Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

Nestled between a backdrop of towering mountains and a sparkling lake, Lucerne (called Luzern in German) is one of Switzerland’s most visited cities. Offering a host of things to see and do, Lucerne makes a wonderful holiday destination in which to spend a few days.

 

Things to do in LucerneLucerne is a beautiful city with plenty of things to do for the visitor.


Where is Lucerne?

Ideally located in central Switzerland, Lucerne is easily accessible from all parts of the country and beyond. 


Getting to Lucerne, Switzerland

Only an hour or so from both the Swiss capital, Bern, and Zurich, it is easy to do a Lucerne day trip if you only have limited time, but the city also offers plenty to do if you can stay a few days.


Lucerne is situated on the major railway lines to Locarno and Lugano near the Italian border, Lake Constance on the German and Austrian borders, and Lake Geneva near the French border.


If you are planning a driving holiday in Switzerland, Lucerne makes a great stop on your own Grand Tour of Switzerland (see my suggested itinerary here).

>> Tip: When you visit Lucerne, I suggest your first port of call is the Lucerne Tourism office located at the main railway station.  The staff are friendly and helpful (and speak excellent English) and can offer suggestions for what to do in Lucerne. They can also provide you with a free Lucerne map which will help with your Lucerne sightseeing. <<


Further reading:
6 of the best day trips from Zurich


Chapel Bridge Lucerne SwitzerlandLucerne's beautiful Chapel Bridge with the Jesuit Church in the background. 

Things to Do in Lucerne, Switzerland

Chapel Bridge and Spreuer Bridge

Without doubt, one of the most popular Lucerne attractions is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke). Dating back to 1333, the medieval bridge is just one of many that straddles the River Reuss, but this one is recognizable by its distinctive water tower with an octagonal roof.


A fire in 1993 all but destroyed
the famous Lucerne wooden bridge, and even though it was rebuilt, fire damage can still be seen on the remaining 17th century pictorial panels which are a feature under the eaves.


Painting on Chapel BridgeOne of the restored paintings on Lucerne's famous Chapel Bridge.

 
Lucerne’s other famous covered bridge, Spreuer Bridge, was finished in 1408 as part of the city’s fortification. Kaspar Meglinger added 67 paintings representing the "Dance of Death" between 1626 and 1635. 


Unlike the Chapel Bridge, the Spreuer was spared from the 1993 fire but its paintings are rather more dark and sombre, as you would expect of paintings representing death.


Old Town Lucerne

Lucerne’s Altstadt (old town) is home to an array of medieval squares, cobblestone lanes and a fair share of shops, boutiques and cafes, many of which are adorned with frescoes.


This is Switzerland so you’ll find an endless display of Switzerland’s most famous products – watches, army knives and chocolates – on offer, as well as shops offering the usual range of souvenirs.


If you fancy some clothes shopping in Lucerne,  Switzerland’s major chain stores are all represented here.


In summer, one of the Old Town’s outdoor cafes is the perfect place to people-watch and sip a coffee, especially if you choose a café with views of the lake.  


Painted buildings in Lucerne's old town Painted buildings in Lucerne's old town.


The Jesuit Church of Lucerne

The lovely Jesuit Church of Lucerne is also worth a visit. Built from 1666 to 1673, the twin onion-domed towers dominate the skyline on the southern bank of the River Reuss.


Whilst the exterior looks quite plain, the interior is a sight to behold.  Richly decorated in white marble, the church features ornate stuccowork and frescoes.


Jesuit Church LucerneLucerne's Jesuit Church is well worth a visit. Unassuming on the outside, its interior will blow you away!


Cruises on Lake Lucerne

Lake Lucerne is the postcard-perfect Swiss lake with its sparkling blue water and surrounding snow-capped peaks.  


Known as Vierwaldstattersee in German, which translates to ‘four forest sites’, the lake is surrounded by four cantons – Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne.


A great way to appreciate the lake’s size is on a Lucerne boat tour and there are plenty of options with historic paddlewheel steamers, modern motorboats and a panoramic yacht all offering lake cruises. Check cruise options and prices here.


Legend has it that it was on the shores of Lake Lucerne that the Swiss hero William Tell won his freedom by successfully shooting an apple off the head of his son, Walter.


Lucerne view with paddlesteamerPaddlesteamers, cruisers and even a luxury yacht ply Lake Lucerne.


Lakeside Promenade

A stroll or bike ride along the lakeside is a great way to take in the sights of this beautiful city and with ample benches along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to stop, relax and take in the beautiful views beyond the lake to the snow-capped alps.


In summertime, concerts are often performed in the lakeside park.

 

Lake LucerneA stroll along the promenade beside Lake Lucerne is a pleasant way to pass an hour or two.


Swiss Transport Museum

Just by the lake, Verkehrhaus, the Swiss Transport Museum, is all about things that go! Planes, trains and automobiles are the order of the day in this interesting museum dedicated to Switzerland’s transport history.


