Picture the perfect fairytale town, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Lucerne looks like. One of the most staggeringly beautiful cities in all of Switzerland, Lucerne is a magical place home to a kaleidoscope of colors.
With a sparkling cerulean lake, mountains clad in lush greenery, and an enigmatic Old Town dotted with all kinds of quirky multi-colored buildings, Lucerne is guaranteed to charm and inspire.
Whenever you travel to the city, you’ll never be stuck for things to do in Lucerne. Visit during the chilly winter months for the chance to whiz down steep snowy slopes and explore dramatic churches that are almost a thousand years old.
Or plan your trip for summer, when you’ll be able to spend your days wandering the manicured grounds of spectacular castles and enjoying some of the most fabulous views you’ve ever seen in your life!
With such a fantastic choice of activities, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Lucerne. Add these fun things to see and do to your Lucerne bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time discovering this gorgeous Swiss city.
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Lucerne
1. Ski Down the Snowy Slopes at Engelberg-Titlis
If you’re up for high-speed thrills, one of the must-do things in Lucerne is to go skiing in Engelberg-Titlis. Just a short drive south of Lucerne, Engelberg-Titlis is the biggest and most popular outdoor sports destination in all of Switzerland – it’s open all year round.
Dominated by the colossal Mount Titlis, which stands over 10,000 feet tall, the comparatively small and modest village of Engelberg lies below it. While the village is best known for its 12th-century Benedictine monastery, where some monks continue to live and work today, the highlight of the area for thrill seekers is the countless skiing and snowboarding opportunities.
There’s a huge number of ski slopes to choose between, with something for adventurers of all levels and ages. If you’re up for the challenge, check out the longest downhill run. It covers a whopping 7.5 miles and drops down an amazing 6,600 feet.
2. Check Out the View from Mount Pilatus
For some of the best Lucerne sightseeing, take a trip to Mount Pilatus. A dramatic mountain massif made up of several impressive peaks, Mount Pilatus overlooks Lucerne and looks incredible from the ground. But make the journey to the top of one of the summits, and you’ll be rewarded with even more astonishing vistas that stretch on for miles.
You can easily reach the top of the mountain by hopping on the cable car or riding the cogwheel railway to the top. We suggest you ride the cogwheel railway – it’s the steepest in the world and has an average gradient of 48 degrees!
When you arrive at the peak, you’ll be blown away by the panorama that not only covers all of Lucerne but all the way over to the Alps, too. If the weather’s a bit cloudy, you won’t be able to see anything at all. Plan to do this trip on a clear day, so you don’t waste your time.
3. Marvel at a 360° Painting at the Bourbaki Panorama
You’ll find one of the best things to see in Lucerne at the Bourbaki Panorama. This cultural attraction is a gigantic 360-degree panoramic painting that depicts the time 87,000 members of the French army escaped to Switzerland in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War.
The talented artist behind the circular 3D painting is Edouard Castres. He was inspired to create the masterpiece after going through so much during his time as a Red Cross worker when he traveled with the army.
Finished in 1881, the Bourbaki Panorama is a whopping 368 feet long and 33 feet high. Whether or not you consider yourself an art or a history fan, the artwork is guaranteed to leave you spellbound. It’s considered to be one of the finest examples of panoramic art in the world and really makes you feel immersed in the scene around you.
If you’ve got your hands on a Swiss Travel Pass, you can get into the Bourbaki Panorama for free!
4. Admire The Spectacular Kapellbrücke
Kapellbrücke, also known as Chapel Bridge, is one of the biggest and best Lucerne attractions. While a bridge may not sound like it deserves to be on a list of the best things to do in a city, when you catch a glimpse of Kapellbrücke, you’ll immediately understand why it’s so popular!
This iconic covered wooden bridge diagonally crosses the Reuss River and dates all the way back to 1333. As well as being the stunning centerpiece of Lucerne, the bridge is also admired for being home to more than 100 original pieces of artwork from the 17th century, which you’ll find hanging from the rafters inside.
Walk through the covered bridge, and you’ll get to admire all kinds of scenes, from saints performing miracles to important events that happened in Lucerne’s past. The Kapellbrücke was almost entirely destroyed by a devastating fire in 1993. But it’s since been fully restored and brought back to its former glory.
5. Warm Up On a Chilly Fall Day with Zuppa di Zucca
If you’re planning to visit the city in the fall, one of the best things to do in Lucerne is to find a restaurant that specializes in local cuisine and dig into a soul-warming bowl of zuppa di zucca. A traditional dish in the city, this rich, creamy, and satisfying soup is sure to warm you up, no matter how cold it is outside!
