Lucerne and Engelberg, both blessed with breathtaking landscapes and charming vibes, make for a tough decision. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring Lucerne and Engelberg many times and can confirm they are equally gorgeous, making your decision quite challenging. In this article, we’ll delve into the enticing choices, helping you decide whether Lucerne or Engelberg is your ideal haven for exploration and relaxation.
Here’s a helpful guide to deciding which place you’d rather visit. Lucerne, resembling Switzerland in a nutshell, boasts its lakes, old town, and mountains. In contrast, Engelberg offers access to awe-inspiring panoramic views from Titlis, the picturesque Fürenalp, the family-friendly Brunni mountain, and the serene Lake Trübsee.
Lucerne or Engelberg: Which is Better?
Lucerne is a picturesque small town with a waterfront, shops, and mountains nearby. The municipality of Engelberg, on the other hand, is a lively mountain resort. Lucerne is the ideal choice if you seek a city with convenient access to the mountains. On the other hand, if your trip primarily involves hiking and skiing, and you prefer to be surrounded by mountains from the get-go, Engelberg is the better option.
Key Differences: Lucerne vs. Engelberg
Here we look at the differences between Lucerne and Engelberg, so you can decide which one you’d like to visit during your next visit to Switzerland if you have time for just one.
|Population: approx. 80,000||Population: approx. 4,181|
|Canton: Lucerne||Canton: Obwalden|
|Total Area: 37.4 km² (14.4 mi2)||Total Area: 74.87 km2 (28.91 mi2)|
|Elevation: 435 m (1,427 ft)||Elevation: 1,013 meters (3,3923 ft)|
|Popular tourist spot in Central Switzerland||Hub for skiing and hiking|
|Highlights: Chapel Bridge,|
Lion Monument, Glacier Garden, Transport Museum, Bourbaki Panorama
|Highlights: Titlis, Lake Trübsee, Fürenalp, Brunni, Benedictine Monastery|
|Lake: Lucerne||Lakes: Trübsee (Wolfenschiessen), Eugenisee|
|River: Reuss||River: Engelberger Aa|
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. Its ideal location in Central Switzerland makes it a convenient base for day trips to many other parts of the country.
Engelberg, a charming mountain resort nestled in Canton Obwalden, is a haven for nature enthusiasts and relaxation seekers. The town boasts a plethora of hotels and restaurants, ensuring a comfortable stay for visitors.
Its prime attraction lies in the wide array of mountain activities it offers, from invigorating hikes to thrilling skiing on Titlis, catering to every outdoor enthusiast. Lake Trübsee is a beautiful alpine lake worth visiting, especially in summer and autumn. The ease of access from Lucerne via a direct train ride makes it a convenient choice for day-trippers or extended getaways.
What truly sets Engelberg apart is its tranquil and peaceful ambiance, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life, allowing visitors to unwind and rejuvenate amidst the stunning Swiss landscape.
Places to Visit: Lucerne vs. Engelberg
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 10, 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. It 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 them from Vitznau, Arth-Goldau, Weggis, Gersau, Goldau, and Küssnacht SZ.
Places to Visit near Engelberg
- Titlis – Mount Titlis, standing proudly at 3,238 meters (10,623 feet) above sea level, is a renowned Swiss mountain in the Uri Alps famous for its Rotair, a revolving cable car, and breathtaking panoramic views. The Glacier Cave with its ice formations makes for a memorable experience too.
- Fürenalp – Fürenalp is known for its impressive views of Gross Spannort (3,198 meters), Chli Spannort (3,140 meters), and Titlis (3,238 meters). It might be lesser known but I found it equally captivating. Fürenalp is not just about breathtaking vistas; it’s a place to find serenity and recharge.
- Engelberg Abbey – Engelberg Abbey, dating back to 1120, is a historic and spiritual center in the heart of Engelberg. Dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, this Benedictine monastery’s baroque architecture and serene surroundings make it a peaceful place to visit. Guided tours highlight books and manuscripts produced in the 12th century.
- Lake Trübsee – Lake Trübsee is a stunning alpine lake located in Wolfenschiessen in Canton Nidwalden, Switzerland. This beautiful turquoise lake receives the waters from the Titlis Glacier via the Trüebseebach.
- Brunni – Brunni is a family-friendly mountain in Engelberg, renowned for its welcoming atmosphere and the delightful Globi trail. The Ristis playground is equipped with a range of play structures, making it an ideal spot for families with kids of all ages. Beyond traditional play equipment, there are hiking trails that begin from the playground.
- Härzlisee – Härzlisee, translated to Lovelake in English, is a small alpine lake near the Ristis-Brünnihütte mountain station. Its 220-meter-long tickle path invites visitors to experience changing textures such as sand, stones, and clay with their bare feet.
