Postcard from Switzerland – things to do in Lucerne

Lucerne Switzerland

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Do you believe in fairytales? No? Then perhaps you should visit Lucerne in Switzerland.

Many years ago, on one of my first trips to the European continent, I visited the beautiful city of Lucerne in Switzerland and was captivated by its fairytale charm. I remembered a shimmering blue lake hugged by traditional Swiss buildings adorned with flowers.

So when we were planning our route back from Lake Como last summer, I knew I had to add a stopover in Lucerne to our itinerary. In the last days of summer, it was as pretty as I remembered.

Lucerne – a lakeside city in Switzerland

Fairytale Lucerne Switzerland

We arrived in Lucerne mid morning having taken a scenic drive from the north of Italy. Mountain ranges soared overhead, and some of the peaks were still capped with snow. Summertime in the Swiss Alps is quite magical – right out of the pages of the Heidi novels I read as a child.

Our route hugged the shores of Lake Lucerne which stretches 30 kilometres through the heart of Switzerland.  The lake was almost impossibly blue and clear. It shimmered with dappled sunlight in the last weeks of summer. The peaks of Pilatus and Rigi formed a majestic backdrop.

Things to do in Lucerne


Kapellbrucke or Chapel Bridge - Things to do in Lucerne

Lucerne is a city of bridges that criss-cross the lake and the River Reuss. The most famous, and perhaps most romantic, of these is the wooden Chapel Bridge or Kapellbrücke. In late summer the Kapellbrücke was festooned with flowers and swans mingled in the waters below completing the fairytale scene.

Built in 1333, the bridge is the oldest covered wooden bridge in the world and was important as it linked the old town to the new settlement on the left bank.

Lucerne Kapellbrucke | Chapel Bridge interior

In the 17th century aldermen of the city commissioned over 158 paintings for the interior of the bridge. An early form of billboard advertising, they promoted the history of the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant Reformation movement.

Fire almost destroyed the Kapellbrücke in 1992 including nearly two-thirds of the interior paintings. It has since been loving restored to its former glory.


Spreuerbrucke covered wooden bridge Lucerne Switzerland

We wandered a little further down the river Reuss and found the Spreuerbrücke, another excellent example of a covered wooden bridge.

The paintings in this bridge are a little spooky. They are scenes known as a Danse Macabre and were painted to remind people crossing the bridge that no matter who or where they were, death was the single thing uniting all citizens. This theme is probably more in line with the original fairytales of the Brothers Grimm.

From the Spreuerbrückeidge, we watched the turquoise blue waters of the lake and river merge in a massive force of power and gazed back towards the Chapel Bridge.

Lion monument – Löwendenkmal

Lowendenkmal - Lion Monument Lucerne

This tragic dying lion is an enduring symbol of Lucerne. The sculpture commemorates over 600 Swiss guards who were killed defending the Tuileries Palace and King Louis XVI of France during the French Revolution in 1792.

Mark Twain described the sculpture as being “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I agree. It is an extremely solemn work of art and is well worth the 15 minute walk from the old town for a moment of quiet contemplation.

Aldstadt – Old town

Lucerne Aldstadt old town painted buildings

Wandering the Aldstadt or old town was one of the highlights of our visit to Lucerne. Here we found romantic cobbled streets lined and traditional Swiss buildings decorated with colourful paintings. We loved the little squares with beautiful fountains, and I felt as if singing and dancing townspeople would pop out from around each corner. Just like a fairytale.. or a Disney version at least.

The atmosphere was festive in Lucerne with visitors enjoying the lakeside views from sunny terraces. I loved the little Swiss flags draped from balconies and flown from masts.

Reasons to return – more things to do in Lucerne

Lake Lucerne

✪ Take a cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus for incredible views of Lucerne and its lake

✪ Relax on a scenic boat cruise of Lake Lucerne taking in the alpine atmosphere at a gentle pace

✪ Walk the city’s ramparts – the Musegg Wall – that have survived mostly intact since the 14th century

✪ Join an evening walking tour with one of the city’s night watchmen and hear stories from Lucerne’s medieval past

Plan your trip to Lucerne

Sights of Lucerne Switzerland

Getting there

Lucerne does not have an airport so you must drive there or take the train from Zurich. We recommend you book rail tickets on Omio in advance. The journey takes about an hour by train. If you wish to hire a car, we use to find the best deals.

Where to stay

We did not stay overnight in Lucerne however always recommend: for finding hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and apartments; and Hotels Combined if you specifically want to book a hotel. We always check and read accommodation reviews on TripAdvisor

Further reading

We used Lonely Planet’s Switzerland Travel Guide to plan our trip. You may also find the Swiss Tourist Board and Lucerne Tourist Information sites helpful.

I also love this great online guide to travel in Switzerland.

For a full list of our favourite travel resources head to our travel and trip planning resources page.

I wonder if you now believe in fairytales or at least are tempted to visit beautiful Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited.

