Lucerne is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland and you can even add Europe to that and this is thanks to its location.
Lucerne is blessed by being on the shores of Lake Lucerne, just north of the Alps and the views couldn’t be better across the mountains and lake. Combine this with lovely medieval architecture, historic sites, museums, galleries, and more, which means Lucerne is certainly a city worth visiting on your next adventure.
One of my favorite things about this city is that it isn’t too big which makes it very easy to explore and you can even see all it has to offer in one day in Lucerne, and that is what we are here to discuss.
Join me as I run through everything you need to know in order to have the best one day in Lucerne possible. I’ll give you handy tips on how to get around, where to stay, when to visit, and even give you a great one-day in Lucerne itinerary to follow.
Since you only have one day in Lucerne, the last thing you need is to waste any time getting from one point to the next.
Luckily, Lucerne is a small city and the one day in Lucerne itinerary below is focused around the Old Town so most of the sites are within walking distance of one another. This means you won’t need to use public transport as you can walk from one place to the next.
But, if you aren’t as mobile as you once were or get tired of walking, here are your options.
The only form of public transportation in Lucerne is the city buses. There are lots of stops all over the city and the buses run very efficiently, on Swiss time, which makes using them very easy.
When you need to use the bus, you can buy tickets from machines at most bus stops using a card or cash, and they cost 4.10 Swiss Francs for a one-hour pass.
My biggest recommendation, and one that may seem obvious to some of you, is to use Google Maps to navigate your way around the city. It will give you the fastest walking routes and public transport routes, making it very easy to find your way around a new city.
Lucerne is a great place to visit all year round so picking when to visit Lucerne depends a little bit on what you want from your experience.
If you come in the summer months of July and August, you will have sunny days, and be able to swim in the lake, but never overheat as Lucerne doesn’t get too hot due to being in the mountains.
But, July and August see the most visitors and the highest price of the year too. This means your flights, accommodation, and even food costs will go up and you will have lots of other visitors to contend with while exploring.
Visiting Lucerne in winter is also a good option as it is very beautiful when covered in snow, plus you can add some skiing into the mix too. Prices will still be high as everyone uses Lucerne as a base to ski but the city won’t be busy exploring.
The best time to visit Lucerne in my opinion is in the months of May, June, and September. These are the shoulder months that ensure your visit will still have good weather, be more affordable, and you will have fewer other tourists to contend with around the city.
Below, you will find an awesome one-day in Lucerne itinerary to follow that features the best attractions Lucerne has to offer. I have designed the itinerary to flow logically and be walkable so you shouldn’t need public transport.
But, feel free to use Google Maps to get around the attractions if your legs are tired and you need some time off your feet.
A great way to start your day of sightseeing is to get onto Lake Lucerne and you can do this in a number of ways. If the lake is warm enough, stroll to one of the many beaches and have a refreshing swim to start your day.
Another option is to rent a paddle board and go for a paddle around Lake Lucerne which is my favorite way of seeing the lake and the breathtaking views that come with it. You can even add a little swim to this if you like.
The most popular option is going on a cruise around Lake Lucerne. This will give you wonderful views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains.
There are lots of different cruises to go on and I would recommend doing just a short 1-hour cruise so you don’t use up too much of your time. You will still see superb views but still have time to see everything else on your itinerary.
Once you have seen the best of Lake Lucerne and returned, it is time to head to Kappelbrücke.
You may have already walked past the Chapel Bridge if your accommodation is near it but it is a must-see while in Lucerne and deserves a stop of its own.
Sitting in the center of the Old Town, the Chapel Bridge is the oldest surviving truss bridge on the planet and the oldest wooden covered bridge in the whole of Europe. As far as bridges go, Chapel Bridge is quite an important one.
The bridge dates back to the early 1300s and is incredibly beautiful. It crosses the Reuss river and is covered with window boxes full of flowers and the roof of the bridge is covered in art dating back to the 17th century that depicts Lucerne’s past.
Be sure to walk across the bridge and look at the stunning views across the city and Lake Lucerne and admire the artwork and flowers too. Unfortunately, there are only 30 paintings left after a fire damaged the bridge in the 1930s.
On the south side of the Chapel Bridge and only a 5-minute walk away is the next stop on your day trip, the Jesuit Church. Enjoy the stroll along the banks of the river and the views of Old Town Lucerne.
The Jesuit Church is probably the best church in Lucerne. It was built in the late 17th century in phases that lasted until the 19th century and was the first church of its size built in a Baroque style in Switzerland.
The Jesuit Church was first founded in order to ensure Swiss Catholics didn’t convert to Protestantism too easily. It is a bold building that is impossible to miss as you stroll down the river and it is worth admiring the lovely architecture, especially the towers.
You are allowed to enter inside the church and it is worth doing so as the interior is stunningly decorated. The church is also used to host concerts today thanks to its excellent acoustics so it is worth seeing if there is a concert in the evening which you could attend.
It is not easy to drag yourself away from the views of Chapel Bridge, the river, and Lake Lucerne but it is worth it for Lucerne Old Town. Cross the Chapel Bridge to the north side of the river and you will find yourself in the Old Town in less than 10-minutes.
Lucerne Old Town is the old medieval part of the city and strolling through it is a bit like walking through an old movie set. It is incredibly beautiful and full of romance!
As you walk along the small cobbled streets of the Old Town and through narrow alleyways, you will find small restaurants, cafes, fountains, squares, art galleries, antique shops, bridges, and traditional Alpine houses too.
Be sure to notice the facades of the houses as you wander around. They are decorated with painted frescoes that are rather lovely and the odd mural too.
