Things to Do in Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne, as with most places in Switzerland, is exceedingly beautiful. Think: a charming little city set against a dramatic mountain backdrop, with most attractions within walking distance. Time in this picture-perfect city seems to slow to a crawl, almost a standstill - as you spend languid afternoons exploring the city’s various nooks and crannies.
Here are 8 must-do things for any first-timer to the city:
1. Explore the Old Town
Lucerne’s old town is located on the right bank of the Reuss River, comprising a maze of darling little shops and plazas. Cobblestone streets line intricate building facades, with old-world charm oozing from every corner – you’ll be able to easily spend a delightful hour or two simply getting lost among the meandering alleys.
Do note that most shops here close from the evening onwards.
2. Cross the Chapel Bridge
Mention Lucerne and the Chapel Bridge often springs to mind. Spanning the width of the Reuss River, the Chapel Bridge is the gateway to Lucerne’s old town. Despite most of it being destroyed by an arson attack in the 1990s, the bridge has been reconstructed to reflect its original glory.
Admission to the Chapel Bridge is free. Take your time to cross the wooden structure – the bridge is especially beautiful at sunset.
3. Make a pitstop at the Lion Monument
The Lion Monument was constructed to pay tribute to the Swiss mercenaries who lost their lives during the French revolution. The mood here is tranquil, sombre even; as a feeling of loss hangs in the air, exemplified by the carving of a dying lion. The names of the dead are engraved here, together with a Latin inscription that translates to “to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”.
Admission to the Lion Monument is free.
4. Visit the Jesuit Church
Jesuit Church is a Catholic Church, and comprises the first large Baroque church in Switzerland north of the Alps. Standing tall along the banks of the Reuss River, the Jesuit Church is both a worship and concert venue.
5. Trawl a morning market
Tantalise your senses at one of Lucerne’s morning markets, where you’ll find fresh produce of every variety. Be enticed by the warm smell of freshly-baked bread or run your hand through smooth chestnut husks.
Pick up a vibrant bouquet of flowers or a succulent bunch of grapes at the Wochenmarkt, and buy some souvenirs from the Handwerksmarkt craft market.
6. Explore the Musegg Walls
Bordering the old town, the Musegg walls consist of nine different towers. Take a leisurely stroll along the historic fortifications – one highlight is Zytturm, the tower that holds the oldest clock in the city. In other towers, you’ll find winding staircases, suits of armour and views of the surrounding area.
Admission to the Musegg walls is free; opening hours are between 8am to 7pm.
7. Stroll along Lake Lucerne
One of the best things to do in Lucerne would be to take a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. To add to the experience, combine the boat ride with a day trip to Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus. The boat rides have frequent departures and depart from the ferry terminal directly opposite the main station.
8. Dine on traditional Swiss cuisine
What’s a trip to Switzerland without sampling some of its exquisite local fare? Dig into Raclette, Cheese Fondue, Rosti and more!
Lucerne is peppered with plenty of Al Fresco dining places – simply take your pick.
BONUS: Stay in a prison-turned-hostel
Once Lucerne’s main prison, the compound has since been converted to ‘Barabas Luzern’, a unique prison-turned-hotel.
The original structure has more or less been retained; guests can choose to sleep in individual cells or dorms, with bars still remaining on windows and doors made out of fortified steel. This accommodation isn’t one of luxury but instead caters for those looking for a novel experience.
The best part? The accommodation is located on the fringe of the old town – within walking distance of the action, but quiet enough to get a good night’s sleep.
Use Lucerne as a base to explore the surrounding region, with easy day trips to Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi and Mount Titlis. You can also easily reach Zurich or Interlaken from here. But above all else, don’t rush your time in this city – you’ll be surprised how easily its charm grows on you!