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Lucerne: 21 Fun Day Trips for All Ages

The best day trips from Lucerne including mountain viewpoints, lakes, waterfalls, cultural highlights, city visits, and fun destinations for kids.

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Lucerne is a great base for exploring Switzerland, with many beautiful mountains and classic Swiss experiences easy to reach by car or train. For this article, we selected our favorite day trips near Lucerne suitable for a variety of ages, abilities and interests.

We’ve included mountain viewpoints, lakes, waterfalls, cheese, chocolate, city tours and fun activities for kids. Some of these activities have optional hikes. But if hiking is your priority, see Best hikes near Lucerne.

Note: Some excursions are only available in summer season (May/June to Oct). So please check the opening times before planning your trip.

Mountain viewpoints

1. Mt. Pilatus – boat cruise, cliff walk, alpine slide

observation deck at Mt Pilatus

Mt. Pilatus is a tall mountain peak near Lucerne, one of our favorite places to take our visitors. From the big observation deck at the top, you can enjoy stunning panorama views over Lake Lucerne and many mountains without hiking at all.

But if you want to hike, we definitely suggest trying one of the three short hikes to higher viewpoints, one along a dramatic cliff walk (safely secured with fences!).

For even more excitement, we always stop at the middle station to ride a 1350m summer toboggan run, fun for both adults and kids. If you have lots of time, we also love the adventure ropes course in the forest with ziplines and free fall jumps.

The most popular way to get to Mt. Pilatus is the self-guided Golden Round Trip, which includes a boat ride from Lucerne city, cogwheel mountain train to the top, and cable car down the other side of the mountain.

For this excursion, you should plan for about six hours and get an early start, catching the boat around 9am. If you have less time, you can ride the cable car there and back with a return ticket.

Learn more: 10 Tips for visiting Mt Pilatus

From Lucerne: 10 mins by car, 20 mins by bus to Kriens cable car (see on map)

Cost 2023: cable car return ticket Adult CHF 72 / golden round trip Adult CHF 110

Open: May to Oct with lake cruise / year round via cable cars

Website: www.pilatus.ch

2. Mt. Titlis – glacier, ice cave & suspension bridge

Mt Titlis is the tallest mountain peak near Lucerne, with a glacier at the top, so you can play in the snow even in summer. At the top, you’ll find a suspension bridge, ice cave, restaurants and large snowy plateau where you can enjoy the view and throw snowballs.

On the way back down, you can get off the cable car at the middle station, where there’s a short and easy walk around an alpine lake, possible in summer and winter. For kids, in summer, there are fun activities along the trail, large playground, and big air jump into inflated bouncy pillows.

Learn more: See our Mt Titlis tips.

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 50 mins by bus

Cost: Cable car from Engelberg Adult CHF 96 / discount with Swiss transit passes

Open: glacier viewpoint open year round, summer hiking June to Oct

Website: www.titlis.ch

 

3. Mt. Rigi – boat & mountain excursion

view from Mt Rigi cliff walk

Mount Rigi near Lucerne rises to 1798m, with gorgeous views over many lakes and mountains. This mountain is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. 

The best way to visit Mt Rigi is on the Classic Round Trip, which starts with a boat cruise from Lucerne to the base of the mountain. Then a cogwheel train to the top, where you can stroll to different viewpoints or relax at the restaurant’s outdoor terrace.

In summer, we suggest the hiking along the easy Panorama Trail, which has a gorgeous cliff walk built into the rock. In winter, even non-skiers can enjoy the snowy landscape by walking on the groomed snowy trails or sledding a few km down the mountain on prepared routes.

Learn more: Mt Rigi article

Quick info:

  • From Lucerne: 1hr by boat or train/bus to Vitznau to catch mountain train
  • Cost: round trip from Lucerne – Adult CHF 123 / discount with Swiss transit passes
  • Open: best May to Oct / open year round
  • Website: www.rigi.ch
 

4. Stoos – quaint alpine village & cliff viewpoint

Stoos is famous for the steepest funicular train in the world, whisking you up to an idyllic alpine village in just a few minutes. For the best views, ride two chairs lift up to the Fronalpstock viewpoint over the cliffs down to Lake Lucerne. 

At the top, you can safely admire the view from an observation deck, panorama terrace of the restaurant, and even a safely enclosed picnic area and playground for children.

If you want to stretch your legs, even non-hikers can enjoy the easy panorama loop trail that wanders along the cliffs. For experienced hikers, we recommend the spectacular ridge trail, which is best done with hiking shoes and good fitness level.

