Things to Do in Lucerne Switzerland {+Day Trips!}

November 20, 2019 (Last Updated: March 6, 2023)
by Carolyn
Lucerne Switzerland

Nestled between a backdrop of towering mountains and a sparkling lake, Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s most-visited cities. There are many wonderful things to do in Lucerne Switzerland, and with its ideal location the center of the country, Lucerne is easily accessible from all parts of Switzerland and beyond. 

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How to Get to Lucerne, Switzerland

Only an hour or so from both Zurich and the Swiss capital of Bern, Lucerne is an easy day trip if you have limited time. But if you can stay a few days, it’s well worth it. There are plenty of things to see in Lucerne!

Lucerne (called Luzern in German) is situated in central Switzerland on the major railway lines to Locarno and Lugano near the Italian border, Lake Constance on the German and Austrian borders, and Lake Geneva near the French border.

If you are planning a driving holiday in Switzerland, Lucerne makes a great stop on your own Grand Tour of Switzerland (see my suggested Switzerland itinerary).

Chapel Bridge in Lucerne Switzerland.
Lucerne’s beautiful Chapel Bridge with the Jesuit Church in the background.

Things to Do in Lucerne Switzerland

Tip: When you visit Lucerne, I suggest your first port of call is the Lucerne Tourism office located at the main railway station.  The staff are friendly and helpful (and speak excellent English) and can offer suggestions for what to do in Lucerne, Switzerland. They can also provide you with a free Lucerne map which will help with your Lucerne sightseeing. 

Chapel Bridge and Spreuer Bridge

Restored painting on Chapel Bridge.
One of the restored paintings on Lucerne’s famous Chapel Bridge.

Without doubt, one of the most popular Lucerne attractions is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke). Dating back to 1333, the medieval bridge is just one of many that straddles the River Reuss, but this one is recognizable by its distinctive water tower with an octagonal roof.

A fire in 1993 all but destroyed the famous Lucerne wooden bridge, and even though it was rebuilt, fire damage can still be seen on the remaining 17th century pictorial panels which are a feature under the eaves.

Lucerne’s other famous covered bridge, Spreuer Bridge, was finished in 1408 as part of the city’s fortification. Kaspar Meglinger added 67 paintings representing the “Dance of Death” between 1626 and 1635. 

Unlike the Chapel Bridge, the Spreuer was spared from the 1993 fire but its paintings are rather more dark and sombre, as you would expect of paintings representing death.

Old Town Lucerne

Painted buildings in Lucerne's old town.
Painted buildings in Lucerne’s old town.

Lucerne’s Altstadt (old town) is home to an array of medieval squares, cobblestone lanes and a fair share of shops, boutiques and cafes, many of which are adorned with frescoes.

This is Switzerland, so you’ll find an endless display of Switzerland’s most famous products – watches, army knives and chocolates – on offer, as well as shops offering the usual range of souvenirs.

If you fancy some clothes shopping in Lucerne,  Switzerland’s major chain stores are all represented here.

In summer, one of the Old Town’s outdoor cafes is the perfect place to people-watch and sip a coffee, especially if you choose a café with views of the lake.  

TIP: For great views over the rooftops of Lucerne, head up to the restaurant in the Manor department store in the Lucerne Old Town. The views from the outdoor terrace are fantastic.

The Jesuit Church of Lucerne

Exterior of Jesuit Church in Lucerne.
Lucerne’s Jesuit Church is well worth a visit. Unassuming on the outside, its interior will blow you away!

A visit to the lovely Jesuit Church of Lucerne is well worth adding to your list of Lucerne things to do. Built from 1666 to 1673, the twin onion-domed towers dominate the skyline on the southern bank of the River Reuss.

Whilst the exterior looks quite plain, the interior is a sight to behold.  Richly decorated in white marble, the church features ornate stucco-work and frescoes.

Cruises on Lake Lucerne

Paddlesteamer and other boats on Lake Lucerne dock.
Paddlesteamers, cruisers and even a luxury yacht ply Lake Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne is the postcard-perfect Swiss lake with its sparkling blue water and surrounding snow-capped peaks. Easily one of the best things to do in Lucerne is to take a lake cruise.

Known as Vierwaldstattersee in German, which translates to ‘four forest sites’, the lake is surrounded by four cantons – Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne.

A great way to appreciate the lake’s size is on a Lucerne boat tour and there are plenty of options with historic paddlewheel steamers, modern motorboats and a panoramic yacht all offering lake cruises. Check Lake Lucerne cruise options and prices.

Legend has it that it was on the shores of Lake Lucerne, Switzerland that the Swiss hero William Tell won his freedom by successfully shooting an apple off the head of his son, Walter.

Lakeside Promenade

Boat on Lake Lucerne.
A stroll along the promenade beside Lake Lucerne is a pleasant way to pass an hour or two.

A stroll or bike ride along the lakeside is a great way to take in the sights of this beautiful city. 

With ample benches along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to stop, relax and take in the beautiful views beyond the lake to the snow-capped alps. 

In summertime, concerts are often performed in the lakeside park.

Swiss Transport Museum

A mural at the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne.
One of the displays in the impressive Verkehrhaus Musuem, Lucerne.

Just by the lake, Verkehrhaus, Lucerne’s Swiss Transport Museum, is all about things that go! Planes, trains and automobiles are the order of the day in this interesting Swiss museum dedicated to Switzerland’s transport history.

Static and interactive displays, rides and simulators, as well as an IMAX theatre and planetarium, make this Switzerland’s most popular museum.

The Swiss Transport Museum is also home to the Swiss Chocolate Adventure where you can learn about the history and manufacture of Swiss chocolate and even taste it!

