1-Day Lucerne Itinerary: Old Town and Nearby Attractions

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Only 50 minutes away from Zurich, Lucerne is usually the first stop for many travelers en route to the Swiss Alps. And it’s easy to understand why. Packed with unique experiences, beautiful sights, and free-to-visit landmarks, Lucerne is a compelling destination. Anyone can simply look at the map of Old Town Lucerne and be quickly convinced!

As a wanderer, I can’t emphasize enough how unmissable Lucerne is. There’s a tranquility within this city that’s uncommon elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the lake and alpine scenery visible straight from the Old Town that does the charm. Deciding to visit Lucerne, even for a day during your Switzerland trip, is undoubtedly decision you will not regret.

The Old Town Lucerne, by the way, is the highlight of any visit to Lucerne. After exploring the Old Town, I can bet that anyone who visited it must have taken more than a dozen photos. From the quays of the Reuss River to the promenades along the shores of Lake Lucerne, Old Town Lucerne is just so picturesque! Not to mention the mural-adorned houses in its squares. Exploring Old Town Lucerne shouldn’t be missed, whether you’re a wanderer or not. Everything else comes as a lower priority.

In this one-day Lucerne itinerary, that’s our approach. We’ll make sure that you’ll see the highlights, eye-pleasing, and picture-perfect sights in Old Town Lucerne. However, typically, it takes half a day to explore Old Town Lucerne. So, for the rest of the day, we’ll allocate time to visiting nearby attractions. Good to know: although you have a choice, you don’t have to leave Lucerne to enjoy the remaining time of your one-day visit. Amazing attractions are also within the city or municipality of Lucerne. Getting there won’t take much time. No time will be wasted on the road.

Indeed, with this one-day itinerary, you’ll make the most of your trip to the beautiful city of Lucerne. Take note, I also have a suggestion for the night. Even the evening of your trip to Lucerne will be fantastic. Let’s make your trip to Lucerne so beautiful that it will be unforgettable!

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Best things to do in one day in Lucerne, Switzerland
In 4 pictures: The visual summary of a one-day visit to Lucerne
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Morning: Exploring the Old Town

Impressions you might also have in exploring Old Town Lucerne

Born in a developing country, I have always admired Europe for the immaculate public transportation in its cities. The commuting system in Europe offers a uniquely excellent experience for us, and Lucerne is no exception.

I am confident that you will find exploring Lucerne both fun and convenient. A comprehensive bus system interlinks different parts of the city, enabling you to quickly reach various parts of Lucerne right after your arrival by train.

However, if you wish to see all the landmarks and places of interest, particularly in Old Town Lucerne, you may not need to use public transportation. It’s compact and highly walkable, with tourist attractions just a few minutes’ walk from each other.

I’m certain that you’ll enjoy wandering on foot in Old Town Lucerne. Even more, because a visit feels like stepping into a world frozen in the Middle Ages. Pointy towers, narrow cobblestone streets, and colorful old-world houses make up the scenes within the old town. Picturesque scenes are everywhere! Walking from one tourist attraction to another can indeed be fun.

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Why visit Old Town Lucerne in the morning?

The fact is, the places of interest in Old Town are already Lucerne’s main attractions. Given this, and the fact that Old Town is very accessible from the train station, it seems appropriate to explore Old Town Lucerne in the morning upon your arrival in the city.

Another reason to visit Old Town Lucerne in the morning is that it’s less crowded then. You’ll be able to explore the area and the various tourist destinations in Old Town more easily. This is particularly true for the Chapel Bridge, which is sometimes swarmed by an army of tourists wearing audio guides around midday. These tourists typically arrive in Lucerne as part of a group tour package, which usually starts at 9:00 am or 10:00 am.

That’s why I believe you should begin your trip to Lucerne early in the morning. If you can start exploring around eight in the morning, even better. You might enjoy staying in the old city and exploring until lunchtime, given the wide variety of restaurants within it.

