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Lake Lucerne Travel Guide: Best Things to See & Do

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Lake Lucerne, located in central Switzerland, is a favorite destination for residents and tourists. The lake, surrounded by steep limestone mountains, has crystal-clear water and offers stunning views. It is also convenient to several urban areas, making it a popular weekend getaway or day trip destination.

Several boat tour companies operate on Lake Lucerne, allowing visitors to see the sights from the water. Hiking is also a popular activity in the area, and there are several marked trails of varying difficulty levels.

For those who prefer to stay on dry land, plenty of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating offer breathtaking views of the lake. No matter how you spend time at Lake Lucerne, you will surely have a memorable experience.

What makes Lake Lucerne so famous?

Old Town of Lucerne from Lake Lucerne
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Lake Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s best, cleanest, and most pristine lakes! With its crystal clear waters, scenic surroundings, the scope for outdoor recreational activities, and the nearby city of Lucerne, it is no wonder why this is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Switzerland.

Its pristine waters, scenic natural surroundings, and charming namesake town make it a favorite tourist destination. The lake is actually a water-filled valley formed by ancient glaciers. It is a popular spot for swimming, boating, and fishing today.

The charming city of Lucerne sits on the lake’s shores and is home to a number of historic buildings and attractions. Visitors can explore the cobbled streets and the Chapel Bridge or take the golden round trip to the summit of Mount Pilatus, part of Switzerland’s transport system.

The lake is near Lucerne’s ancient city, a fascinating old town with stunning architecture. Aside from the city, the lake’s natural surroundings—green, wooded hills and snow-capped mountains of Switzerland—are beautiful.

Many walking trails overlook Lake Lucerne, which is great for hikers, bikers, and anyone trying to snap the perfect picture of the lake. This makes it one of the most unique places to visit in Switzerland.

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Where to Stay Near Lake Lucerne

There are many great places to stay near Lake Lucerne to make your visit memorable. You can rent a cabin or stay in a hotel close enough to spend the day(s) exploring the area without being far from a comfy base camp.

Engadin

Panoramic view of St. Moritz town at the Engadine region in Switzerland
K I Photography / Adobe Stock

The Engadin region is one of the most famous regions in Switzerland, not just for its views but also for its hotels. It is located in West-Eastern Switzerland and is home to some of the best ski resorts in Europe.

Ticino

Aerial and panoramic view of Lugano city at Ticino canton region in Switzerland
javarman / Adobe Stock

Another nice accommodation destination near the lake is Ticino, located on the south side of Italy’s Alpine Mountain Range. This region offers everything from insane views of Lake Lucerne to walking paths with stunning natural features, excellent restaurants and cafés, and picturesque villages perfect for romantic strolls.

The Rhaetian Railway

Rhaetian Railway train passing by the Soliser Viaduct on Albula line in Solis, Switzerland Swiss Alps
Markus Mainka – stock.adobe.com

As a briefish side note, the Rhaetian Railway winds through the valley in the Alps, offering spectacular views for passengers. Those interested in visiting Lake Lucerne by rail can take the Glacier Express train, which starts in Zermatt and ends in St. Moritz. The trip takes approximately eight hours and offers unrivaled views of glaciers.

The Pilatus Mountain Range

Aerial View of Mount Pilatus from Lake Lucerne
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Pilatus mountain range is home to amazing hikes and several natural landmarks that make Central Switzerland famous. The same applies to Titlis Mountain, the Uri Alps, and Lake Uri.

If you’re the more active, climb one of the many mountains around Lake Lucerne for a heavenly view of the lake, city, and surrounding countryside. Some mountains require advanced hiking skills, while others can be conquered by novice hikers or children looking for an adventure.

For those who would like to take a shorter hike in the region, many trails and paths offer equally scenic views of the area. We’ll talk more about mountaineering and hiking in this stunning region later.

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Hotels Near Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Richemont Hotel

Aerial view of the Richemont Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland
Richemont Hotel / Booking.com

If you want to see some of the town’s sights, the Verkehrshaus Museum and Lido are 1610 feet from the conveniently located Richemont Hotel.

Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. Hotel Platten has a restaurant, a summertime outdoor pool bar, and free Wi-Fi access throughout the property if you want a bang for your buck.

