A guide to the most amazing things to do and places to visit in Lucerne, including the most epic day trips to the Lake Lucerne Region.
Located on the shore of Lake Lucerne, the city of Lucerne is the gateway to central Switzerland and one of the most popular destinations in the country.
With plenty of landmarks and historic places to explore, Lucerne also has a lot to offer to those interested in food, adventure, and the outdoors.
Beyond the city attractions, you will find plenty of opportunities to enjoy some of the most beautiful Swiss landscapes. Lucerne is the ideal starting point to explore the Lake Lucerne region and Central Switzerland.
From medieval houses covered in frescos and ancient wooden bridges, to day trips to impressive mountains and some of the most breathtaking cable car rides in the world, Lucerne and the Lake Lucerne region are waiting to be discovered.
But before we go on to the most amazing things to do and places to visit in Lucerne, let’s have a look at a brief overview of the city.
An overview of Lucerne
Where is Lucerne?
Lucerne is located on the shores of Lake Lucerne, 51 km (31.7 miles) south of Zurich and 84 km (52.2 miles) east of Bern.
Is Lucerne worth visiting?
Absolutely yes! There are so many amazing things to do and places to visit in Lucerne for all kinds of travelers. If you are interested in history, adventure, or the outdoors in general, Lucerne is a great city break destination.
How many days in Lucerne is enough?
Lucerne is a very compact city, so it can be explored in a day or two. But I would recommend that you spend a few more days to discover the city beyond the Old Town and to make the most of the region too.
Top things to do and places to visit in Lucerne
Explore Lucerne Old Town
Lucerne is known for its medieval architecture, which can be found mostly in the Old Town on the banks of the River Reuss.
Exploring the Old Town is one of the top things to do in Lucerne. It’s completely free of traffic, so the best way to do it is by wandering around and getting lost in its narrow alleyways.
As you walk around, make sure you look up to admire the ancient guild halls covered in frescos. The painted façades and the timber-framed houses will make you feel like you are in a fairy tale town.
Some of the best frescos are in Sternenplatz, Hirschenplatz, Kramgasse, and the façade of Hotel des Balances in Merzgerrainle.
Other highlights are the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), built in the 17th century, and the 14th century clock tower right next to it. Weinmarkt used to be the town’s fish market up until the 16th century, and here you can find one of the prettiest fountains in the city.
Kapellplatz is where you can find Lucerne’s oldest church, St Peter’s Chapel, and the colorful Fritschi Fountain decorated with carnival masks. This is where the famous Lucerne Carnival starts every year.
Chapel Bridge (Kappellbrücke) and its Water Tower
Chapel Bridge (Kappellbrücke) is considered to be Europe’s oldest covered bridge. Originally part of the city’s fortifications, it was built in the 14th century and it’s one of the top places to visit in Lucerne.
Chapel Bridge has a series of 17th century pictorial panels that represent scenes of the history of Lucerne and Switzerland. Sadly, many of the original panels were lost in the fire that destroyed most of the bridge in 1993.
The bridge was rebuilt and reopened the following year. Fortunately the 14th century Water Tower wasn’t damaged in the fire. This 700-year-old octagonal tower is older than the bridge by about 30 years.
It has served a number of functions over the centuries. It has been a lookout post, an archive, a treasury, and even a prison. Today you can only visit the Water Tower by taking a private guided tour.
Nestled in a rocky grotto in a small park, this monument of a dying lion is a powerful memorial and one of the most popular Lucerne attractions.
Carved onto a sandstone wall in 1820, the Lion Monument was designed by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the death of around 1,000 Swiss guardsmen that lost their lives while protecting the life of King Louis XVI of France during the French Revolution.
It is a very powerful and poignant sight. As Mark Twain very famously said, “The Lion of Lucerne (is) the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
Visit the Swiss Transport Museum
The Swiss Transport Museum (Verkehrshaus) is the most visited museum in Switzerland and one of the top places to visit in Lucerne. With more than 3,000 objects, simulators, multimedia shows, and interactive exhibits, it is the perfect place to spend a day. Especially if traveling as a family.
It opened in 1959 and it explores the development of transport and mobility on road, rail, water, air, and space travel, in an interactive way.
There are cars, boats, trains, and aircraft, and you can board many of them. You can easily spend a whole day here.
The Museum also houses Switzerland’s largest cinema screen, a Planetarium and Swiss Chocolate Adventure.
Explore Lake Lucerne on a cruise
Lake Lucerne and the surrounding snow-capped mountains offer the ultimate image of Swiss scenery. So exploring the lake by boat is one of the best things to do in Lucerne, even if you only have one day.
