How to Spend 3 Days in Lucerne (Top Attractions + Day Trips)

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After exploring central Switzerland and coming up with an efficient extended week-end Switzerland getaway itinerary and a week-long Switzerland itinerary, I am not convinced that it is practical to spend three days in Lucerne — especially true if you’re planning to travel in Switzerland for less than a week or on a budget.

As far as ‘experiencing the essence of visiting Lucerne’ goes, a one-day trip to this city is simply the perfect length. Two days in Lucerne should be enough to see the highlights and experience the fun, adventure, learning, and breathtaking scenery the city offers. However, while I believe three days in Lucerne to be more than enough, I’m not entirely dissuading anyone from spending that length of time in this beautiful city.

If you’re planning a relaxed exploration of the city, three days in Lucerne is ideal! You’ll have ample time to visit all the stunning sights, landmarks that are free to visit, and partake in some of the unique experiences the city offers. The duration of three days will also afford you the opportunity to engage in wellness activities following your outdoor adventures.

Not to mention, Lucerne could serve as your base for exploring Central Switzerland. Incredible mountain attractions are just a short distance from the city. After spending two days exploring the city and nearby attractions, any of these day trips can make your third day in Lucerne a fulfilling one.

Allow me to share with you all the beautiful attractions I’ve discovered in Lucerne, as well as the amazing experiences you can easily enjoy from Lucerne. Choose between three to five of them, based on your interests, and your three-day trip to Lucerne is guaranteed to be unforgettable! You can find a place to stay in Lucerne here. Let’s get started.

1. Old Town Lucerne

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Among all others, Old Town Lucerne is my favorite. From the iconic, picture-perfect Chapel Bridge to the towering, time-transporting Musegg Wall and the meaningful Lion Monument, I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying this part of Lucerne is for wanderlust. Not to mention, the beautiful churches like the Jesuit Church and Hofkirche, both of which are a feast for the eyes!

I’m 100% sure you’ll love exploring Old Town Lucerne! So, I strongly recommend this for your 3-day trip to Lucerne; a walking tour of Old Town Lucerne, whether DIY or guided, is a must. Here’s a map of Old Town Lucerne should you wish to create your own itinerary for this area.

2. Swiss Museum of Transport

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If there’s a forecast for overcast skies or rain in Lucerne during your 3-day trip, the Swiss Transport Museum is the way to go. It’s one of the most fascinating museums not only in Lucerne but in all of Switzerland, as far as I know. Learn more about this museum and check ticket prices here.

Short summary of visiting Swiss Transport Museum

All sorts of things related to transporting people, goods, and even information are here. There were even a tunnel boring machine and spaceships here the last time I checked! Every part of the museum you visit is amazing, amazing, amazing. What makes the Swiss Transport Museum so worth it are the virtual experiences, like the planetarium and the Red Bull Media World.

There is so much to see here that some people avail themselves of a 2-day pass. If you choose this for your 3-day Lucerne visit, one day should already be more than enough here to allow time for other amazing attractions.

Going to the Swiss Museum of Transport is pretty straightforward. From the train station, hop on bus number 6, 8, or 24, and you should arrive at the museum 15 minutes after your departure. Swiss Transport Museum’s official website is linked at the resources section.

3. Bourbaki Panorama

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The Bourbaki Panorama is one of the most fascinating and impressive artworks I found in Lucerne, alongside the gable paintings on the Chapel Bridge and Spreuer Bridge. I believe it’s as significant as the Tirol Panorama Museum in Innsbruck and more notable than the Thun Panorama in Thun.

What to expect in visiting Bourbaki Panorama

This gigantic artwork, measuring 10 meters by 112 meters, depicts the retreat of the French Army, led by General Charles-Denis Bourbaki, to Switzerland during a snowy winter of the Franco-Prussian war. Interestingly, the panorama features 3D objects, making the scene appear as if it’s frozen in time.

On your 3-day trip to Lucerne, you’ll find the Bourbaki Panorama during your walking tour of Old Town Lucerne, situated between the Lion Monument and Hofkirche. The closest bus stop is Wey. Should you decide to visit, you can expect that it would not take more than an hour to immerse yourself in the panorama. For more information, please check its official website, which is linked in the resources section of this post.

