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One Delightful Day in Lucerne, Switzerland

Are you planning a trip to Switzerland and want to find some beautiful cities to put on your itinerary? Look no further, Lucerne is a gorgeous place to visit with lots to see in one day.

I don’t know what it is about Switzerland, but over and over again we find ourselves in this gorgeous Alpine country. It might be the incredible mountain scenery, or the delicious cheese, or the perfectly amazing products like their Swiss Army knives, or maybe it’s a combination of all of it.

Perhaps, part of it is that at some point during the year, I find myself peeling and sticking the annual Swiss Road Tax sticker onto my windshield. From that point on I feel driven to return as often as possible to get the most out of that little three-inch square decal. At least the location is awesome, snug between Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy.

In this article:

A view of Lucerne, the water tower, and the Chapel Bridge.

Driving Through Switzerland

We had an amazing time in the mountains and the Lauterbrunnen Valley and got on the road early Sunday morning. By the time we had driven to the Lucerne region we were feeling the pull of the road and thinking, “maybe Lucerne will wait for the next time.” Fate, on the other hand, had a different plan for us.

Sgraffito designs adorn this central Lucerne building.

We never found out what had happened, but for some reason, the highway ahead of us was closed and we were diverted onto a secondary road that had signs leading for–you guessed it–Lucerne! I looked at Corinne and she looked at me, and without any words, the decision had been made for us. We stuck with it, too, even though the detour ended soon enough and would have sent us back to the highway. We kept on driving right into town.

Of course, we had no plan, no idea of what we would do there, but we knew we had at least two hours to spend in town and were determined to make the most of it. Parking was easy enough to find. We followed the directional signs to the Centrum and noticed the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) Parkhaus was in the same direction.

Lucerne train station, the first stop on a Lucerne itinerary.

First Impressions of Lucerne

As we got closer to the center we started noticing the fairytale-style spires and onion-domed cathedral bell towers. We knew we were in for a treat.

The underground parking at the new train station was simple and convenient. We came above ground into the small mall under the train station and found a bakery. 

Here we picked up a couple of the “must have” pastries of Lucerne, the delicious schoggibrötli. These tasty little chocolate-filled sweet rolls would make for a nice little snack on our walk around town.

A brightly colored fountain in the Old town of Lucerne, a must-see.

The first thing you notice when you come out of the train station is the beautifully enigmatic entrance arch from the old station. When the station burned down, the city decided to keep the old entrance as a memorial.

Now I found it as an interestingly symbolic entrance to the city. Once through the arch, we came to the lakeshore and vowed to come back for a ferry ride out onto the lake made famous by the tales of William Tell. For today, however, there just wasn’t time so on we went.

An ornate door in Old Town Lucerne.
Old town Lucerne is a joy to meander. The architecture is amazing, like this old gabled building.

Things to do in Lucerne

The historic center of Lucerne is fairly small and compact, easy enough to walk around in one morning or afternoon and still see all of the sights. Of course, there are some highlights that should not be missed.

One of the main things to do in Lucerne is walk the Chapel Bridge near the Water Tower.

Wasserturm (Water Tower)

Standing proudly and stalwart in the middle of the Reuss river mouth, The Wasserturm is a 14th-century tower was once part of the city fortifications. It has been used as a watch tower, treasury, prison, and torture chamber. You wouldn’t think it to look at it, but it’s actually wider than it is tall.

Kappelbrucke Lucerne.
The Kappelbrucke, or Chapel Bridge, crosses the river Reuss and provides a history lesson for pedestrians crossing over the bridge.

Kappelbrucke (Chapel Bridge)

This ancient, covered wooden Chapel Bridge, or Kappelbrücke, has been the primary pedestrian crossing over the Reuss river for nearly seven centuries. Be sure to look up while crossing the bridge. Otherwise, you might miss the most stunning feature. The scenes painted along the ceiling in the 17th century depict the local history and the interesting biographies of the town’s patron saints, Saint Maurice and St. Leodegar.

The Needle Dam, up close, with a view of the water tower behind it.

Nadelwehr (Water Spikes)

This was the most fascinating part of Lucerne for me. I had no idea what it was when I saw it, I just knew it must be an old engineering marvel. The wooden spikes can be lifted and lowered as needed to control the water level in the lake. In older days they were used to guide the proper water flow over the city’s mills.

View of the ceiling and artwork on the Chaff Bridge in Lucerne.

