Lucerne is a gorgeous city located in the heart of Switzerland, known for its scenic views and historic Old Town. Nestled between Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps, the city is a popular destination for tourists eager to soak up the rich culture, history and natural beauty of the region.
From the iconic Chapel Bridge to the Lion Monument, Lucerne is home to numerous cultural and historical landmarks that are sure to leave a lasting impression. With vibrant architecture and numerous outdoor activities too, you won’t run out of things to do in Lucerne.
Whether you’re interested in history or art, or simply want to explore one of Switzerland’s most charming cities, Lucerne is a destination that won’t disappoint.
To help you make the most of your trip to this wonderful city, here are 15 of the top things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland.
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The iconic Lion Monument, also known as the Lion of Lucerne, was created in the early 1820s by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and Swiss stonecutter Lucas Ahorn to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were killed during the French Revolution.
The sculpture depicts a dying lion, carved out of a natural rock face, with a spear lodged in its side. The lion is laying on a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy, representing the Swiss Guards’ loyalty to the French Royal Family.
Above the sculpture is an inscription in Latin that translates as “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”
The monument is a must-see in Lucerne and is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Switzerland. It is set in a small, tranquil park surrounded by trees and a pond, with an area to sit and admire the landmark.
The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Lucerne, spanning the Reuss River and connecting the Old Town to the rest of the city.
This famous landmark was originally built in the 1300s as a defence structure and was named after the nearby St Peter’s Chapel.
The winding bridge has undergone several renovations and restorations over the centuries, including after a fire in 1993 that damaged a large part of the bridge.
The most notable feature of the Chapel Bridge is its interior, which contains a series of paintings from the 17th century that depict scenes from Swiss history and mythology.
These paintings are considered to be one of the oldest examples of Swiss secular art. In addition to the paintings, the Chapel Bridge also features triangular roof panels decorated with various motifs, including the coats of arms of the city and the canton of Lucerne.
The bridge also contains an octagonal tower, which was added in the 16th century and was once used as a prison and torture chamber.
The Church of St Leodegar
The Church of St Leodegar, also called the Hofkirche, is one of the most important and recognisable landmarks in the city.
The church was originally built in the 8th century on a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne, but has undergone several renovations over the centuries.
The most significant addition was the construction of two towers in the 17th century, making it one of the tallest churches in Switzerland.
The Hofkirche is well known for its stunning architecture, combining elements of Gothic and Baroque styles. The exterior features intricate carvings and statues, while the interior is adorned with beautiful frescoes and paintings.
A visit is highly recommended to admire the beautiful architecture and artwork, attend a service or concert, or simply enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding city and across Lake Lucerne.
The Spreuer Bridge is another covered wooden bridge in Lucerne that also spans the Reuss River and is downstream from the Chapel Bridge. It was first built in 1408 to connect the old city walls with a nearby mill, but is today used as a pedestrian bridge.
The most unique feature of the Spreuer Bridge is its series of triangular roof panels, decorated with 67 paintings from the 17th century depicting scenes from a mediaeval allegory, the Dance of Death.
The paintings were created by local artist Kaspar Meglinger and are considered to be one of the most important examples of Swiss Renaissance art.
The bridge also features a small tower, which was used as a lookout point and was equipped with a small cannon for defence purposes.
Glacier Garden of Lucerne
One of the coolest Lucerne attractions is the Glacier Garden of Lucerne, a unique geological formation. The natural park was created during the last ice age, over 20,000 years ago.
Open to visitors since 1873, the Glacier Garden is considered to be one of the oldest tourist attractions in Switzerland. This attraction is made up of a variety of fascinating geological features, including giant potholes and rock formations, which were formed by the movement of glaciers.
One of the main attractions of the Glacier Garden is the Millennium Path, a trail that will take you on a journey through the history of the earth. Along the path, you can see examples of different geological eras, from the Precambrian period to the present day.