Zuppa di zucca is a type of ultra-thick pumpkin soup made from flavor-packed pumpkin puree and delicious meat or vegetable stock. It’s often served chilled during summer, but in autumn and winter, it’s always served piping hot. While the soup is amazing on its own, it usually comes with crunchy croutons and smoked bacon lardons for the perfect finishing touch.
You’ll find zuppa di zucca served as an appetizer and entrée in practically every restaurant that specializes in local cuisine in Lucerne. Bellini Locanda Ticinese is a fine-dining restaurant that dishes up an amazing zuppa di zucca. They make it with coconut milk and top it with mascarpone cheese, buttery leeks, and a large crouton.
6. Wander Through Old Town
One of the top things to do in Lucerne is to take a walk through the city’s Old Town. Known as Altstadt in Switzerland, Old Town is the most beautiful and charming part of the city. Here you’ll find quaint cobblestone paths, delightfully peaceful squares, centuries-old bubbling fountains, and timber-framed buildings in every pastel color you can think of.
Not only is Lucerne’s Old Town a fantastic place to wander around, but it’s also home to a number of the city’s most impressive landmarks.
At the Kornmarkt you’ll find the Altes Rathaus. The old town hall, this impressive building was constructed between 1602 and 1606 and features a fabulous Italian Renaissance style. The building is topped with a traditional Swiss roof, giving it a unique look. The tower next to the Altes Rathaus dates back to the 14th century and is also worthy of a picture or two.
Other highlights include the Weinmarkt, home to a stunning late-Gothic fountain, and St. Peter’s chapel, the oldest church in Lucerne that dates back to 1178.
7. Let Your Hair Down at Lozärner Määs
One of the coolest things to do in Lucerne is to spend a few hours at Lozärner Määs. This amazing fall fair takes place each October and invites you to step back in time and relive your childhood.
Here you can browse over 100 wooden stalls selling all sorts of fall-themed goodies, from stuffed cartoon characters and local handicrafts to heart-shaped cookies and roasted chestnuts. You’ll also find a number of snack stands that stay open until the early hours and dish up loads of delicious local eats.
For something a bit more thrilling, check out the fair section in Luna Park. Here you’ll find a huge number of rides, ranging from mini child-friendly cars and a Ferris wheel all the way up to loop-de-loop rollercoasters and sky-high swing rides.
Lozärner Määs is just a short walk from the local train station, making it easily accessible for everyone. The dates change each year, but the festival usually runs for around 16 days, with activities and events between 10 am and 11 pm.
8. Visit One of Switzerland’s Oldest Castles at Schloss Heidegg
For some of the best sights in Lucerne, spend the day at Schloss Heidegg. One of the oldest castles in Switzerland, Schloss Heidegg is just a short drive away from the center of the city and dates all the way back to 1192.
The regal structure was originally the oldest residential building in the Canton of Lucerne. But today, it’s a hugely popular attraction that reveals all kinds of secrets about the culture and history of the Seetal Valley.
More like a living history museum than a castle, Schloss Heidegg invites you on a journey to discover what life was like for the aristocracy in the country throughout the centuries. The fascinating guided tour begins with the Heidegg Tower Cellar Stories, an engaging spatial audio play that brings 800 years of ancient history to life in a captivating and thought-provoking way.
If you’re looking for things to do in Lucerne with kids, make sure you check out the top floor of the tower. Here you’ll find a grand playroom full of fun, regal outfits for your little ones to dress up in!
9. Take the Cog Railway to Mount Rigi
Riding the cog railway to the top of Mount Rigi is one of the most fun things to do in Lucerne. The railway ride begins at Lake Lucerne and transports you to the peak of the imposing Mount Rigi, which proudly stands 5,900 feet high.
The very first cog railway to launch in Europe, this unique mode of transport gives you the chance to enjoy a scenic ride through the country in magnificently restored cars. Some of the cars you can ride in today look brand new, but they were actually there 100+ years ago when the railway was built. The steam engines that power the railway are also surprisingly old and date back to the 1920s.
You’ll get to see hints of the shimmering cobalt lake and lush green grass on your journey to the top. But when you arrive at the summit, you’ll discover that the best view has been saved for last. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Black Forest in Germany from up here!
10. Treat Yourself to Lozärner Chügelipastete
One of the quintessential Lucerne activities to try when you’re in the city is to indulge in a lozärner chügelipastete. A decadent, buttery, and flaky pie made from vol-au-vent or puff pastry, this dish is incredibly rich – but it’s so good that you’ll always find yourself wanting more!
The delicate pastry is stuffed full of juicy veal cubes and baked in the oven until the meat is perfectly tender and the pastry is a wonderful golden brown. It’s an amazing comfort food and leaves you feeling happier and more satisfied with every bite.
