Top Things To Do in Lucerne, Switzerland

We flew in from Zurich and went straight to Lucerne via train. Lucerne is a great place to be based at if you want to visit the mountains in this area like Titlis, Pilatus or Rigi.

Zurich to Lucerne

We flew into Zurich with EasyJet on a late afternoon flight from London Gatwick. Arrived in Zurich – went through immigration, took the bags and went straight for the trains. There are about 40 daily trains from Zurich to Lucerne and the direct train takes about 50 minutes or so. The station is located underneath underneath the Airport Centre, the main ground-side passenger terminal of the airport. Basically just follow the signs on arrival, you should be fine.

The immigration part took a bit longer than I expected (so you should build that in, in case you are in a rush to catch a train or something). I didn’t think we were there at a busy period, but it still took a while. Well, I had to rush a bit because I didn’t want to arrive too late in Lucerne as it was just me and my daughter in a strange city. We missed the direct train and it was getting late – so we took the train with one short change at Zurich Main Station. 

Lucerne Hotels

I think if you plan to use the trains a lot, and not spend much time in the room – you should get a hotel near the train station. There are plenty of hotels to choose from around the station, and there are many restaurants and fast food option etc. 

There are hotels at the Old Town – not too far from the Train Station like the one we stayed in such as the Altstadt Hotel Krone Luzern (about 10 minutes walk or slightly more). It’s not that far but if you are dragging big suitcases – it may get tricky (you also need to cross the bridge to go to the Old Town area). Also you should note that some hotels do not have air conditioning like ours – so we opened the window a bit at night. But we were there in November so the weather was not too hot anyway. You may want to check whether the smaller hotels have elevators as well – just in case. We had lifts in ours. Hey – I am a small girl travelling with big bags – all these things matter to me…

What To Do In Lucerne

Chapel Bridge 'Kapellbrücke'

You can’t miss the Chapel bridge – it greets you as you leave the Lucerne Station.  It’s a wooden pedestrian bridge built in 1360 and is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe, and the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. Although, really, parts of the bridge were destroyed in a fire in 1993, so the bridge went through significant rebuilding and restoration work which completed in 1994. The bridge was initially built to connect the old part of the town which sits on the north bank of the Reuss river with the new part, on the south bank to protect city from attacks.

What is unique about the bridge are the 17th century paintings hanged below the roof which depict events from Lucerne’s history. The fire destroyed two thirds of the paintings unfortunately. From 147 paintings that were intact up to the fire 1993, only 30 out of the 47 that survived the fire were successfully restored.

For more information on the bridges in Lucerne, check out this link.

Water Tower on Chapel Bridge

The water tower is older than the bridge – it is called as such because it stands on water (not that it holds water). It was probably built between 1200 and 1339. The tower is 40 meters in height and in the past has functioned as a prison, torture chamber and municipal archive. It has four floors – the dungeon in the basement served as a prison for many years.

Picture from www.chapel-bridge.ch

Chaff Bridge 'Spreuerbrücke'

The bridge is quite close to our hotel – we stumbled upon it while walking around after dinner. I was a bit confused at first because it looked really like the Chapel bridge, for most part.

The original Chaff bridge, was built in the 13th century. Similar to the Chapel bridge, you will find paintings under the roof of the bridge. There were originally 67 paintings created between 1616 and 1637 (45 remaining) – the most famous series being the Dance of Death paintings.

The bridge is situated at the lower end of medieval Lucerne. One of the functions of the bridge was to connect the mills to the bakers quarters on the opposite side of the river. Towns in medieval Europe were quite filthy, and not every town employed good sewerage system. In Lucerne at medieval times, the town tried to manage the situation by allowing Spreu (chaff) to be thrown into River Reuss, but only from this bridge at the lower end of town. Hence the name ‘Chaff bridge’.

PS. We saw many large spiders on the bridge. It seems there can be a lot of them spinning their webs on the bridge rafter at certain times of the year. Guess we were there at the ‘right’ time. You may not want to hang out too long at any particular spot on the bridge – unless of course you’re cool with spiders.

Jesuit Church

The church was completed in 1677. The two towers were added in 1893. The church is Switzerland’s first major sacred building to be built in the baroque style. The domes you see there are what people would call ‘onion domes’ – associated with Russian architecture. Somehow the church towers and domes remind me of that of a mosque…

Old Town

We stayed at the Old Town – the great thing just by stepping outside our hotel, we will be greeted by beautiful architecture of the medieval times.

Town Hall

We didn’t realise what this building was at first. Passed by it so many times. I have never see a Town Hall building quite like this one. 

