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Swiss Exploration: The Lake Lucerne Region

For the travel hungry, Lucerne, Switzerland, is a feast, rich in culture, architecture, and history—and set in the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Alps
Lucerne’s iconic Chapel Bridge, the oldest timber bridge in Europe. Photo © Luzern Tourismus | Laila Bosco

The charming old-world European city of Lucerne will positively beckon you to immerse yourself in daily life as soon as you arrive. Yet you will inevitably feel the pull outward to the sparkling waters and pristine shores of Lake Lucerne, the lush forests, and Switzerland’s soaring Alpine peaks in the distance. Everything is on the menu here; it’s only a matter of what to savor first.

The 19th-century Hotel Château-Gütsch perches above Lake Lucerne. Mount Pilatus, an excellent spot for hiking and wildflower viewing, rises in the distance. Photo © Luzern Tourismus

In the City

Lined with billowing flower boxes, Chapel Bridge (seen at the top of this post) is a covered wooden footbridge that spans the River Reuss and connects two vibrant sections of the city. Its cheerful appearance makes it the most photographed spot in Lucerne and serves as an easy-to-spot navigation point for first-time visitors.

To the north, you can meander the picturesque, cobbled squares and alleys of Old Town, where vibrant fresco-adorned facades splash the street scenes with color.

The frescoes of Weinmarkt in Old Town. Photo © Luzern Tourismus | Laila Bosco

This part of the Lucerne skyline is crowned by the nine towers of the Musegg Wall. Originally built to protect the medieval settlement, the wall has transformed over the centuries into a refuge for specialized flora and fauna, including rare birds, such as jackdaws, goosanders, and alpine and common swifts. The wall also offers incredible views for those who ascend.

The tree-lined dining terrace at Helvetiagärtli, a popular spot for seasonal Swiss fare in the Hirschmatt-Neustadt quarter. Photo © Beat Brechbühl | Lucerne Tourism

On another day, explore the trendy neighborhoods on the southside of Chapel Bridge—Bruch and Hirschmatt-Neustadt, bustling quarters for dining, boutiques, arts, and entertainment. This side of the river is also home to the ornate 17th-century Jesuit Church, built in the baroque style and modeled after the Church of the Gesù in Rome.

The Jesuit Church. Explore more churches, monasteries, and convents in the area. Photo © Gabriel Ammon | Aura | Luzern Tourismus
More to See and Do in Lucerne
  • Eat and Drink. From traditional local fare to haute cuisine from around the world, you can find it here. See which dining spots and bars Flower’s editors want to try first.
  • Pick up a bouquet of cut flowers and shop for fresh bread, farm cheeses, and local produce at the market held on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Learn more about Lucerne’s markets.
  • Bucherer and Gübelin. When in Switzerland, you must peruse Swiss watches. Bucherer is a top luxury purveyor of jewelry and watches. Gübelin, a Swiss company world-renowned for its handcrafted jewelry and timepieces, dates back 160 years and has been located at its current Lucerne storefront since 1903. Find more shops and boutiques.
The landmark Hotel Schweizerhof is on our list of iconic hotels in the area. Photo © Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern
  • Museum of Art Lucerne. Its collection focuses on Swiss art from the baroque period to present day.
  • Music festivals throughout the year—the renowned classical music festival is coming up August 10 through September 21.
  • Carnival—Like New Orleans in the U.S., Lucerne is known for its costume-filled street celebration leading up to Lent. Discover more arts and culture.

Excursions

The Lucerne region benefits from a mild climate where flowers, both gardened and wild thrive. A cruise with the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company will treat you to scenic views of lakefront farmhouses and villas set in idyllic landscapes, nestled below the mountains.

Villa Waldfried near Mount Rigi is an example of the private homes and gardens you can glimpse from a cruise on Lake Lucerne. Its owner, whom Flower’s editors enjoy following at @walksthroughoutgardens on Instagram, graciously advised us on wildflowers and nearby activities.

To see the Alps’ rich diversity of wildflowers while also enjoying sweeping vistas from the peaks, plan hikes to Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, both accessible by rail and aerial cable car. The bluebells are iconic in early spring. As summer begins, globeflowers (Trollius europaeus), alpine crowfoot, White Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), and Oxford rampion (Phyteuma scheuchzeri), and many more species appear.

A tourist train travels on the cogwheel railway through the green grassy meadows on Mt. Rigi, with rugged Pilatus peaks among majestic mountains by Lake Lucerne on a cloudy summer day in Switzerland

A cogwheel railway traverses the meadows of Mount Rigi. Photo by Chen Min Chun | Shutterstock

The surrounding villages offer unique cultural and dining experiences of their own.

At the foot of Mount Rigi, the tiny resort village of Vitznau—home to the opulent, early 20th-century Park Hotel—offers dining right on the lake. If you would rather enjoy the view from above, travel up the mountain to the restaurant Regina Montium at Kräuterhotel Edelweiss, where all the ingredients are Swiss-grown, including herbs from the hotel’s garden.

For another day trip, venture a bit further to the village of Engelberg to visit a Benedictine monastery, tour a cheese factory, and peer down at glaciers from Mount Titlis.

Wildflowers and panoramic views along the Tell-Trail Stage 5, from the Stanserhorn to Engelberg. Photo © Switzerland Tourism | Silvano Zeiter

After your stay in Lucerne, a couple days in the village of Andermatt in the Ursern Valley makes a lovely next leg for your journey. Must-see sites include Gotthard Pass and Schollenen Gorge. If you have a golfer in your travel party, they will love the course surrounded by the Alps. Of course, if you are resting up from your busy trip, you might prefer to admire those snow-capped peaks from the indoor pool and spa at Andermatt’s Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen.

The village of Andermatt. Photo © Artisans of Leisure

Plan Your Trip

This article is sponsored by Lucerne Tourism and Artisans of Leisure.

By Terri Robertson