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Assuming that you’ll be starting your day in Lucerne from the train station, here’s a list of the tourist destinations you can follow in sequence: Chapel Bridge -> Jesuit Church -> Spreuer Bridge -> Musegg Wall -> Lion Monument -> Hofkirche (Church of Saint Leodegar) -> Old Town Lucerne Squares.

Good to know: The places of interest in Lucerne mentioned can be visited on a sightseeing/DIY Old Town Lucerne walking tour. If exploration assistance is needed, it’s advisable to have a local guide accompany you. Below are brief overview of each destination.

Destination 1: Chapel Bridge

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Chapel Bridge, 1st destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge
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Among the landmarks in Lucerne, the Chapel Bridge is one I’m sure you’d love to see. Quaint, picturesque, unique… it even houses paintings that offer a glimpse into the history of Lucerne and Switzerland! If you have time, I recommend reading my article about the Chapel Bridge for more tips and information.

Quick summary of Chapel Bridge + impressions & tips

Actually, visiting the Chapel Bridge might feel like a privilege as it’s Europe’s oldest covered wooden bridge and also the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge! Dating back to the 14th century, stepping on such a special place is an amazing experience. If you’re lucky, you might even spot graceful swans swimming under the bridge, adding an extra touch of magic to your visit.

The Chapel Bridge diagonally crosses the Reuss River and is a 1 to 2-minute walk from the train station. Adjacent to the Chapel Bridge is the Water Tower, easily visible near Torbogen Luzern (Archway), a landmark and remnant of Lucerne’s old train station. A visit here typically lasts for a few minutes to 15 minutes.

I usually suggest visiting the Chapel Bridge during the golden hour and evening, but since you’re visiting Lucerne for a day, it would still be nice to visit the Chapel Bridge at any time.

Destination 2: Jesuit Church

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Jesuit Church, 2nd destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Jesuit Church
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From the Chapel Bridge, you can already spot the Jesuit Church — Lucerne’s “don’t judge a book by its cover” attraction. From the outside, it might seem like just a large, simple church. But step inside, and your eyes will feast on its details! I am visually overwhelmed by the baroque and rococo elements inside the Jesuit Church, particularly in its side chapels. Check out my post about the Jesuit Church to see more photos.

Why visit Jesuit Church + what to expect inside

Aside from its visually mesmerizing interiors, what makes the Jesuit Church a notable landmark in Lucerne is the reason it was built. The Jesuit Church is one of the first large baroque churches built north of the Alps, created to counter the influence of Protestantism in the region. The visually stunning interiors are on full display to bolster the culture of Catholicism in Lucerne.

Visiting the Jesuit Church is primarily a sightseeing activity, and could last no more than 15 or 20 minutes. But certainly, if you’re an architecture enthusiast and a Catholic like me, you’ll be spending much more time here. This church is also home to relics of saints and religious artworks, truly inspiring for prayer if you’re a believer.

Destination 3: Spreuer Bridge

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Spreuer Bridge, 3rd destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Spreuer Bridge
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Lucerne once had three wooden bridges, but now only two remain. Besides the Chapel Bridge, there’s the Spreuer Bridge in Old Town. You might wonder why visit the Spreuer Bridge if it’s similar to the Chapel Bridge. The answer is its unique triangular paintings. The Spreuer Bridge boasts the largest collection of Danse Macabre paintings.

More Information about Danse Macabre and Spreuer Bridge

What’s unique about the cycle of paintings of Danse Macabre in Spreuer Bridge? Each one features at least one skeleton, often several, who are there to take people to the afterlife. You’ll see monks, knights, nuns, and beggars all being taken by death, no matter their circumstances in life. The images and texts of the Lucerne Danse Macabre are there to remind us that death is always present, whether we’re in the city, the country, or at sea.