The Town Hall was built between 1602 and 1606 in Italian Renaissance style. The clock tower is older and was erected in the High Middle Ages; it was used as a dungeon at some point.

The Kornschütte on the ground floor of the Town Hall is used for exhibitions and concerts.

Lion Monument

You can walk to the monument – about 15 minutes or so from the train station or you can take the bus. This is a rock relief of a dying lion, carved into the cliff face of a former sandstone quarry. The monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who lost their lives in 1792 during the French Revolution. It’s quite a popular spot with tourists, so expect a lot of folks with selfie sticks etc.

Lake Lucerne Cruise

You can do an hour panoramic cruise around the lake – the views are magnificent – passing old buildings with mountain backdrop etc. If you can, combine a cruise with a trip to the mountain. We took the cruise to Alpnachstad before going up the cogwheel train up to Mt Pilatus. There also companies offering dining cruises – lunch cruises, Sunday brunch on a steamer – all sorts. If you are in Lucerne – you must at least do one boat outing!

Trip to Mt Titlis

My daughter and I loved Mt Titlis. We spent a beautiful day there – it takes about 45 minutes from Lucerne to Engelberg and another 15 minutes via cable car to go up to Mt Titlis.

Check out my post on our trip to Mt Titlis here.

Trip to Mt Pilatus

We could only choose one more mountain after Mt Titlis on this trip – I was really struggling between Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus, although I was a bit skewed towards Mt Pilatus. In the end, the weather decided for us – Mt Rigi was cloudy that day so we went for Mt Pilatus. It was excellent – the weather was so beautiful.

A couple of facts about Mt Pilatus:-

  • Highest peak – 2,128 metres above sea level.
  • It has the world’s steepest cogwheel railway
  • Best way to go to Pilatus is to take a bus from Lucerne to Kriens, then take a gondola/cable car up to Mt Pilatus. On the return leg, from Mt Pilatus – take a boat trip from Alpnachstad back to Lucerne.

Check out my post on Mt Pilatus here.

Trip to Mt Rigi

We didn’t get a chance to go to Mt Rigi. We had to choose between Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus. But I think either one would be superb from all the reviews I have read. I did a comparison between Mt Pilatus and Mt Rigi which I have gathered from many reading materials because I had to choose between the two. Check out my post  here.

A quick summary about Mt Rigi

  • Highest peak – 1,798 metres above sea level
  • Easy to moderate trails – suitable for families with young kids
  • You can combine a cable car, train ride and boat ride in your day to trip to Mt Rigi like Mt Pilatus.
  • Hotel Rigi Kaltbad offers interesting wellness/spa packages

Swiss Chocolates & Cheese Fondue

Yes – forget the diet for a bit. You’re in Switzerland – how can you not stuff yourself with a bit (or a lot) of delicious Swiss chocolates?

The cheese fondue is a traditional Swiss dish that is served especially during winter – the main ingredients are cheese, wine, and coarse peasant bread. I am not too sure if you can get the dish with no wine at the restaurants. But you can also make it yourself and replace the wine with something else – you will see fondue making kit everywhere in Lucerne. I was really tempted to get one but I wouldn’t be able to fit it in the suitcase.

For info – you can substitute the wine with non-alcoholic wine (yes – there is such a thing). Or you can replace the wine with either milk or a 50/50 mixture of milk and chicken or vegetable stock (broth). Full details at Nigella.com

Recap in case the page doesn’t work since it’s a Q&A page, after all… When substituting with milk – a few more things to note – as quoted from website:-

  • “Toss the cheese in the cornflour first and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the pot as well.
  • The fondue will be less stable without wine so heat very gently to reduce the risk of curdling
  • You may get better results by using a mix of harder cheeses (such as Gruyere and even cheddar) and omitting the soft cheeses (such as Brie and Camembert). The flavour will also be much milder so you may need to add some extra seasoning or spice, such as nutmeg or even a pinch of cayenne”.

Open Market/Luzerner Wochenmarkt

The market is on every Tuesday and Saturday between 6 a.m. and 1 pm. You can find stalls selling bread and other bakery products, fresh flowers and vegetables on both sides of the river near the Chapel bridge. Also on Saturdays, between April to December, there is a crafts market at Weinmarkt in the Old Town where you can find jewellery, ceramics and so on.

Historic Lucerne

Lucerne is a great place to base yourself for all the mountain excursions in the region. It’s also a beautiful place with beautiful old buildings and a gorgeous lake. 

I also got my Switzerland pandora souvenirs here from Lucerne. Check it out. One Edelweiss charm, one Switzerland map and a snowboarder. Perfect! 

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