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Switzerland’s top tourist destinations include Grindelwald and Lucerne. There’s a reason both of these places are so popular; they’re both beautiful and filled with interesting things to do.
Here’s a helpful guide to deciding which place you’d rather visit. I’ve been to both Grindelwald and Lucerne, and they’re both beautiful. While Lucerne looks like Switzerland in miniature, with its lakes, old town, and mountains, Grindelwald also has a stunning view of the Eiger North Face and Wetterhorn.
Lucerne is a picturesque small town with a waterfront, shops, and mountains nearby. The village of Grindelwald, on the other hand, is a lively mountain resort village. Lucerne will be a better base if you want to visit Central Switzerland and the Lake Lucerne Region. Grindelwald will be a better base if you want to visit the Bernese Oberland region.
Grindelwald and Lucerne
Grindelwald and Lucerne are two well-known places in the heart of Switzerland. Both places are famous, each in its own way, and they’re surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Choosing between the two might be a challenge. You can pick either, but one might work better for you.
In this article, we’ll talk about both Grindelwald and Lucerne. Where should you stay when you visit Switzerland? Do we recommend staying in Grindelwald or Lucerne?
Here we look at the differences between Grindelwald and Lucerne, so you can decide which one you’d like to visit during your next visit to Switzerland if you have time for just one.
Key Differences: Grindelwald vs. Lucerne
The key differences between Grindelwald and Lucerne are as follows:
|Population: approx. 3,800
|Population: approx. 80,000
|Total Area: 171.28 km2 (66.13 sq mi)
|Total Area: 37.4 km²
|Elevation: 1,034 m (3,392 ft)
|Elevation: 435 m (1,427 ft)
|Large municipality in the Bernese Alps
|Popular tourist spot in Central Switzerland
|Highlights: Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake,
Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk,
Pfingstegg, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, Jungfraujoch
|Highlights: Chapel Bridge,
Lion Monument, Glacier Garden, Transport Museum, Bourbaki Panorama
|Lake: Bachalpsee Lake (First)
|River: Black Lütschine
Grindelwald is a famous mountain village in the Bernese Oberland, located at the foot of the Eiger (3,970 meters) and Wetterhorn (3,701 meters). Grindelwald is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Bernese Oberland.
The seven areas of Grindelwald are Bach, Grindel, Scheidegg, Wärgistal, Itramen, Bussalp, and Holzmatten. Each local person belongs to one of the seven areas (called Bergschaften in German), which are represented separately in the municipality.
Grindelwald Valley is characterized by soft green meadows and mountain forests on one side, and rocky walls and icy peaks of the Eiger, Schreckhorn, and Wetterhorn on the other. The alpine summer here is short, and as with many other alpine villages, they mow the grass and dry it for use as hay in winter. Due to rainfall, the north-facing slopes have abundant grass.
As recently as 1860, the Grindelwald Glacier reached the outskirts of the village. Between 1860 and 1914, glacier ice was mined and exported commercially. In this way, Grindelwald gained its second name “Glacier Village”. Unfortunately, millions of cubic meters of glacier ice have melted away in Grindelwald.
Grindelwald allows the same amount of livestock in winter and summer. A system like this is ecologically sound and prevents pastures from being overused. During the summer, a farmer can drive up the number of cows determined by the surface area. Cow rights are equal to one cow, four pigs, or eight goats. In Grindelwald, there are 2,174 cow rights and this number has remained constant for centuries.
There are many places to visit in and around Grindelwald. Some of the highlights of the Grindelwald region include Grindelwald First, Bachalpsee Lake, Schynige Platte, Grindelwald Glaciers, Grosse Scheidegg, First Cliff Walk, Männlichen, Eiger Glacier, and Jungfraujoch.
When visiting Switzerland, one of the best places to visit is the city of Lucerne (Luzern in German). It’s enjoyable at any time of year. In this city along the Reuss River, you can see the famous old wooden bridge, as well as Lake Lucerne with the Swiss Alps as a backdrop. A variety of shops and boutiques, as well as cafes and restaurants, make Lucerne’s old town ideal for shopping and sightseeing.
There is plenty to do in Lucerne, and you can stay for a few days if you wish. Its ideal location in Central Switzerland makes it a convenient base for day trips to many other parts of the country.
Places to Visit: Grindelwald vs. Lucerne
Places to Visit near Grindelwald
- Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Grindelwald by cable car. From Männlichen, you get a fantastic view of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau.
- Eiger Glacier – The Eiger Glacier lies on the northwest side of the Eiger Mountain. You can get to Eiger Glacier from Grindelwald with the Eiger Express.
- Jungfraujoch – The saddle between Jungfrau (at 4,158 m above sea level) and Mönch (at 4,110 m above sea level). It is also the location of the highest mountain railway in Europe at 3,454 meters above sea level.