Static and interactive displays, rides and simulators, as well as an IMAX theatre and planetarium, make this Switzerland’s most popular museum.


If you are visiting Lucerne with kids, they will love the Swiss Transport Museum but adults will find plenty to interest them, too. 


Watch a short video of Verkehrhaus here.


Click here to check admission prices for the Swiss Transport Museum.

 

Transport museum LucerneOne of the displays in the impressive Verkehrhaus Musuem, Lucerne.


Art galleries in Lucerne

Art lovers visiting Lucerne can indulge their passion at the Picasso Musuem where around 200 photos of the artist himself at work and play are on display, rather than his own artworks. 


The Rosengart Collection is where you will find
a number of Picasso’s works as well as those by Paul Klee, Cezanne and Chagall, to name a few.


The Dying Lion Statue

Another of the top things to do in Lucerne is to visit the dying Lion, one of the world's most famous monuments. It was carved out of natural rock in memory of the heroic deaths of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in France in 1792. 


American author Mark Twain once described the Lion of Lucerne as the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world and to this day it still moves the thousands who visit each year.


Dying Lion statue LucerneThe Dying Lion statue is very moving.

>> TIP: For great views over the rooftops of Lucerne, head up to the restaurant in the Manor department store in the Old Town.  The views from the outdoor terrace are fantastic.  <<


Day trips from Lucerne

There are numerous Lucerne day trips on offer but for the best views of Lucerne and the lake, there’s only one place to go – up! 


Mt. Pilatus excursion from Lucerne

At 2132 metres above sea level, Mt Pilatus offers superb views, and getting to the top is easy. This is Swiss precision at its finest! 


Take the world’s steepest cog railway, a cable car or scenic gondola (click here to check prices), and then enjoy magnificent dining at the summit.


There are plenty of summer activities on offer at the
summit of Mt. Pilatus, too, with the mountain a mecca for hikers. It is also home to one of the country’s largest rope parks, an adventure playground and the country’s longest toboggan run.

 

View over lake Lucerne from Pilatus bahnView over lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus cable car. Image: swiss-image.ch/Urs Wyss


Mt. Rigi excursion from Lucerne

Mt Rigi – known to locals as ‘Queen of the Mountains’ – also offers a hiker's paradise, and even today, the less energetic can reach the top of the summit by steam train or cogwheel train. 


From the peak of Mt Rigi you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Alps, 13 surrounding lakes and as far as Germany and France.  Click here to check day excursion options.


Mt Rigi cogwheel trainA ride on Mt Rigi cogwheel train is a relaxing way to reach the summit.


Mt. Titlis excursion from Lucerne

The world’s first revolving cable-car on Mt Titlis may not be for the faint hearted, but it provides those made from sterner stuff than me the chance to take a look at a unique glacier world. 


With snow all year round on Mt.Titlis, the Titlis Rotair, as it is known, and the similarly unique Ice Flyer Chair Lift, allow visitors to float over the glaciers like never before.


The easiest way to get from Lucerne to Mt. Titlis is on an organised day trip.  Click here for details and prices.


Titlis Rotair excursion from LucerneThe Titlis Rotair gondola ride is not for the faint hearted! The cabins rotate 360 degrees.


Browse more day tours and Lucerne things to do by clicking here.

 
Chapel Bridge LucerneLucerne's Chapel Bridge is at its prettiest in summer, adorned with flowers.


After the efficient, modern transport modes of the mountains, descending back down into Lucerne you will feel like you are being transported into a medieval fairytale.


Cobblestone streets, seven hundred year old bridges and narrow alleyways all give Lucerne the feel that nothing too much has changed in recent times.


Except perhaps the commercialism aimed at today’s tourist – and the fact that today’s Swiss heroes aren’t required to shoot apples off their sons heads in order to stay alive - and that can’t be a bad thing!

 

Where to stay in Lucerne

Ready to plan your visit to Lucerne?  I've visited this beautiful city numerous times and have shared my accommodation recommendations for Lucerne in this article.  You can also check prices for Lucerne hotels here.


Here are some further recommendations (click the hotel name to check prices):


These 5-star properties are rated some of the best hotels in Lucerne -


For hotels near Lucerne train station, try:


If you’d like a room with a lake view, try these Lake Lucerne hotels:


Lucerne weather

Average day time temperatures in Lucerne range from 4C in December and January to 25C in July.


Lucerne’s climate is regarded as temperate but if you are planning a Christmas visit to Lucerne, Switzerland winter temperatures can be very cold so be prepared.


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Things to do in Lucerne Switzerland

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Comments   

# Jane Dempster-Smith 2019-01-31 14:03
High on our bucket list is Lucerne. One of the things we really want to do is spend some time on the lake. Now I will add coffee and people watching in the Old Town. We have just been to Prague and the Charles Bridge is so busy during the day and the best time to walk it is 6am in the morning. I wonder if this is the same with the Chapel Bridge? Thanks for sharing the article.
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