Whether you are visiting Switzerland for the first or the tenth time, Lucerne makes a great base for exploring a large part of the country. Swiss rail travel is legendary and you can reach just about all corners of the country by train from Lucerne. Most visitors come to Switzerland to see the amazing mountains – some of the must-see attractions include Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Rigi, Mt. Titlis and Schilthorn. Cities like Bern, Brienze, Geneva and Montreux all offer a great mix of beautiful surroundings and cultural activities. If its snow you are after you can make your way to Jungfroujoch where a winter wonderland awaits you all year round. History buffs should not miss a visit to Ballenberg Museum and the historic city of Fribourg.
Nestled in a picture-perfect rural setting between pastoral meadows and small hills, the Ballenberg Museum is an open-air, hands-on museum where you can learn all about life on a Swiss farmstead in days gone by. The museum encompasses over 100 residential and farm buildings, some of which date back to the 14th century. You can watch costumed craftsmen and women demonstrating everyday activities like weaving, tool-making and cooking. Children are invited to meet farm animals and there are children’s playgrounds where families can have fun. Your visit will entail a far amount of walking so wear comfortable shoes and bring a buggy for toddlers. You can bring a picnic or dine at one of three on-site restaurants.
Ballenberg Museum, Museumstrasse 100, 3858 Hofstetten bei Brienz, Switzerland, Phone: +41-3-39-52-10-30
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Easily accessible by road or rail in a little more than an hour, Basel is an enchanting town to visit on your next day trip from Lucerne. Basel is proudly home to over 40 museums and you will have to do some serious prioritizing – a few of the most popular include the Basel Fine Art Museum, the Museum of Cultures, the Toys World Museum and the Foundation Bayeler. If museums are your favorite you can buy a combined Museum Card to get discounted admission. You can spend a few happy hours strolling through the lovely Old Town, visit the beautiful Botanical Gardens or go on a scenic boat tour on the Rhine.
Basel, 4001-4059, Switzerland
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Bern is located just an hour from Lucerne by train making this city an ideal destination for an interesting day trip. A good way to start your visit is to take a walk through the beautiful Old Town, which has received UNESCO World Heritage Status and is home to some buildings dating back as far at the 11th century. Guided walking tours are available and highly recommended. A few other highlights of the city include the Einstein House, the beautiful Rose Garden and the Bern Cathedral. If you are visiting with children you can take them to see the famous bears of Bern at the Bear-Pit, a zoo dedicated to the cities iconic brown bears.
Bern, 3001-3127 Switzerland
The small town of Brienz is also perfectly located for day trips from Lucerne and can be reached in 90min by train. Brienz is your gateway to the very scenic Brienzer Rothorn mountain peak which you can reach by jumping aboard the amazing cog-wheel steam train which has been in operation since 1891 (from early June to late October). After admiring the panoramic views from the top of the mountain you can return to Brienz and visit the Ballenberg Museum or spend some time visiting some of the wood-carving stores for which Brienz is famous. Alternatively you can spend your day hiking the Schwarzhorn Mountains or enjoying a scenic boat cruise on Lake Brienz.
Brienz, 3855, Switzerland
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Located in an elevated valley in the heart of Central Switzerland, Einsiedeln is home to an important pilgrimage place dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the heart of Einsiedeln you will find an impressive baroque monastery dating back to the 18th century. You can join a guided tour of this very interesting Benedictine monastery before seeing an altogether different side of the city at the cheese factory (Milchmanufaktor). There is also a Gingerbread Museum to admire or you could opt to visit the popular near-by ski resorts of Hoch Ybrig and Brunni-Mythen which are idyllic all year round. In summer you can walk, hike or cycle along a 400km network of trails.
Einsiedeln, 8836-8847 Switzerland
Engelberg is located just 40 minutes from Lucerne, where it offers visitors the opportunity to visit the summit of Mt. Titlis, Switzerland’s only glacier and year-round snow destination. You can travel to the summit by chairlift and cable car to visit the amazing Glacier Park (which offers year-round snow activities), the Titlis Glacier Cave and the Titlis Cliff Walk, which is the highest suspension bridge in Europe. Other activities in Engelberg include aerial sight-seeing using various cable cars, hiking, zip-lining, biking, kayaking and golfing in summer. In winter the whole gamut of thrilling winter sports await you, including access to 82km of pistes and many guided snow activities.
