Lucerne in the Winter – Best Things to Do and See
Lucerne is often considered the most beautiful city in Switzerland. Surrounded by the Swiss Alps, this small city has a lot to offer its visitors.
If I had to name a European city with the most stunning scenery, it would be… Lucerne!
The scenery is definitely impressive, but the city/town center also holds a few impressive attractions and places to visit.
While many of the following tips can be done at any time of the year, there are a few things you can only do in the winter. And to be honest, winter has its own special charm.
After several visits in the summer, I visited this winter and squeezed in a lot of attractions in my 2 days in Lucerne. There is just so much to do and see in Lucerne in the winter that I did not want to miss out on any of the fun things.
So, while I have a post about the best things to do in Lucerne in the summer (and fall and spring), this is your Lucerne winter travel guide – which includes general Lucerne travel tips (e.g. where to stay and how to get around) as well as the best activities in Lucerne in the winter.
Travel Tips Lucerne in the Winter
Let´s start with some tips for your Lucerne winter trip.
How to Get There
If you fly into Switzerland, Zurich Airport or Basel Airport would be the best choices. From there, it takes about one hour (by car or train) to get to Lucerne.
It actually does not matter whether you use public transportation or drive yourself. If you choose the right route, both are AMAZING and you will get a very, very good impression of this country.
How to Get Around
If you stay in an official accommodation in Lucerne, you will get a card that allows you to use public transportation in the city of Lucerne for free. Lucerne itself is small and you can easily walk, but sometimes being able to hop on a bus and take advantage of the excellent Swiss public transportation comes in handy.
Public transportation in Lucerne is fast, reliable, and on time. However, the Lucerne Guest Card is only for the city of Lucerne and you cannot use it to get to some of the places I mention here. In those cases, you need to buy a ticket (so, please check the validity of the Guest Card for each location).
Driving around is also a good option because there are some scenic streets, but parking in the town center will make your travel costs explode (if you stay in the center of town, free parking is available outside the city center).
Best Time to Visit Lucerne
Personally, I think Lucerne is almost always a good idea. I love the summer months when I can actually swim in the lake, as well as early fall or late spring.
After my recent visit, I can actually recommend visiting Lucerne in the winter months, too. So, if you are eyeing winter as your season to visit, here are my tips for that time of year.
I haven’t visited Lucerne´s Christmas markets, but I heard about how beautiful they were, so for this reason alone, December would be a good choice.
If you are interested in visiting the Light Festival (LILU), then mid-January is the perfect time. It was when I visited the city and it was perfect because January really is off-season.
Hardly anyone is around (unlike the summer months when Lucerne is crowded), accommodation prices are significantly lower than in the summer months, and the Light Festival is another beautiful attraction worth a visit (more on that later).
Where to Stay in Lucerne in the Winter
Lucerne is quite pricey -, especially in the town center but it is worth a visit.
Luxury Hotels in Lucerne
Schweizerhof Luzern is a beautiful and fun 5* hotel located at the shores of Lake Lucerne and a few hundred meters from the old town and main tourist attractions (if you can, book a room with lake view).
Park Hotel Vitznau This is the most expensive hotel in the region. Dogs are not allowed, so I have not had the chance to check it out. However, it looks absolutely gorgeous and is located in a very quiet area but with a view of Lake Lucerne.
Mid-Range Hotels in Lucerne
There is not much in that area, as even 3 or 4-star hotels cost quite a bit. If you are on a budget you can check out prices close to Lucerne but on my last trip I stayed at Hotel des Alps which came with amazing room views. It is located close to the Chapel Bridge. Check out prices here.
Budget Hotels in Lucerne
This bed-and-breakfast offers single and double rooms (with an occupancy of 4 people maximum). Some rooms have a shared bathroom, and some have a private one. Click here to find the best rates for your stay at B&B
The best option is to look for Airbnb accommodation if you are on a budget. The prices are slightly better, so this might be another option.
First-time Airbnb user? Save on your next stay with Airbnb
If you are still not sure where to stay in Lucerne you can check out my full accommodation guide on the best places to stay in Lucerne here.
