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The small city of Lucerne sits in the heart of Switzerland amidst the fjord-like blue lake and majestic mountains. Lucerne is one of the first places people want to see when they’re in Switzerland. But is Lucerne worth a visit? Or is it all hype? Find out more below.
Is Lucerne Worth Visiting?
The picturesque setting, accessibility, and wide range of activities in Lucerne will appeal to people of all ages.
Lucerne is a great place to start your trip to Switzerland. It’s also great all year round. With the famous old wooden bridge on the lake, plus the Alps as a backdrop, this city along the Reuss River is picture-perfect. Lucerne’s old town is perfect for shopping or sightseeing with its many shops and boutiques, as well as cafes and restaurants.
Lucerne is worth the visit, and you can stay for a few days. You can also take day trips to many places in Central Switzerland from here. The city of Lucerne (Luzern in German) is one of the best places to visit when you visit Switzerland.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect from Lucerne.
1. Lucerne has a beautiful and compact city center
The small size of Lucerne makes it very compact and walkable. It is easy and comfortable to explore Lucerne on foot. The Lion Monument, Chapel Bridge, and Glacier Garden are all within walking distance of each other. As the streets are flat, it is very easy to walk to the spots. And while you might see tourists walking around, there isn’t a huge crowd like Las Ramblas in Barcelona or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Some might find it pricey, but you can just walk around and enjoy the free sights.
The Chapel Bridge is one of the most famous sights in Lucerne. It dates from 1300 when it was a part of the city wall. The Chapel Bridge crosses the Reuss on both sides and is an example of one of Europe’s oldest wooden bridges. Though badly damaged and burnt due to fire, it was rebuilt in 1994 according to its original design.
Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen created the Lion Monument in 1820 as a tribute to the hundreds of Swiss Guards who died during the revolutionary siege in Paris on the 10th of August 1792. The Swiss Guards paid the price for their bravery by dying while trying to save Louis XVI. A dying lion lies across broken symbols of the French monarchy in this monument.
2. Lucerne is close to the Swiss Alps
There are lots of mountains around Lucerne, but these three stand out: Titlis in Engelberg, Rigi, and Pilatus.
- Titlis – Titlis has one of the highest peaks in Central Switzerland, at 3,238 meters. You can get there by cable car from Engelberg. Summertime in this area is great for hiking, biking, and mountaineering. In winter, it’s a ski and freeride mecca. People who want something high altitude should head over to Titlis in Engelberg, which has a glacier. If you want to see snow even in the summer, Titlis Glacier Park is your place.
- Pilatus – As one of the closest mountains to Lucerne, Pilatus is an incredibly popular choice for tourists. With the golden round trip, you can combine a ride on the steamboat, the red cogwheel railway, and a cable car. The cogwheel railway going up to Pilatus is steep – at an average gradient of 35% and a maximum gradient of 48%. Pilatus Kulm is located 2,073 meters above sea level.
- Rigi – There are numerous ways to go up to Rigi such as from Vitznau, Arth-Goldau, or Weggis. It is one of the most visited mountains in the region due to the fantastic views it offers of three surrounding lakes – Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz. In Rigi Kaltbad, they have a mineral bath designed by the famous architect Mario Botta. If you want to see lakes and mountains instead of glaciers, this is the place to go.
If you would like to learn more about the closest mountains to visit near Lucerne, check out Closest Mountains To Visit From Lucerne.
3. Lucerne is easily accessible to many other Swiss cities
Lucerne, being right in the heart of Switzerland, is close to many other Swiss cities and tourist areas by train. From Lucerne, you can quickly get to Bern, Zurich, and Basel within an hour.
Below are the estimated travel times from Lucerne to other major cities and tourist destinations in Switzerland:
|Train Route||Estimated Travel Time by Train (Fastest)|
|Lucerne – Zurich||41 minutes|
|Lucerne – Bern||1 hour|
|Lucerne – Basel||1 hour 2 minutes|
|Lucerne – Meiringen||1 hour 10 minutes|
|Lucerne – Bellinzona||1 hour 24 minutes|
|Lucerne – Fribourg||1 hour 25 minutes|
|Lucerne – Interlaken Ost||1 hour 49 minutes|
4. Lucerne has several interesting museums worth visiting
There are several museums in Lucerne, but the Transport Museum and Glacier Garden are my favorites.
- Transport Museum – Also known as Verkehrshaus, the Transport Museum in Lucerne is one of the most visited museums in Switzerland. As Europe’s largest transport museum, it has exhibits about automobiles, ships, submarines, aircraft, trains, trams, and cable cars. Aside from the areas covering transportation, they also have a section covering chocolates, communications, as well as a Planetarium. For those who wish to watch a movie, they also have films running either in 2D or 3D. Verkehrshaus is open 365 days a year.
- Glacier Garden – Impressive glacier potholes located in the Lucerne Glacier Garden are witnesses of the last ice age 20,000 years ago and prove that Lucerne was covered by glaciers at the time. On the other hand, fossils of shells and palm leaves show that there was a subtropical sea beach here 20 million years ago. The Lucerne Glacier Garden is only a few steps away from the famous Lion Monument. It is open 364 days a year and costs CHF 12 to visit.
If you would like to read more about these two museums, check out our articles:
5. You can cruise and swim in Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne itself is one of the most well-known lakes in the country surrounded by beautiful mountains.
The lake itself is composed of several basins: Lucerne, Küssnacht, and Alpnach. Furthermore, it has several bays – Stansstaad, Weggis, Buochs, Gersau, and Uri. The various basins and bays provide exhilarating and changing views of the landscape.
The Lake Lucerne ship company provides several cruise experiences: short and long round trips, culinary cruises (brunch, candlelight, and more), and cruise + mountain excursions.
Popular for visitors is to cruise on one of the five steamboats in service. The oldest one in the country, Steamboat Uri, had its maiden voyage in 1901.
Of the five paddle steamers on Lake Lucerne, only one is capable of sailing under the low Acheregg bridge and reaching Alpnachstad. Steamboat Unterwalden” as the steamboat is called, has a funnel and wheelhouse which can be hydraulically lowered. It is really fascinating to watch.
6. Lucerne has many shops, restaurants, and hotels to choose from
Lucerne has lots of restaurant choices near the Chapel Bridge on both sides of the Reuss. They have many Swiss and Italian restaurants in the normal Swiss price range. For those who want cheaper fare, there is also a McDonald’s in the train station.
My favorite restaurant in Lucerne is Thai Garden – yummy food, gorgeous interiors, and very good service. It’s one of the top 10 restaurants in the country.
Lucerne has a lot of the normal shops – H&M, Manor, Mammut, Victorinox, Tiger, and more. They also have a Bucherer shop which houses lots of Swiss Watch brands.
Recommended Hotels in Lucerne
There are several good hotels in Lucerne. My favorite is a bit away from the city called Seehotel Hermitage. For those who want something more exclusive, Schweizerhof is highly recommended. Here is a list of all our recommended 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&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 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: Is Lucerne Worth Visiting?
Whether you’re here to enjoy the medieval charm of Lucerne’s Old Town and Chapel Bridge, go on a mountain hike, or admire the picturesque surroundings, you won’t be disappointed.
There’s nothing better than a place like Lucerne that’s both beautiful and peaceful without being boring.
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