Engelberg, 6390, Switzerland
A must-see destination for any history lover, Fribourg is home to one of the largest collections of medieval architecture anywhere in Europe. The town was founded as far back as 1157 and her many ancient buildings have a wealth of stories to tell. Joining a guided tour is a good way to learn about Fribourg’s ancient fortifications, her delightful Old Town and many other highlights. You can take a ride on the historic 100-yr old funicular railway which links the old town with town center, visit a few outstanding museums or opt to go hiking to the Dragon’s Lair. Several other easy walking tours are available to outdoor enthusiasts while foodies will love the Taste my Fribourg gastronomy tour.
Fribourg, 1700 Switzerland
Nestled in a beautiful valley in the western corner of Switzerland, Geneva is a bustling cosmopolitan city with a lot on offer for day visitors. Your visit would be incomplete if you don’t make the pilgrimage to see the famous Jet d’Eau fountain in the middle of Lake Geneva, which shoots a plume of water 459ft into the air. Other interesting and unusual city activities include soaking up the sun at the Bains de Paquis (city baths on the lake), visiting the Botanical Gardens and Conservatory of Geneva or taking a cable car up Mount Saleve for fabulous hiking or mountain biking. The city also offers excellent up-market shopping and fine-dining.
Geneva, 1201-1292 Switzerland
9.Golden Pass Scenic Train
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It is hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to spend a day out than stepping aboard a luxurious modern train and immersing yourself in the stunning landscape of Switzerland. The Golden Pass Scenic Train follows an incredibly scenic route from Lucerne to Montreux and various other destinations. The carriages have been specially designed to allow the outside in, with wide overhead glass viewing panels so that you never miss a moment of the action. With a little forward planning you can even book the very front row of the train for the best views ever. Good news is that your Swiss Travel Pass is valid on all Golden Pass Trains.
Golden Pass Scenic Train, Phone: +41-02-19-89-81-90
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The pretty river-side town of Solothurn is located about an hour from Lucerne and is considered to be the finest Baroque town in the country. Touring the Old Town of Solothurn, which features no less than eleven extravagant churches and chapels and around the same number of ancient towers and fountains is a delightful way to spend a few hours. Highlights include the Ste. Urs Cathedral, which features beautiful stuccos. Once you have thoroughly explored the pedestrian Old Town you might like to visit the Natural History Museum, Schloss Waldegg or the amazing weapons collection in the Old Arsenal. Walkers, hikers and cyclist will find an extensive network of scenic trails close by.
Solothurn, 4500 Switzerland
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Occupying one of the most outstanding locations in Switzerland, Interlaken is a must-see destination. The town is easily accessible from Lucerne by train in one hour and besides offering many on-site attractions, Interlaken is also your gateway to delightful mountain villages like Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. You can easily explore Interlaken on foot – a guided tour is the best way to see and learn a lot in a short time. There are a myriad of activities for outdoor enthusiasts including E-Bike tours, Tandem Paragliding excursions, Hang Gliding, Sledding and Canyoning Experiences. If you are not quite up for these adventure sports you can take a scenic lake cruise for take the funicular railway to the viewpoint at Harder Kulm.
Interlaken, 3800 Switzerland
12.Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfroujoch
No visit to Switzerland could be considered complete without visiting Jungfroujoch, the Top of Europe. Getting there is half the fun and you can reach the top of the Jungfrau Mountain by train in around four hours from Lucerne. After changing trains in Interlaken, you will travel to beautiful Kleine Scheidegg, (at 2,061mt) before boarding the cog train which will take you to the summit. Once there you can visit the Sphinx Observatory, see fabulous ice sculptures at the Ice Palace and then walk the Alpine Sensation, an ice corridor which honors the miners who built the astounding railway. You can also go hiking or enjoy snow tubing, sledding, snowboarding or skiing at the Snow Fun Park.
Surrounded by sensational mountain vistas in the Jungfrau Region, about 90 minutes from Lucerne, the village of Lauterbrunnen is an outstanding year-round destination. Lauter brunen means “many fountains” and the valley boasts no less than 72 waterfalls including two of the highest in Europe. The little village is your starting point for a number of scenic excursions by cable car and rack railway – in summer you can walk or hike the sunny plateau of Wengen or take the tunnel funicular to see the mighty Trummelbach Falls. In winter, Lauterbrunnen is your gateway to a very extensive ski area which boasts over 213km of ski runs, 50km of toboggan runs and 100km of cross-country skiing trails.
