Lucerne Switzerland - Vacation Guide
There’s no denying it: Lucerne plays into every cliché about a romantic Switzerland vacation. It’s one of Europes’s most charming cities, with its idyllic location overlooking the lake and nestled amidst snow-covered mountains. The beautiful Lake Lucerne and several mountain peaks on its doorstep make the city an excellent base for tours to the highlights of central Switzerland. A trip to one of the nearby mountains is a must for every visitor.
Once a simple fisherman's village, Lucerne is now an important culture and convention center. In addition to a very well-preserved old town with cobblestone streets, there are sunny old squares, intriguing churches, the picturesque Chapel Bridge, wide lake-side promenades, and right at the city’s heart the Culture and Congress Centre (KKL) which provides a sharp contrast to the old town. Zurich airport is easily accessible within an hour from Lucerne, which makes it a good place to start or end your visit to Switzerland.
Our travel guide will help you deciding what things to do in Lucerne and seeing some of the best Lucerne attractions.
Things to do in Lucerne
Lucerne's remarkably preserved old town is car-free and consists of many blocks of old buildings decorated with painting murals, turning the place into an outdoor art gallery. Look up and you will discover a wealth of architectural and historic-cultural details. The old town is spread across the north bank of the River Reuss and between city hall and Chapel Bridge. The numerous quaint cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating invite you to linger.
Until 1863, Lake Lucerne in Switzerland was an important transit route to the Gotthard pass. A large part of the shoreline rises steeply into mountains up to 1,500 m above the lake, resulting in magnificent views, for example of the mountains Rigi and Pilatus. A cruise on board of a historic paddle wheel steamer counts among the things to do in Lucerne. A boat ride can ideally be combined with a trip to Mt. Pilatus or Mt. Rigi.
Swiss Museum of Transport
Europe’s largest and most comprehensive museum for mobility provides an interactive insight into the past, present and future of mobility with interactive and varied exhibits, theme parks and simulations. It includes everything that keeps the Swiss on the move - from transport on road, rail and water to air and space travel. This Lucerne museum also boasts an IMAX theatre.
Visit Lucerne’s attractions by foot
Due to its small size, Lucerne is easy to explore on foot. Start by crossing the Chapel Bridge, the oldest covered wooden bridge in the world, leading into the historic section of town. Halfway across the Lucerne bridge you can also see the Water Tower, an iconic landmark of Lucerne. Once on the other side walk to Kornmarkt and further on to Weinplatz. You will see many beautifully painted and decorated buildings. From Weinplatz make your way up to the medieval Musegg Wall that was built in the 15th century. The top of the wall features some of the most amazing views on the lake, mountains and the river. Continue on Museggstrasse until you get to the Bourbaki Panorama, a circular painting, museum and cultural center. Close-by there’s also the famous Lion of Lucerne, the Lion’s Monument. This incredible artwork was hewn out of stone to commemorate the Swiss guardsmen who died during the French Revolution in 1792. Next, make your way to the nearby Glacier Garden exhibiting glacier potholes from last Ice Age that started over 20,000 years ago.
KKL and the Museum of Art Lucerne
The KKL - Culture and Convention Center is a modern masterpiece of a building. It was designed by star architect Jean Nouvel and includes a concert hall, congress center and art museum, all under one roof. On the 4th floor of the KKL, an area of 2000 square meters is given over to the Lucerne Museum of Art and its collection of contemporary art. The collection concentrates mainly on Swiss art from the Renaissance to the present, though the museum’s temporary exhibitions feature artists from all over the world.
Lucerne is small, but it's not all the same - the various quarters of the city have very different vibes. The Bruch quarter is one of Lucerne’s trendiest neighborhood. This lively residential area is where you’ll find a wealth of culture, local handcrafts, bars and restaurants. Also located in the Bruch quarter is Madeleine, a cultural venue with a bar and regular comedy and music performances.
Tours from Lucerne
A panoramic view of 73 Alpine peaks, hiking trails from easy to alpine, an adventure park and a hotel on the top of the mountain - Mt. Pilatus has it all. By boarding either the north side’s cable cars or the steepest cogwheel train in the world on the south flank the mountain’s peak is made accessible. When taking the cogwheel, get ready to be impressed as it climbs gradients of 48% on the way to the peak. On the Pilatus itself you can stroll and hike, enjoy a gourmet menu or regional snack or, with a little luck, see an ibex.
This mountain excursion impresses with a stunning 360-degree panoramic view onto 13 lakes, into the Alps and towards the Black Forest. Nine different mountain railways and cable cars provide access to the Rigi massif, making it easily accessible from all directions. One of the highlights on the mountain is the Rigi Kaltbad Mineral bath & spa, designed by famous architect Mario Botta and offering impressive views of the scenery.
The main attraction of Stanserhorn is the world’s first convertible cable car, the so-called „CabriO“. It’s an amazing feeling to stand on the roof deck of the double-deck panorama cabin, marveling at the landscape. On the mountain itself, you can take in the views of the Alps and ten lakes, pay a visit to the revolving restaurant and walk to the summit.
The monastery village of Engelberg is located 25km south of Lucerne in a wide mountain valley. The village is famous for its old Benedict monastery with artisan cheese production, and the spectacular glacier mountain Titlis.
Snow is guaranteed year-round at the summit station of Mt. Titlis, high above the clouds. Mt. Titlis is a base for all kinds of outdoor and adventure activities. In summer there’s biking, hiking, kick scooter riding and countless other activities and in winter, you could stay for a full day of snow sports. Several attractions on top of the glacier are open year-round, such as the suspension bridge 500 meters off the ground (Cliff Walk) or the Ice Flyer glacier chairlift.
Hergiswil Glass Factory
Observe the traditional craftsmanship of glass making at this Glassworks production site. The Hergiswil Glass Factory illustrates the industrial evolution of glass making from 1817 to the present and features live glass making demonstrations. Visitors are able to create their own glass ball at the end of the museum tour. Located right across the street is a factory outlet shop.
Location and Map
Lucerne is centrally located in the heart of Switzerland, with its nearest airport in Zurich, approximately 53 km (33 miles) away. The travel time between these cities is 45 minutes via car or train. Other top destinations from Lucerne include Geneva, which is 265 km (164 miles), and Bern at 113 km (70 miles).
Elevation: 434m/1,424 ft