Known for its stunning medieval architecture, Lucerne, Switzerland has a lot to offer visitors. It’s easy to get lost simply strolling around town and taking in the beauty of Lake Lucerne. Cobblestoned streets and a picturesque location give this thriving city a uniquely quaint feel. However, there are plenty of other diversions for those who want to get everything they can out of a Swiss vacation. Here are the twenty best things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland.
20. Chapel Bridge
Also known as Kapellbrücke, Chapel Bridge and water tower is the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. In addition to being scenic and stunning, there’s a lot of history to Chapel Bridge that spans the river Reuss. Grab some photos while you’re there since it’s one of Switzerland’s premier attractions. Built in 1333, though it has been restored since this unique structure was originally part of Lucern’s fortifications. In 1993, a fire of mysterious origins did a lot of damage, but you’d never know it to look at the renovated bridge today.
19. Lucerne Culture and Convention Center
The Lucern Culture and Convention Center or The KKL Luzern is home to many events and conferences throughout the year. The KKL has both a summer and winter festival, but you can book a tour even when there’s nothing special happening. However, if you’re lucky enough to catch the orchestra playing, it is well worth grabbing tickets for an evening show. While you’re there, check out the Museum of Art Lucern. Get more information on upcoming events at the KKL Luzern website.
18. See Sonnenberg Bunker
For a truly unique sight, see the Sonnenberg Bunker. Made to hold up to twenty thousand people in case of a nuclear emergency, this bizarre tourist attraction. This was once home to the largest civilian emergency bunker in the world. Between 1970 and 1976, this massive bunker cost over forty million francs to complete. The Sonnenberg motorway tunnels are also designed to be shut down to provide additional space. All of this is a result of the 1963 Swiss “Shelters for All,” policy which mandates protection for citizens in case of a nuclear war.
17. Spreuer Bridge
Like its sibling, the Kapellbrücke, Spreuer Bridge is a covered walkway over the water. However, this bridge features ancient paintings that are representative of the Totentanz or Dance of Death. Scenes of a skeletal grim reaper entices everyone to dance with him equally. This symbolizes how neither the wealthy nor the poor escape their inevitable end. You may find similar images dating back to the medieval era on cemetery walls. Particularly during plague times, this sort of art was a subject of much fascination, though relatively little of it remains.
16. Musegg Wall
Musegg Wall, with its nine famous towers, is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. between April first and November first. You can only visit the Männli, Zyt, Wacht, and Schirmer towers, but it is well worth the trip. Photo opportunities abound, and you can learn more about the unique fortifications of Lucern. This six-hundred-year-old wall has an unusually long history for Switzerland, and it is still well preserved, giving guests and locals insight into what it was like in times gone by.
15. Lion Monument
Designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen, the Lion Monument or Löwendenkmal is an incredible rock-carved relief. At first glance, it is easy to see the sorrow of this dying beast. The skill with which it was executed is breathtaking. Yet when you learn the history of this poignant piece, it elevates the entire work to another level. In 1792 revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The result was a massacre of Swiss guards where around seven-hundred and sixty guards died fighting. Another two hundred succumbed later in prison due to wounds or were slaughtered during the subsequent September massacres. Moreover, the King had actually written the guard a dispatch sending them back to their barracks during the battle, but the guard did not leave until much later. Ultimately, the show of bravery wasn’t enough to stop the revolutionaries, but it shows their dedication to their post.
14. Boating on Lake Lucerne
Whether you prefer a fast ride or a slow, guided tour, there are dozens of ways to spend a day on the lake. Sometimes you don’t feel like hiking, but the urban atmosphere also isn’t quite what suits your mood. Sightseeing on stunning Lake Lucerne is a great way to get out of the city without going very far. Moreover, you can take a boat tour with stops in nearby smaller towns if you want to get a glimpse of Swiss life outside of the major cities.
13. Take the Cogwheel Train
You’ll find this unique train at nearby Mount Pilatus. Commissioned in 1889, the Pilatus Cogwheel Train on the Pilatusbahn is the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. With a gradient of up to 48 percent, it’s a thrilling ride with an even more thrilling view. Unlike a normal train track, the rack-and-pinion railways have a toothed rack rail, and trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that slot into the track. The unusual style gives the train a better grip on the rail, allowing for a much steeper ascent. Of course, the descent is even more intense, so be sure to get round-trip tickets.
12. See Mount Rigi
Lucerne is beautiful, but visiting the Swiss Alps without seeing the mountains is a huge missed opportunity. Naturally, you can visit year-round, and hiking is always an option. Additionally, take time to ride the cogwheel trains and cable cars. Make a stopover at the many lookout posts for some of the best views on earth and visit charming Swiss villages along your trip.