If you are visiting Lucerne with kids, they will love the Swiss Transport Museum but adults will find plenty to interest them, too. 

Check admission prices and buy tickets to the Swiss Transport Museum – open 365 days a year.

Rosengart Collection Art Gallery

The Sammlung Rosengart (often referred to as the Rosengart Collection) is where you will find a private collection of more than 200 modernist paintings by Paul Klee, Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Cezanne and Chagall, amongst others. 

It is also home to a collection of around 200 photos of Picasso at work and play.  These were previously displayed in a separate museum but have now been incorporated into the Rosengart Collection.

The Museum is located on Pilatusstrasse and is open daily.

Richard Wagner Museum

Fans of the German composer Richard Wagner can visit Villa Tribschen where he and his family lived from 1866 to 1872. 

Now known as the Richard Wagner Museum, the villa contains original furniture and memorabilia, including musical instruments, from the happy years that Wagner spent here.

The Villa is open from mid-March to October.

The Dying Lion Statue

Dying Lion statue in Lucerne.
The Dying Lion monument is very moving.

Another attraction that should be on your list of what to see in Lucerne is the Dying Lion, one of the world’s most famous monuments. It was carved out of natural rock in memory of the heroic deaths of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in France in 1792. 

American author Mark Twain once described the Lion of Lucerne as the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world and to this day it still moves the thousands who visit each year.

Day Trips From Lucerne

There are numerous Lucerne day trips on offer, but for the best views of Lucerne and the lake, there’s only one place to go – up! 

Mt. Pilatus excursion from Lucerne

At 2,132 metres above sea level, Mt Pilatus offers superb views, and getting to the top is easy. This is Swiss precision at its finest! 

View over lake Lucerne from Pilatus bahn.
View over lake Lucerne from Mount Pilatus cable car. Image: swiss-image.ch/Urs Wyss

To get from Lucerne to Pilatus, take the world’s steepest cog railway, a cable car or scenic gondola, and then enjoy magnificent dining at the summit.

There are plenty of summer activities on offer at the summit of Mt. Pilatus, too. The mountain is a mecca for hikers, and is also home to one of the country’s largest rope parks, an adventure playground, and the country’s longest toboggan run.

Mount Rigi excursion from Lucerne

Mt Rigi – known to locals as ‘Queen of the Mountains’ – also offers a hiker’s paradise, though even the less energetic can get from Lucerne to Mt Rigi summit by steam train or cogwheel train.

Mt Rigi cogwheel train overlooking Lake Lucerne.
A ride on Mt Rigi cogwheel train is a relaxing way to reach the summit.

From the peak of Mt Rigi you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Alps, 13 surrounding lakes, and as far as Germany and France. 

>> Check Mt Rigi day excursion options here.

Mt. Titlis excursion from Lucerne

The world’s first revolving cable-car on Mt Titlis may not be for the faint hearted, but it provides those made from sterner stuff than me the chance to take a look at a unique glacier world. 

Mt Titlis Rotair high above Lake Lucerne.
The Mount Titlis Rotair gondola ride is not for the faint hearted! The cabins rotate 360 degrees.

With snow all year round on Mt.Titlis, the Titlis Rotair, as it is known, and the similarly unique Ice Flyer Chair Lift, allow visitors to float over the glaciers like never before.

The easiest way to get from Lucerne to Mt. Titlis is on an organised day trip.

>> Check Mt Titlis snow glacier tour options here.

Can’t decide which mountain excursion to take from Lucerne? Our Lucerne Day Trip Guide might be helpful.

Other popular day trips from Lucerne

For even more things to do in Lucerne Switzerland, check out details and pricing for the following Lucerne day trips:

After the efficient, modern transport modes of the mountains, descending back down into Lucerne will make you feel like you are being transported into a medieval fairytale.

Cobblestone streets, seven hundred year old bridges, and narrow alleyways all give Lucerne the feel that nothing too much has changed in recent times.

Except perhaps the commercialism aimed at today’s tourists, and the fact that today’s Swiss heroes aren’t required to shoot apples off their sons heads in order to stay alive – and that can’t be a bad thing!

If you’re spending a few days in Lucerne, it’s worth considering purchasing a Tell Pass which covers public transport, mountain railways and cable car trips, and more.  

Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, adorned with colorful flowers.
Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge is at its prettiest in summer, adorned with flowers.

Lucerne Weather

Lucerne’s climate is regarded as temperate. Average day time temperatures in Lucerne range from 4C in December and January to 25C in July. 

If you are planning a Christmas visit, Lucerne Switzerland in winter can be very cold. Be prepared for snow – which can be very beautiful!

What is the best month to visit Lucerne Switzerland? It depends on what you want to do, as each season offers its own unique charm.

If you are interested in winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, then the best time to visit Lucerne would be during the winter months of December to February when the mountains are covered in snow.

If you prefer mild weather, longer days, and outdoor activities such as hiking, then the months of May to September would be your best choice. June to August can be crowded with tourists, but they also offer many outdoor festivals and events, such as the Lucerne Festival, which features world-class music performances.

Where to Stay in Lucerne

Ready to plan your visit to Lucerne?  I’ve visited this beautiful city numerous times and have several Lucerne accommodation recommendations to share. 

These 5-star properties are rated some of the best hotels in Lucerne –

For hotels near Lucerne train station, try:

If you’d like a room with a lake view, try these Lake Lucerne hotels:

You can also check prices for Lucerne hotels here.

Prefer to rent an apartment in Lucerne?  The HITrental Chapel Bridge Apartments apartments have received great reviews from members of my Switzerland Travel Planning group.  

Join the Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook Group

Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are very welcome to join my Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook group where you can ask questions about things to do in Lucerne and your upcoming trip to Switzerland.


Things to do in Lucerne Switzerland