ITINERARY FOR LUCERNE IN 1 DAY + TRAVEL TIPS
If you are planning your one-day in Lucerne itinerary, you might be wondering about the best things to do in Lucerne in a day. In this post, I share my tips on the best activities in Lucerne in 1 day, plus many travel tips for your trip.
Lucerne is often considered the most beautiful city in Switzerland – known for its very preserved medieval architecture – including the stunning Chapel Bridge – gorgeous Lake Lucerne and the proximity to the Swiss Alps. There is a lot to do and see in Lucerne – with only one day in the city, it helps to be well-informed about the best activities so you can plan your day.
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HOW TO GET AROUND LUCERNE FOR ONE DAY
There are a couple of ways to get around in Lucerne.
One of the best ways to get around Lucerne, Switzerland is on foot. The city is known for its beautiful architecture, stunning Lake Lucerne, and picturesque bridges, so the best way to experience it all is by walking. However, there are a few sights you cannot walk to.
If you are in Lucerne for one day, I suggest using public transport. Lucerne has an efficient public transportation system that includes buses and trains, making it easy to get around the city and the surrounding areas.
If you stay in an official accommodation in Lucerne, you will get a Visitor Card and can use public transportation without any extra costs. It is valid for the town center but it does not get you all the way to Mount Rigi station. However, it comes in pretty handy.
The Swiss Travel Pass does cover the bus and train rides as well.
Boat tours are a popular way to explore Lucerne and its stunning lake. You can choose from a variety of boat tour options like public cruises, private charters, and even paddle boat rides for a more intimate experience. I highly recommend using the boat at least to get to Vitznau (and from there take the funicular to get up).
The regular boat cruises are also included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
I normally love road-tripping in Switzerland, but I should add that parking in cities and Lucerne is difficult and extremely expensive. There might be free parking premises in some hotels, but I recommend getting there by public transportation.
Swiss Travel Pass might be perfect for you, especially if you travel in Switzerland by train. The initial price is quite high, but you can use buses and trains without any costs, can do unlimited boat cruises on Lake Lucerne. And you get to use the cogwheel train to go up to Mount Rigi for free with the Swiss Travel Pass in 2023 and get free entry to many museums in Lucerne.
You get a 50% discount on Mount Pilatus and Mount Titlis
WHAT TO DO IN LUCERNE IN 1 DAY
Without further ado, here is how I would spend my one day in Lucerne. Whether you stay overnight in Lucerne or not, after leaving the train station (or parking your car), head to the first stop on this itinerary.
Kapellbrücke – Chapel Bridge
The Chapel Bridge is THE most famous tourist sight in Lucerne. With its convenient location, just a stone‘s throw from the main train station, it is also within easy reach.
This covered wooden footbridge spans the river Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne and was originally constructed in the 14th century. It burnt partly down in 1993 and was rebuilt, and today, it is – again – a magnet for tourists together with its water tower. If you are on the bridge, you can see the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne), and the Reuss River, and you also have a fantastic panorama of the Swiss Alps.
Here, you´ll also find an exciting series of paintings that date back to the 16th century. On the bridge, you can see the many restaurants lined up – those restaurants and bars are also excellent places to have coffee or lunch/dinner. You have not really seen Lucerne if you have not seen the bridge.
- There is no entrance fee
- Open 24/7
- Takes about 10-60 minutes
The Jesuit Church is located near the Chapel Bridge. Actually, you can also see it already if you stand on the bridge. It is a Catholic church built in the 17th century, and the outside appearance does not give any clue about its inner beauty – so it will most likely surprise you.
Despite its stunning looks, it did not take me long to go through it, so it is probably easy to squeeze it into your Lucerne itinerary – so make it a stop and do not skip it (even if you are not religious/Catholic).
- Open every day from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On Mondays and Thursdays, it opens at 9:30 a.m. Before you enter, check when it is closed for religious worship. Their website is in German, thus I have not linked it for you.
- Free to visit
- Takes about 10-60 minutes
- Dress modestly
Then it is time to explore the beautiful old town. Before admiring the pretty buildings there, we start with one of the main sights located there – the Lion Monument.
The Lion Monument commemorates Swiss soldiers who died in the 18th century during the French Revolution. It is a unique sight. It does not take long to see, but you might be interested in the history and a guided walking tour might help you learn more about it. Check out the best prices for guided tours in Lucerne.
- Open 24/7
- No entrance fee
Lucerne Old Town
The Lion Monument is located in the old town, so it is time to explore the rest of the gorgeous old town, which is full of charming architecture, especially the architecture in the old town.
If you do a self–guided walking tour, you should also visit the Town Hall, and along the way, you´ll pass some pretty buildings with exciting facades (and I mean seriously pretty buildings) like the Hotel des Balances (picture “Hotel Waage” above). Also, watch out for the fountains – the water is drinkable and some of the fountains are quite unique! My tip is to keep your eyes open and watch closely – with so many pretty houses, you might easily overlook a few.
A guided walking tour might be a good option to learn more about the old town and the historic buildings. Check out prices for walking tours here.
