Visit Lucerne, Switzerland
A gabled old town, bridges decked in geraniums and a shimmering lake in Lucerne
One of Europe’s finest examples of preserved medieval architecture and a cosmopolitan cultural destination, the compact city of Lucerne sits along the lake of the same name, with the edge of the Swiss Alps visible in the near distance.
The city has much to recommend it, including the flower- and flag-decked Chapel Bridge, which links one side of the cobbled-and-gabled old town to the other, across the Reuss River. The city wall, the clock tower and the Lion Monument are highlights in a walk around the old town.
The pedestrian promenade along the waterfront features grand hotels, restaurants and shops. The lake itself is also a focal point, and swimming and sailing are popular pastimes.
From Lucerne, you can take a paddle steamboat cruise on the lake to view the scenery while enjoying a three-course lunch. Or take it across to the cog railway station, where a steeply climbing tram pulls you up to Mount Pilatus.
The old town of Lucerne looks fanciful, with its tall, narrow buildings, steeply-peaked roofs and pastel-painted walls, whose different shades once indicated the nature of the businesses to those who couldn’t read.
Many bridges span the Reuss River, which the city straddles, and the bridges, like the balconies, are draped with geranium flowers. You can still walk across the oldest and most beloved of these, the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. This long covered wooden bridge was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1993, but painstakingly restored to its 14th-century design.
You can walk the outside of the old town along the Musegg Wall, another 14th-century feature, and climb some of its tower fortifications for views across the city and Lake Lucerne. The oldest of the wall’s nine towers is the clock tower, which still chimes one minute before the church bells. This so-called privilege of first stroke was historically a demonstration of the city’s power ahead of the church.
Walking the city is the best way to see all of Lucerne’s charms, and we can arrange a private guide to lead you to the highlights, like the geological wonder of the Glacier Garden and the sandstone Lion Monument, commemorating the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution. Or we can set up a private chocolate tasting at one of Lucerne’s finest independent chocolatiers.
You can take many other outings from Lucerne, by boat or by rail. We like the paddle steamer cruise on the lake, complete with a three-course lunch. We can also arrange a day trip to Mount Pilatus, which begins with a gentle boat cruise across the lake, then takes you up the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the Alpine peaks.
Best time to visit Lucerne
Lucerne is most popular in May through July when the weather is mild. Although temperatures are warm then, these months also tend to see the most rain. Snow often falls from December through February, but that just increases the city’s charm.
Suggested itineraries featuring Lucerne
This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Lucerne, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Lucerne
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Lucerne
- Zürich 40 kilometers away
- Grindelwald 52 kilometers away
- Interlaken 53 kilometers away
- Wengen 58 kilometers away
- The Swiss Alps 58 kilometers away
- Bernese Oberland 58 kilometers away
- Bern 67 kilometers away
- Zermatt 123 kilometers away
- Lugano 127 kilometers away
- Montreux 127 kilometers away
- St. Moritz 132 kilometers away
- Lake Geneva 152 kilometers away
- Geneva 191 kilometers away
Photos of Lucerne
Accommodation choices for Lucerne
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Lucerne. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
The Bürgenstock Hotel, part of the Bürgenstock Resort, is a luxe hotel steeped in urban sophistication, set inside an enormous spa resort atop a mountain above Lake Lucerne. Enjoy rooms with fireplaces, double tubs and panoramic windows, plus eight fine dining options.
The Grand Hotel National holds court along the glittering banks of Lake Lucerne, the gateway to the Swiss Alps. The hotel offers the height of luxury with its Empire-style rooms and suites, gourmet restaurants, lakefront terraces and exceptional service.
Hotel des Balances provides an understated hideaway in the middle of Lucerne. The 12th-century riverfront building offers rooms with modern decor and comforts. Sip a cocktail on the riverfront terrace before enjoying a gourmet meal in view of the Alps.
Ideas for experiencing Lucerne
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Lucerne, and which use the best local guides.
Take a boat ride, a steep tramway, a mountaintop walk and a gondola in this day-long trip to Mount Pilatus, which soars to several peaks above Lake Lucerne. You can revel in 360-degree views from the top of the tallest peak, Tomlishorn.
Get a glimpse into the workings of a boutique chocolatier, taste unusual single-origin chocolates and have a chance to make your own in this small-group visit to Max Chocolatier, one of the few small-batch chocolate makers in Switzerland.