Lucerne travel guide

Lucerne Tourism | Lucerne Guide

You're Going to Love Lucerne

Nestled in the Alps of central Switzerland alongside a beautiful sky blue lake, Lucerne would be a stunning location in any case. But when you add in gorgeous architecture like the Chapel Bridge, St. Peter's Chapel, and the Altes Rathaus, you've really got something special.

Plenty of famous people have realized the sheer beauty of Lucerne, with giants like Goethe, Wagner, and Mark Twain all falling in love with the city. You can do the same, wandering the narrow streets of the Old Town, dining on Swiss dishes like fondue, taking cable cars to nearby peaks to soak up the views, or sailing on the lake.

Attend world-class music festivals, tour huge art collections, shop for luxury clothes, or just take it easy and breathe the fresh air of the Alps in one of Europe's most beguiling destinations.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Lucerne

1. A Gorgeous Lakefront Location Ringed by Soaring Peaks

The city of Lucerne is built around a lake of the same name, which stretches for miles and miles into corners of the Alps, providing a paradise for sailing fans. The rich turquoise of the lake, the red roofs of the city, and the snow-capped Alps beyond form an enchanting vista that no visitors will forget.

2. Lucerne's Musical Heritage

Since 1938, Lucerne has hosted one of the world's most prestigious classical music festivals, which has both Easter and summer versions.

3. The Atmospheric and Beautiful Old Town

The Chapel Bridge across the River Reuss is the centerpiece, but you can also climb the towers of the Museggmauer (city walls). Don't miss Bertel Thorvaldsen's Lion Monument as well, which Mark Twain once described as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

4. The Ideal Base to Explore Central Switzerland

Take the cable car to the peak of Mount Pilatus, go skiing at Engelberg-Titlis, or visit the farthest tip of the lake with the William Tell Express.

5. Art, Art, Art

Aside from Thorvaldsen's Lion Monument, the Sammlung Rosengart offers 50 Picassos (and 125 works by Paul Klee), while the Lucerne Art Museum is one of the country's leading exhibition spaces for Swiss art.

What to do in Lucerne

1. Kapellbrücke: Covered - in Paintings!

Lucerne's most famous footbridge has been the staple of the city for centuries. The covered, winding walkway extends diagonally across the Reuss River, connecting the baroque Jesuit Church to the bridge's namesake, the St. Peter's Chapel. The bridge itself is worth ogling as well, considering the dozens of paintings lining the wooden roof. Though most of this structure was tragically destroyed in a 1993 fire, the beloved bridge has been restored to its original state to the delight of all.

2. Löwendenkmal: Living, Mortal Rock

This relief was hewn into the rock in the early 1800s, a commemoration of the Swiss guards killed during the French Revolution. Written above the lamenting, dying Lion are the words "Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti" - "To the Loyalty and Bravery of the Swiss". Viewed from across a small pool of water outside the ALPINEUM Museum, the stoic monument is certainly inspiring. In the words of Mark Twain, the sculpture might well be "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

3. Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre: The KKL has it All

The cultural hub of the city sits invitingly on the lake, boasting a concert hall, convention center, and the Art Museum of Lucerne. The quality of Swiss engineering does not fail here - musical performances held in this venue are all the better thanks to unparalleled acoustics, and the architecture is honed to perfection. From classical music to contemporary dance, the program curated at the Culture and Congress Center is sure to enthrall, not to mention the cafés and views across the water.

4. Spreuerbrücke: Epic Footbridge #2

The sights surrounding this other wooden masterpiece of a bridge will keep you entertained for days. Lucerne's Nature Museum is full of information about the world of plants and animals, especially regarding Switzerland. Meanwhile, the Historical Museum provides captivating tours put on by actors in costume and character from an age in the past. The Reuss River is seen flowing through the Needle Dam from the the bridge as well.

5. Museggmauer: Quite the Fortified City

Old city walls surround the center of Lucerne, once the essential fortifications of the ancient city. The remains are incredibly well preserved and offer a trip to the past for all visitors. The nine look-out towers, visible from all over the city, were the primary source of defense in a not-so-neutral past. Many of these towers still invite people to march up their steps and enjoy the views beyond the small enclosed city. Mount Pilatus is the great mountain beyond.