It’s a stark reminder of our mortality as we cross the bridge. It emphasizes that death comes for us all, whether we’re old or young, rich or poor. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking sight, surely! By the way, these paintings were created between 1616 and 1637 by painter Kaspar Meglinger.

The Spreuer Bridge is not far from the Jesuit Church—the previous tourist attraction. Depending on how fast you walk, getting to the Spreuer Bridge from the Jesuit Church is only around 5 to 10 minutes. Exploring Spreuer Bridge, I’m sure you’ll find several photo opportunities. The surrounding area gives you a beautiful perspective of the Jesuit Church, Reuss River, Hotel Château Gütsch, and Musegg Wall—your next destination.

Destination 4: Musegg Wall

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Musegg Wall, 4th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Musegg Wall
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Of all the places in Old Town Lucerne, I find Musegg Wall the most nostalgic and time-transporting. This 14th-century medieval fortification is among the most intact and well-preserved in Switzerland. When you visit, you can expect to see impressive medieval military architecture, discover clockwork mechanisms, have a thrilling experience walking on the ramparts, and behold a breathtaking view of Lucerne. Curious? Here’s everything you need to know about Musegg Wall.

Short summary of what you can experience in Musegg Wall + tips

Let’s say you’re currently at the northern entrance of the Spreuer Bridge (Mühlenplatz). If so, it will only take about 5 minutes on foot to reach Nölliturm, the first tower of Musegg Wall from the Reuss River. Fun fact: Musegg Wall is approximately 900 meters long and has 9 towers standing along its length.

You can climb four of Musegg Wall’s towers, but the one you shouldn’t miss is Männliturm—the only tower with an open viewing deck on top. It’s the tower next to Nölliturm, and from there, 360-degree panoramic views of the city, lake, and the Alps await you.

Zytturm is the most famous among the towers, thanks to its mural-embellished facade facing Old Town Lucerne. As its name suggests, it’s a clock tower, but not just any ordinary clock tower! You can go inside to see exhibits of different clocks and clockwork.

Note: Musegg Wall’s towers are only open during non-winter months. During peak season, when all parts of the wall are accessible to tourists, you can expect to spend one to two hours.

Destination 5: Lion Monument

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Lion Monument, 5th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Lion Monument
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Lucerne is home to two really famous landmarks. The first one is the Chapel Bridge and the second is the Lion Monument, which is so famous that it’s replicated all over the world. This monument is not just a piece of art; it’s a powerful and beautiful symbol. I think it is Michelangelo’s Madonna della Pietà of Switzerland. Mark Twain even described it as ‘the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.’ Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Lion Monument in Lucerne.

What does the Lion Monument of Lucerne mean?

In a nutshell, the Lion Monument of Lucerne is a giant sculpture of a lion, carved out of a cliff. In pictures, this sculpture doesn’t appear that large, but in reality, it measures 10 meters by 6 meters! This monument pays tribute to the Swiss Guards who lost their lives in 1792 during the French Revolution.

The monument depicts a lion, mortally wounded, lying on a shield with a spear sticking out of its side. This scene symbolizes the bravery and sacrifice of the Swiss Guards during the storming of the Tuileries Palace in Paris. There’s a Latin inscription that reads ‘Helvetiorum fidei ac virtuti’, which translates to ‘To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss’.

The Lion Monument is located to the east of Old Town Lucerne. From Schirmerturm, the 6th tower of the Musegg Wall from the Reuss River, the Lion Monument is approximately a 10- to 15-minute walk along Museggstrasse.

Destination 6: Hofkirche (Church of Saint Leodegar)

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Hofkirche, 6th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Hofkirche
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Suppose you walk southeast from the Lion Monument towards Lake Lucerne. In that case, you’ll stumble upon a church with eye-catching gigantic pointed twin spires. This church is known as Hofkirche or the Church of Saint Leodegar—the parish church of Lucerne. It’s a picturesque spot perfect for a photo souvenir of Lucerne. Approach its facade and step inside to see eye-catching religious artworks, woodcrafts, and stonecrafts. You can see all the beautiful things I saw in Hofkirche in my separate blog post.

