Things to Do in Lucerne

more than a year ago

Situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne with a population of some 75,000, Lucerne is a popular tourist destination for many reasons - including its stunning scenery, its well-preserved Old Town, and its many bridges. The Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe and the Spreuerbrücke (Mill Bridge) is the world’s oldest covered bridge. The enchanting city also has several museums worth exploring, such as the Swiss Transport Museum and the Rosengart Collection, which houses works by Picasso, Matisse, and Monet. In addition to its many tourist attractions, Lucerne offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy.

Visit the Swiss Museum of Transport

Swiss Museum of Transport ©
Swiss Museum of Transport ©

The Swiss Museum of Transport is Switzerland's most popular museum. It tells the story of the development of transport and mobility by road, rail and water as well as in the air and outer space - and how it affects everyday life. Look at more than 3,000 objects like planes, steam engines and cars in the huge halls. In the Swissarena you can walk around on an aerial photograph of Switzerland with a scale of 1:20,000 - or be a TV presenter for a couple of minutes in the communication section and take home a recording of your performance. This museum is very much hands-on and in every section there are special activities for children - a good choice for the family not just on a rainy day! A planetarium and the Swiss Chocolate Adventure are on site too.

Walk on the Chapel Bridge (kapellbrücke)

Chapel Bridge © Erich Wirz / Pixabay
Chapel Bridge © Erich Wirz / Pixabay 
Lucerne's most famous landmark is certainly the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), which stretches across the entrance to the River Reuss (over nearly 203 metres) in a peculiar diagonal direction. Built in 1365 as part of Lucerne's fortifications, it is the oldest covered wooden bridge still standing in Europe. Part of its fame is due to the originally more than 150 triangular paintings positioned inside the bridge in the gabels. The paintings date from the 17th century and show scenes from Lucerne's and Switzerland's history, and they can be seen as a mass media of the time, used to advocate allegiance to Catholicism during the Counter-Reformation.

In 1993 a fire destroyed a large part of the bridge (towards the centre) including 78 of the paintings. When you walk across the bridge you will see burned, blackened paintings on either end which mark the point where the restored parts begin. The Chapel Bridge is really only complete with the octagonal Wasserturm, literally the 'water tower', which stands in the water next to it. Built before the bridge (i.e. before 1365), the Wasserturm was part of Lucerne's military fortifications and was also used as a dungeon. It is seldom accessible to the public.

Visit the Glacier Garden

Glacier Garden of Lucerne © Gletschergarten Luzern/ FB
Glacier Garden of Lucerne © Gletschergarten Luzern/ FB
Gletschergarten means glacier garden, and this Lucerne institution consists of three elements: a geological site formed by a glacier, a museum next door and a mirror maze dating from 1896. This quaint jumble of attractions is very 19th century, making this museum a museum piece in itself - an echo from a bygone era. The geological site is a set of deep funnels and channels worn into the bedrock by the glacier that once covered this area. Walk along the footbridges and read how these formations came into existence.

The museum is housed in a building with Baroque, Renaissance and Biedermeier rooms, which are exquisite but not tied into a larger concept. The larger part of the exhibition consists of relief models of Switzerland and exhibits about glaciers, climate change and avalanches. The mirror maze finally is pure and simple 19th century fair-ground fun. But it still works, and children particularly love this part. Watch your nose!

Dine on Lucerne Lake

Dine on Lucerne Lake ©
Dine on Lucerne Lake ©
The Lake Lucerne navigation company operates a fleet of 20 passenger ships on the lake, from the paddle steamer Uri launched in 1901 to the sleek high-tech cruiser Diamant which dates from 2017. You can catch a ship for the 10-minute hop across to the Transport Museum, or spend up to 5.5h on a roundtrip cruise to Flüelen and back. Boats leave regularly from the piers around the KKL or from the piers on Schweizerhofquai, even in winter. Snacks and drinks are available from the bar on almost all connections (except the very earliest), and on many the restaurant offers full meals.

Walk around the Old Town

Walk Around the Old Town ©
Walk Around the Old Town ©
On this walking tour, a guide takes you round all of Lucerne's major sights giving you historical and anecdotal background. You'll see places like the Chapel Bridge or the KKL, as well as some more hidden corners. Reservations are not needed, just turn up at the tourist information before 09:45 and pay on site. In English and German. Group tours in other languages available.

Spend time at Bourbaki-Panorama

Bourbaki Panorama ©
Bourbaki Panorama ©
The Bourbaki Panorama is basically one huge painting - but the museum around it really teases out the exciting story it has to tell. The circular painting, which is 114 metres around and 10 metres high, was painted in 1881 by Edouard Castres. It depicts a major military event of 1871 - 87,000 defeated French soldiers crossed the border into Switzerland, fleeing the Prussians.

In Switzerland the soldiers were disarmed and looked after by the government and the public, giving rise to a humanitarian tradition. Paintings like this one were hugely popular at the time, before the advent of cinema, let alone 3D cinema and the like! In the original panorama building from 1889 you can view this 19th-century attraction, as well as learn more about the event behind it thanks to the museum's very state-of-the-art exhibition and film. Most text is in English and French as well as German, as are guided tours.

Attend a Concert at KKL

Attend A Concert At KKL ©
Attend A Concert At KKL ©
The striking KKL with its huge overhanging roof and its position right on the lake rivals even the Chapel Bridge as Lucerne's major landmark. The concert and conference centre was completed in the year 2000, built to plans of Parisian architect Jean Nouvel. Its centrepiece is the concert hall with nearly 2000 seats which is used mostly for classical concerts. With walls clad in wood and white plaster reliefs it is known as the Salle Blanche (white hall) and has extraordinary acoustics thanks to acoustics engineer Russell Johnson.

The KKL also houses other event halls, conference facilities and the Kunstmuseum art museum. It also has several culinary options, the top-end restaurant Red, the self-service World Café and the elegant Seebar. The KKL is home to the world-renowned classic music festival the Lucerne Festival and there are often guided tours in English, German and Chinese (check here for dates and languages).

Do the Goldene Rundfahrt Tour (Golden Roundtrip Tour)

The "Goldene Rundfahrt" (Golden Round Trip) is a popular tourist route in Lucerne, Switzerland. The tour typically involves taking a scenic boat ride on Lake Lucerne, followed by a train or bus ride up to the Pilatus mountain, and finally a return trip by cogwheel train. The tour offers breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps and the surrounding countryside, as well as a unique opportunity to experience some of the region's most iconic and scenic attractions.

The Goldene Rundfahrt is a must-visit for anyone visiting Lucerne, and is an excellent way to experience the best of what the city and surrounding region have to offer, from stunning mountain vistas to charming lakeside villages. Whether you're a nature lover, history buff, or just looking for an unforgettable travel experience, the Goldene Rundfahrt is a tour that should not be missed.


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