Discover our travels in Switzerland and beyond

Swiss Alps in SummerPicturesque Lake Orta | Feeling the glamour on Lake Como

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45 thoughts on “Postcard from Switzerland – things to do in Lucerne

  1. California Globetrotter says:

    I’m currently debating whether or not to go here for our (non-marriage) anniversary in April, but its ridiculously expensive! 🙁 I was there as a teen with my family but don’t remember much! So I’d really like to go back! #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      I’ve only stopped for a few hours on the way somewhere else. I think 2 days would be enough there unless you were planning on doing some hiking or nature activities. I love an anniversary for an excuse to go somewhere.. not that I need an excuse (hee!)

  2. Cindy G says:

    Such a lovely city! The painted buildings are so beautiful and I love the wooden bridges – that Chapel Bridge looks gorgeous with flowers. I’d love to visit, thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles

  3. Allison says:

    We almost went to Lucerne when we were in Germany but it didn’t work with our schedule. So we’ll have to plan a trip there. It looks beautiful. #farawayfiles

  4. Clare Thomson says:

    We really must visit Switzerland in the summer! I’ve been skiing but really fancy my own Heidi experience. Love the lion – I wonder whether C S Lewis ever saw it? It reminds me of the dying Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. #farawayfiles

  5. Wherejogoes says:

    Such a pretty place. I’d love to do the lion statue, cable car and of course the Chapel Bridge. I imagine it’s beautiful all times of year. Thanks for hosting #FarawayFiles

  6. mymeenalife says:

    I visited Lucerne for just an afternoon last year and I agree it definitely was like stepping into a fairy tale. I walked the ramparts, and at the end you can climb a tower and enjoy an incredible view of the city, lake, and mountains. Thanks for taking me back there with this post. 🙂

  7. Ali May says:

    What a beautiful place, that I must visit one day. The stories, architecture and art of these European cities that have been been around for centuries just amazes me. Your description of the mournful statue makes that a must-see piece of history. What impresses me so much about Lucerne is how the well the town is positioned with the water, and how pretty the place is. #FarawayFiles

  8. Kat @anaussieinsf says:

    My first trip to Europe was on a bus tour (because I was young and couldn’t get my head around organising a five week trip on my own). We stopped at Lucerne and your pictures brought back so many memories! The Kapellbrücke, the Lion Monument, the swans… they’re all so beautiful. #FarawayFiles

  9. tracycollins2016 says:

    My Mum lives near Lucerne so I go every summer to visit. It’s such a lovely town – the trip up Pilatus is spectacular. We also have our favourite cafe to buy quiche and salad followed by a cake! A beautiful place to spend some time in when visiting Switzerland! #FarawayFiles

  10. annette @afrenchcollection says:

    What a timely post. I took my 8mth old baby daughter to Lucerne when visiting Switzerland, amongest many countries, travelling with my husband on one of his business trips. My daughter is now getting married in three weeks time and going to Switzerland and staying in Lucerne for her honeymoon. She will love your post as I did… Annette #FarawayFiles

    • Katy says:

      oh how wonderfully serendipitous Annette! All my best wishes for your daughter’s wedding and her future ahead. Exciting times should always be celebrated with memorable trips and sounds like her honeymoon will be very special

  11. Ruth says:

    Ah Lucerne! I loved the town! I remembered how moved I was when I saw the Lion monument. The painted houses were a pleasant surprised. It was the first time I saw something like that. I had the opportunity to go to Mt. Pilatus (it was overcast, so, no views for us). #FarawayFiles

  12. BootsNotRoots says:

    The history here is phenomenal! I used to HATE history class, but recently I’ve really gotten into historical fiction. I would love to see Lucerne just for the bridges! Thanks for sharing. #farawayfiles

  13. Kat says:

    Ah, the famous Lion Monument 🙂 I honestly can’t remember if I have been to Lucerne during my trip to Italy and Switzerland in 2008, it feels so long ago! All I remembered about Switzerland was Geneva and that lake with the fork in it 🙁 So I guess this means I have to add Lucerne on my list 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  14. Ahila says:

    The covered wooden bridges are fascinating and I would love to walk around Aldstadt, admiring the paintings on the walls of the houses. Thanks for sharing, Katy.

  15. daisythebus says:

    How gorgeous. We were very close to here a couple of years ago (just the other side of Mt Rigi) but never quite made it to Lucerne. I do like the look of the wooden bridges – very quirky and interesting! #FarawayFiles

  16. Four Acorns says:

    How I would love to walk across the beautiful KapellBrucke! The Danse Macabre is a piece of music composed by French musician Camille Saint-Saëns in the 19th century – I wonder whether there is a link with the paintings on the bridge?

  17. WanderMum says:

    We came very close to stopping in Lucerne on one of our road trip but couldn’t squeeze it in…I’m wishing we had after reading this! A beautiful place. Thanks for linking #citytripping

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