Lucerne is a beautiful lakeside town in Europe, but knowing what to do there for a first-timer can be hard. Luckily, Lucerne offers plenty of things for travelers looking to explore Swiss culture while enjoying all that nature has to offer.
From the spectacular views of the Swiss Alps, quaint cobblestone streets, and so much more, if you want to explore Lucerne correctly, you’ll need to do your homework.
Or just read this here slab of a finely crafted Swiss travel article. You’re most welcome. As one of the best places to visit in Switzerland, Lucerne is a city that requires careful planning to ensure you make the most of your visit, so we’ve compiled this list of what you must do before leaving Lucerne. Whether visiting on vacation or just passing through, these activities will make your stay unforgettable.
Lucerne is the perfect destination for a Swiss city break. This tour will give you the opportunity to discover Lucerne at your own pace and with ease. You'll enjoy a guided walk in which your knowledgeable guide will bring the history of this beautiful city to life. After that, hop on the boat and take in stunning views from Lake Lucerne as you cruise around the lake.
Take a tandem paragliding flight from Lucerne and gaze out over the Swiss Alps from the sky. With a professional paragliding instructor by your side who will take care of the navigation, you can focus on the thrill of the flight. No experience or a high level of fitness is required, just an interest in adventure and a desire to discover the landscapes of Lucerne.
Journey to the top of Mt. Pilatus by aerial cable car, brave the world's steepest cogwheel railway and cruise back to Lucerne by boat. You'll enjoy jaw-dropping views on the cable car ride up the mountain, a unique experience on the world's steepest cogwheel railway and breath-taking sights from your boat trip back to Lucerne.
Things to Do in Lucerne, Switzerland
Let’s get into our favorite experiences from visiting the iconic Swiss city of Lucerne.
1. Take a Walking Tour of Lucerne Old Town
Lucerne has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and was one of the first Swiss cities to be granted this status. There are plenty of things to see and do in Lucerne. One of the best things to do is to take a walking tour of Lucerne Old Town.
I pieced together a self-guided walking tour to casually walk through Lucerne and strategically stop at cafes. Gotta love Swiss coffee! Or you can go on a guided walking tour to learn about the history of this legendary medieval city.
2. Visit the city’s most famous landmark; the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge)
The city’s most famous landmark is Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), an 18th Century wooden covered bridge that crosses Lake Lucerne. The bridge’s 153 wooden steps are open to pedestrians and are guarded at night by two mechanical lions. Worry not; they don’t bite.
This bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge and the oldest truss bridge in Europe. The Chapel Bridge contains several interior paintings dating back to the 17th Century.
Unfortunately, the bridge was partially burned in 1993 from a discarded cigarette butt. However, many of these paintings were lovingly recreated or restored. Still standing in all its glory, this bridge is one of the most charming I’ve ever crossed.
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3. Take a Boat Tour of Lake Lucerne
These boat tours depart from various locations on the lake and offer visitors a chance to see things from a new perspective as well as enjoy the fresh air and the picturesque views of the Alps, including Mount Pilatus, and the cute municipalities of Weggis and Gersau.
Lake Lucerne is one of the largest lakes in the country and is home to one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in Europe – Lucerne. Lake Lucerne offers many things for travelers looking to explore Swiss culture while enjoying all that nature has to offer from the water.
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4. Visit the Lion Monument
For hundreds of years, Swiss mercenaries were regarded as the best soldiers in Europe, and every major nation used Swiss troops – including the French. During the last days of the French Revolution, the last troops defending French royalists were the elite troops of the Swiss Guard.
This sculpture of a dying lion is one of Switzerland’s most famous landmarks, attracting around 1.4 million visitors each year. In 2006, it was added to the list of Swiss monuments under protection.
Mark Twain praised the sculpture of the mortally wounded lion as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I’m inclined to agree with Mark Twain on this. There was something about visiting this sculpture that was incredibly moving, more so than anything I’d seen before at home.
