Visit Lucerne – Chapel Bridge
It’s a short two block walk from the train station to the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbruecke). This medieval pedestrian bridge over the Reuss River is likely the most photographed spot in Lucerne. The Chapel Bridge is synonymous with the city. When you walk across, look up at the rafters above you to see the paintings. The bridge includes the Water Tower (Wasseturm) along its angled route over the river. Another couple blocks along Rail Street (Bahnhofstrasse) on the south side of the Reuss leads to the Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche). This church was built in 1673 and is filled with marble and decorative plasterwork.
Visit Lucerne – Around the Train Station
A Visit to Lucerne can begin right around the train station, with lots of things to see and do. The KKL Luzern (Kunst- und Kongresshaus Luzern) is located beside the station and includes the Museum of Art Lucerne, concert halls for the Lucerne Festival, restaurants and a convention center. The ticket booth for Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (SGV) lake steamer terminal is located right beside the train station too. SGV operates several historic steamboat restorations that cruise Lake Lucerne. They also have breakfast and dinner cruises.
Visit Lucerne – Spreuer Bridge
Continuing on another few blocks leads to another medieval pedestrian bridge over the Reuss River – the Spreuer Bridge (Spreuer Brücke). This wooden bridge has pictures in its roof top by Kaspar Meglinger detailing the Dance of Death (Totentanz). The History Museum (Historisches Museum) is located at the south end of the Spreuer Bridge. The Rosengart Foundation is a three minute walk from the train station and exhibits include works by Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. The Franziskanerkirche church is found on the south side of the river.
Visit Lucerne – Old Town, Musegg Wall
Cross one of the medieval bridges to reach the Old Town on the north side of the Reuss River. The Old Town includes the Mühlenplatz, Sternenplatz, Weinmarkt, Hirschenplatz and Kornmarkt squares. Enjoy cobbled streets, fountains such as the Fritschi Fountain and the architecture of days gone by. City Hall (Rathaus) is located on the Kornmarkt. It was built in the 1350s. Bordering the northern edge of the Old Town is the Musegg Wall (Museggturme) where you can hike along the 14th century towers and remnants of the old city walls, while catching views of the city below. The Zyt Tower is one of the best known of Lucerne’s nine towers on the Musegg Wall.
Visit Lucerne – East Along the North Shore
Walk east from the Old Town along the north shore of Lake Lucerne for less than 10 minutes to reach another location to take a boat cruise. As you walk along the lake front, the Court Church of St. Leodegar (Hofkirche) is visible just a few minutes beyond the boat landing. This abbey is the city’s main cathedral. It was built in the 1600s and includes an altar to the Death of the Virgin. From the church, walk north along Lowenstrasse to the Bourbaki Panorama with its large panorama painting. Beside the Bourbaki Panorama is the Old Swiss House. The Old Swiss House dates back to 1858 and is best known as a family restaurant serving schnitzel. A few more minutes walk brings you to the Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), the Glacier Garden (Gletschergarten) and the Alpineum 3D Alpen Panorama. The Lion Monument is dedicated to the Swiss Guard who were killed in the French Revolution.
Visit Lucerne – See More Sights
Across the bay from downtown Lucerne, but still only a few minutes away by foot or a short steamboat ride is the Swiss Museum of Transport and the Hans Erni Museum. At the lakefront is the Lido Lucerne (Strandbad Lido Luzern) with an excellent and very popular beach.
Just west of the downtown on a terrace overlooking the city and Lake Lucerne is the Château Gütsch, which operates as a hotel and restaurant. The location can be reached by walking up or taking a short funicular ride.
A five minute cab ride south along the waterfront from the train station takes you to the Richard Wagner Museum. Enjoy a piano concert and visit the cabin overlooking the lake where Wagner did his composing.
Carnival Lucerne (Luzerner Fasnacht) – the Swiss version of Mardi Gras held during Lent.
Ruderwelt Luzern – annual World Rowing Cup held on the Rotsee, a natural lake shaped perfectly for rowing competitions.
See the Jesus Christ statue by Josef Vetter from the water on a boat tour or travel about 10 minutes by car from downtown to Meggenhorn Castle (Gemeinde Meggen) to see the statue from land.
Visit Lucerne – Hotels
Hotels near the train station in Lucerne are quite expensive. Consider staying elsewhere around Lake Lucerne or visit on a day trip from Zurich. AirBnB may also be a great option for Lucerne.
Hotel Des Alpes – in the heart of the Old Town on the Reuss River.
Seehotel Hermitage – Take a short ferry ride to the town of Hermitage and stay in a quality hotel with a lovely view that over looks Lake Lucerne.
Ibis Budget Hotel Luzern City – one of the least expensive and most popular budget hotels in Lucerne. It’s a long walk from the train station. Rooms are small. Breakfast is included.