4. Glacier Garden

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Located in heart of Lucerne beside the Lion Monument, the Glacier Garden is undoubtedly an unusual natural attraction. Here you can find glacier pots, which interestingly give us a clue of what Lucerne looked like 20,000 years ago. Glaciers. The area where Lucerne stands now was covered with glaciers! The last time I checked, one can already see 16 glacier potholes right away when they enter Glacier Garden.

What to expect + how to visit + tips for visiting Glacier Garden

There’s more to do in the Glacier Garden than marvel at the glacial pots. The Swiss House, Alhambra Hall of Mirrors, The Rock World, Sandstone Pavilion, and Alpine Park awaits you in the Glacier Garden. There’s s much to do that 2 hours may not be enough here.

If you’re a map enthusiast like me, I bet you’ll love checking out the Swiss House. It houses topographic maps, an old globe, and a shelf of geological artifacts, all of which are fascinating finds. Don’t forget to enter the basement; it features a relief of the mountains in Switzerland, considered the world’s first 3D model of mountains.

Another highlight of visiting the Glacier Garden is the Mirror Labyrinth, inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Spain. The labyrinth, with its 50 mirrors, is sure to mesmerize both kids and adults. It’s a fun activity for families and can provide opportunities for captivating photos.

Of course, the Glacier Garden is also a green space in Lucerne. The garden part of the Glacier Garden, known as the Alpine Park, is filled with alpine plants. When you reach the Alpine Park, you will see a tower. It is accessible to tourists, and you can climb it for a different perspective of Lucerne’s skyline. However, the view from the Musegg Wall is much better.

I usually don’t suggest the Glacier Garden for travelers planning to see Lucerne for only a day or two because other attractions in Lucerne are clearly more unique, fun, and memorable. But since you’re visiting Lucerne (I’m assuming!) for three days (or more), you now have more time to explore more places of interest in Lucerne, like the Glacier Garden.

There are other things to discover about the Glacier Garden, so I’ve linked its official website at the end of this post in case you want to learn more. Visiting information is included.

To get to the Glacier Garden, you must go to the eastern part of Old Town Lucerne, beside the Lion Monument. The closest bus stop is Wesemlinrain. When you arrive at the bus station, proceed on a small path beside Stiefel’s Hopfenkranz Restaurant. Then, turn right, then left, then right again, and walk straight until you see the gate of the Lion Monument on your left.

5. Meggenhorn Castle

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As a wanderer, I define the perfect destination as quaint and scenic. An example of this would be castles perched on a hill or in an idyllic spot. For instance, in Lucerne, there’s Meggenhorn Castle. It is Lucerne’s version of Oberhofen Castle in Lake Thun. Perched on a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne, Meggenhorn Castle is a romantic castle that offers an unmissable experience — an experience straight out of a fairytale during your 3-day stay in Lucerne.

What to expect in Meggenhorn Castle + Tips + how to get there.

Meggenhorn Castle — this 19th-century castle in Meggen was designed after the awe-inspiring French castle, Château Chambord, in the Loire Valley. A magical flair surrounds Meggenhorn Castle, and the scenery might remind you of the lovely Italian villas in Lake Como.

You can only enter the castle every Sunday afternoon, but you can explore the castle grounds and gardens at any time. The castle, neo-gothic chapel, and lovely flower-filled gardens are all pleasing to the eye. You’ll never tire of strolling around and taking photos during the first hour after you arrive.

If the weather is sunny, I encourage you to go to the Känzeli Meggenhorn viewpoint of Lake Lucerne. It’s one of the most serene parts of the castle grounds, located east of the castle. Here it is on the map:

Map to Meggenhorn viewpoint in Lucerne, Switzerland
Map to Meggenhorn viewpoint

A 10- to 15-minute stroll will take you to the viewpoint. Along the trail, you’ll already be treated to pleasing views, which should keep you motivated until you reach the Känzeli Meggenhorn vantage point. At the trail’s highest point, an almost 270-degree panorama of Lake Lucerne awaits, spanning from Mount Rigi to the city of Lucerne.

After the short hike, consider spending some time at the small bistro located west of Meggenhorn Castle’s English Garden, overlooking the vineyards. The bistro offers alfresco seating with lovely views of the Lake.

If you’re planning a trip to Meggenhorn Castle without the castle tour, two hours should suffice to walk around and explore the castle grounds. It’s best to visit during the golden hour (after sunrise and before sunset), when the scenery is enhanced by sharp contrasts and golden hues.

