Glacier Garden Lucerne (Gletschergarten Luzern in German) is a popular tourist attraction in Lucerne, Switzerland that features a unique geological formation from the region’s glacial past. Lucerne used to exist under a thick ice sheet 20,000 years ago. When the Reuss glacier melted, glacial pots remained. Some of these glacial pots can be found at Glacier Garden Lucerne.
It might be hard to imagine what you’ll find in Glacier Garden Lucerne. So here’s an honest review about what it’s like, what you can expect to see, and if it’s worth going to.
In the Glacier Garden, you can learn all about the geological history of Lucerne and its surroundings. Besides the glacier pots, there’s a lot more in this place. They’ve got a Swiss House, a mirror maze, an alpine park, a sandstone pavilion, and a rock portal called Felsenwelt.
Here’s what you can expect at the Glacier Garden in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Glacier Garden: A Short History
The remains of ice were discovered in 1872 when a pit, called the giants’ cauldron, was dug during construction. A year after, these potholes were transformed into a tourist attraction. It was May 1st, 1873 when the Swiss entrepreneur Amrhein-Troller opened his Glacier Garden. At the time, Lucerne was modernizing. And the city was getting ready for tourists.
1859 was the year the Lucerne train station opened. Right near the lake, they started building a quay. They finished it in 1871. Then the hotels started popping up one by one. You still see them today – Schweizerhof, National, Europe, and Palace.
Glacier Garden filled a need no other tourist attraction could. They let you experience glaciers without ever having to go up any mountains. Remember, not everyone was into going to the mountains back then. The trains and cable cars weren’t running until later, too. Pilatus opened in 1889, and Stanserhorn in 1893. Trains to Engelberg started operating in 1898. The mountains and glaciers weren’t as accessible back then as they are now.
The glacier potholes, the alpine park, and mountain exhibits also provided an alternative when the weather wasn’t great.
Things to Do at the Glacier Garden
Glacier Potholes (Gletschertöpfe)
The history of Glacier Garden can be traced to the last age which ended a long time ago. During the ice age, glaciers covered the area that we know as Lucerne today. In fact, there used to be an 800-meter-thick blanket of ice covering Switzerland. It was during this glacial age that the potholes formed.
As such, Lucerne was covered in thick ice during the last Ice Age. These glaciers went back as the world warmed up, leaving lakes, moraine hills, and glacier potholes.
Many potholes have been discovered along the sides of this first glacial mill after the first one was found in 1872. Directly after entering the Glacier Garden Lucerne, you’ll see these 16 glacier potholes. Deep pits and passages were carved into the rock by glaciers that once covered the area.
These glacial potholes in Glacier Garden Lucerne are a unique geological feature that is not easily found anywhere else in the world.
You could see the reminders of the Ice Age with the smooth rocks, glacial potholes, and boulders with irregular shapes. This swirling pit of rock eroded by glacial water is a Swiss Natural Monument. You can walk through the glacial potholes on a wooden platform.
Swiss House (Schweizerhaus)
The Amrein-Troller family, owners of Glacier Garden, moved into the house in 1874. When Joseph Amrein-Troller died, his wife expanded the house and added a museum. The Swiss House has geological artifacts, lavish furniture, topographic maps of mountains, geological specimens, and other household items.
When you enter the Swiss House, you can see a multimedia portrait of Marie Amrein-Troller. The staircase is adorned with family portraits, and above it is an 1800s painting of the Glacier Gardens.
There is a three-dimensional relief of the mountains of Central Switzerland in the basement. It is the world’s first three-dimensional model of mountains. Franz Ludwig von Pfyffer von Wyher was the man behind it.
Alhambra Hall of Mirrors (Spiegellabyrinth)
There’s also the Mirror Labyrinth (Spiegellabyrinth in German), which was inspired by the architecture of the Alhambra in Andalusia. This Alhambra-inspired Hall of Mirrors at the Glacier Garden was originally built for the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva in 1896 and moved to Lucerne in 1899.
The mirror maze may create an optical illusion and cause confusion, but it is really fun to do. The Mirror Labyrinth has more than 50 mirrors. You can do it with your family or friends. You may wish to assist young children in navigating the mirror maze.
The Rock World (Felsenwelt)
The Glacier Garden sits at the foot of a big sandstone cliff. Through the first tunnel, the rocks tell the story of their formation. They estimate the rocks are 20 million years old.
People can walk inside the rock and learn about how Lucerne sandstone formed in the primeval sea before becoming a rock mass. You will see how sandstone formed near the sea and opened up in the mountains during the Ice Age. Also, there will be light projections projected onto the rocks.
Alpine Park (Alpenpark)
A green oasis in the middle of the city, the Glacier Garden Lucerne is full of alpine plants and ferns. It is a little oasis of calm in a busy city. Walking along, you get to a garden where you can relax in the summer.
The idea was to let people see the Alpine world without going far. It also has some waterfalls, granite rocks, an alpine hut, and a viewing tower.
Lucerne can be seen from the viewing tower. Visitors can also enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains from Glacier Garden’s observation deck.
Sandstone Pavilion, Shop, and Restaurant
When we visited, the Sandstone Pavilion was being built from excavated sandstone. It is supposed to house temporary exhibitions.
You can find a small souvenir shop on the ground floor of the Swiss house. It’s got local goods, Mammut toys, and more. Bistro Salwideli serves hotdogs, regional food, seasonal snacks, and drinks.
Glacier Garden Lucerne: How To Get There
Glacier Garden of Lucerne entrance is next to The Lion of Lucerne, a relief figure of a reclining feline carved into a sheer sandstone wall. This monument honors the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792. A few steps from the Glacier Garden is the Bourbaki Panorama, a circular painting that depicts the retreat of the French army to neutral Switzerland.
The easiest way to get to the Glacier Garden of Lucerne is to take the train. When you get out of the train station, cross the bridge to the other side of the city. Follow the quay to Löwenstrasse. Turn right at Löwenplatz and walk north past the Lion Monument to Glacier Garden.
|Train||Luzern (15-minute walk)|
|Boat||Luzern Bahnhofquai (13-minute walk)|
Final Thoughts: Is Glacier Garden Worth Visiting?
With the glacier garden, there was a tourist attraction in a convenient location that still gave you an alpine world experience without having to travel further. The garden offers a unique experience that combines nature, history, geography, and science, making it an ideal destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. Children can also take part in a quiz and receive a prize.
Admission to the gardens is reasonable, and all attractions are included. Additionally, Glacier Garden Lucerne is well-maintained and clean, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
A trip to Lucerne wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Glacier Garden. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of things you can find in the Glacier Garden. In my opinion, the Glacier Garden in Lucerne is definitely worth visiting.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.