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Even though Lucerne is quite small, it is a city that shouldn’t be missing on any Switzerland itinerary. Lucerne is known for its spectacular setting – right on the shores of Lake Lucerne and surrounded by Alpine mountains – and is perfectly located right in the heart of Switzerland. Ideally, you’ll want to spend a few days here, so that you have enough time to explore a bit of both: mountains and the lake, and of course the attractions in the city itself.
Lucerne is also a great base if you want to visit further away places in Switzerland, such as Mount Jungfraujoch, which has Europe’s highest railway station and is home to Great Aletsch Glacier, Mount Titlis, where highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe opened in 2012, or Interlaken, one of the most picturesque towns in Switzerland. Lucerne has excellent train connections to other places in the country.
In this compact Lucerne travel guide I am sharing the best things to do in Lucerne, where to eat and drink in Lucerne, where to stay in Lucerne, and the best day places to visit on a day trip from Lucerne.
Lucerne Travel Guide: What To Do, Where To Eat, Where To Sleep
What To Do In Lucerne
Visit the Old Town – Any trip to Lucerne should start with a stroll around the medieval Old Town. It is impossible not to be charmed by Lucerne’s Old Town with its beautiful houses, painted facades, cobble stone streets, and delightful little shops. The Old Town is completely free of car traffic – spend an afternoon wandering the streets, shop, and eat some delicious Swiss food.
Visit the old city wall (Museggmauer), part of which was built in 1386, and which is still in great condition. You can climb four out of the nine towers of the wall: Schirmer, Zyt, Wacht and Männli. They are open from 8am to 7pm between 1 April and 1 November. Look out for Zytturm, a clocktower with a colorful clock face that dates back to 1535 and is Lucerne’s oldest city clock!
Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) – Lucerne’s most famous landmarks is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe, dating back to the 14th century. The bridge is 200 meters long. When you walk it, make sure to look up, to marvel at the ceiling pediments, which are triangular 17th-century paintings depicting events from Lucerne’s history.
Spreuer Bridge: Even though not as famous as the Chapel Bridge, the Spreuer Bridge cannot be missed on a visit to Lucerne. The Spreuer Bridge dates back to the 15th century, and similar to the Chapel Bridge it has a roof, truss design and paintings on its ceiling pediments.
The Lion Monument – One of Lucerne’s most visited landmarks, the Lion Monument is a rock relief of a dying lion, carved into what used to be a sandstone quarry. It was created in the 1820s to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792.
Cruise Lake Lucerne – This stunningly beautiful lake is surrounded by mountains on all sides and is best enjoyed from the deck of a paddle steamer. There are daily cruises on Lake Lucerne.
The Rosengart Collection – If you love art, don’t miss this collection of 200+ artworks by famous painters such as Picasso (50 paintings), Paul Klee (125 paintings), Cézanne, Chagall, Miró and many others. Opening times: April–October: daily 10am – 6pm; November–March: daily 11am–5pm.
Visit Mount Rigi for spectacular views – This nearly 7,000 feet (2,128 meters) high mountain is just south of Lucerne, and the views from the top are a highlight of any trip to Switzerland. You can see three different lakes from the top: Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz. Take the world’s steepest cogwheel railway (open May-November) to get to the top, and the aerial cable car to get back down.
Mount Pilatus – One of the most scenic peaks in Switzerland (6,995 feet / 2,132 meters), and a fun day trip from Lucerne, which includes taking the boat from Lucerne to Aplnachstad, followed by the cogwheel train to the Pilatus, a cable car ride to Fräkmüntegg and finally the gondola to Kriens. Of course you can also walk, which takes about four to five hours. The Dragon Path is a stunning hiking trail.Visit Rütli meadow – Lucerne is also a perfect base if you want to visit Rütli meadow, a beautiful meadow overlooking Lake Lucerne, which is known as the birthplace of Switzerland.
Where to stay in Lucerne
For the most authentic Swiss experience, I recommend staying in one of the many serviced apartments in Luzerne, Switzerland. They are usually more affordable than hotels, but more importantly, they have more character than sterile hotel rooms. Especially if you want to spend more than a few days in Lucerne you’ll appreciate amenities like a fully equipped kitchen. The apartments are all conveniently located in the city center.
Where to eat & drink in Lucerne
Here are some of the best restaurant and bars in Lucerne:
- Mill’Feuille (Mühlenplatz 6) – start your day here with a traditional hearty Swiss breakfast
- Wirtshaus Taube (Burgerstrasse 3) – for traditional Stunggis, a lamb and vegetable stew that Lucerne is famous for
- Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern (Kornmarkt 4) – traditional swiss dishes with lovely river views. Try the cheese fondue
- Scala (Adligenswilerstrasse 22, inside Hotel Montana) – if you want to splurge, head to this GaultMillau gourmet restaurant which combines regional Swiss, French and Italian cuisine and offers fantastic views over the mountains and Lake Lucerne
- Chäs Barmettler(Hertensteinstrasse 2) – one of the last remaining cheese shops in Lucerne. Pick up a quiche to eat on-the-go or some cheese for a mountain picnic.
- Café Heini (several locations) – a local café chain that is famous for its divine cakes and confectionary
- Max Chocolatier (Schweizerhofquai 2) – for handmade artisan Swiss chocolate
- Jazzkantine (Grabenstrasse 8) – cocktails, delicious Italian food and live jazz
- Rathaus Brauerei (Unter der Egg 2) – you can get local beers and Swiss dishes in this historic brewery
For more restaurant recommendations, check out Culture Trip’s 10 Best Restaurants In Lucerne, Switzerland
Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Chapel Bridge by Beat Küng; (2) Mount Pilatus by Paula Funnell; (3) Pfistern by Neil Alexander McKee (4) Cheese fondue by Linda de Volder