Learn more: Visiting Stoos

From Lucerne: 45 mins by car, 1h10 by train/bus

Cost: mountain lifts Adult CHF 50 / discount with Swiss transit passes

Open: June to Oct / viewpoint also open in winter

Website: stoos-muotatal.ch

5. Stanserhorn – open-air cable car & panorama viewpoint

Ride a vintage funicular and open-air cable car to the top of this gorgeous mountain viewpoint near Lucerne. At the top, you’ll find a restaurant with a big panorama terrace, great place to enjoy traditional Swiss food like Älplermagronen (Swiss mac-n’cheese).

There is a short and easy wander at the top to a higher viewpoint, plus nice picnic areas with grill pits. If you want a fitness challenge, you can hike to the top instead, which I did once. Read our Stanserhorn post for more info.

From Lucerne: 15 mins by car, 20 mins by train

Cost: funicular and cable car to top – Adult CHF 75 / discounted with Swiss travel passes

Open: May to October

Website: www.stanserhorn.ch

Coming from Zürich? Try this Stanserhorn tour that includes a Lucerne city tour

6. Bürgenstock – cliff walk & free-standing lift

From Lucerne, take a short boat cruise to the base of the Bürgenstock mountain, then a funicular ride up to the famous luxury hotel overlooking Lake Lucerne. Enjoy views from their panorama terrace and if you have a big budget, book time at their fabulous spa or lunch at the Spices Kitchen & Terrace. 

From the hotel, it’s a short stroll along the cliff walk leads to the Hammetschwand lift, the highest free standing lift in Europe. Ride the lift to a panorama viewpoint of the lake and mountains in every direction. For a longer hike, complete the cliff walk loop leading to more viewpoints. Read our Bürgenstock article for more info.

From Lucerne: 25 mins by boat + funicular or car / 40 mins by bus

Cost: round trip from Lucerne by boat – Adult CHF 86.40 (lift costs extra) / less in winter, discounted with Swiss transit passes

Open: cliff walk and lift open April to Oct / hotel terrace viewpoint open year round

Website: burgenstockresort.com

Suggested tour: From Lucerne: Mount Bürgenstock by Ferry and Funicular

7. Grindelwald & Jungfraujoch

Grindelwald and the whole Jungfrau Region is perhaps the most visited region in Switzerland. A popular excursion is riding to the Jungfraujoch, a glacier viewpoint at 3454m near Interlaken. As a day trip from Lucerne, this would take about 10-12 hours depending on what you do during your visit. 

From Lucerne, it’s a lovely train ride to Grindelwald, passing many beautiful alpine villages, lakes and mountains on the way. In Grindelwald, you catch the Eiger Express cable car, then a cogwheel mountain train to reach the Sphinx Observatory at the Jungfraujoch.

From here, you can admire the Aletsch glacier, the longest in Europe at over 20 km. At the top, there are lots of amusements, including an ice cave, multimedia history tour, and indoor and outdoor observation areas. In summer, you can even participate in snow sports on the glacier. Read more in our Jungfraujoch post.

Suggested tour: From Lucerne: Day Trip to Jungfraujoch

From Lucerne: 1h20 mins by car, 2h30 by train to Grindelwald

Cost: round trip from Lucerne – about CHF 249 / discount with Swiss travel passes

Open: year round

Website: www.jungfrau.ch

Lakes & Waterfalls

8. Lake Lucerne boat cruise

If you prefer to spend more time on the water (and skip the cable cars), you can cruise the whole Lake Lucerne. From Lucerne city to the south end of the lake, it takes about two hours and is a spectacular journey. Our family has done it in all seasons and it’s always a hit. Lake Lucerne offers many special boat cruises, some including meals and entertainment.

 

 
You can enjoy boat cruises in both summer and winter, but note that the timetable is reduced from Nov to April. Boat cruises are the one instance where we think upgrading to first class is worth it, so you can sit on the upper decks and have less competition for the good seats.

From Lucerne: ferry dock is near Lucerne train station

Cost: cruises starting at CHF 18 per adult / discounted with Swiss travel passes

Open: year round but best May to October

Website: www.lakelucerne.ch

9. Melchsee-Frutt alpine lakes

Melchsee Frutt is a mountain resort southwest of Lucerne with two gorgeous alpine lakes. A cable car brings you up the mountain, where you’ll have a great view of the lake from the small village.

For an easy day, you can ride a small “train” shuttle along the lakes out to a mountain restaurant. You can optionally stroll along the lakes or choose a more challenging hike up into the mountains. At the end the day, we skip the cable car and instead rent mountain scooters to ride down the mountain.