There are also several interactive exhibits to help you to understand the geological processes that created the Glacier Garden. Another highlight is the Alpine Museum, which showcases the geology, flora and fauna of the Alps.
You can also check out the psychedelic mirror maze depicting the Alhambra Palace, which has been in Lucerne since 1899 and is made up of 90 mirrors.
The Jesuit Church
The Jesuit Church of St Francis Xavier is a Catholic church located in the heart of Lucerne’s Old Town. It was built by the Jesuits in the 17th century on the former site of an 8th-century Benedictine monastery and is one of the most important pieces of Baroque architecture in the city.
The interior of the church is breathtaking, featuring elaborate frescoes, ornate altars and beautiful marble statues. The ceiling of the nave is decorated with impressive murals depicting the life of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the church.
Today, the church remains a place of worship as well as a popular tourist attraction, so you can attend mass if you wish or simply admire the stunning architecture. The church also hosts regular concerts and recitals, which are open to the public.
Richard Wagner Museum
The Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne is dedicated to the life and work of the German composer Richard Wagner. The museum is located in the Tribschen Villa, a house on the shores of Lake Lucerne where Wagner lived for several years.
It contains a collection of Wagner’s personal belongings, such as his piano, furniture and other memorabilia, and also features multimedia presentations with videos and audio recordings of Wagner’s music.
You can even see manuscripts of his famous operas, including ‘Tristan and Isolde’ and ‘The Ring of the Nibelung’. In addition to the museum’s permanent collection, there are temporary exhibitions, concerts and other events throughout the year, including performances by local musicians and visiting artists.
The museum is open daily from April to October, and on weekends during the rest of the year. Guided tours are available in several languages, including English.
One of Switzerland’s most gorgeous attractions is Lake Lucerne. The lake’s crystal-clear water makes it a popular spot for swimming, sailing and other aquatic activities, while the surrounding mountains are ideal for hiking and biking.
A Lake Lucerne cruise or boat tour is the best way to experience the beautiful scenery of the region.
A gourmet lunch cruise is one of the most popular options, as it allows you to sample delicious local cuisine and wine while listening to some live music and admiring the views.
If you’re looking for things to do in Lucerne at night, you can head out for a memorable sunset cruise instead. If you have limited time in the city, you can book a one-hour yacht tour that departs at your convenience.
Swiss Museum of Transport
The Swiss Museum of Transport is one of the most popular museums in Switzerland. It features exhibits, displays and multimedia presentations related to all modes of transportation, including trains, automobiles, ships and aeroplanes.
Within the Swiss Transport Museum is a large collection of locomotives and other historic vehicles, including the first Swiss locomotive and the world’s oldest still-functioning automobile.
The museum also features a large outdoor area with a miniature railway and a playground for children, so it’s a must-visit if you’re travelling with young kids.
If vehicles aren’t really your thing, there’s still a whole lot more to see and enjoy here. One of the most popular exhibits at the museum is the Swiss Chocolate Adventure, taking you on a journey through the history and production of Swiss chocolate.
Another popular exhibit is the planetarium, which features a dome-shaped theatre with a 360-degree projection system, allowing visitors to experience the wonders of the universe.
Musegg Wall is one of the best-preserved mediaeval fortifications in Switzerland. Stretching over 800 metres long, the wall and its nine towers have surrounded Old Town Lucerne since the late 14th century.
As well as being a historically-significant structure and a great tourist attraction, the wall has also become a special habitat for local flora and fauna in Lucerne. While visiting, you may spot rare birds like goosanders and jackdaws, as well as some lizards, bats and slugs.
The Männli, Zyt, Wacht and Schirmer Towers are open to visitors between April and October, offering amazing views of the city and the Reuss River.
Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre
The Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre, also known as the KKL Luzern, is a modern cultural centre opposite the Lucerne Train Station.
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the building includes a large glass roof that provides natural light and views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains. Such a modern building really stands out from the traditional architecture that is seen throughout the city.
