24 Hours in Lucerne, Switzerland: Things to do in Lucerne

When I was planning my trip to Switzerland, I deliberately arranged Lucerne at my last day of utilizing Swiss Pass. Three things on my list to check off: 1. Visit museums in Lucerne. 2. Visit Lake Lucerne. 3. Head for Zurich from Lucerne.

Unfortunately, November is the biggest off peak for tourism. Besides raining constantly, one thing that sucks was that there were few tourist routes. The ferry schedule is almost empty, and museums don’t open on Mondays.

So, when I checked-in at Renaissance Lucerne Hotel, I had a good discussion with the front desk about my schedule. It turned out that the most famous Mont Pilatus is not open, and the popular lake tour only has two runs per day: 9:14 in the morning and 13:38 in the afternoon. And therefore my afternoon schedule is set without a second thought. Hell yeah!

Things to do in Lucerne- NO.1: Schedule of Pilatus Luzern. The Gondola is closed as the mountain is closed during winter. And there are only two ferries per day.

Sammlung Rosengart, the museum expertize in collecting Picasso’s masterpieces, is right across the hotel I stayed. So I rushed to the museum right after breakfast checking out. It turned out that I hit the museum too early, it was not open yet (for god’s sake at least it opens on Mondays, most of the museums are closed on Mondays).

A scene outside of Renaissance Lucerne Hotel.
A scene outside of Renaissance Lucerne Hotel, the flags of the finished Lucerne Festival still hanged.

And Chapel Bridge ended up being my first stop on the list.

An alley on my way to Chapel Bridge, autumnal.

Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke)

Chapel Bridge might be the first (and only) impression in many people’s mind. A wooden bridge is standing on the river, with one massive “thing” holding in the middle, looking like a giant crayon. It turns out; it is an octagon water tower, also a jail and a watchtower (what a versatile building XD). 

It is a reasonably interesting bridge. As it is made of wood, you feel and hear the wacky wacky when walking through. Many tourists would have their photos taken from the other bridge on the west side. Because the viewpoint is close, it is quite magnificent. On the other hand, tourists can take the picture from the bridge on the east side, which is closer to the train station and it is further from the attraction. The giant crayon was not open to tourists, and they only open the first floor of the building for postcards and stuff, barely interesting. However, the form is impressive indeed, so visitors were all trying to capture the scene from various angles one after another.

I went through the bridge from the railway (Rathaussteg) on the west side, walked across the old city hall, Altes Luzerner Rathaus, and arrived at the old town of Lucerne. Of course, I didn’t forget to take pictures along the way.  

Things to do in Lucerne – The must-take photo at Chapel Bridge.
Rathaussteg, located on the west side of Chapel Bridge, the old city hall can be seen.
Rooftop of the old city hall, astounding, period.

Old Town

Old Town Lucerne is weaved through numerous alleys with various kinds of cafes and fashion clothing stores. Old town Lucerne is more refreshing than Bern regarding the alley-wondering experience it provides; the town is more chill when comparing to the city of Zurich. No wonder tourists prefer Lucerne rather than Zurich.

You can see a watch store every couple steps, same as any other tourist cities in Switzerland. Sad that I don’t have the budget this time. What a shame!

Things to do in Lucerne-visiting the Old Town.
A scene at Old Town.
A scene at Old Town.
A scene at Old Town.

Museggmauer / Schirmerturm

What comes after the Old Town is a long hillside road. As I started hiking, I started having quite a few backpackers as my company, and we were all heading for the ancient city wall Museggmauer and the tower Schirmerturm.

The road was curvy and without clear signs. So all of us started to get lost. Then I guessed we got on some private properties, without apparent signs either, so we couldn’t figure out whether we can enter or not. We ended up walking into a forest of luxurious houses before arriving Museggmauer. Note, the luxurious dwellings are on the top of the hill, what a great spot.

And a whole bunch of tourists, including me, started taking pictures all over the place.

I kept getting lost on the way to Museggmauer, but the scenery kept me companied.
Snowy scenery further away on my way to Museggmauer.
But the beautiful scenery didn’t stop me from getting lost. At all.
One of the scenes on my way to Museggmauer
Lucerne Station and Lake Lucerne, shot from a mountain.

As I was spontaneously taking pictures and finding my way, I eventually found a decent sign indicating the path to Museggmauer. When I arrived, a horizontal line of the ancient wall, clock towers, and several watch tower greeted me with an impressive, historical sense.

However, it was an off-peak season for tourists, so Museggmauer was not open either. The good thing was that it was an admirable view, including the entire Lucerne city, the artistic buildings like Lucerne stations and museums, and the ski resort and Lucerne further down.

