How to Make the Most of One Day in Lucerne Switzerland

just one day in lucerne means seeing the old town

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Beautiful Lucerne is one of the most visited cities in all of Switzerland. And, once you experience roaming Lucerne’s medieval walls, it’s easy to understand why this city is so popular and beloved around the world.

Without a doubt, Lucerne is one of the prettiest cities in Europe (probably the world, haha), and as you wander through the Old Town and explore Lake Lucerne’s inviting shores, you will feel as if you’ve been transported to a (clean and safe and elegant) fairytale world. 

Most visitors aim to stay in Lucerne at least two nights, because there is so, so, so much to see and do both in and outside the city limits.

However, not all itineraries allow for such flexibility (for example, my 8 days in Switzerland itinerary), especially if you can only do a fast (re: one week) tour of Switzerland. 

you will see great views with one day in lucerne

So … if this is you and you’re not sure how to make the most of one day in Lucerne, then I went to tell you to never fear!

After all, if you do your research and play your cards right, you can see a lot of Lucerne in only 24 hours! I mean, I did! 

I sincerely hope this guide to one day in Lucerne will help you feel better about the travel planning process. Let’s get to work. 

pleased at lake lucerne in summer
Looking Happy with Just One Day in Lucerne.

Planning Your Visit to Lucerne

All in all, Switzerland is a pretty easy destination to visit. This country is safe and beautiful with one of the best rail systems that I have ever experienced on my own travels in Europe. 

Lucerne is no exception. 

even if you have one day in lucerne, you can still take a boat ride

Transportation in Lucerne

Arrival in Lucerne

Most international travelers will arrive in Switzerland at Zurich Airport located in nearby Kloten. After you clear customs, you can take a train to Lucerne in a little over an hour.

Most likely, you will need to switch at Zurich’s main train station, which is surprisingly clean and easy to navigate for such a big hub.

Furthermore, if you’re coming to Lucerne from another city in Switzerland, you will most likely arrive at Lucerne railway station. This train station is another major hub that connects to cities from all over the country. 

This train station is also a departure point for a few of Switzerland’s scenic trains – including the Voralpen Express from St. Gallen.

PS: St. Gallen is worth visiting and makes a good second city to compare Lucerne to. Highly recommend it!.

i loved all the bridges in lucerne

How to Get Around Lucerne

You’ve arrived in Lucerne and ready to hit the pavement. Now what? How do you get around with only 24 hours at your disposal? 

Good news is that Lucerne is fairly easy to navigate thanks to its walkability and extensive bus system. 

When you purchase tickets, you just want to stick with Zone 10 because all the most popular sites are within this particular zone. Not to mention, you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin.

Lucerne’s buses will zip you around town with ease until late at night. 

lake lucerne has plenty of delightful public art

What to Bring for One Day in Lucerne

Regardless of the time of year, you don’t want to forget these essential items for your one day in Lucerne. 

  • German Phrasebook: Most people in Lucerne speak English. However, speaking a few words of German will show respect and probably get you better service. Pack a German phrasebook to help you! 
  • Lonely Planet Switzerland Guide: Even with just one day in Lucerne, you want the most up to date information on attractions, restaurants, shopping, and more! Lonely Planet’s Switzerland guide will provide all the insights you need for a great vacation!
  • Pacsafe Crossbody Bag: As a major tourist hub, Lucerne may attract pickpockers looking to take advantage of visitors. This Pacsafe crossbody bag is cute and will keep your belongings safe and sound. 
  • Travel Insurance: Switzerland is a super safe country, but having travel insurance is essential in this day and age. You don’t want to pay huge bills due to an accident or illness overseas. Trust me.
  • Waterproof Walking Shoes: In Lucerne, you will do a lot of walking and may encounter rain depending on the time of year that you visit this city. You will want to invest in good quality waterproof walking shoes to keep your feet dry and comfortable. 

with just one day in lucerne you need a lovely place to stay

Where to Stay with Just One Day in Lucerne

Unfortunately, Lucerne is not a cheap destination. This city is very popular for travelers coming to Switzerland, so prices and demand are high, particularly in peak season.

However, since this city attracts a lot of tourists, you will have more accommodation options to choose from. I’ve included a couple suggestions here, ranging from hostels to cozy hotels. 

Accommodation Suggestions

  • Backpackers Lucerne: This highly reviewed hostel is located right on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Who says you can’t have a great view for a reasonable price? See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
  • Hotel Beau Sejour Lucerne: This laidback and informal hotel is located away from the hustle and bustle, and has stunning views of Lake Lucerne. A perfect home base to rest your head! See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
  • Hotel de la Paix: This cozy 3 star hotel is located in a great location in the Old Town, very close to the famous Lion Monument. It’s a great jumping off point for seeing all that Lucerne has to offer. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.

old town in lucerne feels very medieval

Why You Should Spend One Day in Lucerne

Even with just one day in Lucerne, you will have plenty of things to see and do within a reasonable distance. As an old city, Lucerne’s major attractions are mostly within walking distance of one another.

The only exception to this rule is the nearby Mt. Pilatus, which is accessible by cogwheel train.

I’ve heard Mt. Pilatus is gorgeous, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it with only one day in Lucerne. Mornings are the best for mountain excursions (prior to the afternoon fog rolling in), so you’d have to arrive in Lucerne really, super early to make the trip worthwhile. 

lucerne's market is a delight to explore

Centrally Located in Switzerland

Lucerne is located right in the middle of Switzerland with an abundance of connections to other parts of the country. 

At Lucerne Station, you can take direct trains to Bern, Interlaken, St. Gallen, Zurich, Basel, and so much more! Lucerne is the perfect place to to link together a smooth itinerary in this small, but very mountainous country. 