However, I recommend staying in the city center. Here is my full Lucerne accommodation guide – the best hotels for all budgets in Lucerne.
Disclaimer: I was invited to discover Lucerne in the winter by Lucerne Tourism and My Switzerland, but as always views and opinions are my own.
Things to do in Lucerne in the Winter
Okay, enough talking, let‘s talk about the best winter activities in Lucerne.
Discover the Old Town
I have been to Lucerne quite often, but I admit that I had missed out on several beautiful houses. I just overlooked them. However, the old town is lovely, and in the winter months (except for December probably), it is much more fun to stroll around.
With fewer people around, you actually get to see the buildings. You will find many painted houses with interesting facades and also painted water fountains (yes, you can enjoy the delicious and fresh water that comes from Mount Pilatus).
Depending on your speed, I suggest planning in at least about two hours for the old town.
Okay, I know I was lucky. There is not often snow on Lucerne´s most famous attraction – the Chapel Bridge. But you might be lucky, too. Doesn’t the Chapel Bridge look lovely in the winter?
The flower pots are gone though (which you will find in the summer months), but looking at the snow-capped roof of the bridge with Mount Pilatus in the background is charming.
But even without the snow, you cannot (should not) skip the Chapel Bridge. Luckily, it is located close to the train station and the old town.
In the winter months, it is less busy and you can enjoy crossing the bridge in a more relaxed way. The wooden bridge, spanning the Reuss River, was originally built in the 14th century before being partly burnt down in 1993 and then quickly rebuilt.
Tip: Do not look only to the right and left (to enjoy the beautiful scenery and pretty houses lined up along the promenade), but also look up and enjoy the paintings that are hung on the ceiling.
The Jesuit Church, a Catholic Church built in the 17th century, can be visited at any time of the year – but in the winter times, it is probably even more special. This attraction is worthy seeing even if you are not religious.
Since I mostly travel with my dog in Switzerland, I never managed to visit it, but it always attracted my attention since it is easy to spot from the Chapel Bridge. When I finally visited this time, I was surprised by its baroque style! I did not expect so much fanciness in Switzerland, and the outside appearance did not give me any clue about its inner beauty.
Despite its beauty, it did not take me long to go through, so it is probably easy to squeeze into your Lucerne winter itinerary.
We all know that Switzerland is the home of amazing chocolate, right? It is actually my favorite Swiss “food“ and I have always been impressed by Lindt chocolate. If you prefer something more exotic and exclusive, then you can book a chocolate tasting at Max Chocolatier near the Chapel Bridge.
There is also a story behind this chocolate manufacturer: The son of the owners has Down’s Syndrome and he loves chocolate. So, his parents decided to produce their own chocolate and let him taste their products.
There is another smaller shop in Zurich as well, but only in Lucerne can you book your own chocolate workshop and make your own chocolate. I made my own chocolate in Interlaken once, but it was not very fancy.
The chocolate is actually quite unique. I had to get used to such chocolate, but I am sure if you prefer chocolates other than simple milk chocolate, then this is for you!
In January 2019, the first Lucerne Light Festival (LILU) took place and it will most likely become an annual festival. Sound romantic? It actually was. There are around 17 special places/installations/projects that are lit up from 6 pm to 10 pm.
This is a free Lucerne winter activity. You will find some informational signs on each piece so that you can find out about the artists and the ideas behind them.
You can take a walk around the city and see all the art pieces and also join some free guided tours (reservations required).
Seeing all the installments probably takes a few hours. While it is very romantic to experience with your loved one, it is also nice for families with kids or people of any age.
The highlight of the LILU festival was probably the concert in the Hofkirche: There is an entry fee (takes about 20 minutes) and I highly recommend buying tickets in advance because most shows sold out quickly. The show takes place several times each evening, and you can actually just lie on the church floor and watch this very interesting light show accompanied by music.
In 2020 the LILU will take place from 9. January – 19. January.LILU
If you want to experience this special time in Switzerland, then add the Christmas Market to your list.
