Lucerne encompasses all that Switzerland is known for: a breaktaking lake propped against snow-capped mountains, Swiss architecture, quaint cafes and delicious food. You could spend days (or years) taking it all in, but even a day trip to Lucerne will do it justice.
I took a day trip to Lucerne from Zurich since I didn’t have time to fit in a full stay and it was one of the best days of my entire trip! Here are the best tips and tricks for taking a day trip to Lucerne.
How to Take A Day Trip to Lucerne
1. Guided Tour vs. Do-It-Yourself Trip ?
Lucerne is located in Central Switzerland so it’s easy to get to from all around Switzerland and even surrounding countries (like Italy). So the first thing to figure out is whether you want to take a guided tour or wing it on your own. Getting to Lucerne via train is really easy (more on that below) and there’s plenty to do within walking distance of the train station, including the famous Old Town.
But if navigating the train and figuring out what to do for a day in Lucerne isn’t your thing, opt for a guided tour. Viator.com has plenty of day trips with transportation included or day trips combined with city or boat tours. Some even visit Lucerne with other nearby cities. (Viator is not a sponsor of mine; I’ve just enjoyed their day trip tours in the past.) If you go the guided tour route, sit back, relax and enjoy — your decisions are done!
2. Taking the train :: Day Pass, Round Trip or One Way Ticket?
Trains run to the Luzern Bahnhof train station all day from everywhere in Switzerland and surrounding cities, with some running as often as every half hour from those closeby, like Zurich and Interlaken. A one-day travel pass is a good option, but pricy. It’s only worth it if you plan to get outside of Old Town or plan to take buses in Lucerne. A round-trip ticket is more affordable, but note that it requires you to pick your train times at the time of booking. I opted for two separate one-way tickets purchased at the train station immediately before boarding so that I could decid when I wanted to head back to Zurich.
3. What to do for a Day in Lucerne?
The bad thing about day trips is that you can’t see everything. There’s a lot to do in Lucerne, so you’ll have to pick your priorities. Once you arrive at the Luzern Bahnhof train station, there is plenty to do within walking distance.
To get an overview of Lucerne
I visited the iconic Hof Church, walked along the famous Chapel Bridge, wandered around Old Town — full of beautiful Swiss architecture (and plenty of photo-worthy doors) — had a delicious lunch at Pfistern overlooking the river, took a boat tour, had wine at another cafe across the river, then headed back to Zurich.
Must-See Sights in Lucerne
Most of Lucerne’s trademark sights are within walking distance of the train station. Must-see sights include: the Hof Church, Switzerland’s most important Renaissance church, built in 1645; The Chapel Bridge, Lucerne’s famous landmark, built in the 14th Century, with its water tower (once used as a torture chamber); Jesuit Church, built in 1666; the Lion Monument, carved out of rock to commemorate the Swiss mercenaries in 1792; and the remains of the Musegg Wall, with the oldest clock in the city, built in 1535. It chimes one minute before the rest of the clocks in the city.
Museums in Lucerne
If museums are your thing, Lucerne has several to keep you entertained. The Lucerne Art Museum for Swiss art from the Renaissance period to the present; the Richard Wagner Museum, about the German composer who spent his exiled years living on Lake Lucerne (the museum is in the home he lived in); the Swiss Transport Museum, focuses on trains, planes, automobiles and spacecraft; Museum of Lucerne History, housed in the former armory; Lucerne Nature Museum for earth science.
Boat Tours in Lucerne
Take advantage of the beautiful Lake Lucerne just steps from Old Town by taking a boat tour. Many board across from the train station and vary from one hour to several, from informative to leisurely, to wine or cocktails on board to a full dinner.
4. What to eat in Lucerne?
Many restaurants in the heart of Lucerne’s Old Town are undeniably touristy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good meal there. One of my favorite meals in Switzerland was at Pfistern in Lucerne. What looked like a plain sausage was an incredibly juicy sausage smothered in a balsamic onion sauce that I still dream about.
No matter where you eat, have one of Lucerne’s local specialties, like Lozärner Chügelipastete, puff pastry filled with veal and mushrooms in a cream sauce; Alpine Macaroni with apple sauce; or any of these 7 foods to eat in Switzerland if you haven’t had them yet.
5. What to do at Night in Lucerne?
If you decid to take a late train back or, even better, decided to forgo leaving Lucerne altogether, check out the KKL Luzern Culture and Convention Center, a 1800-seat concert hall right near the train station known for both contemporary and classical concerts.
Or check out one of the 90 rare whiskies at Louis Bar, named after jazz legend Louis Armstrong, where spontaneous jazz performances are known to break out; have a cocktail at the trendy Schweizerhof Bar; or try your luck gambling at the Grand Casino Luzern.