5. Do the Mount Pilatus Golden Round Trip Summit
The Mount Pilatus Golden Round Trip Summit is a scenic cable car, boat ride, and the world’s steepest cogwheel railway that will take you from the picturesque town of Lucerne, Switzerland, to the mountaintop of mighty Mount Pilatus.
This trip can be done in a mere 4-5 hours and is an excellent way to see the astounding views of the Swiss Alps surrounding the country’s fourth-largest lake, Lake Lucerne. The mountain was first known as Chedi, a Sanskrit word derived from and used to describe a red rock growing in the area.
Various local stories exist about the origin of the name Pilatus. According to one tale, Pilatus was named after Pontius Pilate, an infamous biblical villain reviled for his complicity in the crucifixion of the carpenter and all-around good guy Jesus Christ.
There were dragons with healing abilities on the mountain, according to a medieval legend. A chronicle from 1619 states: ‘as I was gazing up at the tranquil night sky, I saw a very bright dragon with flapping wings leave one of Pilatus’ caves and glide across to another cave known as Flue on the opposite side.
I was so stunned at this amazing sight around nine o’clock that I stood in amazement for an hour or more.’
Mount Pilatus is the highest mountain in the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland, at 2,132 meters. It’s also one of the steepest. The mountain is known to be frequently cloud-covered, but on the day we visited, it was in its most natural form of beauty – naked as a jaybird.
6. See a MASSIVE Collection of Picasso’s at the Sammlung Rosengart
Among the thousands of pieces displayed at the Sammlung Rosengart in Lucerne is one of the world’s largest collections of Pablo Picasso’s works. Founded and directed by Lynn Rosengart, the museum has a notable collection of 18th and 19th Century European art, including over 2,000 drawings by Albrecht Dürer. The art museum can be easily accessed in the Lucerne city center, steps away from the train station.
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7. Tour the Glacier Garden of Lucerne
The Glacier Garden in Lucerne is a must-see if you visit this lovely Swiss town. The garden will take your breath away with its rare plant species, outstanding Alps views, and the sparkling lake below.
The garden is set in the middle of the Lucerne city center and showcases the history of the glaciers formed during the Ice Age. This inspiring garden is home to a wide variety of plants from all over the world, with many from the Alps. You’ll also find a fascinating Ice Palace here that’s made from real ice.
8. Visit the Bourbaki Panorama
Visiting the Bourbaki Panorama is one of the most popular things in Lucerne. The Bourbaki Panorama Luzern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, commemorates the internment of 87,000 French soldiers in Switzerland during the winter of 1871. The 112 × 10-meter (formerly 112 x 14 m) huge circular painting is told through the painter Edouard Castres’ story of 1881.
The message of the Bourbaki Panorama is timeless and still relevant today. War, solidarity, and separation issues are more pressing now than ever. The panorama medium is now recognized as the origin of panoramic film as a concept and as a source of inspiration for 360-degree filming and virtual reality.
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9. Get Epic Views of Old Town from the Old Wall of Museggmauer
This is one of the best things to see in Lucerne and a must-add to your itinerary. The old city walls offer an incredible view. This location offers stunning panoramic views of the historic old town across Mount Pilatus and out across Lake Lucerne.
I admired the weathered look as I approached the ancient wall in true Swiss style. Goats, yaks, and chickens were foraging on the grassland near the old wall, and a local cafe was located nearby, where I enjoyed another strategic Swiss coffee.
Walking Museggmauer was a great free thing to do that offers both great views of the city as well as excellent history.
10. Spreuer Bridge – one of Lucerne’s other Stunning Covered Wooden Bridges
The Spreuer Bridge is a covered bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland, and was built in 1406. It is made of timber and is similar to the Chapel Bridge, only with 45 macabre paintings under its rafters. Think of it as the evil Chapel Bridge – which, up to this point, you thought was unique! Admit it!