11. Visit the Park Hotel Vitznau
Have you ever wanted to stay in a castle? One look at the Park Hotel Vitznau is all it takes to fall in love with this picturesque hotel-in-a-castle. Spend a day at a world-class spa and make reservations for any of the four incredible restaurants. There is an indoor pool for guests to swim in and, of course, plenty of wifi. This incredible and exclusive hotel was opened in 1903 with a superb view of Lake Lucerne and all the fairytale grace you could ask for. According to Forbes, the forty-seven suites are each individually handcrafted with spectacular details to create a unique luxury experience.
10. Glacier Garden of Lucerne
When it comes to sights you don’t want to miss, a visit to the Glacier Gardens should absolutely be on your ASAP vacation list. With climate change and global warming, there is one crucial feature that may not be around forever despite the glaciers dating back tens of thousands of years. There’s more to see than the natural geological site, however. Check out the mirror maze created in 1886, and make time for the outstanding museum. This is one attraction that is ideal for families, even those with younger children.
9. Mount Pilatus
Also known as Dragon mountain, this not-to-be-missed natural wonder comes with a fantastic mythological history. During the middle ages, locals believed dragons with healing abilities lived on Pilatus. You can still take a tour of the Dragon trail. However, it’s is worth pointing out that parts of the trail become impassable in winter. The pinnacle is 2,128 meters in height and towers over Lucerne, making it easy to see how people imbued this particular mountain with such incredible legends.
8. Check out Hofkirche
The architecture of the many famed churches of Lucerne is another attraction that draws tourists in droves every year. However, the great gothic expanse of the Church of St. Leodegar is a spectacle that everyone should see. Built on the foundation of the Roman basilica that burned down in 1633, this sprawling cathedral has two iconic towers that you can easily spot from much of the city. You can book guided tours to get a more in-depth history of the Hofkirche or explore on your own if you prefer.
7. Skydive Over Interlaken
Many of the attractions of Lucerne are ideal for people who want to enjoy art, stroll around scenic streets or even head out for an Alpine hike. If you’d prefer something a little more action-packed and adrenaline-pumping, then skydiving over the Interlaken should definitely be on your to-do list. The only way to pass among the peaks and glaciers is via helicopter, adding another level of intensity to this wild ride. Make sure you book well in advance and check the weather before you plan to go on this adventure.
6. Take an Aerial Tour Of The Alps
There are several ways to take guided tours of the Alps from Lucerne, but the aerial options are by far the most thrilling. Helicopter rides are available for those who aren’t afraid to fly. Some tours involve taking the cable car up to nearby peaks for a slower and quieter ride that is just as scenic. Seeing the natural splendor from high above will give you a truly unique perspective on Lucerne and the famous Swiss mountains.
5. Swiss Museum of Transport
Since its opening in 1959, the Swiss Museum of Transport or Verkehrshaus der Schweiz is by far Switzerland’s most popular museum. Dedicated to all forms of transportation. This incredible collection is more than your traditional ‘ museum, featuring the history of perambulation via land, air, and sea. There are theme parks, simulations, and many intriguing exhibitions. Additionally, this museum covers communication technology and even has a spectacular planetarium. Bonus: You will find the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz on the lakefront beyond the Kursaal or casino. If high stakes are more your scene, you can stop into the Kursaal on your way and play a few games of chance.
4. See The Rosengart Collection
Originally a branch of the Swiss National Bank, the building that now houses the Rosengart Collection has a sweeping neoclassical architecture that would be worth seeing on its’ own. Fans of Picasso will be thrilled as soon as they walk in the door. The entire first floor houses a canonical collection of the artist’s work in chronological order from 1938 to 1969. However, Picasso is far from the only artist on display. Works by twenty-three modern and impressionist artists span decades. You can view works from Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, Marc Chagall, and Marino Marini, among many others.
3. Alpineum Museum
Ernst Hodel originally purchased the site of the Alpineummuseum in 1885. It was the Lion Monument Museum before that, but he transformed it into a stunning site for art and dioramas. The paintings alone take up more than five hundred square meters showing a breathtaking collection of Swiss talent. The series debuted in May 1901 and has been available to the public ever since. Moreover, the Hodel family still runs this monument to the natural splendor of the Alps.
2. Stroll the Old Town
Although the architecture in Lucern is a sight to behold, the buildings in the old town have a unique character. The colorfully painted facades tell stories. Signs, painted murals, and unique ornaments give visitors insight into the building’s history or the people who live there. Businesses are often brilliantly bedecked in complex art. Walking around in this area is so popular that you can pay for guided tours or download self-guided options online, so grab your comfy walking shoes and make sure to bring your camera.
1. Lucerne Chocolate Adventure
What is a trip to Switzerland without chocolate? A visit to Lucern’s famous chocolate tour is a yummy way to spend part of a day. While all of the Swiss chocolate is famous, Lucern’s Lindt “Chocolate Adventure” tour has to be tasted to be believed. Since 1845 the famous chocolatier has been producing truffles and treats. Take the twenty-minute ride and learn all about the discovery and history of chocolate, and go to one of the famed chocolate tastings at the Lindt Maitre Chocolatire’s when you’re done.