KapellbrückeKapellbrücke
LöwendenkmalLöwendenkmal
Lucerne Culture and Congress CentreLucerne Culture and Congress Centre
SpreuerbrückeSpreuerbrücke

1. Kapellbrücke: Covered - in Paintings!

Lucerne's most famous footbridge has been the staple of the city for centuries. The covered, winding walkway extends diagonally across the Reuss River, connecting the baroque Jesuit Church to the bridge's namesake, the St. Peter's Chapel. The bridge itself is worth ogling as well, considering the dozens of paintings lining the wooden roof. Though most of this structure was tragically destroyed in a 1993 fire, the beloved bridge has been restored to its original state to the delight of all.

2. Löwendenkmal: Living, Mortal Rock

This relief was hewn into the rock in the early 1800s, a commemoration of the Swiss guards killed during the French Revolution. Written above the lamenting, dying Lion are the words "Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti" - "To the Loyalty and Bravery of the Swiss". Viewed from across a small pool of water outside the ALPINEUM Museum, the stoic monument is certainly inspiring. In the words of Mark Twain, the sculpture might well be "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

3. Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre: The KKL has it All

The cultural hub of the city sits invitingly on the lake, boasting a concert hall, convention center, and the Art Museum of Lucerne. The quality of Swiss engineering does not fail here - musical performances held in this venue are all the better thanks to unparalleled acoustics, and the architecture is honed to perfection. From classical music to contemporary dance, the program curated at the Culture and Congress Center is sure to enthrall, not to mention the cafés and views across the water.

4. Spreuerbrücke: Epic Footbridge #2

The sights surrounding this other wooden masterpiece of a bridge will keep you entertained for days. Lucerne's Nature Museum is full of information about the world of plants and animals, especially regarding Switzerland. Meanwhile, the Historical Museum provides captivating tours put on by actors in costume and character from an age in the past. The Reuss River is seen flowing through the Needle Dam from the the bridge as well.

5. Museggmauer: Quite the Fortified City

Old city walls surround the center of Lucerne, once the essential fortifications of the ancient city. The remains are incredibly well preserved and offer a trip to the past for all visitors. The nine look-out towers, visible from all over the city, were the primary source of defense in a not-so-neutral past. Many of these towers still invite people to march up their steps and enjoy the views beyond the small enclosed city. Mount Pilatus is the great mountain beyond.

KapellbrückeKapellbrücke
LöwendenkmalLöwendenkmal
Lucerne Culture and Congress CentreLucerne Culture and Congress Centre
SpreuerbrückeSpreuerbrücke

Top activities & attractions in Lucerne

Where to Eat in Lucerne

As you would expect from such an elegant, high-end destination, the food in Lucerne is spectacular. Some favorite spots to find gourmet food in the Altstadt include Restaurant Scala at the Hotel Montana and Hofgarten, which specializes in seasonally caught wild game, but there are Indian restaurants like Gourmindia to choose from as well. And there's no shortage of chocolatiers or patisseries either. The Confiserie Bachmann is the place to head for a decadent chocolate cake and coffee in between museums or churches. Eating out isn't cheap, though. Expect to pay around CHF40-50 at gourmet restaurants.

When to visit Lucerne

Lucerne in February
Estimated hotel price
$123
1 night at 3-star hotel
Lucerne in February
Estimated hotel price
$123
1 night at 3-star hotel

Lucerne has winter and summer attractions, and there's no bad time to go. If you love music, Easter is an excellent choice, as the Lucerne Festival gets into gear. Summer brings sightseeing crowds, but idyllic weather to see the lake and the valleys nearby. Winter offers opportunities for skiers, but the cold weather isn't ideal for enjoying Lucerne's urban attractions.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Fahrenheit (°F)
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How to Get to Lucerne

Plane

Lucerne doesn't have its own international airport, but Zurich Airport has connections to North America and is around an hour away by road or 45 minutes by train. You could also fly into Geneva, which is around two hours' drive away.