Found the sign to Museggmauer, finally.
A scene in the Old Town.
Lucerne Station. Lucerne Station, shot from Museggmauer.
The southern snowy scene from Museggmauer.
Lucerne urban area from Museggmauer.
A statue at Schirmerturm. Not sure what it was, but kinda cute.
A close attraction is always a bummer.
One scene at Schirmerturm.

After the photography tour of the ancient tower, I walked down the hill on the east along with fellow backpackers, heading for the most famous attraction in Lucerne, Lion Monument / Löwendenkmal.

An alley on the way down from Schirmerturm.
An alley on the way down from Schirmerturm.
An alley on the way down from Schirmerturm.

I reached a museum with a particular form, called Bourbaki Panorama, right before arriving at Lion monument. With quite a few shuttle buses parked in front and a group of tourists, I believe this is the place with the most tourists in Lucerne.

I found the Lion monument by following the group of tourists; it was behind Bourbaki. The interesting thing was, all the tourists stay only for five minutes, they left as long as taking their shot of the lion.

Some backstory for the monument, the Lion, is actually to memorize the Swiss mercenary. During the war, a lot of Swiss mercenaries were outsourced to fight for other European countries, and it turned out that it was Swiss flighting each other at the end. Quite a sad story.

The Lion monument, which all tourist came to pilgrimage.

What is even sadder was the lousy weather. It started to rain cats and dogs when I appreciated the lion. So I went to the museum right aside without second thought.

It was free cause of my Swiss pass, win.

Glacier museum, found by accident, but surprisingly fun.

Later that I found out the museum is entirely something. It is to preserve the remains of the glacier.

At the time I was visiting Switzerland, the glacier railway was not open, and I didn’t visit the glacier on top of Jungfrau due to a storm, fortunately enough that I’ve got to experience glacier here. I guess this is the whole point of traveling, meeting the unexpected, and I am always grateful for that.

It attraction turns out to the most exciting point of my tour as visiting science museums has always been my thing. In regards to the museum, it is separated into two parts; the outside region is covered with protection so that the primal remains of the glacier can be preserved; the indoor part of the museum introduces different glaciers across Switzerland and the history of the glacier railways.

What a shame that my schedule was to compact, so I only stayed at the glacier museum for half an hour. To be fair, I had another museum to visit as well as the only remaining ferry waiting for me by the river.

Glacier remains in the museum.
Glacier remains in the museum.
Glacier remains in the museum, creation from years of water and ice flowing through.
Glacier remains in the museum, magnifying glass for ancient shell.
Glacier remains in the museum and bio remains from ancient benthic zone.
Yet there was cutie mammoth in the glacier museum.
Interactive exhibition in the glacier museum, displaying the history of glacier railways.

After the glacier museum, I returned to the parking lot for shuttle buses, which is next to another museum called Panorama. Pictures are prohibited, my apologies. 

But I am not joking. This museum is sick.

It is a three stories museum, and the third floor is a 360 degrees sphere. A giant mural drew on the inside of the sphere. And actual objects are provided in the middle of the painting. Altogether, the history of Switzerland is portrayed on this infinite space when viewed with perspective.

I know my paragraph above doesn’t make sense, only because the museum is non-describable. You HAVE to experience yourself. 

By the way, the pass is free with Swiss Pass. Tickets are freely exchanged with Swiss Pass at front.

Panorama museum, not just illustration enlarged, but a 360 degrees masterpiece.

I walked along the road heading for the train station after the museum, as the ferry departs from the pier nearby the station. 

There are quite a few piers near the Lucerne Station, which are for both entertaining tours and transportation. You’ve got to check this out when you guys get here. The water is transparent. 

Lake Lucerne
Clear water at Lake Lucerne
A scene at Lake Lucerne.
Lucerne Post Office

Lucerne Station/Kunstmuseum Luzern

The most prominent museum in Lucerne is right by its station. The Museum displays inventions and notable objects from Renaissance to today. But they don’t open on Mondays, the day I went. So I was only able to take a few pictures. FYI, the ticket for this museum is included in Swiss Pass.

AwardTravel ProTip:

Many people believe that Swiss Pass is only for the railways. But the truth is, what it covers is way beyond the rails. 

In Lucerne, all public transportation including buses, ferries, gondola to Pilatus, and major museums are free when you got Swiss Pass in your hand.

Lucerne Station
Kunstmuseum Luzern
Kunstmuseum Luzern / Station
Washroom inside of Luzern Station, clean yet it takes toll.
Kunstmuseum Luzern
The clock outside of Lucerne Station.

Lake Lucerne

1 p.m. and finally the show comes on. I am taking the ferry on Lake Lucerne.

With Swiss Pass in hand, no purchases needed, you just board directly.