Hotel Sternen

Building exterior of Hotel Sternen in Sisikon, Switzerland
Hotel Sternen / Booking.com

Hotel Sternen is a mere 848 meters from Lake Lucerne and Port Sisikon and includes a ski pass for retail skiing and beautiful summer terraces. The Lucerne main railway station, Old Town, and Lake Lucerne are about 15 minutes from the Ibis Budget Hotel Luzern City. Wireless internet is also available free of charge.

Hotel Alpenrosev

Hotel Alpenrose Wengen building in Wengen, Switzerland
Hotel Alpenrose Wengen / Booking.com

On the lake’s shore, the Hotel Alpenrose Wengen serves decadent dishes such as salmon carpaccio with sour cream, red onions, fresh dill, and apples.

Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern

Aerila view of Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern building in Lucerne, Switzerland
Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern / Booking.com

The 5-star Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern is right on the lake. This quintessentially Swiss hotel is housed in a historic structure built in 1820. During our stay, we found the front desk staff exceptionally kind, the service outstanding, and the location ideal for access to the lake.

In addition, the hotel has a lake bar with free Wi-Fi and free parking, not to mention incredible views of the lake. Visit Lake Lucerne in Switzerland and check out some of these favorite activities!

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Things to Do Around Lake Lucerne

Hike the Swiss path in Morschach

Lake Lucern view from the Weg der Schwei” hiking trail near Morschach in Switzerland
sandycs / Adobe Stock

The Seven Section Trail was built along Lucerne Lake’s southern shore to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the formation of the Swiss Republic. The tale of William Tell shooting crossbows at apples on his son’s head has become entwined in the region’s history, as has the myth that an abandoned gold mine exists.

In Morschach, Fronalpstock Open Sky Lift can be accessed, although I will add the views are vertiginous, and the trek is less suitable for travelers with vertigo. Despite the steep mountain range that makes up this portion of Switzerland, the surface isn’t too difficult. If you travel with children, note three separate areas are safe for children.

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Ascend Mount Pilatus

Ascend Mount Pilatus
Kyle Kroeger/ViaTravelers

Visit the Edge at Piz Cengalo

Piz Cengalo
Adobe Stock

The plateau of Piz Cengalo lies between the towns of St. Gallen and Altdorf, known as the “Kingdom on the Edge.” It’s also home to many Swiss myths and legends. The name comes from an ancient legend regarding a black wolf that ate three maidens, whose corpses dug themselves up again to take their vengeance!

During ancient Roman times, it was believed that the mountain was home to a god of vegetation. This ancient legend lives on partly because Mount Pilatus is famous for its geological formations, some dating back two hundred million years, which are eerily similar to those found at Stonehenge.

The Alpnachastad Cog Railway

Inside the Alpnachastad Cog Railway, Steepest in the World
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

If you want to go even further, visit Alpnachastad and ride the steepest cog railway on the world’s most famous mountain railway. Alpnachastad was once known as the mythical home of dragons that possessed mystical healing powers, but more famously, it’s claimed to be the burial site of Saint Pontius Pilatus.

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Relax in Weggis

View of Weggis With Clouds

The village of Weggis is the second most popular tourist destination in the Lake Lucerne region. Mark Twain is among the most famous visitors to the community, enjoying part of his Swiss vacation here in 1897.

The town is perhaps most well known for hosting its famous alpine wrestling events, cattle exhibitions, and delightful Fall Market in September. Before cable cars and cog wheels could be built in the village, sedan-chair carriers carried people to the top of the Rigi Mountains. Lord knows they must have been pretty fit!

An impressive columned portico surrounds the church in Weggis. The interior includes a carved high altar and the crypt of the parishioners and the late members of the House von Rechburg.

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Be Awed by Mount Rigi

Mount Rigi
Adobe Stock

The Rigi is Switzerland’s most famous mountain, located on the border with Germany. Rigi is encircled by three lakes: Zürichsee, Lucerne, and Lauerz. A viewpoint at the top of Rigi overlooks Lake Lucerne with Mount Titlis in the background.

The fun begins if you take the cable car or cog train there. Once high up, enjoy an amazing panorama of Switzerland while skiing in winter, hiking in summer, and soaking in the sun all year.

