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If you get the chance to visit Switzerland in the summer, don’t miss out on a chance to explore the best of the Alps!
It’s amazing how cities in Switzerland are nestled in the heart of the mountains! If you’re visiting Lucerne, you can experience the city life and Swiss Alps all in one day. Here are the top things to do in Lucerne and Mount Pilatus!
Top Things to do in Lucerne with Only One Day
During our visit to Lucerne, we toured the top attractions and sightseeing in Lucerne and went on a Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus excursion. We didn’t stay in Lucerne, instead, we stayed in Engelberg. So visiting Lucerne, or Luzern, was a great day trip from the small ski town!
Morning: Sightseeing in Lucerne
Lion of Lucerne Monument
Firstly, one of the best ways to see Lucerne is to do a walking tour. It’s highly likely the tour will include everything we’re about to talk about!
In the morning, we visited the Lion of Lucerne Monument. The monument was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and constructed in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. The crying lion commemorates the Swiss guards who were killed by French Revolutionaries while protecting the Tuileries, a palace of King Louis XVI in Paris.
The Lion of Lucerne Monument is one of the most visited monuments in Switzerland so don’t miss out on paying it a visit! The monument is located at Denkmalstrasse 4, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland.
Pictured below is the famous Kapellbrucke, or “chapel bridge,” connecting the “old” and “new” sides of Lucerne that are separated by River Reuss. The wooden pedestrian bridge was constructed in 1365 as part of the city’s fortifications, making it one of the oldest wooden bridges still intact!
Chapel Bridge is named after St. Peter’s Chapel, which is located on the bank of the river.
The bridge is noted for its paintings hanging from the ceiling. These paintings were painted in the 17th century by a Hans Heinrich Wägmann and feature the life and death of Lucerne’s patron saint St. Leger and St. Maurice. However, most of the paintings were destroyed in a fire in 1993. 47 of the paintings were saved from the fire and only 30 could be restored successfully.
The bridge also includes a Wasserturm, which literally translates to “water tower.” This structure wasn’t actually used as a water tower, but as a lookout, a prison, torture chamber, and city archive.
Shop for the Best Swiss Souvenirs
If you’re going to do some souvenir shopping, invest in some Swiss chocolate or a Swiss Army knife. The chocolate is as good as people say! The Swiss Army knife was actually developed for and used by the Swiss Army in 1891. Traditionally, the soldier’s father’s name was engraved on the knife to remind the son of life back home. You can get a knife custom engraved as Casagrande! During all of our trips, we love to buy memorable and quality souvenirs. Check out our souvenir shopping guide for the best tips on how to shop the right way!
Afternoon: Mount Pilatus Excursion
During the afternoon, we went on the Mount Pilatus Excursion! We took an hour boat cruise from downtown Lucerne to the bottom of the mountain Alpnachstad, which was a beautiful way to see Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps.
Once at the mountain, we took a cogwheel train to the summit. This cogwheel train was constructed in 1889 making it one of the oldest! Designed by Eduard Locher, the cogwheels take you up a gradient of 48%, making it the steepest train in the world! If you’re afraid of heights, going up the mountain either by cogwheel train or gondola might make you nervous.
After reaching the top, we had lunch at the cafeteria at the summit’s hotel. This is the only place to eat and use the toilet at the top!
Once at the top, you are free to explore the summit and it’s surrounding overlooks and trails. There are multiple panoramic trails at the summit for low impact hiking and more intense ones that take you down the slopes! Check out Mount Pilatus’ hiking guide for more information.
Since Mount Pilatus reaches 7000 feet, there is usually snow at the summit even in the summer! While we were there, the temperatures were a heatwave so there was not much snow.
Evening: Relax on the Beach of Lake Lucerne
After spending some time at the summit, we took an hour gondola ride down the other side of the mountain. We then headed back into Lucerne, where we spent some time at the beach on Lake Lucerne. The water was very refreshing and clean. It was a great way to relax at the end of the day. Even though we only had one full day in Lucerne, we got to see the highlights of the city and experience the Swiss Alps.