Discovering Lucerne

Lucerne is always a pleasure. The sunshine sparkles on the lake and visitors stroll along the water’s edge, relaxed and happy to be on holiday in such a beautiful spot. Wander through the Old Town and enjoy the painted houses, whose façades often depict the functions of the building in times gone by – guild halls, apothecaries, mills and breweries. The decorated buildings are utterly charming and add to the historic atmosphere of this picturesque town. As well as the history however, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of activities, visit the mountains, make the most of the lake, relax in waterside cafés, browse in the shops and savour some excellent cuisine. Read on for a few of our favourite things to do in lovely Lucerne.

Chapel Bridge, symbol of Lucerne

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne

Chapel Bridge, Lucerne

The famous landmark of Lucerne, the charming Chapel Bridge crosses the River Reuss and is probably the most photographed sight in town. A covered wooden bridge has stood here for over 650 years, allowing citizens to cross the water and originally forming part of the fortifications. In the 17th century a series of 158 panelled paintings were added, depicting the glorious history of the Swiss Confederacy. You can’t miss the imposing octagonal Water Tower, which forms part of the Chapel Bridge structure and was erected around 1295. It originally served as a lookout post, prison, armoury and finally the home of the town’s archives until 1919.

Sadly, the bridge was devasted by a fire in 1993, with just the two bridgeheads and the Water Tower unaffected. However, so integral to Lucerne’s identity is the bridge that it was rebuilt in just 8 months - and is today cherished by residents and visitors alike. 

Cruising on the lake

Lucerne lake cruise

Lucerne lake cruise

You’re never far from the water in Lucerne. The River Reuss runs through the centre of town, and then of course there’s beautiful Lake Lucerne. One of Switzerland’s larger lakes, Lucerne stretches in fjord like fingers from Lucerne at one end to Flüelen at the other. It is an unforgettable sight, ringed by mountains and with numerous lakeside villages dotted by the shore.

We cannot recommend a lake cruise highly enough! This is a wonderful experience – sit back, relax with a drink from the bar and soak up the unbeatable scenery all around you. The lake fleet comprises several sleek motor boats, panoramic yachts and a number of restored paddle steamers. These historic, elegant vessels are a real joy on which to sail, with inside and outdoor seating, on board catering and a 1st class lounge. You can even watch the pristine turbine in action.

Whichever boat you cruise on, you are bound to enjoy the view. Choose to stay on board for a full round trip of the lake or hop off at one of the villages for lunch or an onwards trip into the mountains. For something special, why not book Wine and Dine cruise available on Saturday evenings during the summer.  

Lucerne's record beating mountains

CabriO open top cable car to the Stanserhorn

CabriO open top cable car to the Stanserhorn

The mountains which ring Lake Lucerne are not only a beautiful sight, but they also boast a number of world records. People have been fascinated by the mountains for centuries and since Victorian times engineers have been working on ingenious ways to allow visitors to easily ascend them.

You can enjoy all of these during your holiday in Lucerne:

Mount Rigi: world’s first cogwheel railway

The opening in 1871 marked the beginning of alpine tourism, with visitors able to make their way up to the stunning Rigi views by rail. Today it’s no longer powered by steam, but the cogwheel railway works as well as ever for a splendid day out on the ‘Queen of Mountains’.

Mount Pilatus: world’s steepest cogwheel railway

There are a few different routes to visit Pilatus, but one of the most thrilling is the cogwheel railway, with its 48% gradient. Departing from Alpnachstad, it climbs to the summit in 30 minutes. On arrival you can follow a walking trail or enjoy a meal with views over Lake Lucerne.

Stanserhorn: world’s first open top cable car

A cable car ride is always a treat, but how about travelling on a double decker version, with an open upper deck? What a way to feel the wind in your hair! The CabriO cabins are pulled by cables that pass either side and have stabilisers to counteract any swaying motion, so you really feel like you’re floating.  

Stoos: world’s steepest funicular

Take a day to explore the picturesque car free village of Stoos with its mountain trails and picnic spots. An exciting way to get there is on the funicular which opened in 2017 and effortlessly transports you along the 1740m track – at some points smoothly overcoming a gradient of 110%!

Chocolate!

Max Chocolatier

Max Chocolatier

Switzerland is of course well known for its chocolate and strolling around the streets of Lucerne you will come across a wonderful selection of chocolatiers and patisseries offering elegant – and always delicious – treats. One of the most famous boutiques is Max Chocolatier’s in the Schweizerhofquai where the sights and smells of the chocolates will overwhelm you in the dreamiest way. You will also find artisan chocolates at Läderach Chocolatier near the Chapel Bridge, and there are plenty of smaller boutiques throughout the town. Head to Heini for the famous Lozärner Rägetröpfli – Lucerne Raindrops – which are delicate pralines in the shape of raindrops, filled with kirsch. There are several branches of Bachmann bakeries, where you will find irresistible treats including colourful macaroons.

For a longer chocolate excursion, we recommend the Lindt Chocolate Adventure at the nearby Transport Museum: discover where your cocoa beans come from and how the chocolate is made. Or you could take the train to Kilchberg on Lake Zurich (50 minutes) and tour the factory at the Lindt Home Of Chocolate. Naturally, there are plenty of opportunities to taste the chocolate and buy souvenirs.

