Best things to do in Lucerne
Find out more about those top places in Lucerne
Sandwiched between Switzerland’s major metropolises of Bern and Zurich, Lucerne is a perfect getaway from the metropolitan buzz of the big cities. Ringed by forest-clad alpine foothills, Lucerne’s appearance has scarcely changed since the Renaissance with the medieval walled Altstadt remaining remarkably well-preserved. Unusually, the Altstadt straddles both sides of the River Reuss and is linked by the iconic 14th century Kapellbrücke. Despite the city’s palpable history, Lucerne is also a sophisticated city with a clutch of world-class art galleries, including the Sammlung Rosengart gallery, which houses works by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Kandinsky, Chagall, Monet and many other blockbuster artists.
No experience in Lucerne can compare to strolling across the 14th century Kapellbrücke that spans the River Reuss in the heart of the Altstadt. The timber bridge’s highlights are the octagonal water tower that stands in the heart of the river and the 17th century roof panels that illustrate important events in Swiss history and mythology. To better understand this remarkable structure, cross it as part of a walking tour of the old town.
Lucerne’s star cultural attraction is undoubtedly Sammlung Rosengart, a vast treasure trove of art that was accumulated during the 20th century by Picasso’s close friend, Angela Rosengart. Unsurprisingly, the gallery is home to an astounding collection of works by the Spanish master and a permanent photo exhibition that details the great artist’s life. Beyond Picasso, the gallery also includes work by Chagall, Matisse, Klee, Cézanne and more.
Lucerne’s former city walls, known as Museggmauer, provide breathtaking views of the Altstadt and the glistening glaciers of the Alps in the distance. Dating back to the late-14th century, the imposing defenses can be explored individually or as part of fascinating walking tours that reveal their storied history.
One of the few circular paintings in the world is Edouard Castres’ striking Bourbaki, which depicts French troops fleeing to Switzerland following their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. At over 1000 square meters, the painting is housed in its own specially designed museum, which also tells how Switzerland’s humanitarian response to the military crisis helped forge the nation’s pacifist and humanitarian identity.
Just downstream from the iconic Kapellbrücke is the medieval Spreuerbrücke, which in any other city would be a standout attraction in its own. Opened in 1408, the bridge has an original thatched roof and has intricately carved wood panels that tell the dark history of how the bubonic plague affected Lucerne.
The Swiss Museum of Transport is one of the country’s largest museums with over 3000 permanent displays. Visitors to this colossal museum of all things motorized can get up close to a variety of planes, trains and automobiles from the past, present and future of transport. Entrance tickets to the museum also give you access to the museum’s impressive planetarium and 3D movie theater.
Carved into a rock face in central Lucerne is the 19th century Lion Monument. Designed by Lukas Ahorn, the touching monument commemorates the Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis XVI during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution. For literature fans, the monument is also of note as it allegedly inspired C.S. Lewis to create the character of Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia series.