Learn more: Melchsee Frutt Alpine Lakes

From Lucerne: 35 mins by car, 1h10 by train/bus

Cost: cable car – Adult CHF 18

Open: May to early October

Website: www.melchsee-frutt.ch

10. Reichenbach Falls & Aare Gorge

The village of Meiringen boasts two beautiful water attractions. The 120m tall Reichenbach Falls are famous as the setting for Sherlock Holmes’ apparent death in the novels.

To reach the falls viewpoint, you ride a vintage funicular train up the mountain. You can optionally hike up the falls to more viewpoints and a mountain restaurant. For a bit of excitement, you can ride a fat wheel scooter back down the mountain.

Near the falls, you’ll find the entrance to the narrow Aare Gorge, formed over thousands of years by the Aare glacier. Now you can walk about 1 km through the gorge on raised walkways, admiring the formations in the rock walls and icy blue water.

You can buy a combined entrance ticket that covers both attractions. Afterwards, stop at a cafe in Meiringen for their traditional meringue and cream dessert.

Learn more: Reichenbach Falls & Aare Gorge

From Lucerne: 55 mins by car, 1h35 by train/bus

Cost: combined ticket for falls and gorge – Adult CHF 18

Open: May to early October

Website: www.grimselwelt.ch

History & Culture

11. Ballenberg

This open-air museum is a window to traditional Swiss rural life, where you can visit historical buildings different eras and Swiss regions throughout a large alpine park. You can wander through homes, schools, farms, and other trade workshops like a blacksmith, saw mill, cheese maker, etc.

Besides the cultural education, it’s just a really lovely place to visit with grassy alpine meadows and mountain views. When the kids were young, we appreciated the picnic areas and playgrounds, making it a fun family outing.

Learn more: Ballenberg Open-air Museum

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 1h30 by train

Cost: Adult CHF 32, Child CHF 16, under 6 free.

Open: April to October

Website: www.ballenberg.ch

12. Emmental cheese factory

Learn about traditional and modern cheese production at the Emmental Schaukaserei. It’s touristy, but well-done and a fun place to learn about an important part of Swiss culture.

You can watch live cheese production and visit the traditional buildings for free. But you might have more fun by paying for the audiovisual tour, audio guide or cheese workshops. See our review: Emmental Cheese Factory

Suggested tour: From Lucerne: Bern Capital and Countryside Day-Trip (includes Emmental Cheese Factory)

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 1h30 by train

Cost: Adult CHF 32, Child CHF 16, under 6 free.

Open: daily 9:00 – 17:00 year round

Website: emmentaler-schaukaeserei.ch

13. Aeschbach “ChocoWelt” Chocolate Museum

Photo: Obi-waldi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aeschbach ChocoWelt is the closest chocolate factory to Lucerne. In their fun visitor center, you learn about the history and production of chocolate through a series of interactive exhibits. 

During the tour you can sample chocolate, including a chocolate fountain. On weekdays you can see people working on the chocolate factory floor. After the museum tour, you can make your own chocolate bar.

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 1h30 by train – ChocoDromo 1, 6037 Root

Cost: CHF 15/adult, CHF 8/child aged 6-16, under 6 free.

Open: daily 10:00 to 17:00 (excluding public holidays)

Website: aeschbach-chocolatier.ch

Especially for kids

14. Brunni Engelberg Tickle Path

From the beautiful mountain village of Engelberg, ride a cable car up to a fantastic playground with a view. My kids love the trampolines, climbing structures, water play and alpine slide.

Further up the mountain, there is a beautiful little lake surrounded by a barefoot sensory path, where you walk on bark, stones, pine cones and mud. If you want to hike, add on the treasure hunt trail where you use clues search for treasure chests along the way.

Learn more about Brunni Tickle Trail

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 1h10 by train – Brunni Engelberg cable car

Cost: cable car + chair lift CHF 46/adult, children under 16 ride free with parent in summer

Open: mid June to October

Website: www.brunni.ch

15. Sattel Hochstuckli – alpine slide + suspension bridge

Kids will be jumping for joy when you take them to Sattel Hochstuckli. This mountain resort is full of amusements including bouncy castles, an inner tube slide, trampolines, and mountain scooters. The main attractions are the 600m alpine slide and 374m long suspension bridge.

You need to ride a cable car to reach the amusements. Kids can get a day pass for the amusements. Adults can buy single rides for the alpine slide or a multi-pack.