Golden Round Trip – Cruise & Cog Train
The Golden Round Trip starts with either a train ride or a paddler steamer cruise on the Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (SGV) to Alpnachstad. The cruise runs hourly in the summer. Then cross the highway to the train station and catch the Pilatus Bahn, the steepest cog train in the world, up to the summit of Mount Pilatus (Pilatus Kulm). There are fabulous views of the Bernese Oberland Alsp to the south and Lucerne to the north. On the summit you will find several restaurants and a hotel.
Golden Round Trip – Gondola & Bus
For the third section of the Golden Round Trip, you take the Dragon Ride gondola down from the summit to Frakmuntegg and then the Panorama gondola down to Kriens. At the final gondola station, walk 10 minutes to the Kriens bus station. Finish off the Golden Round Trip on the #1 city bus ride back to Lucerne. The Swiss Travel Pass covers the boat ride from Lucerne to Alpnaschtad and the bus ride from Kriens to Lucerne, plus a 50% discount on the gondolas and cog train. There are more details about the Golden Round Trip on the Switzerland Train Trip blog.
Mount Rigi Day Trip from Lucerne
Start your day trip from Lucerne to Mount Rigi (Rigi Kulm) by taking a boat cruise to Vitznau on Lake Lucerne. Then take the Rigi Bahn cogwheel train to Mount Rigi. Mount Rigi is the “Queen of the Mountains”. The cog train is free with a Swiss Travel Pass. For your return, you have two options. You can descend the west side of Mount Rigi by gondola to Weggis. Then take the regular boat service back to Lucerne. The other option is to descend the east side of the Mount Rigi by cog train to Goldau. From there you can take the Swiss SBB Train back to Lucerne from the Arth-Goldau station. In summer you don’t really need a reservation to visit Mount Rigi, because all the trains, boats and gondolas run continuously.
Mount Titlis Day Trip from Lucerne
Travel an hour by train, south into the mountains to the town of Engelberg. Then ride the cog train followed by a gondola up to Mt. Titlis. The last section uses a round, revolving 80 person gondola. At the top, walk on the pedestrian only Titlis Cliff Walk.
Cabrio Gondola Day Trip
Ride the Cabrio Gondola on a Day Trip from Lucerne. The Cabrio is the world’s first convertible-style gondola that allows you to stand on top of the gondola in the open air. The Cabrio goes up Mount Stanserhorn in summer, but is closed in winter. Take a 20 minute train ride from Lucerne to Stans and then walk 5 minutes to the gondola. A valid Swiss Travel Card is worth 50% off on the gondola price.
Hammetschwand Lift Day Trip
Hammetschwand Lift – the highest exterior elevator in Europe, stands a little less than 500 feet tall and provides views of Lake Lucerne. It’s located near the Bürgenstock Resort. Take a boat on a day trip from Lucernce to Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock in summer and then you have two options. You can walk up the Felsenweg rock pathway for about 25 minutes to reach the base of the Hammetschwand Lift. Your other option at the ferry terminal is to take the funicular to the Bürgenstock Resort. From the resort, you can walk about an hour to the Hammetschwand Lift, arriving at the top of the elevator. You can then take the lift down on to the Felsenweg rock pathway to make a circle tour. A restaurant is open at the lift during the summer months.
Savor the Tastes of Lucerne
- The Fondue House – dip a variety of foods into a pot of melted cheese or chocolate.
- Old Swiss House Restaurant – Schnitzel, which is pounded meat coated in flour, beaten eggs and bread crumb coating.
- Check out the Lucerne Restaurant Guide.
Summer is the best time of year to visit Lucerne and enjoy Lake Lucerne. The city’s location at the base of the north side of the Alps means Lucerne weather is fairly cold in winter, but Lucerne doesn’t offer the winter ski setting that many areas of Switzerland are known for. Lucerne weather in summer has highs that average about 21 C (70 F) while summer lows average around 12 C (54 F). In winter the highs are just above freezing and the average lows are just below freezing. Rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year.
Get to Lucerne
Although there is an airport in Lucerne, the main way for tourists to get to Lucerne is by rail. Zürich is about one hour north of Lucerne and is the main point of entry to Switzerland for international air travel. The city of Basel is just over an hour to the northwest and is the southern terminus for Rhine River cruises to Amsterdam. To the south, it’s about two hours by rail to Interlaken and the heart of the Alps. That makes Lucerne an excellent stop regardless of whether a visit to Switzerland concentrates on culture, alpine vistas or river cruising. A Swiss Travel Pass is not only great for reaching Lucerne, but also gives discounts on cable cars and cog trains operating on the mountains around the town.
Visit Lucerne – Background
About 100,000 people live in Lucerne (Luzern). The city is on Lake Lucerne (the Vierwaldstaetter See) in the center of Switzerland. The Church of St. Leodegar was established here in the 700s. Lucerne joined with other neighboring towns in the 1300s to form the Swiss Confederacy in opposition to domination by the Hapsburgs. Devotion to Catholicism undermined its power as the rest of Switzerland converted to the Protestant faith. The French Revolution caused loss of life affecting Lucerne, which was the reason for the creation of the Lion Monument.