You seriously can’t beat Lucerne’s location! 

lucerne's old town is fun to explore

Historically Significant

Lucerne has a remarkably rich history, which is one of the main reasons why you shouldn’t skip this delightful city, even if you only have 24 hours to spare.

Lucerne’s history goes all the way back to 750 – which is pretty amazing – and transformed into a major trade center in the Middle Ages. Lucerne’s old bridges are unique features of this city, and shouldn’t be missed on your visit here! 

The well-preserved Medieval Old Town is delightful to explore. You will find many of the old towns buildings date way back. For example, The Old Town Hall was built in 1601!

lucerne is home to some fabulous shopping
Watches Anyone?

Great Shopping Opportunities 

If you’re not interested in history, Lucerne still has more treats in store for you.

For example, if you have money to spare and love shopping, then break out those credit cards, because Lucerne’s shops are all amazing.

In particular, you’ll want to check out the gorgeous watch displays that seem to glitter in every other shop window. I won’t lie. My jaw dropped at the watches at Lucerne’s Rolex Store, haha.

Keep in mind that shopping is, uh, rather expensive here, but admiring the items doesn’t cost a single Swiss Franc.

wandering the streets of lucerne

What to Do in Lucerne (When You Have One Day!)

Alright! Let’s get to the most fun part of this guide, which is talking abut all the wonderful things that you can do with one day in Lucerne! 

with just one day in lucerne don't miss lake lucerne

Lake Lucerne

Lake Lucerne is, without a doubt, one of my favorite characteristics in this city. The clear aqua waters looked photoshopped

As the fourth largest lake in the country, the park wrapping around Lake Lucerne is a great spot for people and boat watching. For instance, I loved watching the ferries, with the Swiss flag proudly flapping off the stern, shuttle tourists across the crystal blue waters.

Take time out of your busy 24 hours in Lucerne and stroll next to Lake Lucerne. You’ll feel a deep sense of peace and happiness. Even try to enjoy a meal on the water if you can.

chapel bridge is a "must see" with one day in lucerne

Chapel Bridge

The Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in all of Europe, and definitely one of the highlights when visiting Lucerne. 

Despite being damaged in a 1993 fire, Chapel Bridge is still considered the earliest wooden covered bridge in all of Europe. Take a walk across the bridge and check out the meticulously restored art work. 

Chapel Bridge, understandably, gets crowded in the afternoons, so I would make walking across this gorgeous bridge your first stop if possible! 

spreuer bridge is a great stop in lucerne

Spreuer Bridge 

Wait, Lucerne has even more bridges? Absolutely!

Although smaller than Chapel Bridge, Spreuer Bridge is also quite magnificent and a little morbid due to the Danse Macabre paintings on the ceiling.

Walk both bridges! They each have their charms, as well as different views of Lake Lucerne.

exploring the old town in lucerne

Old Town Lucerne

Who doesn’t love roaming through a charming old town?

Lucerne’s classic Old Town is large enough to roam and take plenty of pictures. Keep in mind that the Old Town is home to many tourists shops, and thus, the small charming cobblestone streets may feel crowded at times. 

Regardless, this Old Town will truly make you feel like you are in Europe. It’s absolutely beautiful, especially the many adorable squares where you can partake in some amazing people watching.

lion monument is one of the top stops in lucerne

Lion Monument

The Lion Monument is one of the most visited sites in all of Lucerne. Seriously, this statue is larger than life, and even though I’ve seen many pictures of the Lion Monument, I wasn’t expecting it to be so enormous and my response to be so emotional.

The mournful expression on the Lion’s face feels incredibly real. 

And this view is even more touching when you learn about the history of the Lion Monument. In 1792, over 1000 Swiss Guardsmen were killed by French revolutionaries. The Lion Monument was erected to honor their memories and sacrifice. 

Without question, you should take the time to stop at the Lion Monument with your one day in Lucerne.

walking the nine towers is perfect for the brave traveler

Musegg Wall and its Nine Towers

Like I’ve said, Lucerne is old. 

Musegg Wall and its Nine Towers once formed Lucerne’s protective fortifications around its Old Town. A walk to Musegg Wall promises commanding and sweeping views of the entire city.

Just make sure to pack comfortable shoes. The walk is deceptively challenging, and I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath and grab a sip of water! 

However, reaching the top of these walls is well worth the beauty. Seeing Lucerne from a birds eye view is quite special.

one of the best places to eat in lucerne - old swiss house

The Old Swiss House

Are you ready for your absolute best dinner in Switzerland? I certainly hope so! 

The Old Swiss House is an incredible old restaurant that is a Lucerne Icon. In this historic building, you’ll feel as if you were transported back in time to the Romantic period and are now experiencing the Grand European Tour.

The menu and wine list are both extensive. You can’t go wrong ordering anything at the Old Swiss House.

However, with that said, my personal advice is to order the veal speciality that they cook and serve right at your table! It’s a dining experience that you won’t forget! 

You can find The Old Swiss House at Löwenpl. 4 near the Old Town.

with just one day in lucerne you want to see the churches

Jesuitenkirche

Jesuitenkirche is a stunning, Baroque Catholic church that was the first of its kind constructed north of the Alps. The church is free to enter, although you’re welcome to make a small donation.

The interior’s soft colors and dramatic organ create a beautiful contrast. The church is also a nice place to sit and unwind for a few minutes after a busy day walking around Lucerne. 

Jesuitenkirche is located right on Lake Lucerne.

lucerne is home to wonderful gardens

I hope you enjoyed reading about all the incredible things to do with just one day in Lucerne. Feel free to share additional ideas in the comments. 

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