploring Brissago Island goes beyond the stunning gardens and historic landmarks. The presence of diverse wildlife adds an extra layer of enchantment to your visit, allowing you to connect with nature and witness the beauty and harmony of the island’s ecosystem.


Hiking Trails

For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Brissago Island offers a network of picturesque hiking trails that showcase the island’s natural beauty and provide panoramic views of Lake Maggiore. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or simply seeking a leisurely stroll, there is a trail suited to every skill level and preference.


One of the most popular trails on Brissago Island is the “Sentiero del Monte Golvedo.” This trail takes you on a scenic ascent up the mountain, offering breathtaking vistas of the lake and surrounding landscape. As you make your way to the summit, you’ll pass through dense forests, lush meadows, and rocky outcrops, providing a diverse and immersive hiking experience.


If you’re looking for a shorter hike with equally stunning views, the “Sentiero delle Palme” is a great choice. This trail takes you through the island’s famous palm grove, where you’ll be surrounded by towering palm trees as you follow a gentle path along the lakeside. This leisurely walk is perfect for those who want to admire the unique flora and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of Brissago Island.


For more adventurous hikers, the “Sentiero del Monte Limidario” offers a challenging and rewarding experience. This trail takes you to the highest peak on Brissago Island, providing sweeping panoramic views of the lake, the surrounding mountains, and even distant towns. The steep ascent and rocky terrain make for an exhilarating adventure for those seeking a more strenuous hike.


As you explore the hiking trails on Brissago Island, you’ll encounter natural wonders at every turn. From hidden waterfalls and babbling brooks to rare plant species and wildlife sightings, there’s always something to discover along the way. Take your time to soak in the tranquility of the surroundings and appreciate the unspoiled beauty of nature.


It’s important to note that the hiking trails on Brissago Island are well-marked and maintained, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. However, it’s always advisable to wear appropriate footwear, carry water and snacks, and check the weather conditions before setting off on your hike. Engaging in responsible hiking practices, such as staying on designated paths and respecting the natural environment, helps to preserve the island’s beauty for future generations.


Whether you choose to embark on a challenging trek or enjoy a leisurely stroll, the hiking trails of Brissago Island offer a unique opportunity to connect with nature and fully immerse yourself in the island’s breathtaking landscapes. Lace up your hiking boots, pick a trail that suits your preferences, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure amid the scenic wonders of Brissago Island.


Dining Options on Brissago Island

After a day of exploration and immersion in the natural beauty of Brissago Island, it’s time to satisfy your hunger with a delightful dining experience. Despite its small size, the island offers a range of dining options that cater to various tastes and preferences.


One of the standout dining experiences on Brissago Island is the island’s renowned restaurant, located within the main villa itself. This exquisite dining establishment combines elegant ambiance with exceptional cuisine. From traditional Swiss dishes to international delicacies, the restaurant offers a diverse menu prepared using the finest ingredients. Immerse yourself in the timeless elegance of the main villa and indulge in a culinary journey that harmonizes with the island’s grandeur.


For those seeking a more casual dining experience, the island has a charming café that serves light meals, snacks, and refreshments. Situated amidst the gardens, the café provides a picturesque setting to relax and savor a delicious meal. Whether you’re craving a freshly brewed cup of coffee, a decadent pastry, or a light lunch, the café is the perfect spot to unwind and recharge.


If you prefer a picnic amidst the natural beauty of Brissago Island, you can bring your own food and enjoy a leisurely meal at one of the designated picnic areas in the gardens. Find a cozy spot under the shade of a tree or by the tranquil lakeside and relish the serenity of your surroundings while indulging in your favorite culinary treats.


As an island destination, Brissago also offers the unique opportunity to dine with a view. Many of the restaurants and cafés on the island boast stunning vistas of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding landscape. Whether you choose to dine alfresco on a terrace or enjoy a meal by a window overlooking the water, the enchanting views will enhance your dining experience.


It is important to note that dining options on Brissago Island may vary depending on the season. Some establishments may have limited operating hours or may be closed during the winter months. It’s advisable to check ahead or make reservations to ensure availability and avoid any disappointment.


After a fulfilling meal, take the time to stroll through the gardens once more, allowing your senses to bask in the beauty of the island. Let the combination of delectable flavors and stunning surroundings create a lasting memory of your dining experience on Brissago Island.


Whether you’re seeking a fine dining experience, a casual café atmosphere, or a serene picnic by the lake, Brissago Island offers a selection of dining options that allows you to savor the flavors of the island while taking in its natural splendor.



Brissago Island in Switzerland is a destination that truly encapsulates the beauty and charm of the country. From its stunning gardens and historic landmarks to its diverse wildlife and scenic hiking trails, the island offers a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors of all interests. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Brissago Island has something to captivate and enchant you.


The gardens of Brissago Island are a sight to behold. With their vibrant flowers, exotic plants, and serene pathways, they provide a haven of natural beauty. As you wander through the well-manicured grounds, you’ll be transported to a world of tranquility and awe. Marvel at the breathtaking views, learn about the different plant species, and immerse yourself in the serenity of nature.


The history of Brissago Island is equally fascinating. The main villa stands as a testament to its storied past, offering a glimpse into the lives of the affluent who once called it home. Explore the ornate rooms, admire the grandeur of the architecture, and imagine the stories that have unfolded within these walls.


Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted by the abundance of animal encounters on the island. From elegant swans gliding across the lake to colorful butterflies dancing in the gardens, there’s a sense of harmony between nature and the island’s surroundings. Birdwatchers, in particular, will be captivated by the variety of species that inhabit the area.


For those with an adventurous spirit, the hiking trails of Brissago Island offer the perfect opportunity to explore the rugged beauty of the island. From gentle walks through palm groves to challenging ascents that reward you with breathtaking views, there’s a trail suited to every level of fitness and interest.


While exploring, be sure to indulge in the delightful dining options available on the island. From fine dining experiences within the main villa to casual café settings and picturesque picnic spots, there’s a choice for every palate.


As your visit to Brissago Island comes to a close, take a moment to reflect on the memories and experiences you’ve created. The island offers a unique blend of natural wonders, historical treasures, and culinary delights that leave a lasting impression. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of the gardens, the elegance of the main villa, the peaceful encounters with wildlife, or the invigorating hikes, Brissago Island is a destination that will stay with you long after you leave.


So, plan your visit to Brissago Island and let it enchant you with its beauty, charm, and timeless allure. Immerse yourself in its gardens, marvel at its history, connect with its wildlife, and create memories that will last a lifetime.