Spreuerbrucke (Chaff Bridge)

Another old, covered wooden bridge crossing the Reuss river, the Spreuerbrucke gets its name from the practice of townspeople bringing their wheat to the mill. Apparently, they would stand on the bridge and separate the chaff from the wheat, letting it blow into the river and be carried away downstream. I’m not sure if this is true or not. Regardless, the painting along the walkway on this bridge depict the scenes of Le Danse Macabre; they are fascinating and eerily beautiful 17th-century masterpieces.

Town hall in Kornmarkt Square in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Town Hall

The Lucerne Town Hall is an impressive edifice that stands in the center of town with the Kornmarkt square on one side and the river on the other.

On Tuesdays and Saturdays (6:00 am until 12:00 pm) there is a farmer’s market. We weren’t there for the market, but it’s a sprawling place to get some fresh produce.

As an added bonus, there is an excellent brewery on the east wing of the building to have lunch at when you’re finished shopping or gawking!

The Rathaus or Town Hall tower, sits high in the Old Town of Lucerne.
A stained glass window depicting a female saint holding a sword.

Old Town

We could have spent even more time than we did wandering the alleys and cobblestone streets. The medieval architecture brings you back in time to the days of fair maidens and knights in shining armor.

A colorful mural depicting Easter dinner painted by Von Eduard Renggli on the Weinmarkt in Lucerne.

There are many colorful buildings, with murals and other intriguing designs. The old town is just full of ornate details and hidden gems. Take your time!

After our long walk, we found a quiet bench along the river and enjoyed our schoggibrötli (a scrumptious chocolate sweet roll), contemplating the pleasant twist of fate that finally brought us into Lucerne. Boy, did we enjoy this beautiful city.

The lion monument is one of biggest attractions in Lucerne. Here is a closeup of a lion spouting water.

Lion Monument

One of the most famous relief statues in the world, this monument which is not right downtown, has over 1.4 million visitors per year. It’s worth a stop.

A view of Lucerne across the River Reuss.
The Pfistern Restaurant is a great place to eat in Lucerne.

Where to Eat in Lucerne

In our humble opinions, Swiss food is pretty darn delicious. No matter where you pick to eat, you will probably be getting the freshest ingredients with a down-home traditional meal. Yum!

  • Pfister Restaurant – Traditional Swiss. Try the raclette or fondue!
  • Restaurant Frischi – More fondue…who can eat enough? The beef stroganoff is superb as well.
  • Restaurant Lapin – located in the De La Paix Hotel has some great choices and a Chef’s menu that is really worth getting.
  • Seebistro Luz – located in the train station with magnificent views of the river. This restaurant offers a lighter fare, a great lunch spot.
The Restaurant Fritschi, with its beautiful exterior, is a great place to eat in Lucerne.


It took us awhile to really stop in the city of Luzerne, but we’re certainly glad we did. It’s all at once charming, modern, clean, and offers some of the best restaurants we’ve eaten in. Don’t miss it.

Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.

Great architectural details are everywhere in Lucerne. Corinne in front of blue and white door.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Pin Lucerne for later!

The stunning city of Lucerne! Click through to see and learn more.

Lyn @ A Hole in my Shoe

Sunday 8th of January 2017

Oh you took me right along with you. We were in Lucerne last year and absolutely adored it there. I had almost forgotten about the beauty until I saw your photos so I am off to find mine and recall again the great time we had there. Thank you.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 8th of January 2017

Lyn, It is a beautiful glad fate made us go!

Rhonda Albom

Saturday 7th of January 2017

I guess it was meant to be. Sometimes things work out too difficult and the signs turn you away from what you want. Other times, the exact opposite occurs and an opportunity presents itself. Lucerne looks interesting so I am happy that fate led you that way.

Corinne Vail

Saturday 7th of January 2017

Rhonda, That's exactly how we feel about it too. We loved it.

Hans M Hirschi

Thursday 5th of January 2017

I got scared when you wrote "fateful"... As a Swiss, I'm used to constant bashing. But I'm glad you enjoyed your stay. For those who read this and who haven't been to Lucerne, I can highly recommend the Swiss Traffic museum which is also in town and to take a boat trip into the several corners of Lake Lucerne, some steam-powered... In any case, glad you liked it!

Corinne Vail

Friday 6th of January 2017

Hans, We loved your city and it was pre-ordained, I think. We will certainly check out your suggestions next time around! Thanks