The Spreuer Bridge is actually one of four bridges that span the River Reuss in Lucerne (the others being the Chapel Bridge, the Mill Bridge, and the Brass Bridge), located next to the Kornhausplatz.
Built to replace an earlier bridge that had been destroyed in a fire (which seems to be a theme) the Spreuer Bridge is a covered wooden bridge with a length of 93 meters (305 feet) and a width of 3.5 meters (11 feet). It contains 45 Dance of Death paintings on its rafters, done by an unknown artist in the 17th Century – the OG Deviant Art.
The Spreuer Bridge is open to pedestrians and is free to enter. There are often concerts on the bridge, making for a lovely atmosphere amidst the creepy wooden paintings. But seriously, the bridge is one of the most beautiful sights in Lucerne and is definitely worth a visit!
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11. Visit Mount Riggi
Rigi is a striking mountain that is located just outside of Lucerne and offers visitors stunning views of the city, lake, and Alps. If you’re looking for a breathtaking view of Lucerne and the surrounding mountains, tour Mount Rigi.
This mountain is located just a few minutes outside Lucerne and offers panoramic views of the city and the Alps. It’s definitely worth the trip. There are a number of different ways to enjoy Mount Rigi, depending on your fitness level and activity preferences.
For those looking for a more challenging hike, there are a number of marked trails that wind their way up the mountain. However, if you’re after something less strenuous, Rigi can also be explored by train or cable car.
12. Explore the Engelberg Valley and visit Mount Titlis
In the summer, visitors can hike and mountain bike in the beautiful Engelberg Valley, while in winter, the area comes alive with skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of the wonderful powdery snow.
Mount Titlis is an impressive mountain that offers visitors a wide range of activities to enjoy, both in the summer and winter months.
The Titlis Cliff Walk is also popular – this walkway hangs off the edge of the mountain and offers breathtaking views of the Engelberg Valley. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, visit the Titlis Rotair, Europe’s highest-rotating cable car. The valley is a superb destination for a day trip from Lucerne.
13. Admire the beauty of Franziskanerplatz & Franciscan Jesuit Church
On the west bank of nearby Lunenburg, Franziskanerplatz is a lovely city square in the heart of the river Reus and stretches along both banks.
Many tour books and guides overlook these locations for some reason. This destination should be visited. It features a beautiful plaza with several magnificent and colorful historical monuments.
The Franciscan churches in Franziskanerkirche may be seen at the same location, offering a fantastic journey. It’s just as interesting as the two churches previously mentioned. Franciscans erected the church in the 14th Century, and it has a basic appearance from the outside.
14. Day trip to Jungfraujoch
Lucerne is the perfect place to explore Swiss culture and nature. Among the things to do in Lucerne, a day trip from Lucerne to Jungfraujoch is a must-do for any traveler. Around 80 km from Lucerne, Jungfraujoch is considered a top of Europe and is home to the tallest railroad station in Europe at 3,454.
The lifts access the Sphinx’s 3,573-meter summit. Jungfraujoch Top-Of-Europe Days excursions are a great way to see this lovely Alpine region.
This quintessentially Swiss experience begins with a drive around the stunning countryside and continues with a railway trip along the Jungfrau Pass, where you’ll see the Kleine Scheidegg Pass and the Eiger North Face.
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15. Ride the Funicular Gütsch & Views from Hotel Château Gütsch
Did all that other stuff sound too basic? Try this on for size; You may go to Lucerne and discover something less touristy by taking the Funicular Gütsch. This incredible mountainside railway has to be ridden to be believed.
The nearby Historic Hotel Château Gütsch has a stunning city view, and an equally fun name to say out loud as the funicular. With the city and mountain of Rigi in the background, this vista is simply breathtaking.
There is also a forest with walkable routes. The hotel has an excellent restaurant with an outdoor terrace open to non-guests with views for days. Château Gütsch is the ideal location to unwind, making Disneyland Castle look like a cardboard box.