Destination 7: Old Town Lucerne Squares 

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Old Town, 7th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Old Town
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After sightseeing in the notable landmarks of Old Town Lucerne, your stomach will likely be complaining. Growling, “we need to eat!!! LOL. Well, that’s two to three hours of walking, exploring, and taking photos! Fortunately, you don’t have to leave Old Town Lucerne to replenish. This part of Lucerne boasts a wide range of restaurants, cafés, and fast food stores. The last time I checked, it’s here that you’ll find fast food like Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.

But did you know that it’s not only your tummy that will be satisfied in Old Town Lucerne? Some parts of Old Town Lucerne are a feast for the eyes, and you can mostly find them in the squares of the Old Town (Hirschenplatz, Sternenplatz, Weinmarkt, and Kornmarkt). There are lovely fountains and fascinating houses decorated with murals — little gems you can discover as you explore the city. In case you missed it, here’s my map of Old Town Lucerne showing where these beautiful squares are located.

You might want to try an alternative and fancier lunch experience: a 1st Class Cruise on Lake Lucerne with a gourmet lunch.

Afternoon: Lake Lucerne or Swiss Transport Museum

Lucerne offers travelers experiences mainly categorized into two: city and nature. City—architecture and history; nature—lake and mountains. A trip to Lucerne without experiencing both might feel like missing half of what Lucerne has to offer. This is why I think it is a good idea to visit the Old Town in the morning and engage in nature-related activities in the afternoon.

You can try exploring Lucerne on foot and by boat or flying above the city on a tandem-paragliding flight — an exhilarating experience! There are options for you. Here’s a list of the best Lucerne tours and excursions to try.

However, after spending all morning in the Old City walking, standing, and even climbing towers with a hundred-step stairs, wouldn’t it be better to engage in some relaxing nature activities in the afternoon? Soaking up the calming views of the lake would be nice, wouldn’t it? Therefore, I preferably suggest relaxing by Lake Lucerne or at Meggenhorn Castle. Alternatively, if you still have energy, the Swiss Transport Museum is the place to be.

Destination 8: Lake Lucerne

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Lake Lucerne, 8th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Lake Lucerne
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Lake Lucerne is undoubtedly the most accessible natural attraction you can explore right after you have lunch in the Old Town. The shore of Lake Lucerne is literally part of the Old Town! You can visit Luzern Schweizerhofquai (the narrow park in front of Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern) or Lucerne Promenade, the lakeside park near Hofkirche. Both parks offer nice views, benches, and tree cover. They are pleasant spots for relaxing and watching graceful swans play with their cygnets.

For a better experienc of Lake Lucerne…

Try Lucerne Promenade. It’s more expansive, and there are spots to hang out with less traffic noise. It also has the Pavillon am Nationalquai, which sometimes hosts concerts. I’m not sure about the schedule of the events, though.

What’s so nice about this lakeside promenade is that it’s incredibly long. It stretches from the Old Town all the way to the Swiss Transport Museum on the outskirts of the city. Calming and picturesque views of the lake and Mount Pilatus await you there. It is another place to wander and have pleasant sightseeing. You can also find several cafés and restaurants, beautiful buildings (Grand Hotel National, Grand Casino Luzern, Mandarin Oriental Palace), wide open lawns, and Instagram-worthy docks along Lucerne Promenade.

Of course, there’s no better way to see Lake Lucerne than a boat ride—letting you see the heavenly parts of Lake Lucerne. Boat tours often include sightseeing of the picturesque countryside, villas, and magical castles around the lake. For example, consider this 1-Hour Cruise on a Panoramic Yacht in Lake Lucerne.

