Chapel Bridge: Visiting The Famous Wooden Bridge In Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge is one of Switzerland’s most iconic and famous landmarks. Everyone agrees—even the internet! Like, if you search “Switzerland” in Google Image search, surely you’ll find a photo of the Chapel Bridge on the first page of your search.

As an enthusiast of old-world architecture, I so much appreciate time-transporting medieval buildings like the Chapel Bridge. It really caught my attention when I first saw it. Not only is it a quaint bridge, but it’s also unique—thanks to its eye-catching tower!

What’s more interesting than the quaintness of the Chapel Bridge? The archives of Lucerne’s past inside the bridge. And today, you’ll discover them in this post, along with the tips and everything you must know when visiting the Chapel Bridge. Sounds great? Let’s go!

I’m excited to show you how beautiful the Chapel Bridge is and tell you the things that make it famous. For me, it is one of the reasons why anyone would like to travel to Lucerne.

I’ll explain further why… But first, let me properly introduce the Chapel Bridge to you. So, what is this Famous bridge in Lucerne all about?

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Panorama of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (up) and Seebrücke (down) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Panorama of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (up) and Seebrücke (down)
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Introduction to Chapel Bridge

The Chapel Bridge, or the Kapellbrücke (the German name of the bridge), is one of Lucerne’s covered wooden pedestrian bridges across the Reuss River, spanning 204 meters or 672 feet.

It was built in the mid-14th century and was named after St. Peter’s Chapel. Today, it is one of the buildings labeled Cultural Property of National Significance that you can find in Switzerland.

Like most centuries-old buildings, the Chapel Bridge has undergone repairs.

However, although the Chapel Bridge was already modified and repaired in the past, you can expect it to be a quaint structure with preserved old-world appearance. Its last major restoration occurred in 1994, entailed by a fire incident in 1993.  

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Chapel Bridge's tower behind the wooden pathway (view from Bahnhofstrasse) in Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge’s tower behind the wooden pathway (view from Bahnhofstrasse)
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I linked the whole story of Chapel Bridge’s restoration at the end of this post if you want to learn about the whole incident. The images in it are really saddening, though. But they should clear your expectations of the Chapel Bridge.

Fascinatingly, despite the Chapel Bridge’s age and all the incidents, it is still being used by pedestrians who want to move from Bahnhofstrasse to Theaterplatz and vice versa. According to statistics, more than 13,000 people use the bridge every day on average!

When you visit Lucerne, you can and will most probably count yourself as one of the thousands of people who have strolled in the Chapel Bridge. During your stroll, you’ll pass by a souvenir shop in the Wasserturm (or Water Tower). 

The exact date when the Water Tower was erected is unknown, but some say it’s decades older than the Chapel Bridge. Since it was built, it has served several purposes: prison, a city archive, and a local treasury. 

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Like me, you might also be curious about what’s inside the Water Tower.

Sadly, the Water Tower is not open to the public, and you can’t come inside whenever you want. However, there’s still a way to see what’s inside. That’s by contacting Lucerne Artillery Association, the tenant of the Water Tower since 1937. They offer tours inside the Water Tower.

See Lucerne Artillery Association’s official website, linked at the end of the post.

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Chapel Bridge — Why Is It Famous?

Did you know?

The world mourned when the Chapel Bridge was caught in the 1993 fire incident. It was in the headlines of major news publications and was broadcasted on television. Surely, the Chapel Bridge was really famous even before tourism became mainstream.

So, what made the Chapel Bridge so famous?

Aside from being a landmark in Lucerne which many believe is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the Chapel Bridge is the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge and Europe’s oldest covered wooden bridge. These titles echo around the world, luring countless travelers every year.

In the digital age, the Chapel Bridge has also become a symbol of Switzerland on many digital platforms and social media networks. You can show the Chapel Bridge picture to anyone who likes traveling, and there’s a big chance that they already know it’s in Switzerland.