Lauterbrunnen, 3801 Switzerland
Nestled on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake Geneva, Montreux is a bustling and vibrant city which has famously been home to many creative artists and musicians including the legendary Freddie Mercury. You can reach the city by road in two hours from Lucerne or take a very scenic rail journey on the Golden Pass Scenic Train. In the beautiful Old Town of Vevey you can admire historic architecture and explore narrow cobbled lanes filled with unique crafty stores. Wine lovers can join a tour of the famous Lavaux terraced vineyards or explore independently using the Train des Vignes. Other highlights include visits to Chateau de Chillon and “Queen: The Studio Experience” is one for music lovers.
Montreux, 1815-1832 Switzerland
For a relaxing day out from Lucerne you can leave the driving to someone else and can take a return trip to Mount Rigi by boat and train. The Mount Rigi landscape is pure picture-book Switzerland, complete with cows and cowbells against the backdrop of Rigi Kulm, the highest point in the mountain range. From Lucerne you will first travel by boat to Vitznau, where you board the cog-railway all the way to Rigi Kulm for sweeping views. After a pit-stop at the mountain-top restaurant (and perhaps some hiking) you can take another train down to the small village of Rigi Kaltbad and then take a cable car down to Weggis where you board your return scenic cruise to Lucern.
Mount Rigi, Switzerland
An ideal day trip destination at any time of the year, Mount Titlis is Switzerland’s land of eternal snow, where a wonderful Glacier Snow Park offers year-round snow fun. You can access Mt. Titles from the town of Engelberg, which is located about 40min from Lucerne. The summit of Mt. Titles is located at an elevation of 3032mt and is reached by a succession of scenic train rides from Engelberg. Once you reach the top you can explore the Titlis Glacier Cave which extends deep into the heart of the glacier and those who are brave enough can walk across the Titlis Cliff Walk, which is the highest and most hair-raising suspension bridge in Europe.
Mount Titlis, Switzerland
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Nestled between beautiful Lake Lucern and the snow-capped mountains beyond, the small town of Stans is an ideal day trip destination located just 20min from Lucerne. There are several historic sites to visit and a guided walking tour is the best way to learn all about the region – these tours are offered free in summer. Summer visitors can choose from a selection of cable railways to whisk them up to wonderful walking and hiking areas in the mountains – for a real thrill you can try the new double-decker top-less cable car which takes visitors to the top of Stanserhorn Mountain. In winter the entire area is covered in snow and you can choose between 8 winter sport and cross-country skiing areas.
Stans, 6362 Switzerland
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Weggis is a popular holiday resort located on the shores of Lake Lucerne, close to the foot of the impressive Mt. Rigi. A panoramic cableway can whisk you up the mountain to Rigi Kaltbad, a pedestrian-only spa village, in just ten minutes. From here you can access a network of very scenic walking/hiking trails, surrender to the bliss of a mineral spa bath or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Other activities in Weggis include taking a scenic lake cruise on a historic paddlewheel steamer or enjoying a ride in the tallest outdoor elevator in Europe, which will take you to the spectacular Hammetschwand Lookout Point. In winter Weggis offers excellent skiing and winter sport infrastructure.
Weggis, 6353 Switzerland
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Located approximately 90 minutes from Lucerne, Wimmis is an ancient rural village located close to Lake Thun. The area around Wimmis offers outdoor enthusiasts a large variety of options for outdoor exploration on foot or bicycle. Within the village you can admire the stately French-style Wimmis Castle before you set off to explore the heritage farms along the Simmentaler Hausweg. These lovely old farm houses are richly embellished with folk-art murals – you can pick up a brochure with details before setting off on your scenic drive. For amazing views you can take a funicular railway ride to the summit of Niesen Mountain.
Wimmis, 3752 Switzerland
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The popular tourist village of Murren is picture-book perfect and offers everything you could possibly expect from an alpine village in Switzerland. It is a little complicated to reach Murren since there are no roads to this perfect little pedestrian village – access is via train to Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen, followed by a cable-car ride and another train – allow about 3 hours to get there. Once you reach Murren you can go hiking along your choice of 200km of trails, take a funicular ride up the mountain to Allmendhubel, discover the Flower Panorama Trail or have a mountain picnic. If you visit in winter you can spend the day skiing, snowboarding or cross-country skiing in a pristine winter wonderland.
Murren, 3825 Switzerland
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Grimmelwald (not to be confused with the more famous Grindelwald) is perfectly located for a day of exploration from Lucerne. You can reach this car-free pedestrian village by train from Lucerne (via Interlaken) and spend some time simply soaking up the peaceful rural atmosphere before you move on to hike some of the very scenic trails. For example, if you would like to see a waterfall you can hike two hours down to Trummelbach Falls. Check on-line for more challenging hikes in the area. Grimmelwald is also one of the starting points for a visit to Schilthorn and Piz Gloria – a modern gondola ride will whisk you to the top of the mountain in around 30 minutes.