Train

Most travelers arrive at Lucerne's main station, which has a striking design by superstar architect Santiago Calatrava. The city has excellent connections with other Swiss cities like Geneva, Zurich, or Bern and to northern Italy via the Gotthard railway. It's also centrally located, so finding your accommodation won't be hard.

Car

If you are driving from Zurich, take the A4 before switching to the A14 at Zug. From Geneva, the best route is to take the A1 to Bern, the A6 to Thun, then the A8 straight into Lucerne. Those driving from the Italian border just need to follow the A2 directly to their destination.

Airports near Lucerne

BRNBelp

Airlines serving Lucerne

United Airlines
Good (2,853 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,395 reviews)
Lufthansa
Good (2,177 reviews)
KLM
Good (355 reviews)
Air France
Good (403 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (3,061 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,337 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,436 reviews)
SWISS
Good (458 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,219 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (973 reviews)
Iberia
Good (923 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (1,455 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (283 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (317 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (335 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (548 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (102 reviews)
Finnair
Good (702 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,299 reviews)
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Where to stay in Lucerne

The Old City - Lucerne's tourist attractions are clustered around the Altstadt (Old City). This compact neighborhood of cobbled streets, 17th-century homes, and gorgeous churches is home to the iconic Chapel Bridge, the city walls (whose towers can be accessed by tourists) and the Sammlung Rosengart, the city's best art gallery.

Popular Neighborhoods in Lucerne

Lido - located across the water from the Altstadt, Lido is as close as Switzerland comes to a beach resort. It's also a great place to base yourself, with camping grounds, the Swiss Museum of Transport and minigolf to enjoy - and wonderful views of the old city.

Tribschen - just south of the city center you'll find Tribschen, home to the superb Richard Wagner Museum, which is dedicated to the legendary German composer who lived in the building between 1866 and 1872.

Where to stay in popular areas of Lucerne

Most booked hotels in Lucerne

Hotel des Balances
Excellent (9, 1929 reviews)
$196+
Wanderlust Guesthouse
Excellent (8.9, 567 reviews)
$68+
Ameron Luzern Hotel Flora
Excellent (8.4, 1806 reviews)
$146+
Holiday Inn Express Luzern - Kriens
Excellent (8.3, 4219 reviews)
$107+
Radisson Blu Hotel, Lucerne
Excellent (8.2, 2937 reviews)
$227+
Seehotel Pilatus
Excellent (8.1, 4428 reviews)
$114+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Lucerne

Public Transportation

Lucerne's network of buses and trains is more than sufficient to reach all parts of the city, although the center of town is best seen on foot. The best option is to buy a pass for Zone 10 (including most of the city), which costs CHF8 for one day. However, they don't work on night buses, where you have to pay the driver the CHF10 fare, so have some change handy.

Taxi

Taxis aren't hard to find in Lucerne, but they can be a little expensive. The meter drop is set at CHF6 by the city government, then it's around CHF5.50 per mile after that.

Car

If you want to see the beautiful alpine valleys of central Switzerland or have the option of visiting Zurich, renting a car is a great option. Local companies include Avis and Europcar, and rates can be as low as CHF70 per day.

The Cost of Living in Lucerne

Shopping Streets

Shoppers will be delighted by the range of luxury stores in central Lucerne. If you want to pick up a high-quality Swiss watch, Bucherer in the city center is the best place to visit, closely followed by Chronoswiss. The souvenirs at Schweizer Heimatwerk are a cut above typical tourist items, while chocolate lovers will fall in love with stores like Max Chocolatier, where you can see candy being made in person. Most of the best stores are in the Altstadt, where the window shopping is fantastic.

Groceries and Other

Visitors can also pick up everyday groceries from supermarkets like Aldi, Spar, and COOP, which is handy as food prices in Lucerne tend to be quite high. Expect to pay at least CHF4.50 for a gallon of milk or CHF5.80 for 12 eggs.

Cheap meal
$17.88
A pair of jeans
$109.06
Single public transport ticket
$2.98
Cappuccino
$4.47
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