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Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen: Which Is Better?

Last Updated on December 6, 2023 by Darla Uhl


Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen are two incredibly beautiful destinations in Switzerland. Lucerne is renowned for its charming chapel bridge, stunning lake, and majestic mountains, while Lauterbrunnen is famous for its enchanting village setting and the waterfall that resembles a refreshing shower. Here’s a guide to help you decide between Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen if you’re trying to determine which one is the preferable option.

Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Is it better to stay in Lucerne or Lauterbrunnen? We’ll talk about the different places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying in each.


Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen

Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen are two well-known villages in Switzerland. These two villages are famous, each in their own right, and they’re surrounded by gorgeous scenery. You may find it hard to choose between the two. They’re both good options, but one might work better for you. 

In this article, we’ll talk about both Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen. Where should you stay while visiting Switzerland? Do we recommend staying in Lucerne or Lauterbrunnen?  


Key Differences: Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen

The key differences between Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen are as follows:

LucerneLauterbrunnen
Population: approx. 80,000Population: approx.  2,300
Total Area: 37.4 km²Total Area: 164.4 km2 (63.5 sq mi)
Elevation: 435 m (1,427 feet)Elevation: 802 m (2,631 ft)
Language: GermanLanguage: German
Highlights: Chapel Bridge,
Lion Monument, Glacier Garden, Transport Museum, Bourbaki Panorama
Highlights: Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Wengen, Mürren, Schilthorn, Stechelberg, Mürrenbach Waterfall, Gimmelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Jungfraujoch
Lake: Lucerne
River: Reuss
River: Weisse Lütschine
Canton: LucerneCanton: Bern
Key Differences of Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen

Lucerne

Image of Lucerne by TouringSwitzerland.com

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. The picturesque setting, accessibility, and wide range of activities in Lucerne will appeal to people of all ages.

The small size of Lucerne makes it very compact and walkable. It is easy and comfortable to explore Lucerne on foot. The Lion MonumentChapel Bridge, and Glacier Garden are all within walking distance of each other. 

Lauterbrunnen

Image of Lauterbrunnen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Lauterbrunnen is an idyllic village surrounded by waterfalls. The entire area is best described as a valley with 72 waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen is a great place to start exploring the Jungfrau Region. It is only around 10 kilometers away from Mürren. 

Lauterbrunnen village is situated at the valley bottom of this magnificent U-shaped valley in Switzerland. Most of the residents of this valley are actually from Lötschental, the adjacent valley located in Valais. A road was said to have passed between the Eiger and Mönch on the way to Valais. It is said that the heights used to be much milder and more fertile.

By taking the train from Lauterbrunnen, you can reach the sunny car-free terrace of Wengen as well as Kleine Scheidegg. From Kleine Scheidegg, you can change trains to go to Jungfraujoch. You may access Mürren through Lauterbrunnen itself or via Stechelberg on the other side of Lauterbrunnen. In addition, if you keep ascending, you’ll reach Piz Gloria – the summit of Schilthorn at 2,971 meters above sea level.

Some of the other highlights of the Lauterbrunnen region include Staubbach Waterfall, Trümmelbach Waterfalls, Mürrenbach Waterfall, and Gimmelwald.


Places to Visit: Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen

Near Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen, there are many scenic places to visit. While Lauterbrunnen is closer to the Swiss Alps and waterfalls, Lucerne is closer to the stunning Lake Lucerne and the Rigi and Pilatus mountains.

Places to Visit near Lucerne

Image of Chapel Bridge, Lucerne by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.   
  • 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 their breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps.

Places to Visit near Lauterbrunnen

  • 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.
  • Männlichen – Männlichen is a 2,343-metre mountain easily accessible from Wengen and Grindelwald. From Männlichen, you get a fantastic view of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau.
  • 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.
  • Eiger Glacier – The Eiger Glacier lies on the northwest side of the Eiger Mountain.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Advantages: Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen

Advantages of Staying in Lucerne

Image of the Lion Monument by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • 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 compared to Lauterbrunnen.
  • 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 Lauterbrunnen.
  • 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.

Advantages of Staying in Lauterbrunnen

Image of Lauterbrunnen Valley by TouringSwitzerland.com
  • Mountain and hiking enthusiasts will love Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen offers a wide variety of exciting hiking opportunities if you prefer hiking over museums.
  • Lauterbrunnen is closer to the mountains in the Jungfrau Region. Choose it if you want to visit the region around Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
  • Lauterbrunnen offers a more serene experience with fewer hotels and restaurants than Lucerne. The quieter atmosphere will appeal to those who seek a more peaceful getaway.

Hotels: Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen

Image of Hotel Schweizerhof Lucerne by TouringSwitzerland.com

In both Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen, you’ll find a wide variety of hotels. Here’s our pick of hotels.

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 Lauterbrunnen

  • Hotel Silberhorn, Lauterbrunnen (3-star) – Enjoy the closeness to nature and a breathtaking view of the Staubbach Fall in the light-flooded winter garden of the Silberhorn Hotel. Only 150 meters from Lauterbrunnen’s train station, the Silberhorn Hotel is located off the main street. The Alpine-style restaurant offers Swiss specialties and a rich breakfast buffet. They serve 4-course dinners from December through April.
  • Apartment Staubbach (Apartment) – This spacious apartment has three bedrooms and plenty of space for six people, making it a great choice for families or groups of friends. In addition to its impeccable views, the apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, flat-screen TV, and dining area outside.
  • Chalet Chalet am Schärm (Chalet) – Chalet with six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Additionally, it is only a short walk from the cable car that runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp.

Final Thoughts: Lucerne vs. Lauterbrunnen

Let’s get back to the question: should you visit Lucerne or Lauterbrunnen? Both locations offer plenty to see and do, with beautiful scenery, fascinating attractions, and a variety of hotels and restaurants to choose from.

Both Lake Lucerne and the Jungfrau Region offer a range of activities and attractions, and which region is better is subjective and depends on personal preferences.

Lucerne is a popular destination for tourists seeking a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. The city has a charming Old Town with well-preserved medieval architecture and landmarks, such as the Chapel Bridge and the Lion Monument. There are many reasons why travelers flock to Lauterbrunnen, among them the chance to experience breathtaking alpine scenery. Lauterbrunnen offers breathtaking waterfalls, exhilarating hikes, and majestic mountain views.

I like both places and have been to both several times. Ultimately, it comes down to you and what you want.


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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.