In September, my hubby and I took another 10 day trip to Europe. I honestly don’t know why I selected Lucerne over Zurich. After all, Zurich is the bigger city with easier travel access, but Lucerne ended up being our favorite city of the entire vacation. I think many people just expect to do a day trip from Zurich to Lucerne (it’s about a one hour trip on the train), but there are so many things to do in Lucerne. It totally deserves more than a day trip. If you’re lucky enough to add this to your itinerary, here’s the perfect way to spend a few days in the beautiful city of Lucerne.
Where to Stay:
Out of the three destinations, our Lucerne hotel was our “splurge”. I surprised Marc-Andre with a Junior Corner Suite at the Art Deco Hotel Montana, and it could not have been any sweeter. With insanely beautiful views of Lake Lucerne, we had a private jacuzzi on our balcony and a fully stocked mini bar at no additional fee. It was luxurious, comfortable, and unforgettable. You can see more photos and my full review over on this post.
When you arrive in Lucerne, probably by train, you’ll be in the center of the city. If you’re staying at a hotel nearby, like the Art Deco Hotel Montana, then drop off your luggage and walk back to the center of Old Town. The sidewalk along Lake Lucerne is lined with big beautiful trees, benches to relax, and swans that’ll easily entertain you. First stop in Old Town Lucerne, Old Chapel Bridge.
Old Chapel Bridge
The Kapellbrücke is a wooden bridge in the middle of Old Town Lucerne and probably one of the most popular stops in the city. It’s known for the beauty of the flowers that line the sides of the bridge and the stunning interior paintings. Built in the late 1300’s, it’s the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. The paintings have been around since the 1700’s, but after a fire in 1993, many of them had to be restored. The bridge will be crowded almost any time of the day. We went around 9:00am, 4:00pm, and late evening. Tourists are constantly walking the bridge and taking photos, but it’s not overwhelming.
Rauthaus Brewery & Waterfront Restaurants
There are several great restaurants right on the water by Old Chapel Bridge, but if you’re ready for a little happy hour action, head to the brewery. Rauthaus Brewery is right by the Chapel Bridge and is a must-do for a happy hour beer and pretzel. Like many of the restaurants in Old Town, the outdoor seating is popular. If you can snag a seat by the water, you’ll love it even more.
The first baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps, this Catholic church is a beauty, inside and out. It’s an easy stop after the Chapel Bridge. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the charming streets of Lucerne, grabbing some gelato, and shopping.
Scala Restaurant at Art Deco Hotel Montana
Whether or not you’re staying at the Art Deco Hotel Montana, you’ll want to check out the Scala Restaurant. With stunning views, live music, and friendly staff, this restaurant is well known in Lucerne, and for good reason. The wine list was impressive and the food was delicious. You can find the menu for your travel dates a few weeks before arriving. I’d suggest making a reservation a week or two in advance if you’re going during the weekend.
While you’re at the Art Deco Hotel, check out Louis Bar. With a pianist playing through the evening and a bartender whipping up some of the best cocktails, this is another must-do for a classy evening.
If you’re looking for things to do in Lucerne, paragliding should be at the top of your list! While I originally wanted to go hang gliding, we booked paragliding because they picked us up from the train station in the center of Lucerne. The closest hang gliding I could find was in Zurich and I didn’t want to waste time traveling even further out. Starting at 9:00am, the total time for this excursion was 4 hours.
Our guide with Paragliding Luzern wasn’t the most social man on the planet, but he safely got us from point A to point B and definitely loved being in the air. I’ve been skydiving twice, but paragliding was so much cooler to me. Soaring through the sky, with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop, was just breathtaking. Some guides will let you bring your own GoPro as long as it’s secure, but they also record the adventure and take photos on their GoPro. At just an additional $35, it was worth it to me.
Don’t be afraid to tell your guide that you like rollercoasters. It was a blast to get those butterflies at the end of the ride and I could tell the guide loved it, too.
Swiss Museum of Transportation
If you have the energy, head to the Swiss Museum of Transportation. From the train station, you can jump on public transportation buses and it’s an easy ride to the other side of the lake. This interactive museum is dedicating 2018 and 2019 to the aerospace industry. From flight simulators to a movie theater to planetariums, you could spend several hours here. They even have a Lindt Swiss Chocolate Adventure. If you know you’ll want more than 3 hours in the museum, skip the shopping in Old Town on Day 1 and head here instead.
Beach Club at Art Deco Hotel Montana
Talk about views. With sand between your toes, comfortable lounge chairs, and a view to die for, you will love this little bar.
We were pretty hungry when we got back to our hotel so we decided to head to the Beach Club on the second floor. Beach Club has small bites, a variety of drinks, and a laidback atmosphere. It was the perfect dose of relaxation after a busy day. However, double check your travel dates with their season. The last I heard, they’re only open May through September.
