Whether you are visiting Switzerland for a week or a month, odds are you will have the chance to visit the city of Lucerne (also spelled Luzern) for a day at one point or another.
Lucerne is known to be one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland as it sits on the famous Lake Lucerne and is surrounded by the mountains of the Swiss Alps.
This guide will go through what one day in Lucerne can look like as you plan out your trip to Switzerland.
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1) How to Get to Lucerne
First things first is getting yourself to Lucerne. Throughout a visit to Switzerland, you will most likely be utilizing the Swiss public transportation network.
Learn More | Switzerland Train Travel
In the Lucerne city center, there is the main train station, which is connected to many cities all around Switzerland. You should have no trouble leveraging the Swiss trains to get yourself right into Lucerne.
Some of the main cities you may be coming from include:
• Zurich: 40 minutes
• Bern: 1 hour
• Basel: 1 hour
• Interlaken: 2 hours
• Geneva: 3 hours
• Zermatt: 3.5 hours
• St Moritz: 4.5 hours
Lucerne, more or less, sits in the middle of the country so you will find plenty of itinerary routes that will include the city on a trip. Feel free to check out some itineraries I have put together that would include a stop in Lucerne:
• Switzerland 5 Day Itinerary
• Switzerland 7 Day Itinerary
• Switzerland 10 Day Itinerary
• Switzerland 14 Day Itinerary
Rental Car Note: although many people simply take the trains around Switzerland, others may want to rent a car. Feel free to check out Rentalcars.com if that is something you are interested in.
2) Is Lucerne a Walkable City
Yes, Lucerne is certainly a walkable city, and one of the best cities in Switzerland to explore by foot.
The great thing about Lucerne, is that once you are in the city center, there is no need to take additional transport to attractions within the city itself.
I would consider everything mentioned on this list of things to do in Lucerne as walkable from one to another.
Do be aware though that there are some more hilly sections of the city, especially if heading up to the city walls.
Now, there are also day trip opportunities to take from Lucerne (i.e. Pilatus). If taking part of a mountain excursion, then yes you would need some additional transport to get you there and back.
3) Best Time to Visit Lucerne
The great thing about Switzerland is that it can be a year-round destination. In the summer months you will find plenty of gorgeous hiking opportunities, while in the winter, skiing and snow sports are popular.
Since Lucerne itself is just a small lakeside town, the weather should not get in the way of visiting any and all of the highlights. Note though that some attractions may not be open in the winter months.
The summer in general is one of the most popular times to visit Switzerland. The summer holiday period and warmer weather, makes it a busy time of year.
While prices will be higher and the streets will be more crowded, you should have the chance to fully enjoy any and all hiking opportunities around the country.
Lucerne can also be added to a winter trip – whether that includes snow sports or not. You will find it to be on the colder side, especially since it sits on a lake.
However, the winter can also bring a new side to the town with snow blanketing the streets, making it a whole different type of experience.
Fall & Spring
The Fall & Spring shoulder seasons are a great time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds and have some cheaper accommodation options.
In general, these shoulder months are great for a Switzerland trip focused on cities, lakes, and lower elevation hikes.
However, since there still will be snow at higher altitudes, you may not have the chance to take part of certain hiking routes. If this is important to you, then you will want to consider a visit closer to the summer time period.
4) Where to Stay in Lucerne
If you are just spending one day in Lucerne, I would recommend staying right in the town center. This way you can easily walk around the city from your hotel and take breaks as needed.
Some of the top hotels to choose from in Lucerne include:
Waldstatterhof Swiss Quality Hotel | Located just around the corner from the train station and the Chapel Bridge, Waldstatterhof offers one of the top locations in the Lucerne city center.
Hotel Des Alpes | The hotel is located right along the river, where you can get some beautiful views of the Reuss from the terrace, as you enjoy a meal with a view.
Hotel De la Paix | On the opposite side of the river, you will find Hotel De La Paix. It is right nearby the Lion Monument and other top highlights of Lucerne.
5) One Day in Lucerne Things To Do
With one day in Lucerne, you should have the perfect amount of time to explore the city center. Below are 10 things to do in Lucerne during your time in the city.
Please be sure to check the latest opening hours and prices for a handful of the attractions listed. These do change over time, so please prepare accordingly for your trip.
Lake Lucerne Walk
Since the city center sits right on the riverside & lakeside, what better way to enjoy it than to walk all around the lake area. Within the city you will have the Reuss River that then feeds into Lake Lucerne.