Grimmelwald, 3826, Switzerland
Made famous by the 007 James Bond movie “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”, much of which was filmed on site, Schilthorn is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Switzerland. The Schilthorn is the highest peak of the Bernese Alps and is a sensational place to visit at any time of the year. You can reach the Schilthorn by cable-car in 31 minutes from Murren or Grimmelwald. The mountain-top revolving restaurant is called Piz Gloria, from which you can enjoy unsurpassed alpine views while you dine. Various special packages are available including the chance to travel up to Schilthorn for free on your birthday. Don’t leave without visiting the Bond World Museum.
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23.St. Beatus Caves
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For a day trip with a difference you can spend a few hours exploring caves which were once inhabited by a mythical dragon. Legend has it that St. Beat, a 6th century monk, was hunting the dragon when it took shelter in this remarkable cave system deep within the mountains surrounding Interlaken. Today everyone can admire the dragon’s lair as you join a guided tour (or self-guided tour) through a kilometer of caves containing spectacular rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, many little tunnels and vast chambers. After touring the cave you can visit the Cave Museum and have a meal at the restaurant.
St. Beatus Caves, Beatushohlen-Genossenschaft, CH 3800, Sundlauenen bei Interlaken, Phone: +41-3-38-41-16-43
If you are in Switzerland during the summer months (April to October) it would be a shame to leave without visiting Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s highest view point. At the summit you will find an extravagant fairy-tale castle restaurant where you can enjoy lunch or dinner against the backdrop of some of Switzerland’s most famous mountains. Harder Kulm is very easy to reach in ten minutes via a modern funicular railway from central Interlaken. If you have a good head for heights you can venture onto the Two Lakes Bridge which extends out over the edge of the mountain and has a glass viewing panel in the floor. During the height of the summer season you may be treated to a free folklore concert.
Harder Kulm, Interlaken, 3800 Switzerland
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Stunning Mount Pilatus is another of Switzerland’s many mountains that visitors to Lucerne should not miss. The Pilatus Mountain range is located close to Lucerne and you can easily travel to the summit by train from near-by Alpnachstad. If you like, you can make the return journey by gondola and cable car via Kriens – this route is known as the Golden Round Trip, and there are plenty of activities en-route. Once you reach the summit of the mountain you can go hiking – there are several routes suitable for all levels of expertise and fitness. Children will enjoy meeting a friendly dragon at Pilu Land (at Krienseregg) while adventure-sport enthusiasts can take on the thrilling Pilatus Rope Park.
Mt. Pilatus, 6010 Switzerland
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Lucerne, Switzerland
- Ballenberg Museum, Photo: fotoember/stock.adobe.com
- Basel, Photo: Roger Heil/stock.adobe.com
- Bern, Photo: Rostislav Ageev/stock.adobe.com
- Brienz, Photo: Schlierner/stock.adobe.com
- Einsiedeln, Photo: Franz Gerhard/stock.adobe.com
- Engelberg, Photo: BigGabig/stock.adobe.com
- Fribourg, Photo: lom742/stock.adobe.com
- Geneva, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- Golden Pass Scenic Train, Photo: Andrey Shevchenko/stock.adobe.com
- Solothurn, Photo: Patrick/stock.adobe.com
- Interlaken, Photo: Olena Z/stock.adobe.com
- Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfroujoch, Photo: aaronchenps/stock.adobe.com
- Lauterbrunnen, Photo: LevT/stock.adobe.com
- Montreux, Photo: cge2010/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Rigi, Photo: djama/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Titlis, Photo: SOMATUSCANI/stock.adobe.com
- Stans, Photo: tauav/stock.adobe.com
- Weggis, Photo: Boris Stroujko/stock.adobe.com
- Wimmis, Photo: zsblaser/stock.adobe.com
- Murren, Photo: HappyAlex/stock.adobe.com
- Grimmelwald, Photo: 4kclips/stock.adobe.com
- Schilthorn, Photo: 1989STUDIO/stock.adobe.com
- St. Beatus Caves, Photo: Eva Bocek/stock.adobe.com
- Harder Kulm, Photo: ppohudka/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Pilatus, Photo: xbrchx/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Mellow10/stock.adobe.com