If you have read my other Lucerne post (about the best things to do in the summer in Lucerne), then you know I am obsessed with boat riding. Lake Lucerne is amazing – I can´t remember how many times I have done a Lake Lucerne boat trip.
And this time, I hopped on a boat after my Mount Rigi trip and it was dark, so I did not see much. However, a boat cruise in the winter is a perfect activity with its picture-perfect scenery! Also, I have been asked many times about the most romantic city/town in Switzerland and I have two answers: one of them is Lucerne.
If you do the evening cruise, you will experience the romantic side of Lucerne in the winter!
Winter Sports in Lucerne in the Winter
Are you wondering where to do winter sports in Lucerne?
The town center of Lucerne does not offer many winter sports activities, but yes, winter sports lovers will love the area of Lucerne, too! There are just so many winter activities to do in Lucerne, and here are some tips!
I visited Mount Pilatus in the summer – and totally loved it! It became one of my favorite mountain peaks in Switzerland and so I could not wait to visit again in the winter.
Of course, Mount Pilatus is completely different in the winter months from what I had known before.
The views are still great (in the winter months, the cogwheel train ride is not available, so you can only go up via cable car), but you can experience a completely different world up here.
So, whether you just want to enjoy the fantastic views or prefer to do winter sports, Mount Pilatus is the perfect place.
Skiing, snowshoe hiking, snowboarding, and sledding – you can do all this in the region of Lucerne, and especially on Mount Pilatus.
Tip: You will get a discount with your Swiss Travel Pass.
Mount Titlis is one of the very few famous mountain peaks that I haven’t visited in the summer. My trip in the winter was fun though.
To enjoy a day (I would plan in a full day or at least 8 hours for these activities) at Mount Titlis, hop on a train at Lucerne train station and head to Engelberg train station.
The train ride gets scenic towards the end, and from the train station, you can either walk to the Mount Titlis cable car station or you can take the free bus shuttle.
And then, there is a lot to do at Mount Titlis in the winter: You can go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe hiking, sledding, and more.
What I really loved is that you can rent tubes and a minibus or balancer without any extra charge at Trübsee Alpine Lodge, and then go whizzing down the piste.
While I saw many kids sliding down fast (which included some falling), I opted for the safer activity. Tubing. It really isn’t scary, but still fun.
But it is not only about the views and winter sports. You can also walk in the Glacier Cave (a 150-meter-long walkway below the surface of the glacier) or enjoy a walk over the Titlis Cliff Walk (a suspension bridge that is 3,041 meters above sea level).
Tip: You will get a discount with your Swiss Travel Pass.
Beautiful, beautiful Mount Rigi. I was impressed visiting in the summer (I have been up there a few times), but visiting in the winter was mind-blowing!
I would say that going up before sunset was one of the travel highlights and the pictures do not do it any justice.
The thing is, when going up to a mountain peak, other than for winter sports, you see it at its best when the sky is clear.
I had such a busy schedule, but when I realized that the sky was clear and it was sunny, I squeezed in a trip to Mount Rigi. And, man, was that amazing!
Mount Rigi is actually one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset. The colorful sunset against the white snow… it was drop-dead gorgeous!
Reminder to myself: Add it to my Switzerland in the winter guide because it was just impressive (check out that winter guide here).
I did not have time to get off the train, but the ride alone was worth it. The train I took had a compartment with open windows. Yes, it was cold and my hands froze (it takes about 1 hour to get up and down), but I seriously recommend sitting in that compartment, if possible, and just bring your gloves and bundle up!
But you could also go sledding or do other winter sports, like snowshoe hiking, here as well.
Tip: Free with your Swiss Travel Pass (bonus tip: start your trip from Vitznau Station – get to Vitznau either via boat or bus).
Spending a few days in Lucerne in the winter is a great idea! So, hopefully, this guide helps you find out about the best things to do and see in the winter, and how to enjoy a beautiful winter break in Switzerland that is not just about winter sports!