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16. Wheel about the Swiss Museum of Transport
The Swiss Museum of Transport is one of the most popular museums in Switzerland and one of the best in the country. It’s a great place to learn about the history of transportation in Switzerland and around the world. There are exhibits on everything from aviation to railway transportation.
The Swiss Museum of Transport is home to a large collection of vintage cars and motorcycles. If you’re a fan of transportation history, the Swiss Transport Museum is a must-visit when you visit Lucerne.
17. Eat Iconic Swiss Chocolates!
Swiss chocolate is world-renowned as some of the finest you can get your teeth into, and there are plenty of places in Lucerne to try some. Lindt, the world-famous chocolatier, has a store in the old town you can visit. There you can sample their delicious chocolates as well as purchase a few (or lots) to take home with you.
If you’re looking for something more unique, head to Confiserie Sprüngli. This confectioner has made Swiss chocolate since 1836 and offers some of the most unique flavors ever. Be sure to try their famous Luxemburgerli, a delicate chocolate sandwich cookie.
18. Study the composer’s life at the Richard Wagner Museum
Lucerne was once home to the controversial composer Richard Wagner and is now home to the Richard Wagner Museum, established in his old…home. Wagner was a prolific composer and conductor born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1813. The museum is dedicated to his life and work and contains memorabilia such as personal letters, original scores, and photographs.
Visitors can also watch videos of Wagner’s operas being performed. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and admission costs 15 Swiss francs for adults and 10 Swiss francs for children and seniors.
19. Lucerne Botanical Garden
The Lucerne Botanical Garden is a must-see for any nature lover. The garden contains over 4,000 different species of plants from all over the world, including a large collection of cacti and succulents.
In the summer, the garden is open daily from 8 am to 7 pm, and in the winter, it’s open from 9 am to 5 pm. The cost of entrance for youngsters under 16 and students with a valid ID is free, as well as 10 Swiss francs for adults, while access for children under 6 years old and seniors is also free.
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20. Get some pics of the Hofkirche
The twin towers of the Hofkirche, a Benedictine monastery from the 9th Century that was added to and restored periodically between 1634 and 1938 were built in 1525. This church is considered to be the most important Renaissance church in Switzerland.
The church is considered Switzerland’s largest for the Italian Renaissance style and era. The Agony in the Garden in the north tower is a stunning late Gothic sculpture that adds to the tower’s magnificence. The pulpit and choirs are from 1638, and tombs can be found in an adjacent arcade.
Although its interior is ostensibly rather basic, it only exposes the magnificent baroque-style altars. During the summer, when the church’s famous organ concerts are held, Hofkirche is one of the most popular places in Lucerne for visitors.
21. You MUST eat cheese fondue in Lucerne
When you’re in Lucerne, you need to try the cheese fondue. No, really, you NEED to. This dish is a staple of Swiss cuisine and can be found in restaurants throughout the city.
The cheese fondue is a savory, gooey dish that is perfect for winter nights. The best part is that you can customize your fondue with cheeses and meats. Be sure to try the fondue during your visit to Lucerne.
See related: German Potatosalat (Potatoe Salad) Recipe
22. Take a scenic walk around Lake Lucerne
Lucerne is located on the edge of Lake Lucerne, which offers stunning views of the surrounding Alps. One of the best things to do in Lucerne is take a scenic walk around the lake, giving you ample time to enjoy views of it all.
The walking trails offer beautiful views of the mountains and the lake. You can also stop at one of the many cafes or restaurants along the trail for a bite to eat or a drink. Be sure to walk around Lake Lucerne during your visit to Lucerne.
Where to stay for Lucerne sightseeing?
If you’re more interested in seeing the city’s attractions rather than train travel, Lucerne has a lot to offer. The city has numerous excellent hotel choices that are accessible by foot. If you stay in the old town area, you’ll be in a great spot to walk to nearly every notable tourist attraction or point of interest.
