Updated on 6 August 2017
Lucerne, with its idyllic location nestled amidst the Alps and overlooking Lake Lucerne, is one of Switzerland’s most picturesque towns. Also known as Luzern, the main language is Swiss German however everyone speaks excellent English. Famed for its iconic wooden covered bridge, there’s lots more to see and do. Read on to find out how to make the most of 48 hours in Lucerne with our travel tips.
Day 1 – 48 Hours in Lucerne
The famous Kapellbrucke, aka Chapel Bridge, looks equally beautiful in the daytime or at night. The 34 metre high Water Tower adjoins the bridge and dates from around 1300. At one point it was a prison and torture chamber – today it’s Switzerland’s most photographed monument. Constructed in the 14th century, its painted panels were added in the 17th century.
The neighbouring Old Town has some very attractive squares and buildings decorated with frescoes.
Many visitors don’t realize that there’s a second covered wooden bridge in Lucerne, Spreuer Bridge. It’s the oldest timber bridge on Switzerland and dates from 1408. It features a Dance Macabre or Dance with Death added in the 17th century.
The city’s medieval fortifications, Mussegg Wall, comprise nine towers. Four of them are open to the public from April to November.
Lucerne is blessed with some fantastic museums and it’s well worth purchasing the Lucerne Museum Card. At CHF 36 per person it covers all the major museums. KKL Luzern is a new concert hall and contemporary art museum designed by famous French architect Jean Nouvel.
If you’re a fan of Picasso and Paul Klee then you’ll love the Rosengart Collection. It has some really impressive paintings by both artists and also features works by Chagall, Monet, Bonnard and Matisse.
Day 2 – 48 Hours in Lucerne
One of the most fascinating Lucerne attractions is the Bourbaki Panorama, an enormous painting created in 1871 by Edouard Castres. He had experienced the French-German war of 1870-1871 as a Red Cross volunteer and this round tableau is surprisingly lifelike. In recent years props such as people and drums have been added in front of the painting, making it even more realistic.
The Gletschergarten or Glacier Garden is close by, and great fun for children or big children like me! This natural monument was discovered in 1872 by a workman and proves that Lucerne was covered by glaciers during the Ice Age. There’s an Alhambra Mirror Maze to get lost in, whilst inside the maze and outside, there are distorting mirrors to try out.
Outside the Glacier Museum you’ll find the impressive Lion Monument. Described by Mark Twain as “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world” it depicts a dying lion who symbolises the bravery of Swiss soldiers in 1792 who died whilst protecting the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution.
I’ve saved one of the best attractions in Lucerne until last. The Transport Museum or Verkehrshaus der Schweiz might sound like rather a specialised interest but in fact it’s a must see, particularly if you’re with children. They will love having a go in the road construction arena and on the flight simulators. Put on the Swiss slippers provided and step onto Swissarena, the world’s largest walkable aerial photo of a country.
The Transport Museum is located next to Lake Lucerne and it’s a lovely area for a stroll afterwards.
Where to Eat in Lucerne
For a taste of luxury and fantastic views towards Lake Lucerne, take the world’s shortest funicular up to the Montana Hotel. I have a soft spot for it as I actually got engaged on this funicular! The Art Deco hotel’s Scala restaurant holds 15 Gault-Millau points and the Swiss hospitality school below the restaurant train here.
Mill’feuille is popular with locals for its unfussy dishes including Fritschi-Pastete, puff pastry filled with a meat and creamy mushroom sauce. The Old Swiss House is conveniently located next to the Bourbaki Panorama and close to the Lion Monument and Glacier Museum. Still owned by the same family, it’s famous for its pan fried escalope prepared at the table.
Where to Stay in Lucerne
There are some stunning hotels in Lucerne centre and the surrounding area. We stayed at chic Château Gütsch, a small boutique hotel which has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
With panoramic views towards the town and the lake, its reachable by its very own cable lift and by road.
Getting to Lucerne
Lucerne is easily accessible via Zurich airport and from there it’s a 45 minute train ride or drive to the centre. Perfect for a short break or as a base for a longer holiday, Lucerne is a magical place that everyone should visit at least once. With a little more time, you’ll be able to visit majestic Mount Pilatus and the surrounding area or head further afield to Lugano near the Italian border.
Have you ever spent a weekend in Lucerne? What was your favourite sight if so?