To reach Meggenhorn Castle, take bus #24 from Lucerne Train station to the Meggen Lerchenbühl bus stop. After the 10- to 15-minute bus ride, a 15-minute walk will lead you to the castle grounds. You can check the signpost at the bus stop for directions to Meggenhorn Castle.

For further learning, the official website of Meggenhorn Castle is linked at the end of this post. If you’re interested in a castle tour of Meggenhorn Castle and nearby castles, monasteries, hamlets, and other idyllic places around Lake Lucerne, you might want to check out the Lucerne Lakeside and Villas Private Walking Tour.

6. Mount Pilatus

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For a 3-day trip to Lucerne, Mount Pilatus is definitely a must-include in your itinerary. Mount Pilatus is one of the top tourist destinations in Switzerland, and for several reasons. Primarily, when it comes to scenery and the overall experience, it’s one of the most enjoyable. It offers stunning scenery, adventure, and world-class facilities. Mount Pilatus is the closest and best day trip from Lucerne.

Highlights summary in Mount Pilatus

What’s the best part of visiting Mount Pilatus, you ask? It’s this: the rewarding 360-degree views that include Switzerland’s Central Plateau, Lake Lucerne, and of course, the awe-inspiring Swiss Alps at the summit. It’s an absolute beauty.

The amazing experience starts even before you reach the summit, though. You’ll be riding the world’s steepest cogwheel train and a cable car that already offers breathtaking views. The Frakigaudi Summer Toboggan also awaits you at Mount Pilatus. It’s the longest summer toboggan run in Switzerland!

Of course, Mount Pilatus has some epic hiking trails, too! Try hiking on the flower trail to Tomlishorn—Mount Pilatus’s highest peak. Aside from the stunning views, you can also encounter alpine animals along the way.

You could have a half-day trip to Mount Pilatus, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, try spending an entire day (8:00 am until 5:00 pm) to see the best parts in a relaxed, laid-back trip. This includes traveling up and down the mountain and cruising on Lake Lucerne in a Golden/Silver round trip to Mount Pilatus.

One of the reasons why I think you should spend a day on Mount Pilatus is because the weather on top of the mountain is pretty unpredictable. One moment, the views are nice with no clouds covering the scenery. But the clouds can come so suddenly, making the view on top nothing but pure white. As much as possible, give yourself more time allowance for more chances of seeing clear skies and a camera-shutter-pressing alpine panorama.

7. Mount Rigi

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Mount Rigi is another mountain that can be visited on a day trip from Lucerne; it serves as an alternative to Mount Pilatus if you prefer engaging in relaxing activities. Perhaps, it’s the rejuvenating trip to Lucerne you might be looking for. Breathtaking wellness centers, such as Rigi Kaltbad, await you on Mount Rigi. For a sample itinerary of visiting Mount Rigi from Lucerne, please refer to the full description of the Classic Rigi Round Trip.

What to expect + tips for visiting Mount Rigi

Besides from its wellness centers, Mount Rigi also offers a more subtle terrain, making it a great choice if you’re looking for relaxing and non-strenuous hikes. You’ll definitely prefer them over the rugged hiking trails of Mount Pilatus.

In a way, like Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi is a fantastic destination for traveling families too! As you explore the mountain, you’ll spot many campfires dotted across the verdant vistas. If you’re traveling with your kids, you can let them mingle with other children in the playgrounds at Rigi Kaltbad, Rigi Scheidegg, and Rigi Burggeist. While they play, you can relax under the sun, soaking in the tranquil scenery of lakes, meadows, and distant snow-capped mountains.

If you want, you can elevate your relaxing Mount Rigi trip by taking a coach ride on the mountain. Imagine sightseeing Mount Rigi’s breathtaking vistas from a leisurely moving horse-drawn coach – fantastic!

Also, even if you choose Mount Rigi over Mount Pilatus for your day trip from Lucerne, you can still enjoy an amazing cogwheel ride. After all, Mount Rigi is home to the oldest cogwheel train in Switzerland. Get ready for a nostalgic journey as you ascend the mountain!

On average, travelers spend half a day to a whole day on Mount Rigi. If you were to ask me, “What’s better, spending one day or half a day on Mount Rigi?” My answer would be, of course, one whole day or 8 hours. The journey to Mount Rigi alone would take more than 1.5 hours (three hours round trip). So, spend more time on Mount Rigi to make the long journey worthwhile.