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Tips for Lucerne Sightseeing
Located in central Switzerland, Lucerne has a long and rich history, which is evident in the many historical sites and buildings found throughout the city.
The culture is a blend of Swiss and German traditions, with a focus on quality, precision, and family values. You’ll find that the people of Lucerne are friendly and welcoming and take great pride in their city.
When visiting Lucerne, be sure to take advantage of the city’s location on the shores of Lake Lucerne. The views of the Alps from the lakeshore are breathtaking, and there are many things to see and do in the area.
If you’re looking to explore the best of Lucerne, Switzerland, be sure to check out these top tips!
- Explore the city on foot – Lucerne is a small city that can easily be explored on foot. Wander through the charming cobblestone streets and take in the beautiful views of the Alps.
- Visit the Chapel Bridge – The Chapel Bridge is one of Lucerne’s most iconic landmarks. Dating back to the 14th Century, this wooden bridge spans the River Reuss and is adorned with paintings that tell the history of Lucerne.
- Take a boat ride on Lake Lucerne – One of the best ways to enjoy the stunning scenery is a Lake Lucerne cruise. There are various boat tours available, or you can rent a rowboat and explore the lake at your own pace.
- Visit the Lion Monument – The Lion Monument is a tribute to the members of the Swiss Guard who were killed during the French Revolution. This powerful statue is carved into the side of a cliff and is well worth a visit.
- Marvel at the Matterhorn – The Matterhorn is one of the most iconic peaks in the Alps and can be seen by taking a day trip from Lucerne. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not hike to the summit?
- Sample Swiss cuisine – Swiss cuisine is renowned for its delicious cheese and chocolate fondue. Be sure to try out some of the local dishes in Lucerne.
- Visit a traditional Swiss chalet – One of the best ways to experience Swiss culture is by visiting a traditional chalet. Many of these chalets can be found in the surrounding villages near Lucerne.
- Take a hike in the Alps – The Alps provide some of the most stunning scenery in all of Europe and are perfect for hiking enthusiasts. There are plenty of trails to choose from, so be sure to pack your hiking boots!
- Shop till you drop – Lucerne is home to a number of interesting shops, from traditional Swiss souvenir stores to high-end fashion boutiques. There’s something for everyone in Lucerne’s shopping scene!
- Enjoy the nightlife – The city comes alive at night, with a variety of bars and clubs to keep you entertained into the early hours. Whether you’re looking for a quiet cocktail bar or a lively nightclub, you’ll find it in Lucerne.
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If you’re looking for things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland, this list is an excellent place to start. From walking tours of the old town and taking a boat ride on Lake Lucerne to climb Mount Pilatus or visiting the Sammlung Rosengart museum with its vast collection of Picasso, plenty of things that will make your stay unforgettable.
What are the best things to do in Lucerne?
There are many things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland, depending on what you’re interested in. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll enjoy going for hikes or bike rides in the surrounding Alps.
If you’re looking for a more cultural experience, you can explore the city’s charming cobblestone streets and visit its many historical attractions, such as the Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument. And, of course, no visit to Lucerne would be complete without taking a boat ride on the picturesque Lake Lucerne.
Does Lucerne have an old town?
Yes, the Lucerne Old Town is called Altstadt in German. Lucerne is Switzerland’s prettiest city, and its historic center is among its most beautiful. Many of these homes have stunning interior decorations. The Chapel Bridge (Kappelbrücke) is the most photographed site in Lucerne.
What are some things to do in Lucerne in winter?
In winter, some things to do in Lucerne include skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and skating. Lucerne is located in a picturesque setting with the Alps nearby, so plenty of outdoor activities are available during the winter months. Or, while visiting Lucerne, take the opportunity to get to know the enchanting old town since it boasts several unique shops and eateries.