Lucerne is both a bustling and compact city in central Switzerland, enclosed by snowcapped alps and the famous turquoise blue Lake Lucern. Lucerne’s well preserved and picturesque Old Town boasts many medieval sights all within short walking distance; the Museggmauer (Musegg Wall) a 14-century rampart, the octagonal Wasserturm (Water Tower) which is the most photographed monument in the country, and of course the famous Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333. Alike many Swiss cities, further beauty lies outside the city region with many mountain peaks, hiking trails and both summer and winter activities to choose from.
How to get to Lucerne
Lucerne is very central in Switzerland and connected regularly and often directly by domestic and international trains. Buses are less common, however Flixbus has connections to Lucerne from major cities as Zurich, Milan, Rome, Florence, and Hamburg.
How to get around
Lucerne town centre is quite small and easily walkable. To reach the outer areas you can catch local buses, trains or take a boat to other lakeside towns. Local, domestic and international trains all depart from the main train station Bahnhof, local buses depart from the terminal across the road from the train station, and boats depart from the dock in front of the bus terminal. For all schedule information, see sbb.ch/en.
Where to eat
Eating out in Lucerne, like most of Switzerland, is quite expensive compared to neighbouring countries. To enjoy a tasty meal in an elegant setting without breaking the bank, check out La Cucina’s weekday lunch set menu. It changes every week and includes options like ricotta gnocchi, octopus carpaccio, and pizza prosciutto.
Also, Khoua Vientiane Restaurant serves up some delicious, no-frills Vietnamese cuisine for a pretty reasonable price. Located in the heart of town it’s perfect to drop by on your way home from a long day of hiking.
Ultimately, the best way to save money and enjoy some local food in Switzerland is to cook for yourself. Swiss cheese fondue maybe? Check out my food guide for more budget-eating inspiration.
Where to stay
Bellpark Hostel is clean, comfortable and in a nice location just out of the city centre. They offer a free breakfast of fried rice (which is always a nice change to the usual bread & spreads!) a coffee machine, free local bus pass and a visitors pass which gives you discounts on many activities.
An idea of daily costs for one day in Lucerne
CHF 103 per day
– Hostel: CHF 25 per night
– Free Breakfast at Hostel
– Pre-made sandwich for lunch: CHF 7
– Snacks (apple, dried fruit, chocolate bar): CHF 5
– Hostel cooked dinner: CHF 10
– Transport (return train ticket to neighbouring town): CHF 20
– Mountain railway ticket (one way cogwheel ticket on Mount Rigi with 20% discount with Bellpark Hostel): CHF 36
How long to spend in Lucerne
At least 3 nights in order to have a few full days hiking and exploring.
What to see and do in Lucerne
Twelve of the cities main sights are all within a short walking distance in the heart of town. Grab your camera and a coffee and get acquainted to the beautiful town with a morning stroll. You can find my DIY walking tour below which includes a little information on each landmark.
To visit Mount Rigi, you will need to get from Lucerne to either Vitznau or Weggis, which you can do via boat or train then Post Bus. Train then bus is generally faster and cheaper however the boat is much more picturesque. See here for schedules and look for supersaver tickets to get 50% off certain tickets.
You have 3 main ways to reach the peak and several variations of these options: Hike from Vitznau, cogwheel from Vitznau or cable car from Weggis.
To enjoy a full day out on Mount Rigi I absolutely recommend hiking from Vitznau up to the peak. Not only is this a challenging but rewarding hike with awe-inspiring views, you can save over CHF 25 by buying just a one-way ticket.
Swiss Path Hiking Trail
There are so many hiking trails in this region it can be hard to pick one or two to complete while you’re here. It really depends what you’re looking for and your fitness level, but one of the best has to be the Swiss Path. This trail, in total completion takes days but there are 7 sections to choose from.
I chose to do section A & B, starting at Rütli and ending in Bauen, which offered a terrific range of forest walking, altitude, cow paddocks and of course those awe-inspiring views.
To visit the Pilatus Klum (the peak) from Lucerne, you have two options: from the town of Kriens via local bus #1 or Alpnachstad via train or boat.
From Kriens you can take the panorama gondolas to the next town up the mountain, Fräkmüntegg, and then the aerial cableway (Dragon Ride) to the peak. This journey takes around 35 minutes.
Alternatively from Alpnachstad you can ride the world’s steepest cogwheel railway up a max gradient of 48% through meadows and rock faces. This takes around 40 minutes.
Once you’re at the peak there are 5 trails to explore, all differing in length and difficulty. There’s also plenty more to do depending on your time and budget, see here fore some inspiration.
See here for more information, ticket prices, timetables and discounts.
Unlike Mount Rigi, to hike to the peak without rock climbing experience is essentially not possible so you will need to purchase the full return ticket. If you don’t have a Swiss Pass or Half-Price Travel Card this can cost you up to CHF 72.
Other Hiking Trails
There are so many trails on offer in this region, and My Switzerland does a pretty good job of listing some great options. Too hard to choose? Try comparing length, time and cost to get to the starting point from Lucerne, prices of any required cable cars etc.
Please note: many of these trails are closed in the winter so check your dates. If this is the case, maybe swap your hiking boots for snow boots and hit the slopes!
Other Mountain Peaks
Brienzer Rothhorn: Ride the steam train from Sörenberg or cable car from Brienz to reach the top of this panoramic mountain.
Bürganstock: Easily accessible mountain only 1127 metres above sea level. Access the peak by cogwheel railway from Kehrsiten.
Chäserrugg: A little further from Lucerne (around 2.5 hours) is Mont Chäserrung, where on a clear day you can see as many as six different countries. The cable car to the peak leaves from Unterwasser.
Stanserhorn: Stanserhorn’s peak is accessible by the world’s first open upper deck cable car, which departs from Stans, only 20 minutes by train from Lucerne.
Switzerland is world famous for mountain hikes, and Mount Rigi is superb. While the cogwheel railway and cable car are very impressive, there is something so much more rewarding about climbing to the peak of a mountain rather than just catching a train.
Hiking Guide: The Swiss Path
The Swiss Path, in its entirety, takes a total of 11 hours (without including rest stops) and journeys around an entire inlet of Lake Uri. Picking any of the 7 sections will give you a great taste of Swiss hiking complete with cow paddocks, hillside chalets and snow-capped mountain views.