To learn more about Mount Rigi and the activities on the mountain, you can check its official website, which is linked at the end of this post.

8. Mount Bürgenstock

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If Mount Pilatus boasts the steepest cogwheel train and Mount Rigi the oldest, then Mount Bürgenstock is home to the Hammetschwand Elevator—the highest exterior elevator in Europe.

Honestly, there’s nothing particularly fancy about the elevator. However, it can offer a unique experience for a day trip from Lucerne. Most importantly, Mount Bürgenstock serves as an off-the-beaten-path mountain destination for a day trip in Lucerne; a luxury alternative to Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, thanks to the hotels and resorts at its summit. Here is the round trip details to Mount Bürgenstock.

What to expect in Mount Bürgenstock and Hammetschwand Elevator + visiting tips

Here’s the important takeaway: The resort on this mountain is part of the Bürgenstock Collection of hotels, one of Switzerland’s largest luxury hotel groups. It has been visited by notable personalities such as Charlie Chaplin, Kofi Annan, Sofia Loren, and Audrey Hepburn. Bürgenstock boasts two upscale spas, wellness areas, golf courses, and over 10 bars and restaurants serving international cuisine. It also houses Switzerland’s largest hotel museum.

Indeed, Bürgenstock is a prime destination for affluent tourists and vacationers. However, this does not imply that budget and ordinary travelers like myself cannot enjoy Bürgenstock.

Although the views may not be as breathtaking as those from Mount Pilatus, you might still enjoy hiking in Bürgenstock, particularly along the “mythical” Felsenweg trail, which offers unique views of Lake Lucerne. The trail ends at the Hammetschwand Elevator, which provides the most rewarding views at the top of Bürgenstock.

After reaching the top of the Hammetschwand Elevator, you can return to the resort via the Felsenweg or take the longer route on the plateau side of the mountain. The longer path offers views of the beautiful Swiss countryside, dotted with houses and trees.

Overall, a trip to Bürgenstock, including a hike to the Hammetschwand Elevator and lunch at one of the restaurants, can last between 5 to 7 hours, depending on your hiking speed and the number of new places you visit. This duration also includes two one-hour ferry rides and two funicular rides to the resort and back to Lucerne.

If you enjoy taking photos or recording time-lapse videos, you might like to stay at the top of the Hammetschwand Elevator to capture the sunset over Lucerne. The Hammetschwand Elevator offers an overlooking view of Lake Lucerne and the city of Lucerne. You can capture the moment when Lucerne begins to twinkle with city lights as the sunlight fades on the horizon during sunset.

The last time I checked, there were days when the ferries and funiculars operated until 11:00 pm. So, if your hotel is in Lucerne, you can stay in Bürgenstock until the evening and still return to the city at the end of the day. Please check the timetables of Lake Lucerne’s ferries and funicular that I linked at the end of this post before planning to stay until the evening in Bürgenstock.

9. Ultimate Adventure

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Summary: Tandem Paragliding is a once-in-a-lifetime activity that is also available in Lucerne. It’s exhilarating, breathtaking, fun, and memorable. It’s an experience that every adventurous traveler must consider during their 3-day stay in Lucerne. Learn about the details here.

Hear me out…

For most of us, one of the reasons we travel is to live our lives—to feel good and have incredible experiences we can cherish into our old age. We want our memories to be filled with awesome stories, which often come from adventures and once-in-a-lifetime encounters.

With all that has been mentioned in this list of things to do in Lucerne, I have no doubt that Lucerne is a place filled with opportunities that allow travelers to truly live. Simply being on top of Mount Pilatus, looking at the heaven-on-earth alpine scenery, or marveling at the time-transporting structures in Old Town Lucerne—these are moments when you can say you’re truly enjoying life.

However, there’s something else that can give you an even more ecstatic feeling. What could it possibly be? Flying. It’s Tandem Paragliding in Lucerne, a bucket list, unmissable activity for those spending 3 or more days in Lucerne.

It’s an epic adventure that can make you feel like you’re a bird. As adrenaline rushes into your bloodstream, you’ll surely shout at the top of your lungs, ‘I’m flying, I’m free, it’s the best day of my life!’ Absolutely, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

If you were speechless throughout the flight, it’s because of the scenery awaiting you in the sky. The Swiss Alps, Lake Lucerne, Lucerne, Engelberg, and Emmetten will all be yours to see.