Decades ago, lozärner chügelipastete was exclusively reserved to be eaten on January 2 during the celebration of Bärteli-Essens. But because the dish is so popular and the ingredients are pretty easy to get a hold of, you can find it under the appetizer section of almost any traditional Swiss restaurant in Lucerne today.
Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern is one of the best places in the city to try lozärner chügelipastete. Here the filling also includes mushrooms, and it’s served with a creamy sauce to make it even more indulgent.
11. Fly a Plane at the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz
You’ll find one of the most unique things to do in Lucerne at the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz. Known as the Swiss Museum of Transport in English, this family-friendly attraction lets you get hands-on with all kinds of fun means of transport.
A huge complex made up of a number of outdoor exhibits and exhibition halls, the Swiss Museum of Transport is home to numerous ways to get around, from railway locomotives and rolling stock to aircraft and ships. While some of the displays are only models, a lot of them are actual examples of vehicles.
The museum offers an intriguing insight into how transport developed over the years and also touches upon the importance of communications and how they influenced transport’s progress.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a pilot, now’s your chance! The museum is home to a number of flight simulators that you can climb inside and find out what it’s like to take to the skies yourself. If you’re feeling daring, you can even try thrilling loops and rolls.
12. Explore the Grandiose Hofkirche
An excellent place to visit if you’re a fan of monumental architecture, the Hofkirche is the most important Renaissance church in the country. The religious structure is built on what was originally the 8th-century Benedictine monastery of St. Leodegar. Although most of the building you see today was constructed between 1634 and 1639, it’s still an incredible feat to admire.
The well-preserved tall towers are one of the oldest parts of the church, dating back to 1525. Step through the grandiose entrance, and you’ll discover a profound curved parapet and several notable choir stalls that are almost 400 years old. Surrounding the church, you’ll find a number of arcades that house the tombs of members of ancient families who once lived in Lucerne.
The inside of the church is truly stunning. While some people think it looks somewhat simple and plain, the white paint and lack of frescoes really highlight the opulent baroque gold altars and details.
13. Scare Away Winter at Carnival
If you’re visiting the city in February or March, you’re just in time for one of the best things to do in Lucerne – Carnival! This weeklong celebration takes place every year and ends on Fat Tuesday. As the dates are different each year, make sure you check out the calendar before you make any plans.
During this colorful, vibrant event, the streets come to life with high-energy parades, lively street parties, people in all kinds of crazy costumes, and a buzzing vibe you won’t be able to say “no” to.
On the night of Shrove Thursday, a ceremonial tree called Guuggerbaum is set up in Kornmarkt. Nearby in Kriens, you’ll find the plazas teeming with people partying and wearing intricate hand-carved masks.
Some of the masks imitate standard characters from Lucerne’s folklore. For a little more fun, snap up one of the fright masks from a costume store in the city. These masks have standout eyebrows and pointed teeth and are designed to scare away winter!
14. Admire Relics from the Ice Age at Gletschergarten
Spending the day at the Glacier Garden is definitely one of the best things to do in Lucerne. Known as the Gletschergarten in Switzerland, this one-of-a-kind attraction boasts some genuine natural wonders from the Ice Age!
Take a look around, and you’ll come across kettle basins and glacier-polished rocks that date back 20,000 years, as well as fossilized shells and palm leaves that are more than 20 million years old. It’s hard to imagine that Lucerne was once home to subtropical palm beaches, but Gletschergarten will convince you it’s true.
The exhibits on climate change will leave you with a lot to think about and may even encourage you to make big changes. Continue on through the museum, and you’ll discover a replica of an early climbers’ hut and a lookout tower where you can peek out and pretend you’re a pioneer explorer from ancient times.
Although it’s not really related to the theme of the museum, there’s also a mirror maze which is great fun!
15. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth with Glühwein-Mousse
If you’re scanning the dessert menu and you spot glühwein-mousse, you’ve absolutely got to order it. One of Lucerne’s best-known sweet treats, glühwein-mousse is a light and airy mousse that’s flavored with spiced mulled wine.
The mulled wine gives the mousse a fantastic pink color and a complex flavor that will instantly make you think of Christmases gone by. Some people find the dessert a bit of an acquired taste. But if you’re a fan of the festive drink, it will be love at first bite!
Restaurant Schiff is an amazing place to treat yourself to glühwein-mousse. This restaurant also specializes in cheese fondue, which is some of the very best you’ll find in Lucerne. After gorging on mouthfuls of rich, creamy cheese, a light and fruity glühwein-mousse is just what you need. The portions are pretty large, so it’s best to order one to share!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Lucerne. What’s your favorite thing to do in Lucerne?
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