A weekend guide to Lucerne


The small city of Lucerne is centrally located in the Swiss-German speaking region of Switzerland. Roughly one-fifth the size of Zurich, Lucerne is a microcosm of the rest of the country with its namesake lake reflecting the towering peaks of Mount Pilatus and Mount Titlis. The River Reuss flows through the outstandingly preserved and charming squares of the Old Town. Lucerne is the perfect place to spend 48 hours, especially if it’s your first visit to Switzerland. The city has a booming tourism industry, and its location serves as a base for visits to other parts of the country via the Swiss Federal Railway. But first, you’ll want to discover the beauty and history of lovely Lucerne.
There are no public airports in Lucerne, but the very efficient Swiss train system runs from all the major airports in Switzerland. The nearest is the Zurich airport. The train runs every hour and takes around 45 minutes. The capital city of Bern is about an hour away by train, and it takes three hours to get to Lucerne from the Geneva Airport.
You should make it a priority to visit the Old Town in any Swiss city, and Lucerne is no exception. The Old Town is situated between the River Reuss and the city walls. Stroll the streets and admire the architecture, monuments, and quaint old bridges. You’ll pass numerous cafes and restaurants along the way. Don’t miss sampling chocolates at one of the chocolatier shops.
You’ll see the Chapel Bridge and the Spreuer Bridge while touring the Old Town. The iconic wooden Chapel Bridge dates back to the 14th century and features a stone water tower and restored paintings underneath the roof. The Spreuer Bridge, another pedestrian bridge, is from the 15th century. It’s smaller than the Chapel Bridge but has paintings along the way, some of them from centuries ago.
Lake Lucerne is the city’s main attraction and impossible to miss. Lucerne is built on the banks of this mammoth lake, Switzerland’s fourth-largest. Experience the lake with a boat or ferry ride, or book a romantic ride on a steam cruiser in the evening with dinner and drinks on the lake. Lucerne has several fascinating art museums. Since your time is limited, it’s easy to pop into the Rosengart Collection near the train station. The neo-classical building houses the private collection of Angela Rosengart along with paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Monet.
The Swiss Museum of Transportation is one of the most popular attractions in the Lucerne area, so book your ticket in advance. This very unique museum has everything related to transportation from horsedrawn carriages to rockets. It’s also conveniently home to a 3D movie theatre and the Swiss Chocolate Adventure. There’s no better way to learn about the history and culture of a city than visiting the local history museum. While near the Sprever Bridge, check out the Lucerne History Museum. You won’t need a guide. Simply scan the QR codes placed along the way. You’ll see fascinating exhibits such as a 15th-century Gothic fountain and 3,000 or more artefacts from the region.
German for Swan’s Square, Schwanenplatz is a square in the Old Town next to Lake Lucerne. You’re likely to spot graceful swans bobbing in the water and along the shore, and the view is unparalleled. Check out the cluster of high-end shops for Swiss luxury watches like Rolex and Patek Phillipe and stop in one of the many chocolate shops for delicious Swiss chocolate.
It wouldn’t be a Swiss trip without visiting an ancient house of worship. Hofkirche is a 17th-century church, and with its twin bell towers is a familiar part of Lucerne’s landscape. Goggle at the Gothic exterior and step inside to admire the Baroque interior. It’s a bit away from the city centre, but worth the trip. You’re sure to spot the Lion Monument while in the Old Town. A wounded lion is carved into the side of a cliff for a breathtaking work of art. The monument commemorates the Swiss soldiers massacred during the French Revolution. Next door, visit the Glacier Garden, a unique museum built around a glacial pothole. You’ll learn about the geology of Switzerland and Lucerne and have lots of fun in the Maze of Mirrors.