Don’t have any idea how to use a paraglider? You need not worry because you will be accompanied by a professional pilot. All you need to do is enjoy the moment in the air and marvel at the spectacular scenery below you!

10. Day Trip To Jungfrau Region

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Visual summary of what you can see in the Jungfrau Region

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Personally, I’d recommend spending at least 4 days in the Jungfrau Region. It’s packed with all the beautiful natural scenery and unforgettable adventures you’re looking for. However, there are cases where it’s okay to spend only one day here. One such case is a quick Switzerland getaway. Of course, another is a three-day stay in Lucerne.

Both located in central Switzerland, a day trip to the Jungfrau Region from Lucerne is totally viable. You can get to Interlaken (the main transport hub of the Jungfrau Region) from Lucerne with just an hour of driving. Alternatively, the travel time is no more than two hours if you ride on the fastest train. As soon as you arrive in Interlaken, Harder Kulm, Lake Brienz, Lake Thun, and Lauterbrunnen are just a stone’s throw away.

Here’s how I can explain Jungfrau Region…

Have you heard about the valley in Switzerland called “heaven-on-earth?” It’s called Lauterbrunnen—the inspiration of J.R.R Tolkien for Rivendell (the home of the elves in his book, Lord of The Rings). Lauterbrunnen is one of the most spectacular places you’ll ever find in Switzerland. Like, absolutely! It’s a valley of 72 waterfalls, and one of the waterfalls cascades right just beside the Lauterbrunnen village. 

Lauterbrunnen view from Wengen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen view from Wengen

The thing is, Lauterbrunnen is only one of the awe-inspiring places in the Jungfrau Region. From the subterranean roaring Trummelbach Falls to the glittering bluish turquoise water of Lake Brienz and to the marvelous Aletsch Glacier, 4000+ meters above sea level—all are remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences you wouldn’t want to miss. 

Trummelbach Falls, Aletsch Glacier, Lake Brienz, Mannlichen - natural tourist attractions in the Jungfrau region, Switzerland
Trummelbach Falls, Aletsch Glacier, Lake Brienz, Mannlichen – natural tourist attractions in the Jungfrau region

Also, the Jungfrau Region has something for you, whether it’s just a revitalizing hike you like or epic adventures you want. And if these are the experiences you are looking for, try going to Grindelwald. Grindelwald is the village in the Jungfrau Region where all the adventurous activities happen. Do you like jumping in the middle of the gorge and then swinging on a rope after a split second in free fall? Ziplines? Rafting? Canyoneering? You can have all of it here.

Tourist attractions in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Tourist attractions in Grindelwald

There’s a lot more you can visit and experience in the Jungfrau Region, and they are so exciting. Overwhelming—I think it’s the better term to describe them! With all the activities and places I just said above, it can be hard to choose where to go for a day trip to the Jungfrau Region from Lucerne. If you’re undecided, you might like to visit the region’s ultimate tourist attraction: Jungfraujoch.

Jungfrau Massif_ Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau seen from Murren, Switzerland
Jungfrau Massif: Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau seen from Murren

Jungfraujoch is the saddle between Jungfrau and Mönch, two of the legendary 4000-meter peaks of the Bernese Oberland. It’s also the highest railway station in Europe, where you can spot the start of the Aletsch Glacier. Visiting Jungfraujoch, you are also given a chance to enter a glacier, ski even during the summer, and see one of the highest observatories in Europe. 

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland
Jungfraujoch

Are you excited to visit the Jungfrau Region? Check this list of Jungfrau Region day trips from Lucerne. They can help you get the best of the Jungfrau Region without hassle or thorough planning.

More Information

So, that’s all! That’s how I think you can spend three or more days in Lucerne. Below are some helpful links which have the information to help you visit different tourist attractions in Lucerne. 

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Actually, there’s another place you can visit on a day trip from Lucerne: Bern, the capital of Switzerland. If you’re into architecture and picturesque streets, you’ll enjoy spending a day in Bern during your 3-day stay in Lucerne. Bern and Lucerne are just an hour apart by train. Alternatively, you can also spend half a day in Bern and complement it with a walking tour in the beautiful Old Town of Thun. Thun, a town south of Bern, is just 30 minutes away by train. Serving as the gateway to the Bernese Oberland, Thun has a castle that offers a picture-perfect view of Lake Thun and the mountains of the Jungfrau Region. This could be an excellent day trip option during your stay in Lucerne.

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