Lucerne is one of the best tourist destinations in Europe. The city is situated on Lake Lucerne and is embedded within an amazing mountainous panorama. The well-preserved town lies on the Northern end of Lake Lucerne where the River Reuss enters the lake.
Thanks to the elegant historic buildings, the genial atmosphere, its souvenir shops, and the beautiful natural lakeside setting, the city is a hub for visitors to Switzerland. Lucerne is the ideal place from which to start your day trips to the nearby places; there is so much for you to explore in this beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland.
1. Mount Pilatus
If you are visiting Lucerne, your trip would be incomplete without a trip to Mt. Pilatus. This mountain that overlooks Lucerne gives picture-book panoramas of the surrounding regions. Mount Pilatus has several peaks, with the highest of them all standing at a height of 2,132 meters. This point is named Tomlishorn. Other significant peaks are Esel, Oberhaupt, and Pilatus-Kulm which measure 2,118m, 2,105m, and 2,070m respectively.
The mountain is accessible by cableways. However, if you’re strong enough, you can hike up the hills. It should take you approximately 4 hours to get to the top.
Compared to other mountains in the area, Pilatus is higher and rockier, giving it more of a mountain feel.
Recommended tour: Mt. Pilatus by Cable Car and Cogwheel Train and Lake Cruise
2. Old Town of Lucerne
The picturesque Old Town preserves pretty murals of amazing art, decorated buildings, many old burghers’ houses, and little squares with fountains. The town is located on the right bank of River Reuss, between the city hall and Chapel Bridge.
Some of the town’s highlights are the Altes Rathaus that was built between the year 1602 and 1606 and the St. Peter’s Chapel built in 1178.
This small town is a delightful place to stroll as you shop in the tourist shops. Normally, the streets are not open to traffic, so it’s easy to walk around as you enjoy the timberframed building that are painted in bright colors.
3. Lake Lucerne
The 38-kilometerlong lake is a scenic beauty and is the 4th largest in Switzerland. Lake Lucerne has a complicated shape with sharp bends and four arms. It’s 702 feet deep, covering an area of 114 km2 at an altitude of 1,424 ft above sea level.
The lake is surrounded by popular mountains and drains its water into the River Reuss through the Luzernersee. The River Reuss enters the lake at Fluelen.
Lake Lucerne offers the greatest scenic variety in the country, making it a popular destination for local and international tourists.
You can either drive around the lake or use a train to circumnavigate.
4. Swiss Transport Museum
This transport museum is also referred to as Verkehrshaus der Schweiz. It is one of Europe’s most diverse museums for transport and communication thanks to its large collection of planes, trains, motorcycles, ships, and automobiles.
This large complex was opened in July 1959. Besides the large collection, the museum is also home to the artwork by Hans Erni, a local painter and sculptor. Another attraction inside the museum is the planetarium cinema.
The Swiss Transport Museum is a great place to spend your day on a trip to the outskirts of Lucerne. Visit the Swiss Transport museum to follow the development of transportation from its early days.
5. Glacier Garden
The Gletschergarten is located at the heart of Lucerne; it’s a remarkable relic of the Ice Age. Glacier Garden is a natural monument that is an oasis of peace from the city’s busy life. It includes glacierpolished rock, 32 potholes that are found at the bottom of the waterfall, and erratic blocks.
There is a marquee roof that has been erected to protect the monument from the damaging effects of air pollution.
When you visit the Glacier Garden, you get to enjoy a magnificent view of Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus as you learn about the history that takes you back 300 million years into the geological past.
At the Glacier Garden, there is a park, a museum, and a mirror maze. The mirror maze, created in 1896, has 90 mirrors that play tricks on people’s minds.
Jungfraujoch is located 80 km away from the heart of Lucerne. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the highest railroad in Europe; it’s known as “the top of Europe.”
While at the summit of the glacier saddle, you’ll get to soak up the stunning Alpine scenery. There is a railway that was built in 1912 to help tourists get to the top with ease.
The Sphinx Observatory, at a height of 3,572 meters, provides an excellent viewing platform. The Sphinx is one of the highest astronomical observatories across the globe and it houses one of the Global Atmosphere Watch’s research stations.
Suggested tour: Full-Day Trip to Jungfraujoch – the Top of Europe
7. Old City Wall
Part of the Musegg Wall was built in the year 1386, yet it’s still intact. Of the nine towers, four are open to the public. These include the Schirmer, Zytturm, Wacht, and Mannli. These towers form part of the historic fortifications that were built around the city in the 13th century.
The city clock was built in 1535 by Hans Luter. The clock has the “First Strike Rights” and chimes one minute before the top of the hour, ahead of all the other city clocks.
