In this post I am here to talk about day trips and fun excursions you can do from Lucerne. In fact, there are actually way too many to write about, so I have tried to limit it to the best ones in the area!
Aerial View Over The Whole Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee in German)
Paddle Steamer Trip On Lake Lucerne
With such an amazing lake right in front of you, how can you not almost jump right in (in fact in mid-summer it's over 20 degrees, so go for it!). But there is actually a far better way to take in the stunning views on Lake Lucerne - by Paddle Steamer!
Most of the ships cruising Lake Lucerne that are used for public transport are old-fashioned steamers. How cool is that! For a very low price (by Swiss standards) you can take a trip out to one end of the lake, take a walk around somewhere like Brunnen or other small towns. Or combine it with a hike or train/gondola up a mountain (Rigi or Bürgenstock - more on that below). So, two for one really!
If you want to find out more about your options and timetables head over to this handy website.
View From Lucerne To Rigi In The Distance
Rigi is almost the home mountain of Lucern and is an easy and beautiful day trip from town.
You have a few options to get there, but I recommend taking the boat, at least one way. The boats leaves from the Quai in the heart of Lucern so is easy to reach. It takes just over an hour to get to either Vitznau or Weggis. From there you can catch the train up or gondola depending on where you get off.
I suggest Vitznau because the train is far more steep and fun. (The gondola is nice, but you just stand in a box with a bunch of people) At least in one direction. It goes up at almost 45 degrees and is quite an experience.
Again, you could do a round trip (train up, gondola down) or hike up, train down. etc. There are lots of options.
If you have time, you can go up both Rigi or Pilatus. Pilates is higher and rockier, so has more of a mountain feel and ranks amongst Switzerland's best. But Rigi gives you more options in terms of hiking and wandering around. It also gives a complete other view of the whole Lake Lucern - which is huge.
There are two main ways up Pilatus:
- The Gondola and Aerial Cableway from Kriens
- The cog railway (great fun because it is a 45 degree train ride!) from Alpnachstad
Both are easy to reach from Lucerne public transport. (That is the train timetable - just type in From: Lucerne, To: Kriens OR Alpnachstad and it will give you all the times and connections). You can buy tickets at the ticket booth in the train station or using the machines. English is always an options at either :>
Hiking up is an option but not for the unfit. Leave from the train station and give yourself at least 4 hours hiking time (add 1-2 hours for breaks). It’s a long haul.
Pro Tip: A popular way to do it is via the Golden Round Trip. Which I have written about in detail in this post. This takes in all the highlights and uses all modes of transport giving an awesome day out from Lucerne.
Never forget your rain jacket, in case the weather turns suddenly on the mountain, which it did for us recently (mid-July!).
Another hiking option which involves a boat trip is to head up the Bergenstock. It's a small piece of mountain that juts out along Lake Lucerne and is directly opposite Rigi. It is not the climb of either of the other Lucerne mountains, but it has a cool glass elevator (Buergenstock-Hammetschwandlift) going up the side, as well as a Cogwheel train that connects with the ship. So again, public transport is easy and amazingly convenient.
There are also some cool hikes around the mountain, including a fun one along the cliffside to the elevator. Although not a risky hike, it is often closed because of rockfall, so if you want to do the roundtrip (something I did a few years ago, and totally recommend) check first that it is open. In fact, at the time of writing a lot of Bürgenstock is completely closed due to a huge construction of multiple luxury hotels on top of the mountain.
Bugernstock is yet another place the James Bond films is associated with in Switzerland Sean Connery spent quite some time here while filming Goldfinger.
Other Mountains To Visit
Switzerland is full of mountains, so this post could become a list of all the mountains to visit if I don't hold myself back! The above three are the closest and most popular, but here are some others you might want to check out in the area:
- Stanserhorn (with it's rotating gondola)
- Engelberg (Mount Titlis also has a rotating Gondola and is very high - 3200m or over 10 thousand feet and has a small glacier)
- Klewenalp (a smaller mountain, very local, great for getting closer to the Swiss mountain culture!)
- Melchsee Frutt (Another smaller area, but stunning nonetheless)
You could also make a huge day trip to the Interlaken/Grindelwald area and go see the Eiger and Jungfraujoch, but honestly, I would only do that if you have no other choice. If you have more time, head over and see that area separately. It is one of the "must sees" in Switzerland and should be given at least 2-3 days.
I recommend staying in Murren, one of the most pictureque and stunning villages in the alps.
Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus)
On the outskirts of Lucerne the Swiss Transport Museum is another great place for a day trip, especially for those with kids. I spent an afternoon here once and was blown away by what they had inside.
They cover everything from:
- Swiss Trains going back for over a century
- Aviation and Space Travel Hall including early Swiss Air planes, a Helicopter simulator and more
- Some interesting stuff on Swiss cablecars
- A chocolate adventure area
and a lot more than you could do in a day (unless you speed walk through the whole place :>)
You can head to this site to get tickets online.
Glass Blowing At Hergiswil Glass Factory
Not something I would suggest doing unless it's raining. Let's face it, you are in a stunning place, so really, you should be out in the mountains!
However, it does rain in Switzerland even in summer, so you need some good alternatives!
Glass blowing is not something most of us do on a daily basis, right? And it's probably most of you, and your kids, have ever seen before!
So, why not go on the rainy-day program at Hergiswil and check out some cool glass blowing!
So Much To Do In Lucerne
Lucerne itself with the walls, the painted bridges and the lake is certainly worth spending some time at. But the day trips you can doing around Lucerne are amazing. Don't miss out on at least one boat, train, mountain combination and take home some memories that will stay with you forever!
Hotels are listed from most to least expensive.