Destination 9: Meggenhorn Castle

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Meggenhorn Castle, 9th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Meggenhorn Castle
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As a wanderer, I find Meggenhorn Castle to be the most attractive place in Lucerne outside the Old Town. This castle, inspired by Châteaux Chambord in the Loire Valley in France, is a must-see if you’re looking for something amazing off-the-beaten-path. While it may not be as marvelous as the castle in France, Meggenhorn Castle offers not found in Chambord. Perched on a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne, the panoramic views from Meggenhorn Castle include the city of Lucerne, Mount Pilatus, Mount Rigi, and more! It’s absolutely straight out of a fairytale.

What to expect in Meggenhorn Castle + how to get there + tips

Similar to what you’re supposed to do at Lake Lucerne, there’s not much to do at Meggenhorn Castle other than to relax with fun and take in the beautiful scenery. If you like, you can hang out by the alfresco seats of the castle’s restaurant while taking in the wonderful view of the lake below.

If you’ve been to Lake Como in Italy, you’ll feel its vibe at Meggenhorn Castle.

After taking a break, you can explore the castle grounds. A vineyard, an idyllic-looking dock, and a marvelous chapel await. As a lover of old-world architecture, the chapel greatly captured my attention. The chapel is small, but it’s silently screaming, asking to be photographed. The church is Neo-Gothic in architecture, which is why you can expect it to be really eye-catching.

The last time I checked, Meggenhorn Castle accepts visitors inside, but only for guided tours. Please check their official website for more information.

Meggenhorn Castle is outside the Old City, but that doesn’t mean that reaching it would be difficult. All it takes to get there is one bus (#24) to Meggen from the Lucerne train station and a 15-minute hike to the castle compound.

For a more convenient and special experience, you might like to check out the Lucerne Lakeside and Villas Private Walking tour. It’s a 4-hour tour that starts at 1:30 pm. The tour is perfect after exploring the Old Town and having your lunch. Aside from Meggenhorn Castle, you’ll also visit some nostalgic-looking chalets and villas near Lucerne.

Afternoon Alternative Activity: Swiss Transport Museum

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Swiss Transport Museum, 10th destination for 1 day itinerary Lucerne, Switzerland
Swiss Transport Museum
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If the weather doesn’t allow for a lake cruise or a visit to Meggenhorn Castle, the Swiss Transport Museum is definitely your go-to spot. It’s the most fantastic museum in Lucerne, and it offers enjoyment for travelers of all ages. I can think of a few reasons why the Swiss Transport Museum is worth your time, even if the weather is totally pleasant, though. First and foremost, it’s the largest museum of its kind in Switzerland, housing a wide range of exhibits about transportation and communication, including trains, planes, automobiles, and boats!

Why visit? What to expect in Swiss Transport Museum + how to go there…

In addition to its exhibits, the museum features Switzerland’s largest cinema screen in its Filmtheater, where you can watch documentary films in XXL format. The museum also boasts the country’s largest, most modern planetarium, offering 360-degree flights to the stars.

And if you think there’s more to find here, you’re right! Within the museum compound lies The Red Bull Media World, where you can virtually climb the Matterhorn in a VR experience called “Red Bull The Edge.” There’s another kind of adventure, though. It’s called the Swiss Chocolate Adventure, and travelers with a sweet tooth would definitely love it! If you’re curious about how Swiss Chocolates are made, this activity will let you discover the process.

If you want to learn more about the Swiss Transport Museum, you may check their official website or this link, which contains more descriptions about the Swiss Transport Museum. You can also book your entry pass to the Swiss Transport Museum through the link.

You may need at least four to five hours to see and try every part of the Swiss Transport Museum. It will be enough to keep you busy and entertained for an entire afternoon if you prefer it over the experiences in Lake Lucerne.

Getting to the Swiss Transport Museum is straightforward. From the Lucerne train station, just hop on bus #6, #8, or #24. Travel time shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes.