All of the towers that are accessible to the public offer a beautiful view of the city as well as that of the surrounding mountains and the lake.
8. Mount Rigi
For a signature experience, you need to visit Mt. Rigi, which is an easy and beautiful day trip from Lucerne. The mountain is also referred to as the “Queen of the Mountains.” From the mountain’s majestic peninsula, you are able to see over 13 lakes and the spectacular snow-capped Swiss Alps.
Views from the top of the mountain stretch all the way to Germany’s Black Forest. The summit is named Rigi Kulm and is at a height of 1,798 meters above sea level.
You can either get to Rigi by train or by boat. The whole massif is almost completely encircled by the waters from Lake Lucerne, Lake Laurez, and Lake Zug.
Mount Rigi is a favorite mountain destination for tourists and can be visited on any day of the year.
Recommended tour: Classic Rigi Round Trip from Lucerne
9. Bourbaki Panorama
One of Lucerne’s most unusual attractions is the Bourbaki Panorama. This enormous panoramic painting is by Edouard Castre, an artist who traveled with the army as a Red Cross volunteer. It depicts the fleeing of 87,000 members of the French army to Switzerland. This happened after their defeat during the FrancoPrussian War in the harsh winter of 1871.
This large-scale painting measures 112m in length and is 10m high. The painting was completed in 1881 and has, for the last 130 years, ranked as one of the country’s most famous tourist attraction sites.
As you stand in the middle of this remarkable circular painting, the figures and objects turn it into a 3D scene that tells a story in an impressive way.
10. Lion Monument
The famous Lowendenkmal (Lion Monument) is located north of Lowenplats. The sculpture was designed in 1820 by Bertel Thorwaldsen and hewn in 1821 by Lukas Ahorn.
The Lion of Lucerne is a commemoration of the 26 officers and more than 700 troops of the Swiss Guard who were massacred during the French revolution in 1792. The mercenary soldiers were killed as they tried to protect King Louis XVI during the revolutionaries’ attack on the Tuileries Palace.
The huge figure of a dying lion is a really touching sight and is one of the oldest preserved figurative monuments in Switzerland. The statue is carved into a former sandstone quarry wall.
The twintowered Roman Catholic Church of St. Leodegar was rebuilt in 1634 to preserve the towers of the previous church, built in 1525, that was largely destroyed in a fire in 1633. The church is also referred to as Hofkirche St. Leodegar in German.
This eighth-century church is one of the most Renaissance churches in the country. It has a Gothic sculpture on the northern tower that depicts the Agony in the Garden. The church’s interior is furnished with gilt statuary and alters.
In the arcades surrounding the church, there are the tombs of members of the Lucerne families. In the sanctuary, the southern half contains ornate wooden pews while the northern contains simpler seats. In the earlier days, the wealthy and the poor parishioners worshiped apart.
12. The Chapel Bridge
This landmark is said to be the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe. The Chapel Bridge was built in the 14th century as a protection for the city. Unfortunately, the bridge burned down in the 18th century but was rebuilt and restored to its original design in 1993. The bridge was named after St. Peter’s Chapel.
This picturesque centerpiece of Lucerne runs diagonally across the River Reuss. It was built for the purpose of connecting the old part of town to the new part of town. The bridge is among the most photographed scenes in the country.
Make a day trip from Lucerne to the Chapel Bridge to learn some history as you walk over the bridge, which has about a hundred pictures from the 17th century hanging from the roof rafters.
13. Mount Titlis
This snow paradise is located 35 km to the south of Lucerne and can be reached within an hour and a half by road. The mountains towers over everything, at a height of 3,020m.
A day trip to Mt. Titlis lets you enjoy the beautiful Alpine Scenery. If you stay in the metro cities across the world and need a visual treat as well as a breath of fresh air, then this destination should be on your list of the day trips to make from Lucerne.
Suggested tour: From Lucerne: Titlis Full-Day Tour – Eternal Snow & Glacier
BurgenStock is a small mountain that juts out along Lake Lucerne at an altitude of 1,115m above sea level. This mountain is almost completely engulfed by Lake Lucerne.
On this mountain is a resort that is located 874m above sea level. You can get here by road or using a boat.
On a day trip from the hassle of the city, come to relax at this place in Switzerland, associated with the James Bond films.
15. Rosengart Collection
The Sammlung Rosengart has over 300 photographs from more than 23 popular artists including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Cezanne, and Pissarro. The collection was creatively curated by a Swiss art dealer, Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter Angela.
If you’re interested in PostImpressionist art, this art museum that puts an emphasis on Classical Modernism is worth a trip from Lucerne.