Learn more about Sattel Hochstuckli

From Lucerne: 40 mins by car, 55 mins by train – Eumatt, 6417 Sattel

Cost: cable car Adult CHF 26

Open: April to October

Website: www.sattel-hochstuckli.ch

16. Klewenalp Stockhütte – mountain scooters

Klewenalp is a good choice for families as it has many amusements includes a detective theme trail, playgrounds, and mountain scooter. We suggest the “Golden Safari“, which includes a short hike before you reach the mountain scooter station. But if you prefer not to hike, you can ride a cable car directly to Stockhütte where you pick up the scooters. 

After that, a beautiful bus ride through the Swiss countryside to an alpine village. Then ride a vintage funicular down to the lake and a boat cruise back to your starting point.

Learn more about Klewenalp

From Lucerne: 25 mins by car, 45 mins by train/bus, 1h30 by boat

Cost: cable cars CHF 40, mountain scooter CHF 15

Open: June to October

Website: www.klewenalp.ch

City excursions

Lucerne is very centrally located, so it’s easy to do a day trip out to other Swiss cities.

17. Zurich

 

Zurich is very close to Lucerne, just 35 mins by car, 40 mins by train. I’m partial to Zürich because I’ve lived here since 2005, raising my kids in the city and exploring every corner.

For just a day, best to do a walking tour and we really like the one by FreeWalk.ch. They meet every day at 11:00 at Paradeplatz and the tour lasts about 90 mins. You don’t have to book ahead. Tips for your volunteer guides are very welcome. If you want a more extensive guided tour of the city, you may like this city tour that includes a short lake cruise and visit to Lindt Home of Chocolate.

I have a self-guided chocolate tour of the city, visiting with 10+ chocolatiers along the way. It’s a fun way to see the city and you can spend your budget on chocolate at each shop. If you prefer to go with a guide, FreeWalk also offers a Zurich chocolate walk, 2 hours for CHF 30.

I’d also suggest a short trip up to Uetliberg, a viewpoint over the city. For lunch, perhaps a bratwurst at the popular Sternen Grill and a stroll along the lake with the locals. For dinner, we usually take our visitors to Zeughauskeller for the traditional dish of Zürigeschnetzeltes, sliced veal in a cream sauce served with rösti potatoes.   

By car: 25 mins from Lucerne. We always park at Parkhaus Vorstadt (Schmidgasse 3, 6300 Zug), but there are many other lots in town.
By train: 20 mins from Lucerne to Zug train station. Then 10 mins walk to old town.

Learn more on the Zürich Tourism website.

18. Bern

Photo by: Dmitry A. Mottl, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bern is the capital of Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to enjoy the city is on a walking tour, discovering all the charms of the old town. For a special experience, book a guided tour of the iconic Bern clock tower, where you can see the inner workings of the clock and get a bird’s eye view of the city. FreeWalk.ch occasionally offers a 2 hour free Bern walking tour in English, but the schedule varies, so best to check their calendar for upcoming tours. 

 

There are dozens of great places to eat in Bern. But my top choice for unique ambiance would be Kornhauskeller, which is an absolute surprise when you descend the stairs. For something less fancy, we heartily recommend the pizza at Luce (Zeughausgasse 28, 3011 Bern), not far from the train station. For coffee, we’d probably go Cafe Marta or Cafe Alpin, but there are so many other great places to try.

By car: 1hr10 from Lucerne. We typically park at the train station (Parkterrasse 14, 3012 Bern). Parking in Bern is very expensive, so prepare yourself. See more Bern parking.

By train: 1hr from Lucerne to Bern main station. The old town is just east of the train station, no tram necessary.

Learn more on the Bern Tourism website.

19. Basel

Photo: Taxiarchos228, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

Basel is a beautiful city built on the banks of the Rhine river. We love strolling the narrow streets in the old town and finding little treasures. If you are with kids, a fun way to see the city is on the FoxTrail, a puzzle trail where you have to solve clues to find your next destination.

From April to October, this 2 hour guided tour is offered every day, visiting popular sights like the town hall, Tinguely Fountain, Cathedral Hill, and old town. FreeWalk.ch offers a 2 hour free Basel walking tour in English on Sundays at 13:00, tips appreciated. 

 

Do not miss a visit to the Xocolatl speciality chocolate shop (Marktgasse 6, 4051 Basel), with an extensive and delicious hot chocolate menu. The chocolate cakes are pretty amazing too. For the trip home, we always stop at Mystrifry (Rheinsprung 4, 4051 Basel), to pick up decadent vegan donuts for later. 

By car: 1hr10 from Lucerne. We typically park at the train station (Parkterrasse 14, 3012 Bern). Parking in Bern is very expensive, so prepare yourself. See more Bern parking.

By train: 1hr15 from Lucerne to Bern main station. The old town is just east of the train station, no tram necessary.