Something else you shouldn’t miss in the Old Town is the medieval city walls and towers. You can walk along the walls and I’d suggest climbing one of the towers for sweeping views of the city and Lake Lucerne.
From the Old Town, it is just a 10-minute walk north to the Dying Lion Monument, the next port of call on your busy day in Lucerne.
The Dying Lion Monument sits inside a small park with a small pond inside it, and it is here where you shall find the monument. At the one end of the small pond is a stone cliff and carved into it is the sculpture of a dying lion.
The Dying Lion Monument is incredibly important in Swiss history and is the oldest of its kind in the entire country. It was built in 1821 to commemorate the 760 Swiss guards who were defending King Louis XVI in 1792 but were killed by French revolutionaries.
The monument was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and brought to life by Lukas Ahorn. The inscription underneath says “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.” It is a moving experience and a must-see while you explore Lucerne.
From the Dying Lion Monument, hop on the bus to the Swiss Museum of Transport, one of the most popular attractions in Lucerne.
Also known as Verkehrshaus der Schweiz, the museum sits right on Lake Lucerne and is the most popular museum in Switzerland.
It has exhibitions about every single form of transport on the planet and also includes a 1:20,000 scale aerial photograph of Switzerland, a planetarium, and an extensive collection of works by Hans Enri.
Inside, you will also find a Film Theater which is the biggest cinema in the country and showcases interactive attractions and more.
This is a great place to go for the whole family but it is easy to get lost and use up a lot of time. You totally have the option to spend 2-3 hours in the museum but you will lose time to see some of the other attractions on the itinerary so be sure to check if there are any you would like to miss.
Next up is Stern Luzern, a short bus ride back to and through the Old Town of Lucerne. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so to get there.
Stern Luzern is an excellent restaurant and by this time you are probably ready to have some lunch. The menu is full of amazing but traditional Swiss dishes and you should expect delicious food in the form of deer schnitzel, Swiss trout mouse, deer ragout, Swiss sausage salad, and lots more.
The Swiss wines on offer here are also pretty fantastic and the service is also excellent. You can also choose to enjoy this great food for dinner instead and pick up something from one of the local cafes instead.
For the most superb views of Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps, a visit to Mount Pilatus is a must. Be warned though, this may take a chunk of time and you might have to sacrifice some of the other stops on the itinerary.
Known as the jagged mountain due to its peaks, Mount Pilatus sits at 6,981 feet above sea level and there are numerous ways of getting to the top.
The easiest and fastest way to visit Mount Pilatus is to hop on the cable car from the village of Kriens which takes 20-minutes to reach by bus from the restaurant. Once you are at the top of Mount Pilatus, there is an observation platform with great views of the surrounding areas.
You also have the choice of boarding the steepest cog railway at Alpnachstad town in order to reach the top, which is quite a unique experience.
Once you are ready to go back down from Mt Pilatus, take the cable car, or if you have more than one day in Lucerne, you can hike down on one of the many trails.
Having taken the bus back to the center of Lucerne from the cable car at the village of Kriens, it is a short walk to the Sammlung Rosengart Museum.
The Sammlung Rosengart Museum is full of incredible pieces of artwork that date back to the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum has a lot of masterpieces by Pablo Picasso and on a guided tour you will learn everything about Classic Modernism and Impressionism.
The list of pieces by famous artists in the Sammlung Rosengart Museum is incredibly impressive and it is one of the best collections of art in the country.
You’ll find pieces by Cezanne, Monet, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Picasso, George Braque, Paul Klee, Fernand Leger, and Joan Miró. Between all the artists, the artistic world changed quite a bit.
From the museum, it is time to head back to the river and cross a new bridge, the Spreuer Bridge. It is a short walk from the museum, about 6-minutes, and will take you back into the Old Town where the following stop will also be.
The Spreuer Bridge isn’t quite as famous as the Chapel Bridge but it is very similar. It was built in the 1500s and is a wooden covered bridge too, with paintings on the ceiling.
The paintings are rather different from what you might expect as they are in a Danse Macabre, which means they are a bit dark. The paintings are all meant to remind onlookers that death is inevitable and therefore you will see paintings with skeletons in odd scenes.
Don’t forget to enjoy the views across the lake, river, and into the town from the bridge as it will still amaze you.
Next up is Musegg Wall which is a 12-minute walk from the bridge but it is a challenging walk so if you have any mobility issues you may want to grab a bus or skip this one.
The Musegg Wall and the Nine Towers that are a part of it are the old walls that protected the Old Town of Lucerne in the old days. Hop onto the wall and climb up to the top in order to see amazing views across the city.
The walk is no joke and you may need to have a break along the way, and you should most certainly carry some water with you too. But, it is worth the hike as seeing the city from way up above it is quite amazing too.
Since this is your last stop, I hope you have managed to catch the views at sunset when the mountains, lake, and city catch the evening light and look as good as they get.
When exploring any city it is always important to stay in the city center and luckily due to Lucerne’s size, all the hotels are pretty much already in the city center.
That being said, I would recommend staying close to the Chapel Bridge in the Old Town as this is the loveliest part of town and it makes doing the above itinerary very easy.
Switzerland is not a cheap destination by any means which means the hotels are generally expensive but you can find good deals on 3-star Boutique Hotels or splash out in luxury at a lot of the 5-star hotel options available.
For those of you who want to see Lucerne on a tight budget, be sure to book a spot at Backpackers Luzern way in advance. This is the only budget accommodation in the city and you can choose between a private room or a bed in a dorm to bring your costs down.
I highly recommend doing your hotel bookings through Booking.com as they have all the best options and offer you some of the best deals available.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!