Fondue House Luzern:
Fondue House Luzern was our favorite meal in this city! The server made us feel incredibly special and the fondue was divine. If you’ve never experienced fondue before, this is the place to do it.
Get to bed a little earlier because you have an early start for Day 3!
Lion of Lucerne
Start your morning off visiting another popular tourist stop. I suggest arriving around 8:00am. We had over 20 minutes where we were the only ones at the Lion Monument.
This giant dying lion is carved into the side of sandstone rock. It was created in dedication for the Swiss Guards who lost their lives during the French Revolution. It’s very moving and the area is serene, making it feel even more heartfelt. Lucerne has owned the monument since the late 1800’s, and it’s free to the public. It’s easy an easy walk from the Art Deco Hotel Montana with several shops and restaurants right by it.
Mt. Pilatus Day Trip
Mt. Pilatus is at the top of the list for things to do in Lucerne. I told myself we would only take the trip to the top of Mt. Pilatus if we had good weather. We had beautiful weather. So the night before our last full day, I booked us the Golden Round Trip. This tour is fine if you need someone to hold your hand and enjoy being hurdled around like cattle. While the ease of not having to think about tickets and transportation was nice, I would highly recommend not going with a tour group. Instead, the Pilatus website gives you all of the information you need to plan your own day trip. The interactive map shows you exactly what you will be doing, so hop in a taxi or take the public transportation bus to the panorama gondolas in Kriens, and you’re set.
From the panorama gondola, you’ll hop onto the aerial cableway “Dragon Ride”. This three and a half minute ride has you gliding up the side of the mountain with breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately for us, we were crammed into the middle of the middle in the cableway car. Again, another reason being pushed around like cattle isn’t fun. Once you’re at the top of Mt. Pilatus, take a moment to soak it all in. While our tour alotted only 90 minutes for us at the top, you could easily spend hours. With multiple restaurants and several short hiking trails, this place deserves more than 90 minutes.
Prepare for the hiking!
Our tour didn’t give us a heads up on what to wear or bring, but the hiking at the top can be pretty strenuous. I was wearing jeans, sneakers, and a tank top with (gasp) a strapless bra. If you know you’ll be doing the hikes, make sure to wear what you would want to have on during any other kind of hike. The only hike we could squeeze in gave us an estimated timeframe of 30 minutes. The sign meant 30 minutes one-way. So it took about an hour round-trip with stopping to take photos.
There’s lodging at the top!
One gentleman on our tour had a carry on bag and was staying the night at the Mt. Pilatus Hotel. That would be a pretty cool experience.
Bring your appetite.
There are a few different restaurants, from quick service to full service. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, and we totally earned that beer after our hour-long hike to the top.
When you’re ready to head down, you’ll want to hop on the steepest cogwheel train in the world. It was actually really cool to experience and again, the views were just breathtaking. It was about a 30 minute ride down to Alpnachstad and you can either take a boat ride or train back to the center of Lucerne. If you’re going at this alone, you may have to buy your ticket there and then wait for the next boat. If you want to book your ticket ahead of time, just make sure you’re giving yourself enough time at the top of the Mt. Pilatus.
Enjoy the View
Lucerne is just a beautiful city. Finding somewhere to sit back and relax, while surrounded by the beauty, allows you to appreciate being there. It was truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen and there were countless options for outdoor seating, boat rides, and more.
The Weekend Fox Tips:
- The currency in Switzerland is called a Franc. I always like to carry a little bit of the local currency in cash.
- Tipping your server is not expected. Most places will add a “service charge” to your bill which is a fee similar to tipping.
- You don’t need a car. While we did take a taxi from the train station to our hotel because of our luggage, the city is very walkable and public transportation is easy to use.
- Visit the main attractions in the city early in the morning. Remember that many of the things to do in Lucerne are pretty close to each other. You can visit the Lion of Lucerne, Chapel Bridge, Jesuit Church, and other Old Town attractions all in one morning if it works with your schedule.
- The Swiss Travel Pass can save you time and money by giving you unlimited access to rail, bus, and boat on the Swiss Travel System network. We didn’t get one because of the tour we did with Mt. Pilatus, but it would be a good idea if you’re going at it alone.
- Always double check the websites of the main attractions you want to see. Some of them will be closed for maintenance or weather during certain times of the year.
- Local residents speak English very well. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help, tips, or suggestions. Our hotel even provided us with a bus pass to get around the city.
There are so many more things to do in Lucerne if you have the time! If you’re planning a trip and have specific questions for me, send an email to katherine[at]theweekendfox.com & I’ll help you out! Every trip is unique, so use this itinerary as a base guide and go from there.