You will find that the town is split into two, with either side on one end of the river. Connecting the two sides are several scenic bridges (more on that next).
As you make your way around throughout your day in Lucerne, be sure to walk those paths closest to the water.
You will get some great views of the city itself, the lake, and even mountains further out in the distance.
The Kapellbruke (or Chapel Bridge) is the most famous of bridges that connects the city of Lucerne. It is a beautiful wooden bridge with intricate artwork and stone water tower.
From a historical perspective, the bridge was built in the 1300’s as part of the fortification of the city. Originally, the bridge was even longer in size (285 meters), but it has been shortened over the years.
The stone water tower was used for a variety of reasons over time. This included a dungeon, archive, and treasury vault.
In the 1600s, the bridge was enhanced with intricate paintings on its ceiling. However, in 1993, a fire occurred on the bridge and destroyed many of these. Over the following years, facsimile photographs were added into the missing spots to bring back its original beauty.
While the Kapellbruke may be the most famous bridge in Lucerne, the nearby Spreuer Bridge is worth the walk over as well. It is similar in architecture and also has some artwork throughout to take in.
Similar to just walking along the lakeside, walking around the Old Town center is going to be another highlight on its own.
Throughout the town you will find colorful buildings, many of which depict detailed artwork. The car free, cobble stone, narrow streets make for the perfect walking town.
Just winding your way through the alleyways and towards the next attraction of the day will be an enjoyable experience to take part of.
You are sure to pass by small shops and restaurants all throughout your journey around the Lucerne Old Town.
Museggmauer City Walls & Towers
If you are looking for some views and some history, you have to head up to the Museggmauer.
The Museggmauer, or Musegg Wall, is the original old city wall that surrounds Lucerne. Throughout this portion of the wall, you will also find 9 towers to explore.
Now, you aren’t able to walk around the entirety of the Museggmauer, but there are certain portions that are open to the public.
You will find the areas around the Schirmerturm, Zytturm, Wachtturm, and Mannliturm towers open to the public. You can also climb to the top of a few of them.
Similarly to the Kapellbruke, the walls and towers were built in the 1300s as a fortification around the city.
In some towers, like the Zytturm, you will find the intricate clockwork behind the clocktower too.
Note that the towers and walkway is only open during the warmer months of the year from April to October.
The Lion Monument and nearby Glacier Garden (more on that next), is another highlight that can be visited during your one day in Lucerne.
The monument itself is carved into the rock with a small pond at the base of it.
From a historical perspective, the Lion Monument was dedicated in memory of the Swiss mercenaries who served in France under King Louis XVI and were killed during the French Revolution.
The monument was designed by a Danish sculptor named Bertel Thorvaldsen and carved out by Lucas Ahorn. In all, the monument stands at 6 meters tall and 10 meters wide.
Right nearby the Lion Monument you will find the Gletschergarten (Glacier Garden). There are several areas to visit within the complex depending on your interests.
These include the National Monument, Glacier Museum, GeoWorld Luzern, Jahrmillionen Show, General Pfyffers 3D Alps, Amreins House, Spiegellabyrinth, Tower Walk, among others.
In general though, the glacier garden takes you back in time to better understand what the area looked like thousands of years ago.
Within the glacier garden area itself you will get to view basins from the last Ice Age, and fossils from over 20 million years ago.
You can feel free to enjoy the rest of the area, which includes a labyrinth of mirrors that is sure to give you a laugh (and maybe some confusion). And don’t forget to head up to the Tower Walk, for a great view of the city from above.
Church of St Leodegar
One of the most famous churches in Lucerne is the Church of St Leodegar. Originally built in the 1630’s, the history of the church goes back to the 700’s!
Prior to the church you see today, there was another church that was built in the 700’s and burnt down in 1633.
Today you will find the Church of St Leodegar in its place, which has been considered one of the most historical instances of Renaissance architecture in the country.
Depending on your preferences, you can either just view the church from the outside or also head into the church itself.
Situated right along the riverfront, you will see the beautiful Jesuit Church, another historical part of Lucerne.
Built in 1600’s, it was modeled after the Gesu Church in Rome, and was one of the first structures in Switzerland built in the baroque style.
Again, feel free to just enjoy the view from the waterside, or head into the church too.
Lake Lucerne Boat Trip
At some point during your day, you can take part of a relaxing boat trip along the waters of Lake Lucerne.
The boats leave from the riverside (nearby the Schweizerhof), and make a circular loop further out onto the lake itself.
