Bellinzona is a small city in the Ticino region, in the south of Switzerland. It is known for its three castles, which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The castles and the city itself are very beautiful, making Bellinzona an ideal day trip if you are close by.
The courtyards of all three castles are free to visit. Each of them hosts a museum that charges an entrance fee of CHF 5 (or CHF 8 with access to the special exhibits). If you plan to visit all of them, you can consider the Bellinzona Pass, which gets you admission in all the three museums, together with entrance to Villa dei Cedri and some other discounts. As of 2017, the Bellinzona Pass costs CHF 15 and includes the special exhibits in each castle too.
You can start your day at Piazza del Sole, a big square in the city center. There is a large underground parking right there, with decent tariffs, called Autosilo Piazza del Sole. Once you are in Piazza del Sole, you will see the signs to Castelgrande. An elevator will take you up, and from there you can easily access the big courtyard. The museum in Castelgrande shows historic and archaeologic exhibits, plus a film about the castles. You can take the elevator back or walk to the city center.
From the city center, follow the signs to Montebello. This castle offers you a nice view of Bellinzona. It hosts an archaeological museum, plus the city museum.
From Montebello you will continue to climb towards Sasso Corbaro. The path is well marked and takes you through vineyards, offering even nicer views of the city. The Sasso Corbaro castle hosts various special exhibitions.
If you want a more comfortable way of reaching Montebello and Sasso Corbaro, you can take the Artù train. The tour starts from Piazza Collegiata between Sunday and Friday, and from Piazza Teatro on Saturdays. The price is CHF 12 per person, or CHF 24 if you include the Bellinzona Pass.
When you’re done with the castles, it’s worth to take a walk in the city center of Bellinzona, where you can reward yourself with a gelato or do some shopping.