Medieval architecture amidst astonishing nature, this city is nothing short of a national treasure.
Lucerne is an excellent travel destination in Switzerland for those interested in history and breathtaking views. Its small size and laidback atmosphere make it an ideal spot to relax and recoup during a long trip. Here is your complete travel guide on everything to know about the lake-front city.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Lucerne Train Station is the only station in the city and a train ride from Zurich Hauptbahnhof takes about 40 minutes. There are trains going back and forth between the cities several times a day and you can book tickets online or at the station. Lucerne Station is located near the city’s old town and many shops and restaurants are just a short walk away.
If you want to drive instead, Lucerne is located 52 km from Zurich, which is about a 45-minute drive via A4 and A14.
Lucerne is a walkable city that’s great for both nature lovers and those who prefer to explore the indoors. Here are the top three things to do and see while you’re there.
Kapellbrücke, 6002, Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke, is a pedestrian bridge crossing the Reuss River that was built in 1333. It is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe and the oldest functioning truss bridge in the world. This covered footbridge includes 17th century paintings depicting the history of Lucerne throughout the interior, while colorful flowers span the outside of the bridge in the spring and summer months. The Chapel Bridge is a great tourist attraction for its historic charm and beauty, so it’s well worth the trip.
6410 Arth, Lucerne, Switzerland
Known as “Queen of the Mountains,” Mount Rigi is home to the oldest mountain railway in Europe and an extensive selection of cafés and restaurants. Take a train or cable car to the top for phenomenal views of over 13 lakes and mountain peaks, as well as 120 km of hiking trails to explore. Buy tickets on the Mount Rigi website and enjoy the fresh mountain air in this idyllic slice of Switzerland.
Denkmalstrasse 4, Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne’s Glacier Garden is a geological site formed by a glacier during the Ice Age over 20,000 years ago. Here, you can go through an underground “portal” to see rocks that are up to 1 billion years old. Observe the fossilized seashore and traditional Lucerne sandstone among beautiful mountain views in the midst of a glacial pothole, its existence goes against all odds. Next to the site is a museum about Lucerne’s history and a fun mirror maze to explore after a day in the Ice Age.
In all of its historical glory, Lucerne is a great place to try traditional Swiss dishes and have a meal along the lake while chowing down on some local fare. To make the difficult choice of where to eat easier, here are three restaurants foodies are sure to enjoy.
Unter der Egg 2, 6004, Lucerne, Switzerland
Combined brewery and restaurant, Rathaus Brauerei is an establishment committed to the enjoyment and satisfaction of its customers. All the beer is brewed on site and pairs wonderfully with a mix of Swiss and German cuisine. Try their specialty sausages and cold platters and end the meal on a sweet note with homemade waffles for dessert. Enjoy food and beer right on the lake or revel in the tavern vibes inside Rathaus Brauerei, a one-minute walk from the Chapel Bridge located in Old Town.
Burgerstrasse 35, 6003, Lucerne, Switzerland
Restaurant Stern offers a modern spin on traditional Swiss cooking made with local ingredients. Here, they offer “shooting star” specialties: small jars filled with anything from horseradish soup to pork belly “sous-vide” which you can get as 2-8 courses with vegan and vegetarian options available upon request. Sit on the terrace that faces the Fransikaner church and savor the fresh flavors of Restaurant Stern.
Bireggstrasse 36, 6003, Lucerne, Switzerland
Neubad, translating to “new pool,” is located at Lucerne’s former indoor pool area where many neighborhood events take place. There is a sunny seating area in the garden as well as a summer bar where you can enjoy food and drinks when the weather is nice. The bistro offers breakfast and lunch with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and the menu is changing all the time, so make sure to check the website for an update before you go.
For such a small city, Lucerne has an abundance of excellent hotels to choose from. Here are three historic hotels that won’t disappoint.
Hotel Beau Séjour
Haldenstrasse 53, 6006, Lucerne, Switzerland
Hotel Beau Séjour is a lovely boutique hotel full of unique art by Nina Staehli and Daniel Hunziker. It opened in 1875 and won NZZ Bellevue’s Best Small City Hotel in 2020. Every room is different, but rest assured each has elegant antique décor and breathtaking views. You can borrow bikes from the hotel and there is a gym and boxing club in the basement if you want to keep up with a workout routine during your stay. At Hotel Beau Séjour, the staff is big on customer service and always happy to help with recommendations on what to do or where to eat, so don’t hesitate to ask!
CASCADA Boutique Hotel
Bundespl. 18, 6003, Lucerne, Switzerland
Located in the Neustadt area, CASCADA Boutique Hotel has 74 rooms, each named after a different Swiss waterfall. The hotel is a short walk to Old Town, but they offer free bus and rail passes for those making longer trips. You can buy tickets for popular attractions in Lucerne at the front desk as well, and there is an app with information about the hotel and the surrounding area if you need help deciding what to do. Make sure to grab a complimentary breakfast at the buffet in the BOLERO Restaurante on the ground floor before setting out for the day!
Hotel des Balances
Weinmarkt, 6004, Lucerne, Switzerland
Hotel des Balances is a top hotel in central Switzerland where you can find modern designs and rich history. The building itself was built in 1200 and operated as an inn until the hotel opened in 1836. There are rooms with views of the Chapel Bridge and the Reuss River, making Hotel des Balances the perfect home base during your travels. The hotel is also very eco-friendly, conserving energy when possible and using water from the Reuss River so you can rest easy knowing your environmental footprint is minimal. Don’t forget to indulge in delicious food at Restaurant Balances from an abundant breakfast buffet to a 7-course gourmet dinner.