- Talmuseum Engelberg – The Engelberg Valley Museum is a cultural treasure trove that showcases the history and heritage of the region. Visitors can explore exhibits and artifacts that reveal the story of Engelberg and its people.
- Bannalp – You can reach Bannalp from Engelberg via the Walenpfad, which is one of the most beautiful high-altitude hikes in Switzerland. This exceptional trail takes you from the Brunni area to the Bannalp region, offering stunning scenic views along the way.
- Lake Eugenisee – Lake Eugenisee is a fishing lake stocked with fresh trout every week, open for fishing from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Advantages: Lucerne vs. Engelberg
Advantages of Staying in Lucerne
- Atmosphere: Lucerne appeals to all age groups and is a wonderful destination at any time of year. It is also 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.
- Panoramic Views: Lucerne has views of Lake Lucerne and Pilatus as well as the surrounding mountains of Central Switzerland. It also has an old town with plenty of shops and restaurants.
- Price: Lucerne offers a wider range of accommodation options for various budgets. You can find hotels with prices ranging from 91 to 649 Swiss Francs for 2 adults in a room.
- Hotels and Restaurants: Lucerne has more hotels and restaurants compared to Engelberg.
- Accessibility: Lucerne is easier to get to from Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Interlaken by train.
- Skiing: Although there are ski areas near Lucerne, such as Klewenalp – Stockhütte, it is around half the size of Engelberg-Titlis. It is a better choice if you prefer a smaller ski resort.
Advantages of Staying in Engelberg
- Atmosphere: Engelberg has a mountain village feel, whereas Lucerne feels more like a proper town.
- Panoramic Views: Titlis has one of the best views of the Swiss Alps in Central Switzerland. It also has many small, yet stunning alpine lakes such as Trübsee and Härzlisee.
- Price: The limited number of accommodations available in Engelberg may result in a slightly higher price range than in Lucerne, with hotels costing between 130 and 1,190 Swiss Francs. I suggest booking earlier rather than later if you plan to stay in Engelberg.
- Hotels and Restaurants: While Lucerne offers a wider selection of restaurants and hotels, Engelberg has unique places to stay and dine, thanks to its exceptional location. The Kempinski Palace is a world-class option, and the experience of staying in one of the mountain huts or hotels is truly unforgettable.
- Accessibility: While Lucerne is indeed more easily accessible by train from Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Interlaken, Engelberg’s charm lies in its proximity to nature. For travelers looking to escape to the mountains, Engelberg is the perfect choice.
- Skiing: The winter ski season in Engelberg is quite lengthy, thanks to the Titlis Glacier and advanced snow-making capabilities. It typically spans around 8 months, running from October to May. Engelberg Titlis offers around 80 kilometers of slopes for skiing and snow enthusiasts.
Hotels: Lucerne vs. Engelberg
Lucerne indeed provides a wider range of hotel choices, but Engelberg offers fantastic options. Here are some recommended hotels in both areas:
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.
Hotels in Engelberg
- Kempinski Palace Engelberg (5-star) – This luxurious hotel boasts top-notch amenities, including a spa and wellness center, indoor pool, business facilities, and a kids’ club. The exceptional service and child-friendly atmosphere make it a fantastic choice for families. There are plenty of other restaurants in the vicinity to choose from as an alternative.
- Bellevue-Terminus – Urban Lifestyle Hotel (4-star) – Right in the heart of Engelberg, next to the train station, you’ll find lovely rooms with charming decorations, a helpful staff, and a wonderful breakfast buffet.
- Alpenclub – This boutique hotel offers a fantastic Alpine and Swiss ambiance, a convenient location near the train station, a wonderful restaurant, and generously spacious rooms.
- H+ Hotel & SPA Engelberg (4-star) – Centrally located in Engelberg, this 4-star hotel boasts clean, comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and a delectable breakfast buffet at an excellent price.
- Hotel Schweizerhof (3-star) – The Schweizerhof, housed in a century-old building, provides modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, a sauna, and fitness facilities. A free ski bus is conveniently nearby, offering access to the ski area, and it’s located just a short walk from Engelberg train station, making it a great value choice.
Final Thoughts: Lucerne vs. Engelberg
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 Engelberg. By enjoying the natural wonders of the Engelberg region, you will be able to forget the stresses of life and be one with nature.
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. Furthermore, it is also just a train ride away from Engelberg, should you wish to visit the mountains.
As someone who loves the Swiss Alps, hiking, and skiing, my personal preference would be to stay in Engelberg over Lucerne. However, I believe that for first-time visitors, Lucerne might be a more appealing choice.
Engelberg 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.
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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.