Chill at Lake Lucerne Promenade
Then it is time to leave the Old Town and head to Lake Lucerne again (you will have seen it once you get out of the train station). The promenade of Lake Lucerne in the city center is bustling and quite lively.
Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee in German) is one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland – and one of the largest in the country. Given its size, it is unlikely you can walk around the whole lake. Depending on how much energy you have, you could walk around for hours and take some breaks.
From Lucerne Chapel Bridge, walk on the northern shores of Lake Lucerne – it is a beautiful, scenic way. You can just walk a few minutes (or longer) and then hop on a bus to get back to the city center. If you have a Lucerne guest card, the bus ride is already included.
Hop on Lake Lucerne Boat Tour
Cruising Lake Lucerne proves that it is rightly called gorgeous. Get on the boat in Lucerne (there are several piers, so make sure to find the right one) and go to Vitznau. This cruise takes about an hour and you get to see the beauty of the lake and also get to experience one of the best mountain views in Switzerland.
There are different cruises – they differ in duration, stops, and also the kind of boats. I suggest getting to Vitznau station – because you can combine this cruise with another activity.
- Regular boat cruises, including the one to Vitznau station, are included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
Head Up Mount Rigi
Mount Rigi makes a great half–day trip – especially if you come here on a clear day, you can experience the most fantastic sunset in Switzerland. So, I suggest spending your afternoon and evening at Mount Rigi and ending your day there.
Up there are restaurants, a hotel, a spa, and above all, the panorama is INCREDIBLE – and you will not only have views of Lake Lucerne but also of Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz.
Mount Rigi is actually a great place to visit year-round – except for a few days, the cogwheel operates every day. When you visit Lucerne in the winter, Mount Rigi is also a great option for all kinds of winter sports.
To go up Mount Rigi, you have several options, and I recommend the following route: 1) you need to get to Vitznau boat/bus station. You can get there by bus, car, or boat from Lucerne. It takes about one hour to get there from Lucerne (either by boat or public transportation) 2) From there, you can either hike up or take the cogwheel train – going up via cogwheel is spectacular The boats and cogwheels are coordinated and this should be smooth without waiting time in between.
It is an amazing attraction at any time of the year. I visited several Mount Rigi times in summer and once in winter. My favorite time is to visit in the afternoon to enjoy the views during daylight and then watch the amazing sunset.
- The cogwheel ride takes about 30 minutes and it is free with a Swiss Travel Pass in 2023.
Alternative: Visit the Swiss Museum of Transport /Verkehrshaus
Okay, this stop is just an extra – especially if you visit Lucerne with children or are into the history of transport. It would be hard to fit everything into a 1-day itinerary. So, this is a wonderful alternative if you want to skip the Lake Lucerne boat cruise and/or the Mount Rigi excursion.
The most famous museum in Lucerne is the Swiss Museum of Transport – and the most visited in all of Switzerland. You will find exhibits of all forms of transport, including trains, automobiles, ships, and aircraft, as well as communication technology. You could get to the museum if you walk along the Lake Lucerne promenade (it is about 1.6 miles/2.5 km from Chapel Bridge) or hop on a bus – or combine it with a Lake Lucerne boat cruise as it has its own boat station.
- Open 365 days a year
- Discount with a Swiss Travel Pass
TRAVEL TIPS FOR 24 HOURS IN LUCERNE
Here are some quick tips for your 1-day Lucerne itinerary before we talk about the top activities.
Where to Stay in Lucerne For One Night
Accommodations are not cheap in Lucerne, but we know that about Switzerland already, so it should not surprise us in such a popular destination. I have stayed in several hotels in Lucerne, and here are some tips.
Mid-Range: Hotel des Alpes: On my last Lucerne trip, I stayed at Hotel des Alpes. The room view was amazing (and included views of the Chapel Bridge and Mount Pilatus).
Click here to read my full post on the best hotels in Lucerne.
Where to Eat
Lucerne has some really nice restaurants, and as a vegetarian, it was one of the few places I always found enough options. I mostly got takeaway food and sat by the lake. But there are restaurants for all tastes and price ranges (p.s. no super duper cheap food, though.
If you get the chance to dine at Galerie Schweizerhof Restaurant, it has great views and reasonable prices for good food! Also, there is a Tibits at the train station where you will also find plenty of vegan food and it is a good alternative to heavy Swiss cuisine.
More Lucerne Tips
- Wear comfy shoes, there might be some uphill walking and there are definitely a lot of cobbled-stoned streets
- Bring a refillable water bottle and get some fresh mountain water from the fountains
- Even in the summer, I would bring a sweater for the mountain tops as it can get chilly up there
- Credit Cards are widely accepted in such a popular tourist spot like Lucerne – however, small shops might still only accept cash, so it might be a good idea to have some cash on you
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ONE DAY IN LUCERNE ITINERARY
Lucerne is surely one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland – it offers a wonderful mix of outdoor activities and cultural sights. One day in Lucerne is not nearly enough to see all of its beauty, but you can see some main sights if you visit Lucerne in one day.