- Grindelwald First – First is a minor summit on the slopes of the Schwarzhorn in the Bernese Oberland. Most people know it as a cable car station above Grindelwald. Aside from hikes, two activities that stand out in this area are the Grindelwald First Flyer and the Grindelwald First Glider. Both are available from July to October. For the safety of visitors, it is subject to weather conditions.
- Grindelwald First Flyer – The Grindelwald Flyer is an 800-meter zip line moving at 80 kilometers per hour. It starts in Scheckfeld and ends in Grindelwald.
- Grindelwald First Glider – This is another thrilling experience you should try. The strap is in the form of an eagle and is attached to a pulley. It also moves at a speed of 80 kph while offering spectacular views.
- Grindelwald First Cliff Walk – High walkway suspended from the side of the mountain offering fantastic valley views.
- Bachalpsee Lake – Walking there takes around 50 minutes from First. It’s so picturesque as you can see Schreckhorn reflecting in the lake.
- Upper Grindelwald Glacier – Between Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn, a vast snow field forms Upper Grindelwald Glacier (Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). Its glacier tongue is at 1,400 meters, and is one of the lowest glaciers in the Alps.
- Lower Grindelwald Glacier – Below Agassizhorn and Strahlegghörner lies the Lower Grindelwald Glacier (Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher in German). It is connected to the Finsteraar Glacier through the Finsteraarjoch.
- Grosse Scheidegg – At an altitude of 1,962 m, the Grosse Scheidegg passes across the col between Switzerland’s Schwarzhorn and Wetterhorn mountains. You can reach Grosse Scheidegg with the Grindelwald Bus in 25 minutes from Grindelwald.
- Pfingstegg – The starting point for hikes going to both glaciers in Grindelwald. You can reach Pfingstegg by cable car from Grindelwald. Additionally, there is a toboggan run and a fly line.
- Staubbach Waterfall – The Staubbach Waterfall is a waterfall in Switzerland located just west of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Highlands. It falls 297 meters from a valley overhanging the Weisse Lütschine, before the end of the overhanging cliff.
- Trümmelbach Waterfalls – There are ten glacier-fed waterfalls in Switzerland’s Trümmelbach Falls. It is accessible by a tunnel-funicular built back in 1913.
- Wengen – Wengen is 1,274 meters above sea level. On a terrace with a spectacular panorama, Wengen offers views of both Lauterbrunnen village below and the surrounding high mountains above. You can reach Wengen from Grindelwald via Männlichen or Zweilütschinen-Lauterbrunnen.
- Mürren – Mürren is positioned a bit higher than Wengen, at 1,645 meters above sea level. There are also spectacular views of the bottom of the valley, and the town is quiet and car-free. It is smaller than Wengen.
- Schilthorn – Is the summit above the village of Mürren and the highest mountain north of Sefinenfurgge Pass. It is around 2,970 meters above sea level.
- Stechelberg – Stechelberg is a small village located at the base of the Schwarzmönch mountain in the Bernese Alps.
- Mürrenbach Waterfall – In five cascades, Mürrenbach Waterfall drops 417 meters to the ground, making it Switzerland’s highest waterfall.
- Gimmelwald – A small car-free village, Gimmelwald is located between Stechelberg and Mürren. It is 1,363 meters above sea level.
- Kleine Scheidegg – Kleine Scheidegg is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 meters. It is located between Eiger and Lauberhorn. Kleine Scheidegg makes a great starting point for excursions to Jungfraujoch and Lauberhorn. It is also the meeting point of two rack railways.
Places to Visit near Lucerne
- Chapel Bridge – The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne is the city’s most famous landmark. This wooden bridge over the Reuss River is one of the oldest in Europe. The bridge was built in 1300 as part of the city walls. Even though it burned down and got badly damaged, it was rebuilt in 1994.
- Old Town – You can wander around restaurants and boutiques in Lucerne’s Old Town. Apart from the Chapel Bridge, you have the Spreuer Bridge crossing the Reuss River. Nearby is a beautiful Jesuit church.
- Verkehrshaus – The Transport Museum in Switzerland is one of the most visited museums in the country. At Verkehrshaus, you’ll see cars, ships, submarines, planes, trains, trams, and cable cars. In addition to transport exhibits, there’s also a Planetarium, a Swiss Chocolate Adventure, a Communications area, and a 2D or 3D Film Theater.
- Lion Monument – The Lion Monument was created by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1821 to honor the Swiss Guards who lost their lives during the revolutionary siege of Paris on August 10th, 1792. It was in vain that the Swiss Guards tried to keep King Louis XVI alive, and they paid the price by dying. In the monument, a dying lion lies across broken pieces of the French monarchy.