You can take a boat ride in any season, but in summer it’s absolutely stunning.
Try the local food in Lucerne
Swiss food has heavy influences from German, French and Italian cuisines. Cheese and potatoes tend to be popular ingredients in a lot of the local food you will find in Lucerne.
The most popular Swiss food to try in Lucerne is fondue. Fondue is Swiss melted cheese served in a ceramic pot called ‘caquelon’. Bread cubes are picked up on the fork and swiveled in the melted cheese.
Another dish to try is Älplermagronen (literally translated as alpine macaroni), similar to macaroni cheese, and served with stewed apple on the side. It’s absolutely delicious and proper comfort food.
Make sure you also try the rosti, a fritter of grated potato fried in hot butter. It is often served for breakfast.
And of course, chocolate! You must not forget to indulge in milk chocolate in the birth country of this delicious treat.
Attend a concert in KKL Luzerne (Culture and Convention Centre)
The KKL Luzerne (Culture and Convention Centre) has been recognized as one of the world’s great performance centers for both its architecture and its high-profile acoustics. This cultural complex attracts music fans from all over the world.
Designed by architect Jean Nouvel, it opened in 1998. The complex has three main areas, the concert hall, a conference wing, and a multi-purpose hall.
Located on the edge of Lake Lucerne, it has spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding mountains from the rooftop.
Enjoy a swim and sundowner at Lido Beach House
Strandbad Lido is considered to be the most beautiful beach in Switzerland. Here you can go for a swim or just enjoy the beautiful scenery with Lucerne in the background.
Go before the sun goes down and enjoy a sunset drink at Lido Beach House.
To get there, you can go by bus from Lucerne train station and get off at Verkehrshaus (Swiss Transport Museum) using your Swiss Travel Pass, or you can get a boat to Verkehrshaus Lido.
Top things places to visit around Lucerne
At 2,132m high, Mount Pilatus is an impressive mountain that offers magnificent panoramic views of the Lake Lucerne Region. Visiting its peak is one of the most popular things to do around Lucerne.
There are a few ways to get to the top of Mount Pilatus, but the most popular way to do it is the Golden Round Trip from Lucerne, which combines four modes of transport – a bus ride, a cable car, a cogwheel train (the world’s steepest), and a boat ride.
Mount Rigi, also known as the Queen of the Mountains, sits at 1,798 meters above sea level. If you are looking for places to visit near Lucerne, a day trip to Mount Rigi is a must.
It is very easy to reach from Lucerne. To reach the top you will ride the oldest mountain railway in Europe, running since 1871. This cog railroad marked the beginning of tourism in Switzerland as we know it.
From the top you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of the lakes and mountains, and an impressive variety of alpine flora.
Ride the CabriO Stanserhorn cable car
Repeatedly listed as one of the top cable car rides in the world, the CabriO Stanserhorn offers spectacular views from an open top cable car. The ride starts in the town of Stans, with a journey back in time on a 1893 funicular railway.
Half way up, you then change to the exhilarating CabriO cableway, where you can go up to the top deck to enjoy the incredible views as it takes you up to the summit of Mount Stanserhorn. It’s one of the most impressive things to do near Lucerne.
Cycle the 1291 route on an e-bike
Considered to be the best e-bike tour in Switzerland, the 1291 route is named after the year in which Switzerland was founded.
The route starts in the center of Lucerne and it takes you through the heart of Switzerland for 385 km. But don’t worry, you can do only one section by hiring an e-bike for the day.
I did a section that started in Giswil, went through part of UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch and ended in Flühli, where I stopped for a delicious lunch in Tschudi Hui.
This route takes you through a lot of historic places and the landscape is truly breathtaking.
Hike The Schrattenfluh and go underground into a karst cave
The Schrattenfluh is a wild and rugged rocky spot with great alpine views near the town of Sörenberg. Its highest peak is 2,092m above sea level.
The bizarre rock formations found here are the result of thousands of years of erosion processes. It’s a very popular spot for hikers, and you can hike it independently or combined with a visit to a karstic cave nearby.
Back in the 70s, while looking for a place to store cow manure, a farmer discovered a karstic cave under his land. In this cave he found a large amount of rock formations such as stalactites and stalagmites.
Enjoy an epic sunrise from Hotel Himmelrich
Sunsets and sunrises can be spectacular in Lucerne, and there are a few spots around the lake where you can ejoy them at their best.
But one spot I can highly recommend is the terrace of Hotel Himmelrich. If you are staying here, you will be treated to a true spectacle of nature (weather permitting), and the most stunning view over the city, the lake, and the mountains.