The boat tour includes an audio guide that can be listened to in multiple languages, and you can decide to enjoy the ride either outside or inside the boat.
With multiple departures a day, the ride lasts just around 60 minutes. It makes for the perfect way to break up your day in Lucerne as you sit back & relax with a view.
→ Boat Tour Booking: 1 Hour Scenic Cruise
→ Boat & Lunch Tour Booking: 2 Hour Scenic Cruise
6) Lucerne Day Trips
While one day in Lucerne can be filled with a variety of things to do, there are also day trip opportunities. This will be geared towards those that have more than one day to spare while visiting Lucerne.
The most famous of mountain excursions to take part of from Lucerne is to head up to Mount Pilatus. Now, this will entail a whole variety of transportation to get yourself up and down the mountain.
The Golden Round Trip is one of the more popular options to consider when taking part. This would entail:
1) Start off with a quick 15-minute bus ride from Lucerne to Kriens
2) Once at Kriens, you will take a set of two cable cars to the Pilatus summit (the cable car opens around 8:30/9:00AM and I would recommend timing your day to get there around then).
→ Gondola from Kriens to Frankmuntegg. At Frankmuntegg you can explore the area, if you are interested in doing so.
→ From Frankmuntegg, you can hop on the quick Dragon Ride cable car to the summit.
3) Once you reach the summit, you will be welcomed to some of the best panoramic views you could ask for. Feel free to roam around to take in the landscape, head to the mountainside restaurant, and make your way along some trails.
4) You can head down the steepest cogway in the world. This 40-minute ride will be a true highlight on its own as you slowly make your way to the town of Alpnachstad.
5) Once off the cogway, you can take a boat ride on Lake Lucerne from Alpnachstad to Lucerne. The boat trip will give you the chance to enjoy the town and surrounding landscape from the water for around an hour.
Feel free to book this as a guided tour, where all logistics will be taken care of for you in addition to having a guide by your side.
Other day trip mountain excursions to consider around Lucerne include Mt Rigi and Mt Titlus.
Day Trip from Lucerne to Zurich
Instead of taking a mountain excursion, you can also take a day trip to another city. The nearest, most popular city to visit would be Zurich. Since it is just a quick 40 minute train ride away, this will make an easy day trip to take part of altogether.
Similarly to Lucerne, once you are in Zurich, you should be able to visit most of the Old Town area by foot. Below are some top highlights that can be visited during a day trip to the city:
1) Grossmunster Church – not only a beautiful church but also one where you can climb to the top for a small fee (5 CHF). It offers some of the best views of the entire city of Zurich.
2) Fraumünster Church – another iconic church with a large plaza off to the side. There are events happening time to time which really fills up the area nicely.
3) Zurich Opera House – just taking in the beautiful architecture from the outside is an incredible site to see.
4) Bahnhofstrasse – one of the main shopping streets of Zurich.
5) Lindenhof – from the small square you will get some great views of the Limmat River, Zurich architecture, Grossmunster Church, among several other highlights.
6) Limmat to Zurichsee Walk – all along the Limmat river you will find walking paths to take a stroll. One of my favorite things to do in Zurich is to walk along the river towards Zurichsee, while crossing over some bridges along the way.
7) Limmat River Cruise – another way to experience the Limmat is to take a river cruise along its waters. These glass covered boats give visitors the chance to see the city from a whole other perspective.
8) FIFA Museum – during a visit you can learn all about the history of soccer and FIFA, see plenty of unique soccer memorabilia, and enjoy some interactive exhibits.
9) Walk through the Old Town –you can fill the rest of your day with getting lost in the Old Town (Altstadt). There are plenty of streets to check out and explore.
7) Is 1 Day Enough in Lucerne
If you are just looking to enjoy a lovely day within the Old Town of Lucerne, then one day in the city is enough.
However, the town itself is not the only highlight in the area. There are several nearby mountain excursions to take part of – in particular Mt Pilatus.
While you could technically squeeze everything into one day (Pilatus and Old Town), you will find yourself rushing through it all.
So, if the city itself is all you want to visit, then one day is enough. If you also want to head up Pilatus, I would recommend a second day in the city.
8) 24 Hours in Lucerne Map
To wrap up, below you can find a map that includes the various attractions and activities mentioned.
This will give you a better sense of where everything is located within the city and how to take on one day in Lucerne for yourself.
If you have any questions about spending one day in Lucerne, be sure to add them in below. Also, don’t forget to check out some of the other Switzerland itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!