- Glacier Garden – The Lucerne Glacier Garden has some impressive glacier potholes from the last ice age 20,000 years ago, proving that Lucerne was covered in glaciers then. Shell fossils and palm leaves show that there was a subtropical sea beach here 20 million years ago.
- Bourbaki Panorama – Featured in this 360-degree panorama is a scene depicting the retreat of General Bourbaki’s army in the Swiss Alps in 1871. This is one of the largest panorama paintings in the world.
- Bürgenstock Hammetschwand (1,115 meters) – famous for the exclusive Bürgenstock Resort and the Hammetschwand Lift which is the highest, free-standing outdoor lift in Europe. Overlooks Lake Lucerne and can be accessed with a ferry and funicular.
- Stanserhorn (1,849 meters) – has an open upper deck cable car leading guests up the mountain and amazing views of Lucerne.
- Pilatus (2,073 meters) – has the steepest cogwheel railway in the world with a maximum gradient of 48% and a 30-minute ride
- Rigi Scheidegg (1,643 meters) and Rigi Kulm (1,752 meters) – are popular to visit due to the numerous ways you can reach it from Vitznau, Arth-Goldau, Weggis, Gersau, Goldau, and Küssnacht SZ.
Advantages: Grindelwald vs. Lucerne
Advantages of Staying in Grindelwald
- Grindelwald is closer to the mountains and beautiful hiking trails. Choose it over Lucerne if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
- Grindelwald is closer to the mountains in the Jungfrau Region. Choose it if you want to visit the mountains near and around Jungfraujoch.
- Grindelwald offers a wider selection of apartments. However, Lucerne has more hotels and restaurants compared to Grindelwald.
- Grindelwald is better if you plan to ski a lot. It is right on the Grindelwald-Wengen and Grindelwald-First winter sports area. The Mürren-Schilthorn ski area is also nearby. The ski resorts in and near Grindelwald are bigger than the ski resorts near Lucerne.
- Grindelwald is better if you plan to spend most of the time outdoors. Some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Bernese Oberland region can be found here. Grindelwald is surrounded by more glaciers and the Eiger Express only takes 20 minutes to reach the Eiger Glacier.
- The mountains around Grindelwald offer some more adventurous activities – First Flyer, First Glider, Tobogganing on Pfingstegg, and Fly Line of Pfingstegg.
- Grindelwald has a mountain village feel, whereas Lucerne feels more like a proper town.
Advantages of Staying in Lucerne
- Lucerne appeals to all age groups and is a wonderful destination any time of year.
- Lucerne is easier to get to from Zurich by train.
- Lucerne is closer to the mountains in Central Switzerland. Choose it if you want to visit mountains such as Rigi, Pilatus, or Titlis.
- Lucerne has more hotels and restaurants compared to Grindelwald. However, Grindelwald offers a wider selection of apartments.
- Lucerne is better if you plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. The transport museum Verkehrshaus is so large that you can easily spend a whole day wandering through it.
- One of Switzerland’s best swimming spots is the lake in Lucerne. In the summer, Lucerne is a better swimming destination than Grindelwald. You can also do kite surfing, sailing, boat cruising, kayaking, diving, and Standup paddleboarding.
- Although there are ski areas near Lucerne, such as Klewenalp – Stockhütte, Engelberg Titlis, or Sörenberg, these are smaller ski resorts compared to the Jungfrau Ski Region Grindelwald – Wengen. Choose Lucerne if you would rather go to a smaller ski resort than a larger one.
Hotels: Grindelwald vs. Lucerne
While Lucerne offers a greater variety of hotel accommodations, Grindelwald offers more apartment options. Listed below are some recommended hotels in both regions:
Hotels in Grindelwald
- Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald (5-star) – A 100-meter walk from the train station, Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald boasts panoramic views of the Eiger, an indoor pool, and gourmet cuisine. The hotel also has a lounge bar and nicely furnished rooms.
- Belvedere Swiss Quality Hotel (4-star-superior) – A beautiful 4-star superior hotel located just a few minutes from the center of Grindelwald, Belvedere Swiss Quality Hotel is a great place to stay. Among its amenities are a gourmet restaurant, a piano bar, an indoor pool, and a spa. During the winter season, there is a private ski bus.
- Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort (4-star) – Within a 2-minute walk of First Grindelwald, Bergwelt Grindelwald – Alpine Design Resort has a 24-hour front desk and room service. This 4-star hotel also offers concierge services, allergy-friendly rooms, a bar, and free WiFi throughout the hotel. Guests can enjoy its outdoor pool, indoor pool, fitness center, garden, and restaurant year-round.
- Derby Swiss Quality Hotel (3-star-superior) – Right by the train station, this 3-star superior hotel offers alpine-style rooms and a rich breakfast. For half-board guests, the hotel offers a four-course meal served in the dining room. The hotel also has an à la carte restaurant serving local Bernese cuisine.