Night: Night Watchman

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Night in Lucerne, Switzerland
Night in Lucerne
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If you’re staying in Lucerne until the evening, I encourage you to join the Old Town tour with the night watchman. The Night Watchman tour is likely one of the best and most unique walking tours in Lucerne for discovering the city’s history. You’ll be strolling through the city with a night watchman, who will share some of the most fascinating stories about Lucerne and its intriguing landmarks.

Spoiler (What to expect during a tour with the Night Watchman)

In a nutshell, the night watchman was a person who patrolled the streets of a city or town during the night to ensure the safety of the community. The night watchman would typically carry a lantern and a large staff, making rounds through the streets, ringing a bell or calling out to announce their presence.

The tour often starts with everyone examining a city map dating from 1597, which provides an overview of the attractions and neighborhoods that will be visited during the tour. Some of the places you’ll see are Kapellplatz and Furrengasse, where the night watchman narrates life in medieval Lucerne and the Swiss art of war.

One part of the tour that might stick in your mind is when the night watchman shares his own life and the stories of other personalities from Lucerne’s past. He will paint a picture in your imagination of scenes in Lucerne with the medieval law in effect, as well as the stories about the stonemason Hans von Trient and his adversary, Luzius Ritter.

The legend of the night of murder in Lucerne and the night of the fire in 1833 will both be included in the tales that the night watchman will tell.

The tour of Old Town Lucerne with the night watchman usually lasts for an hour and a half.

Summary

This concludes this itinerary.

To sum it up, your trip to Lucerne begins at 8:00 am. It starts at the train station, where you can find the highlights and top landmarks in Old Town Lucerne within walking distance. The walking tour of Old Town Lucerne would take up approximately 4 hours. By 12 noon, you’ll have your lunch. You can have your lunch anywhere in the Old Town, but you have different options like a lunch on a cruise or a picnic in the city’s idyllic lakeside promenades.

If the weather is perfect in the afternoon, you can simply relax by the lake and then visit Meggenhorn Castle. It’s a great way to unwind after exploring the Old Town. If the weather isn’t cooperating, the Swiss Transport Museum is the place to go. This amazing museum is home to some of Switzerland’s top and most impressive exhibitions, which are not only about different vehicles but also offer a fun, tech-oriented experience.

If you plan to stay in Lucerne until the night, join the Night Watchman tour of Old Town for a fascinating storytelling experience about Lucerne’s history.

Should you decide to extend your trip to Lucerne, consider checking out this 2-day Lucerne itinerary. In that itinerary, I’ve incorporated a visit to Mount Pilatus which is a beautiful day trip from Lucerne. If you’re looking to make Lucerne your base for exploring central Switzerland and visiting nearby attractions, here’s a 3-day Lucerne itinerary.

Alright! Are you planning to stay Lucerne for more than a day? I recommend using my partner’s hotel search and booking platform. It offers some of the best hotel deals, including free cancellations and reward points, which you’ll definitely find useful. This link is an affiliate link, but if you book through it, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can think of it as a way to support WanderInEurope, enabling me to create more helpful posts like this one. Thank you for your support!

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Still planning your trip to Switzerland? My 4-day Switzerland itinerary allows you to explore Lucerne, Bern, and parts of the Swiss Alps on an extended weekend getaway. You’ll spend two days in Lucerne and another two days in Bern and the Bernese Oberland. For a week-long trip, you can combine this 1-day Lucerne itinerary with my 6-day Switzerland itinerary, which focuses on Bern and the Bernese Oberland. This includes visits to attractions in the Jungfrau Region like Lake Thun, Interlaken, and Lauterbrunnen. Lastly, if you only have 5 days to spend in Switzerland, you might consider using my 4-day Jungfrau Region itinerary to explore the rest of the country after spending one day in Lucerne. It’s a budget-friendly itinerary, perfect for those who want to enjoy their trip without worrying about the bills afterwards. That’s all for now! Enjoy your travels in Switzerland!

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