Welcome to Lucerne! The first stop of our 10 day Switzerland itinerary. You can call it ‘Luzern‘ if you are a Germanophile. Or you can call it ‘Lucerne‘ if you are a Francophile. But no matter what you call it, this idyllic Swiss city will take you by surprise. Lucerne is calm, clean, and civilized and really easy to explore in one day.
The first thought that crossed my mind when I first saw Lucerne was that I was in a fairy tale. Everything was so colorful and picturesque, almost too beautiful to be true! I was filled we regret that we didn’t book more time there. Truth be told, you could easily spend a week in Lucerne enjoying its beautiful sites, but if you only have a day you can still see a lot.
Lucerne at a glance
Lucerne is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland and is located in the German-speaking part of the country, so locals call it ‘Luzern.’ The city has an unique and idilic setting: on the bank of Lake Lucerne with a backdrop of the Swiss Alps.
We arrived in Lucern by train from Zurich and descended right in the middle of the city center. Coming out of the train station, we emerged right away onto the main street and waterfront area.
Lucerne’s medieval old town has all it needs to enchant you: white swans, picturesque squares and cobble stone streets, watch towers, covered bridges, beautiful architecture, museums, and especially cheese. Lots and lots of cheese!
If you are a cheese lover then this is your place. The fondue I tried here was without question the best I’ve ever had anywhere else.
Best Things to Do in Lucerne in One Day
• Visit Lucerne City Center
Lucerne is compact and easy to navigate. Everything is within walking distance, which is ideal for visitors. We walked from the train station to the hotel and from the hotel to everything else.
Its colorful old town and the 14th-century city walls are very close together and can be explored on foot.
There are swans everywhere in Lucerne! A great deal of swans and ducks. These are giant swans, unlike any other I’ve seen so far. They swim both in the lake and on the river, which seems to be very common in many parts of Switzerland. The swans are constantly fed by the visitors and locals, so when they see you they simply swim close to the shore expecting to be fed.
• Cross the Chapel Bridge
The city spreads on both sides of the Reuss River and has a number of bridges. The most famous bridge in Lucerne is Kapellbrücke Bridge (Chapel Bridge), a 669 ft long wood-covered structure that crosses from the city center into the Old Town area. The bridge dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest covered bridge in Europe.
• Wander through Old Town Lucerne
The old town is a charming and romantic place. It felt like it was taken right out of a movie scene with narrow streets, beautiful old buildings and little squares with water fountains.
• Visit the Farmers’ Market along the Reuss river bank
On Tuesdays and Saturday mornings there is a farmers’ market along the Reuss river bank. There is nothing like strolling through a Swedish farmers’ market on a sunny day! The opulence of produce and delicacies displayed there is amazing. From homemade Swiss cheeses, fresh meets, sausages, wines, fresh vegetables, fruits, homemade-sweets, flowers they had almost everything you can imagine.
The smell of freshly baked goods, flowers and herbs was filling the air. It’s a pure delight to taste some of these goodies, even though they are unbelievable pricey! We I paid about $9 (8 CHF) for a piece of homemade pie!
To my surprise, I saw merchants from many other European countries coming to sell their produce here. There were Italians selling pasta, French selling baby potatoes, Germans selling their famous sausages.
• Visit the Lion of Lucerne monument
There are many things to do in Lucerne in one day, but if I were to recommend only one it would be visiting the Lion of Lucerne Monument. It is the one attraction most likely to capture your heart. Set in a park near the city center, this 20-ft lion sculpture carved in a cliff is a monument dedicated to the Swiss mercenary soldiers who died during the French Revolution.
The dying lion is portrayed pierced by a spear. His head is bowed and his paw is covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis (the symbol of the French monarchy); beside him there is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland.
There is so much sadness in the lion’s expression that it makes your heart break. It’s rare that I get this feeling in front of a sculpture! The monument sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the street by a green alcove of tall trees. The vertical rock where the sculpture lies has a pond at the base and is surrounded green grass.
• Shopping in Lucerne
When you think of Switzerland, you will invariably think of watches, army knives, and of course, chocolates. We couldn’t leave Lucerne without buying all these. But there is so much more to buy in Lucerne than just watches and chocolate. The Old Town area is full of souvenir shops and other stores, but if you have time to venture beyond this tourist area, you can find some really nice things to by.
Even if you only have a day in Lucerne, I would still advice you to go shopping for some souvenirs. There is a wide variety of stores that I did not find in any of the other small towns we visited later on this trip. I wish we had more time for shopping in Lucerne.
• Other attractions in Lucerne
If the weather is beautiful, you may want to take a boat trip on Lake Lucerne, or go up on one of the mountains that surround the lake. The most popular attraction is a gondola ride up Mount Pilatus, a beautiful peak that overlooks the city. Even if you only have one day in Lucerne, it’s still worth taking the time to Mount Pilatus.
It was the 700th anniversary of the Firefighters’ Brigade in Lucerne when we arrived. The brigade had some spectacular rescue and firefighting demonstrations prepared to keep the young and old entertained. There were fire trucks everywhere in town, from old-fashioned pulled by horses ones to very modern ones.
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