The charm of Lucerne

Painted building in Lucerne's Old Town

Painted building in Lucerne's Old Town

Lucerne is of course a pleasure to wander around and see what delights await you around every corner. If you are interested in guided tours, there are a couple of options. There are 2 hour guided walks (with English speaking guide) on Saturdays. You will hear about the history of Lucerne and discover hidden alleys, painted historical buildings and the 13th century Musegg Wall with its ramparts and towers which protect the Old Town. You will also visit the famous sights of the Chapel Bridge, the elegant Jesuit Church and the KKL cultural centre located by the boat station. The Lucerne Visitor Card provided by your hotel gives you a small discount on the cost of the tour.

Alternatively, you can download the free Official Audio Tour of Lucerne app. Follow a set tour with plenty of information as you go, or as the individual sights are clearly marked, you can also create your own route. If you prefer, you can download the tour so that it can be followed off-line at your leisure.

Dive in

Swimming in Lake Lucerne

Swimming in Lake Lucerne

Some people cannot see that beautiful lake without wanting to dive straight in. Dotted along the shore are informal bathing areas, but you may wish to head for one of the main swimming locations available in Lucerne. We can recommend the Seebad Lucerne, located in the heart of the city. The Seebad (literally ‘lake pool’) was originally built for bathing in 1885 and the modern version offers two courtyard pools with access to the open lake. In the summer you can swim until 8pm and watch the sun set from the bar. Further along the lake is the Lido, with its lake swimming, sandy beach stretching for 300m, sunbathing areas, children’s play area and restaurant. You can also try your hand at stand up paddleboarding here, but best of all is the magnificent view of Mount Pilatus and the Bürgenstock. You may also like to take to the water at the Weggis Lido, or for an alpine swimming experience, head to the small Lake Seelisberg at the foot of the Niederbauen. Even at 738m altitude, the water can still be a pleasant 20 degrees in summer. 

More ways to enjoy the lake

Lakeside Promenade, Lucerne

Lakeside Promenade, Lucerne

A lakeside promenade follows the water from the station in the centre of Lucerne to the Hotel Seeburg and takes around 50 minutes when enjoyed as a gentle stroll. The best-known section of the promenade is from the Schweizerhofquai to the Nationalquai, with the Kurplatz and its music pavilion lying between them. During the summer months, you can enjoy a game of boccia or listen to concerts: brass bands and music clubs play for the public on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday mornings. Continue on the route of the promanade, passing the Grand Hotel National and Casino Luzern to reach the historic Seebad swimming pool, then further out of the centre to the Swiss Museum of Transport. Keep following the promenade alongside the lake to the Lido, then on to Seeburgstrasse – you’ll have great views all the way. If you prefer not to walk back, you can hop on the bus back to the town centre, or sail back across the lake from the Transport Museum landing stage.

Another way to enjoy the lake in the city environs is to take out a pedalo or little motorboat. These are available for hire from April to October at the Schwanenplatz. You’ll have half an hour on the water, with great views of the city in one direction and the mountains in the other. 

The Swiss Trail

Tell's Chapel, on the Swiss Trail

Tell's Chapel, on the Swiss Trail

Whether you’re a keen walker or just fancy a scenic stroll, you are sure to enjoy the famous Swiss Trail: the historic path with hugs the southern end of the lake. The entire panoramic path is 35 kilometres long and connects Rütli (birthplace of Swiss Federation) with the town of Brunnen – both of which can be easily reached from Lucerne. It has been designed so that you can easily walk some of the shorter 3-8 km sections and connect to other sections via public transport if you wish.

The Trail will take you through cool forests and gift you with magical moments where you round a corner to discover a dazzling vista over the lake. With historic sights en route including Belrodingen Castle, Tell’s Chapel and the Schiller Stone and information boards throughout, walkers will learn about the rich history, myths and culture of the heartland of Switzerland. This is the setting for the tale of Wilhelm Tell and where in 1291 the neighbouring cantons first agreed to form a confederation. In fact, the Swiss Trail was created in 1991 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

Rainy day? Plenty of museums

Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne

Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne

Lucerne boasts plenty of museums, with something to interest everyone, from works by Picasso and Klee to finds from the Stone Age to historical trains and carriages. If you are interested in exploring a few museums, you can purchase the Lucerne Museum Pass locally which allows you to visit 9 museums over two consecutive days. If you already hold a Swiss Travel Pass, then entry to 8 museums is included, with a 50% reduction for the Museum of Transport.

The most visited museum in the whole country, the highlight for many is the superb Swiss Museum Of Transport. This is an interactive museum with more than 3000 exhibits, taking a fascinating look at the development of transport by road, rail, water and air. In the complex there’s also a fantastic planetarium and the Swiss Chocolate Adventure. The Glacier Garden in the Old Town allows you to travel back in time to discover the glaciers which covered the region in the Ice Age of 20,000 years ago – and further back to when subtropical palm beaches made up the Swiss landscape 20 million years ago!

There are plenty of other museums in Lucerne – of particular note are the Art Museum, the History Museum and the Nature Museum. Arts lovers will also enjoy the Richard Wagner Museum, the Hans Erni Museum and the Rosengart Collection. 

Read more about holidays in Lucerne

We have a wide choice of hotels in Lucerne all of whom we have worked with for a number of years. Our specialist team will help you find the best fit for your requirements – please call 0800 619 1200. Below are guide prices including flights, transfers, bed & breakfast accommodation and the Half Fare Card. Free night offers and further discounts may apply on certain dates.

Hotel Waldstätterhof, Lucerne

4 nights from £649pp

Centrally located

3*+ Waldstätterhof

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Hotel Wilden Mann, Lucerne

4 nights from £768pp

Old Town charm

4* Hotel Wilden Mann

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Hotel Seeburg, Lucerne

4 nights from £736pp

Quieter lakeside views

4* Hotel Seeburg

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