Welcome to Lucerne, Switzerland.
The place with probably one of the most beautiful looking lakes in history.
Lucerne is a super picturesque city full of gorgeous buildings, much like the rest of Switzerland, and beautiful natural surroundings. It sits on the edge of the eponymous lake with mountains on all sides. It’s stunning. There are swans and little sail boats all over the lake (along with bigger boats too) with gorgeous old churches, restaurants and bakeries lining the banks and covered bridges crossing the adjoining river.
I only had a couple of days to explore this pretty city and quite a bit of it was plagued with rain showers, but I made the most of it, and I think I managed to fit quite a lot in to the time I had. I thought I’d share with you some of the top things I found to do while I was there and hopefully they give you a bit of a jumping of point for when you visit! I’m going to do a couple of more in depth posts on certain bits, but this is just a main overview.
There isn’t as much food on this list as you would normally expect from me (it’s mainly chocolate) because Switzerland is so flipping expensive to eat out. Luckily I was staying with a friend and so we shopped for local groceries and then cooked up a storm in the house instead! That’s definitely something I would recommend doing here if you find yourself in an Airbnb for example.
So what is there to do in Lucerne? Here’s a few tips to get you started….
Walk Alongside The Lake
The lake is so picturesque, you literally want to spend the whole day just looking at it. It’s amazing when the sun shines and the water goes really turquoise-blue, but also incredible when there’s a misty dramatic backdrop. You can’t lose. I walked along from the Grand Hotel National to the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Adventure (see below) and it was the most beautiful walk. There were so many flowers, swans and other water birds.
When it Switzerland, eat chocolate. I feel like chocolate might have been the only affordable food in Switzerland (it’s a pricey place) but I’m not complaining about that. Läderach is a super nice place to buy your individual chocolates or even hunks of chocolate bark, but they also sell pralines and chocolate bars too (at all different price points). Definitely pick up something from here. If you’re looking for Lindt, then the supermarket has a ton of options (Coop City branch has a huge range), or you can head to the Lindt Chocolate Adventure to their shop for even more choice (and a slight discount).
Läderach – Weggisgasse 1, 6000 Luzern
Coop City – Rössligasse 18-20, 6000 Luzern
Walk Over the Chapel Bridge
The Chapel Bridge (or Kapellbrücke) is a covered footbridge that crosses the River Reuss (which runs into the lake) and it’s actually the oldest one in Europe. It was built in the 14th century and houses paintings from the 17th century, however a lot of the bridge was destroyed in a fire in the 90s. It was rebuilt in the same decade and still looks super beautiful. There are flower boxes all the way down the length of the bridge and there’s a water tower part way along. Come here early in the morning and you will not be disappointed. When I first walked across it was really busy and packed with people, but when I visited around 8am (possibly earlier, but before the tour groups arrive) there was almost no one. It was a much more relaxed experience, and also way better for taking pictures. This is honestly the lesson for any popular attraction, go early.
Visit The Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal)
This monument is in memory of the Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution. It’s a mortally wounded lion sculpted into the rock above a pool in a former sandstone quarry (now a garden and museum). It’s stunning to see, especially in the sunshine when the light really illuminates it, but it’s something I’d recommend visiting whatever the weather. Again, if you go early you’ll avoid all of the tour groups (it’s open 24 hours), however if you can’t just hang around for a few minutes as they don’t stay long.
Denkmalstrasse 4, 6002 Luzern
Walk the Walls (Museggmauer)
This is something I highly recommend doing, as you get the best views of the city from up here. I went up here in the morning and there honestly weren’t that many people around. The area around the towers is very residential and there are some stunning houses. You can enter about 4 of the towers (and it’s free) and you can go up and down them and walk along the old walls. There are even some exhibits in a couple of the towers. For example, in the Zytturm tower there are different clock mechanisms and it actually houses the city’s oldest clock (built in 1535). The views are really one of the main draws for me, they just can’t be beaten! If you come across a tour group, just wait ten minutes or so and then you’ll have the towers to yourself!
Eat Chocolate Buns from Bachmann
The buns with chocolate chips are stellar at Bachmann. They were recommended over and over on every Lucerne list I read online, so I knew I had to get one! I imagine all their baked goods are pretty excellent, but this one was the one I went for. It’s the perfect breakfast item or snack or dessert. On a side note, don’t be tempted by the ice cream, its not the best.
Schwanenplatz 7, 6004 Luzern (there are many branches but this is a big one)
Have Cocktails at Château Gütsch
Château Gütsch is a luxury hotel with some fabulous views of the city. You take a mini funicular up the hill to get up to the chateau and the bar up here is fabulous. It’s well worth the trip up, not only for the views but for the drinks too. The bar has the most interesting decor, it’s like a mixture of old-Europe traditional and modern design.
Kanonenstrasse, 6003 Luzern
Take a Boat Trip to Mount Pilatus
Mount Pilatus has a viewing platform that gives you views across Lake Lucerne and the surrounding area. You take a boat to Alpnachstad and then hop on the steepest cogwheel train in the world (up to a 48% gradient!) to take you up to the viewing area. We honestly had the worst weather on the day we went up the mountain, so it wasn’t the amazing views I had imagined, but the dramatic skyline and mist made for a different kind of atmosphere.
Eat at Äss-Bar
Ok, so the name in English doesn’t sound super appetising, however Äss-Bar was one of the best recommendations I was given during my stay here. It’s a little shop at the bottom of St Leodegarstrasse (the bottom of the steps of the church of the same name) and it specialises in stopping food waste. It takes the leftover sandwiches and baked goods from some of the local bakeries (like Bachmann) and resells them for around 50% off their original price. Everything is less than 24 hours old and it’s kept refrigerated and is super fresh when you buy it. I had at least 3 chicken sandwiches from them because they were so delicious and why would you pay full price when you can get it at such a hefty discount. They also offer free water too. It’s such a good cause to support and especially so when it tastes this good. I believe they actually have branches in other Swiss cities too!
St. Leodegarstr. 2, 6006 Luzern
Visit Lindt’s Chocolate Shop & The Swiss Chocolate Adventure
Lindt have an interactive exhibition called The Swiss Chocolate Adventure in the Swiss Museum of Transport, along with a big shop selling all of their products. Plus, there is also a chocolatier making chocolate as you watch, which is awesome. The Chocolate Adventure will set you back 16CHF (about £12.50 – so, not cheap), but it’s a lot of fun to experience. You sit in a little chocolate car and follow a track which takes you to different screens and rooms telling you about the chocolate making process and the history of Lindt. It culminates in the last room where some Lindt truffles shoot out of the wall for you to eat. If you get a car to yourself, like I did, you get to eat all of the truffles to yourself. Dreams do come true people.
Lidostrasse 5, 6006 Luzern
Does this make you want to visit Lucerne or Switzerland? Is there anything you’d like to try for yourself? Let me know in the comments below if there are any other recommendations you would give to any visitor to the city!