- A mid-sized city surrounded by mountains
- Features two covered bridges dating back to the 1300s
- Has preserved a historic town wall that has several towers open to the public
Metro Population: 176,000 (#7 in Switzerland)
When To Visit: March-October
Climate: Warm in summer, cool in spring and fall, cold with some rain and a small amount of snow in winter
Lucerne is not a lot of people’s radars when they think of Switzerland, but it is definitely one of the country’s most charming and historic cities. The compact car-free Old City is a lovely area to explore, and there are incredible views and landmarks scattered throughout the city. Lucerne can easily be explored in a day; with more time, you can take a boat tour out onto Lake Lucerne or visit one of many nearby mountains.
Photo: Luegislanturm on the City Wall
Where To Go in Lucerne
Lucerne Old City
City Wall: A short walk from the center of the Old City, a walk from tower to tower on Luzern’s concrete wall with Spanish-style tiles that dates back to 1386 is a must. Climb up several towers, including Wachtturm, Luegislanturm, Mannliturm, and Zeitturm (the city’s oldest clock tower). Free.
Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche): Renowned as the most beautiful church in Lucerne, it has incredibly ornate decor and stunning murals on the uniquely white ceiling. Free.
Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke): The oldest covered bridge in Europe and the oldest truss bridge in the world; it dates back to 1365! This remarkable bridge has incredible murals on the interior dating back to the 1600s which depict scenes from Lucerne’s religious history. They’re a bit faint and in need of restoration; sadly, two-thirds of them were actually destroyed in a fire in the 1990s. Free.
Spreur Bridge (Spreuerbrucke): The city’s 2nd most famous covered bridge. Like Kapellbrucke, it has paintings created in the 1600s, but these are more gruesome and centered around the theme of death. Free.
Kornschutte: Lucerne’s historic town hall that features rotating art exhibits. Free.
Hirschenplatz: One of the Old City’s most charming plazas, it features a fountain and great people watching and is flanked by some of the city’s most elegant hotels. Free.
KKL: A giant convention center next to the train station that features bold modern architecture and is a source of pride for Luzerners. Free.
Inseli Park: A small park on the shore of Lake Lucerne just outside the Old City that has great lake and mountain views on a clear day. Free.
Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal): A large statue of lion etched into a wall perched beyond a pleasant pond. The park facing it is very peaceful and a great spot to relax for a few minutes. Free.
Lake Rotsee: A very quiet and tranquil lake popular among locals that’s only a 20-minute walk from the Old City but completely takes you away from the tourism and hustle and bustle. Free.
What To Eat in Lucerne
You’ll find Switzerland’s food to be exorbitantly expensive ($30+ for a meal that would be $10 in the U.S.), but it is possible to nourish yourself without breaking the bank. It may seem strange to eat ethnic food rather than local dishes, but it tends to be significantly cheaper. Here are a few of the most affordable yet still high quality eats in Lucerne.
Rathaus Brauerie: Located right on the river in the center of the Old City, Rathaus has a respectable beer menu and a variety of Swiss/German eats. It’s not that cheap but probably the most affordable spot to get Swiss food in Lucerne. Unter der Egg 2,
6004 Luzern. +41 41 410 61 11
Tandoori Indian Restaurant: This excellent Indian eatery offers 10 franc meals (available for eating in or takeout) which allow you to try a few different things. Löwengraben 4, 6004 Luzern. +41 41 410 63 03
Dean & David: If you’re into health and lament your lack of nutrition on vacations, take a stop at this fast casual sandwich and salad spot located in Lucerne’s hippest neighborhood. Morgartenstrasse 4, 6003 Luzern. +41 41 2200222
Penthouse: A rooftop bar in the Hotel Astoria with excellent views of the Old City and reasonable prices by rooftop bar standards. Pilatusstrasse 29, 6002 Luzern. +41 41 226 88 88
Roadhouse: FREE POPCORN! There’s plenty of it at this classy yet casual, small but multi-level bar just outside the Old City and directly across the street from the train station. Pilatusstrasse 1, 6003 Luzern. +41 41 220 27 27
Shamrock: Locals love this kitschy Irish pub with a hearty and reasonably priced food menu. Wagenbachgasse 3, 6004 Luzern. +41 41 410 63 25
Click here to read my blog from my day exploring Lucerne’s Old City and walking along the incredible City Wall.
Nearby Side Trips from Lucerne
Zurich: Switzerland’s largest city 45 minutes to the east is known as the world’s most expensive, but has tons of free and quite remarkable historical and contemporary landmarks to explore. Read more.
Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region: A resort town sandwiched between two large lakes and just below a gorgeous portion of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken (1 hour away) is perfectly positioned to allow exploration of quaint towns and stunning mountain peaks. Read more.
Bern: Switzerland’s capital city 1 hour to the west is one of the only cities in the world to maintain its central street plan since medieval times and is surrounded on three sides by the River Aare. Read more.