- Hotel PINTE (3-star) – Hotel PINTE is a modern chalet-style hotel located 2 minutes from Grindelwald First. Grindelwald’s train station is also nearby. In addition to an indoor pool and a spa, the hotel offers a 24-hour front desk as well as a continental breakfast.
- Hotel Caprice – Grindelwald (3-star) – This hotel is very conveniently located near the train station, making it a wonderful choice. It is only a few steps away from cable cars and buses. The hotel offers modern, clean, and comfortable rooms with fantastic views of the Eiger. Additionally, the hotel offers a spa. You can get breakfast and snacks here. You will need to go somewhere else for lunch and dinner, but they can offer you a discount on a 5-course meal at a nearby hotel (Hotel Alpina).
Hotels in Lucerne
- Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (5-star) – Directly on the lake, this refined hotel is located in the old town of Lucerne. You’ll also find a gym, a spa, and modern furniture amid elegant interiors. A 10-minute walk gets you to the train station.
- Grand Hotel National Luzern (5-star) – A luxurious hotel built in the 1870s. Close to the train station and the historic old town, this hotel has elegant interiors, fantastic lake views, and a swimming pool.
- Hermitage Lake Lucerne (4-star) – Set on the shores of Lake Lucerne, this tranquil hotel is a great place to relax. While it’s a little outside of the city, it has stunning views and refined restaurants. There’s also a beach club with daybeds, lounges, drinks, snacks, and cool music. Party boats are available to rent or you can take public boats that stop right outside the hotel. My family has stayed here and has loved it. I highly recommend it.
- AMERON Luzern Hotel Flora (4-star) – Near the train station and the Chapel Bridge, this hotel has chic rooms and a great breakfast.
- Hotel Rebstock (4-star) – A historic, half-timbered hotel dating from the late Middle Ages, Hotel Rebstock is one of the 16 Unique and Historical Hotels in Switzerland. It is ideally located near the Hof Church, the Lion Monument, and the Glacier Garden.
- Hotel Central Luzern (3-star) – In a central location near the train station, the chapel bridge, the old town, and the Rosengart Collection, Hotel Central Luzern offers bright, clean, recently renovated rooms, as well as a delicious breakfast. The rooms are reasonably priced. As a result of the hotel’s central location, you might hear some noise at night.
- Backpackers Luzern (Hostel) – The Backpackers Luzern is on the shores of Lake Lucerne, in a quiet area. Besides free kitchen facilities and WiFi, this charming hostel has a common lounge area with table tennis and table soccer. Each room has comfortable beds and a balcony. Walking to Lucerne’s train station takes less than 15 minutes.
Final Thoughts: Grindelwald vs. Lucerne
I would consider the following as a starting point: what kind of traveler are you? Is your style more relaxed and chill? Then Lucerne is the place for you. In addition to its pretty old town, you can explore nearby mountains and towns. Would you prefer hiking in the Swiss Alps and discovering the mountains? If you answered yes, then go for Grindelwald. By enjoying the natural wonders of the Grindelwald region, you will be able to forget the stresses of life and be one with nature.
Here are some quick notes about both areas:
- The mountains around Grindelwald (Jungfrau Region) are higher than the ones around Lucerne.
- Both have plenty of pretty towns and cities nearby to choose from.
- Both have a variety of hotels and apartments to choose from on varying budgets.
- There are more shopping and restaurant choices in Lucerne.
For most visitors, Lucerne is the most suitable option by default. A variety of activities can be enjoyed in and around Lucerne at any time of year, and it is ideal for people of all ages. As a fan of the Swiss Alps, hiking, and skiing, I would personally rather stay in Grindelwald than Lucerne.
Grindelwald is known for its mountains and the great outdoors, while Lucerne has a large lake, nearby mountains, shopping, culture, and museums. Whichever choice you make, you won’t regret it. The two locations are equally picturesque and well worth a visit.
Related Posts: Grindelwald
- Zurich to Grindelwald Train: All You Need To Know
- Geneva to Grindelwald Train: All You Need To Know
- Where Is Eiger Express? Here Is an Overview
- Wengen, Switzerland: 8 Reasons To Love It
- Jungfrau and Jungfraujoch: What Is the Difference?
- Jungfraujoch – When is the Best Time to Visit?
- 10 Best Things To Do In Thun, Bernese Oberland
- Ultimate List of Steamboats in Switzerland’s Lakes
- Swiss Alps – The Ultimate Guide
- Breathtaking Views in Männlichen, Switzerland
Related Posts: Lucerne
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- Closest Mountains To Visit From Lucerne
- 10 Beautiful Places Near Lucerne
- 9 Best Things To Do in Lucerne, Switzerland
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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.