The KKL Luzern is a hub for cultural events, including concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions. The concert hall is known for its incredible acoustics and has hosted many world-renowned musicians and orchestras.
There are also some great restaurants and bars within the centre, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. You can check the online program to see if there are any events you’d like to check out while in the city, or you can attend a lunch concert with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.
Sammlung Rosengart, or the Rosengart Collection, is a renowned art museum and a must-visit for art lovers visiting Lucerne, Switzerland. The museum was founded by Angela Rosengart, the daughter of prominent art dealer Siegfried Rosengart, to share her rich personal collection with the public.
The museum’s exhibition spaces are designed to showcase artwork in natural light, creating a unique and immersive experience for visitors.
The museum’s collection is extensive and includes some of the most important works of art of the 20th century. The permanent collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet and more. The museum is open to visitors every day of the year.
One of the best things to do in Lucerne in winter is to take a trip to Mount Rigi. Getting to the mountain from the city is very easy and convenient, with numerous public transport options available.
The most common routes are a train or boat ride to Vitznau, where you can then board the cogwheel train up to Rigi Kulm, the highest peak of the mountain.
At a height of 1,800 metres, Mount Rigi provides unforgettable views across the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne, as well as the surrounding towns and villages.
In the summertime, outdoor activities are limited to hiking and appreciating the panoramic views. During the winter, however, you can go skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and even enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride.
If you want to relax and unwind after days of walking around and sightseeing, the mountain has several wellness centres and spas.
The Bourbaki Panorama is a 19th-century panoramic painting created by Swiss artist Edouard Castres. It depicts the retreat of the French army after the Battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War.
The painting is over 100 metres in circumference and 10 metres high, and is displayed in a specially-designed rotunda.
To view the artwork, visitors stand on a raised platform in the centre of the room, which creates an illusion of being in the middle of the scene.
There is also a small museum that provides further context on the history of the painting. Admission is free if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, so don’t miss out on the chance to view one of the best pieces of panoramic art in the world.
If you love the outdoors and are seeking some adventure, Mount Pilatus is a perfect destination for a day trip from Lucerne. The mountain is an amazing spot for activities like hiking, skiing and snowboarding.
Also on Mount Pilatus is Fräkmüntegg, one of the largest rope parks in Switzerland, where you can take part in rope climbing, tobogganing, treetop walking, ziplining and paragliding.
There are two main ways to get to the mountain; you can either take a train or a boat ride to Alpnachstad, where you’ll then board the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, or you can hop on a gondola from Kriens to Fräkmüntegg, then take the aerial cable car up to the top of the mountain.
The cogwheel railway has been open for over 130 years and takes about 30 minutes to reach the top, giving you plenty of time to admire the views. The gondola and aerial cableway, also called the Dragon Ride, take around half an hour as well.
If you don’t want to worry about having to organise this journey yourself, the Pilatus Golden Round Trip is a popular tour option to consider. It typically involves taking a cruise across the lake from Lucerne to Alpnachstad, then the cogwheel railway to the summit of the mountain.
You’ll grab a bite to eat on the terrace, enjoy the amazing panoramic views, and then make the return journey down the mountain via the aerial cableway and the panoramic gondolas.
The full tour is only offered between June and October, as the cogwheel railway doesn’t operate between mid-November to mid-May.
Recommended tours in Lucerne
- Jungfraujoch Top of Europe Day Trip from Lucerne
- Mt Pilatus self-guided Golden Round Trip from Lucerne incl. boat cruise
- Lucerne Walking and Boat Tour: The Best Swiss Experience
- Official Guided City Tour of Lucerne
- Private city tour with a cheese & chocolate degustation
- Lake Lucerne Panoramic Sightseeing Cruise
- Paragliding Tandemflight Lucerne – Engelberg
- Independent Rigi Tour from Lucerne With Cruise
- Lucerne “CH” Experience: Cheese, Chocolate, Chapel Bridge & Château
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