A legendary cave is located near Rigi Kaltbad station. An interesting rock formation was once believed to be the petrified body of a giant. On the flip side, according to local myth, the legendary dwarf King Laurin lives there with his men, mining for gold. So yeah, aside from otherworldly views, there’s the chance you’ll run into giants and dwarfs. What’s not to like?

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Take a boat trip

Swiss Alps from Boat Tour on Lake Lucerne
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Taking a boat tour around Lake Lucerne is one of the most exciting and romantic ways to see it. You can do this on one of five historic Art Deco paddle boats.

These sightseeing boats travel around the lake, between Alpnachstad and Flüelen, stopping at the most charming spots on the lakeshore, including Weggis departures of various lengths, where you can enjoy a candlelight supper.

Trips take about 1-2 hours, including travel between Lucerne and Vitznau, where you can board the boat and then return. As well as romantic meals, some boats provide entertainment during the voyage, like organ performances for you to hum along to.

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Enjoy the Restaurants & Cafes

Swiss Cafe in Lucerne, Switzerland
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

While touring the Lake Lucerne region, try the local cuisine at one of the nearby restaurants or cafés. The area is known for its cheese and cheese-centric specialties, which may be found in a variety of eateries around the lake. Watch for cheese stores with stalls outside if you’re looking for something special.

You can also sample regional wines at many of the cafés, which are the perfect accompaniment while admiring the stunning lake vistas or the view of Pilatus in the distance.

Don’t Miss the Swiss Cheese

Swiss Cheese

The most common variety of Swiss cheese here is Emmentaler, popular around Lake Lucerne because of its quality and strong, salty flavor.

Fondue cheese, where one dips meat, bread, veggies, and fruit into molten cheese, is also very popular here (along with Swiss chocolate fondue!), as is raclette, where raclette cheese is slowly melted cheese in an oven and then cut into pieces to eat with potatoes, onions, and gherkins. It can also be melted into almost a sauce to be enjoyed with meat, greens, and potatoes.

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Hiking trails  

One of Lake Lucerne Hiking trails  

Lake Lucerne is an ideal destination for people of all interests. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the scenery, hike, or ski in wintertime, something is waiting for you in the Lake Lucerne region.

With its pristine waters and scenic views, it’s no wonder that this Swiss gem is so popular among locals and visitors alike! The Lake Lucerne region is a haven for hikers, offering scenic views of the Swiss landscape, cheese farms with cattle roaming the fields, and many other attractions.

The Vitznau-Rigi Cable Car

Vitznau Cable Car and panoramic view of Mt. Rigi in Switzerland
Rigi / Rigi

The Vitznau-Rigi cable car is located near Lake Lucerne. This famous landmark has been operational since 1890. This spot offers stunning views of Lake Lucerne and the Alps. Lake Lucerne is also popular for winter sports and activities such as skiing and toboggan runs.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, worth visiting?

It’s 100% worth visiting; I have to say it might be my favorite part of Switzerland. For one, Lake Lucerne is situated on a mountainside at an altitude of 1,494 meters, making for great views over the city and Lake Luzern.

At one end of this stunning lake stands Pilatus Mountain, immortalized by Herman Hesse in his book The Artist As He Appears In His Works. No finer depiction there ever was Herman, but the real thing is infinitely prettier.

Then there are the paddle boats. They are just fantastic, with their grand, whimsical decor alone. Plus, according to ancient folklore, if you make a wish before setting foot on the ferry boat, your dream will come true (promised to me by one of the crew!).

There are also plenty of activities like hiking and cycling around the area, which make it worth exploring for all ages. For those interested in extreme and winter sports, there are opportunities for real mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing.

What to do when you visit Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Lake Lucerne is a gorgeous spot in Switzerland that should not be missed. Though there are lots of things to do in Lake Lucerne, visitors should consider these five attractions and activities:

The boat tour is where you’ll get the best views of the mountains and lake. You’ll depart from the suburb of Lucerne or Interlaken and cruise up close to Mythen Castle, towering above the water’s surface.

Hike up Mount Pilatus, which will provide spectacular views and give you bragging rights with your friends and family back home. Don’t forget the camera! Take a ride on the Kleinamerk Glacier Railway, one of Europe’s few rack railway lines with continuous operation all year round. Admire the world’s largest rotating statue of Jesus Christ in Lucerne. Explore the towns that border Lake Lucerne after your boat tour.

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