The entire tour is about an hour, which is previously discussed with the front desk at the hotel.

The main reason I am taking this route is that of three goals. First, I can make a train back to Lucerne at the end point (the destination is called Aplnachstad) of this ferry tour (the train take 20 minutes to arrive Lucerne). Second, the one-hour ferry tour is not too long for the beautiful scenery of Lake Lucerne. Third, the entire journey is free with Swiss Pass. So I made my decision accordingly. 

The lake tour map of Pilatus Tourism.
Boarding from Pier 5.
Her name is Flüelen

The cabin of Flüelen contains two stories. Lower floor for second class and upper for first grade.

As Swiss Pass is only eligible for second class, So I guess I will save the more comfy, more luxurious seats for next time.

But wait, the seats here are comfortable. What?! This is the seats for second class? Already then.

Second Class dining area.
I though it was the First Class cabin. Turns out it is Second Class’s sofa area!
Things to do in Lucerne- A glass of beer simply makes everything better. And Lake tour is no exception.

The weather was a nightmare. But taking a photo on the deck is a must. Have to say, the town by the shore is Beautiful.

One of the scenes from Lake Lucerne
Things to do in Lucerne- Visiting Lake Lucerne.
One of the houses facing Lake Lucerne. Living at somewhere like this is like living in a fairy tale.
The scene is seemingly a illustration.
Many of the houses got its own dock.
Wonderful environment with wonderful houses.
Arriving at a pier.

After half an hour of the ferry tour, we arrived at the first stop, Kehrsiten-Dorf. We had four groups of passengers on the ferry initially, and now we have three. The team that left the ship started riding bikes in the town, chilling at its best.

I haven’t got the chance to experience this kind of society, so it is relatively surprising that I see people using watercraft as a way of transportation. Also, are you serious? This town seriously looks like a fairy tale.

One passenger got off at Kehrsiten-Dorf, and he started riding bicycle.
The dock of Kehrsiten
The houses by the lake have their own watercraft, duh.
Many public bikes are upon use by the pier.
Chao, beautiful Kehrsiten-Dorf.

Alright, after stopping for one minute, the journey carries on. Let me continue appreciating the beauty of this astounding lake town. 

Hotel Baumgarten, amazing prepossessing.
And we suddenly arrived at the next pier.
Nobody gets off at Hergiswil.
Arriving at Pilatus. But there is no gondola today.
Snow covers all over Mont Pilatus. I wonder when will the gondola opens to the public again.
Farewell Lake Lucerne, see you on my next journey.
Winter ferry schedule, there are seriously seldom traffic.

After an hour or so, we arrived at the destination, Alpnachstad. Deserted pier, and an empty photo-taking spot. Walk through the underpass right out of the pier for twenty minutes to arrive at Lucerne Train Station.

Arrived at Alpnachstad, truly deserted.
Walk through the underpass right out of the pier to arrive at Lucerne Train Station.
Stairs for travelers to take photo with Lake Lucerne. Tourist-friendly.

Sammlung Rosengart

Sammlung Rosengart, the last but not least attraction at Lucerne. It is a spot that a creative professional can never miss since even for someone who is not into artsy stuff like me finds it attractive. 

House of Rosengart has a good relationship with Picasso spanning over generations (they are really good friends). So the house of Rosengart had been collecting works of Picasso. The gallery even displays Picasso’s works that exclusively for the house of Rosengart. 

Of course, the gallery also collects works from other artists (whom I don’t acknowledge of :p). Photography of this museum is strictly prohibited, I can only provide pictures of the building to satisfy my readers barely. 

I was intended to stay in this gallery for about an hour, as it turned out I wondered till it closes. After, I returned to the hotel for my luggage (right across from the gallery, educated arrangement, good job on me) and headed to Zurich Airport. 

Things to do in Lucerne-If you don’t know Rosengart, it’s okay. Just remember that he was a good friend of Picasso.
The gallery opens on Mondays, Good for me!
Front entrance of Sammlung Rosengarten.

Bottom Line

One day at Lucerne is just not enough to cross off my list of the things to do in Lucerne. (Un)Fortunately, I arrived on a Monday when a lot of the attractions are closed, so I didn’t fall into too big of a dilemma. Plus Mont Pilatus is closed for winter, otherwise the gondola would take more than an afternoon. 

Even so, my schedule for one day was too cramped up already. Although I have crossed off all the major attractions at Lucerne, and without any time wasted on a proper meal (I bought couple sandwiches at COOP), I could barely visit any attraction leisurely, including the ancient town and various museums (Plus there is no way that I sacrifice my lake tour).

In short, my suggestion is that travelers better arrange two to three days for Lucerne.

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