Learn more on the Basel Tourism website.

20. Zug

 

If you want more of a small town feel, Zug is just east of Lucerne, set on a big lake overlooking the mountains. The old town quarter is colorful and charming, with lots of interesting old buildings steeped in history. For a self-guided tour, stop at the Zug tourism office at the train station for suggestions. For a special treat, stop by the police station to borrow the key for the clock tower and climb 52m for a view over the city.

You must also stop at the Treichler pastry shop and try their famous “Kirschtorte” (cherry schnaps cake), enjoyed by Audrey Hepburn back in the day. For lunch or dinner, we like eating at the Freiruum, which has lots of interesting casual food stalls. If you prefer to eat closer to the old town, perhaps , wFor then ice cream at LucyGoose or Dieci. We also suggest a stroll along the lake shore, stopping at the Hafenrestaurant for drinks with a view.

By car: 25 mins from Lucerne. We always park at Parkhaus Vorstadt (Schmidgasse 3, 6300 Zug), but there are many other lots in town.

By train: 20 mins from Lucerne to Zug train station. Then 10 mins walk to old town.

Learn more on the Zug Tourism website.

Extra credit: Famous but far away

21. Zermatt

Zermatt Gornergrat Riffelsee

Zermatt, famous for the Matterhorn, is one of the most visited destinations in Switzerland. It’s a bit far as a day trip from Lucerne, with 3+ hours of travel time each way. But if you are only staying in Lucerne and really want to see the Matterhorn, it is certainly possible to visit Zermatt as a day trip.

From Lucerne, I would plan for at least 12 hours including travel time there and back. I suggest taking the first train at 6:00, arriving in Zermatt at 9:14, so you can maximize your time there. The train journey there is stunning, so that time is definitely not wasted.

Once in Zermatt, I suggest riding the Gornergrat mountain train to the glacier viewpoint and Riffelsee lake shown above. This area has the most iconic views that don’t require strenuous hiking. If you want to hike, our favorite is the trail from Riffelsee to Riffelalp, with Matterhorn views the whole way.

You should plan about 2-4 hours for the Gornergrat excursion depending on whether you hike and/or eat at restaurant on the mountain. I would also plan for an hour to wander the Zermatt village before heading back. If you catch the 17:37 train, you’ll arrive back in Lucerne at 21:01.

From Lucerne: 3h15 by car or train to Zermatt

Cost: Gornergrat railaway – CHF 95 / discount with Swiss travel passes / Book Gornergrat tickets

Open: year round / hiking possible late June to early October

Website: www.zermatt.ch

Where to stay in Lucerne

I suggest staying in Lucerne city, which is most convenient for doing day trips in different directions. Also, after your outing, you can enjoy the charms of the city in the evenings and have access to more restaurants.

Our friends suggest Hotel des Balances, which is right on the river near the famous tower bridge. We’ve also enjoyed Hotel Anker, which has a cool, funky vibe and a great breakfast. For a budget stay, you might consider Ibis Budget Hotel near the Lucerne train station.



Booking.com

How to save money on Lucerne day trips

Here are a few ways you can save money on these excursions. Check the specific destinations for current discount offers.

Swiss Travel Pass

If you are traveling around Switzerland by public transportation, the Swiss Travel Pass is often the best deal. It covers all public transportation in all of Switzerland and provides a discount (usually 50%) on many cable cars and other mountain transport, including those mentioned in this post. You can purchase a Swiss Travel Pass for 3, 4, 6, 8 or 15 consecutive days of travel. 

Book the Swiss Travel Pass here.

Tell Pass

All excursions in this post are fully covered by the Tell Pass, which fully covers public transportation and most mountain excursions in the Lake Lucerne region. This regional travel pass makes the most sense if you are staying in the Lake Lucerne region for multiple days and not visiting other parts of Switzerland. You can buy this pass for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 days.  Learn more about the Tell Pass.

SBB Railaway Combined Offer

The Swiss rail system has discount offers that provide savings on both the train/bus travel to the destination and the attraction itself. These offers are seasonal and regularly change. See all SBB Railaway offers here.

For children

Children under age 6 are generally free on everything. For children 6-15, you can purchase either a yearly SBB Junior Card or Family Card associated with your Swiss Travel Pass or Tell Pass. These passes cost CHF 30 and which will cover all public transportation including most cable cars when accompanied by an adult.

See more Swiss Budget Travel Tips

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Hi! I’m Tanya and our family has been living & hiking in Switzerland since 2005, collecting dozens of fun hikes and activities for all ages and abilities. More about us…

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