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Day and night view inside Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
Day and night view inside Chapel Bridge
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Another reason why the Chapel Bridge is famous is because of the triangular paintings placed under its roof. These artworks are unique and “closely linked to the history of the Swiss Confederation and its neighboring countries.” 

So, are you already excited to see this ultimately remarkable landmark in Lucerne?

Before we get to more details about Chapel Bridge, I think you’d also like to see other tourist attractions in Lucerne like the Dying Lion Monument, Jesuit Church, Mount Pilatus, the Church of Saint Leodegar (Hofkirche) and Musegg Wall. Check them out! (Links open in a new tab)

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Where Is Chapel Bridge?

Finding the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne is not a problem.

If you arrive at Lucerne by train, you can already see the Chapel Bridge a few steps after you emerge from Lucerne’s main train station. You should be able to spot it faster if you stand in front of the massive arched gate (Torbogen Luzern) in front of the train station.

But, to be specific, the Chapel Bridge is one of the bridges crossing the Reuss River, connecting Bahnhonfstrasse and Rathausquai. It is the second bridge from Lake Lucerne, with Rathausteg Bridge on the west and Seebrücke (Bridge) on the east.

Among the places mentioned, Seebrücke is the best panorama vantage point of the Chapel Bridge, but not necessarily the most picturesque view. From Seebrücke, you’ll see a panorama of the Chapel Bridge with Lucerne’s old city’s beautiful buildings lining River Reuss.

Now that you can already find the Chapel Bridge let’s see when you can visit it.

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Chapel Bridge Visiting Information

Anytime you can visit the Chapel Bridge as the public can access it 24 hours a day. The bridge is also free of charge—you can just walk into the Chapel Bridge unlimited times. By the way, Chapel Bridge is wheelchair-accessible and has WiFi throughout the bridge. 

Once a year, the city conducts a light show (Lilu Light Festival) on the Water Tower. It can be an opportunity to better enjoy your trip to the Chapel Bridge and Lucerne.

So, if you plan to visit, please check Chapel Bridge’s official website or Lucerne’s tourism website first to see if there are announcements. 

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When To See Chapel Bridge?

Although you can see the Chapel Bridge anytime you want, there’s a specific time of the day or year when it becomes more spectacular.

To see Chapel Bridge’s best appearance, you should visit an hour before the sunset (golden hour) until the night during the summertime. Avoid visiting the Chapel Bridge midday, particularly during the peak season, when hundreds of people swarm into the bridge.

Let me show you what the Chapel Bridge looks like when it is summer, golden hour, and evening.

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Summer time — most colorful

Undoubtedly, Summer is the best time of the year to visit Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. This season, the Chapel Bridge is decorated with colorful flowers, making the bridge a feast for the eye. It’s also the period with most days of sunshine—when the bridge and its elaborations look more attractive with better contrasts and stunning vibrant colors.

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The view of the town hall from the Chapel Bridge summertime in Lucerne, Switzerland
The view of the town hall from the Chapel Bridge summertime
Beautiful flower-embellished appearance of the Chapel Bridge during summer in Lucerne, Switzerland
Beautiful flower-embellished appearance of the Chapel Bridge during summer
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During the summer, the Chapel Bridge should look beautiful all day. However, you should also consider seeing the bridge during the special hours of the day. Particularly the golden hour which usually takes place 1 hour before sunrise or another hour before sunset. 

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Golden hour — most picturesque

If you like taking photos, I encourage you to stay a day or two in Lucerne, so you have more chances of seeing the Chapel Bridge showing its most picturesque appearance during the golden hour.

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Golden hour view of the Chapel Bridge's tower from Bahnhofstrasse in Lucerne, Switzerland
Golden hour view of the Chapel Bridge’s tower from Bahnhofstrasse
Chapel Bridge during the golden hour in Lucerne, Switzerland
Chapel Bridge during the golden hour
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During the golden hour, the sunlight with a warm hue hits the bridge at a lower angle, letting you see/photograph a dramatic scene of the Chapel Bridge. For me, the scene inside the Chapel Bridge during this time seems straight out of a movie!

You should also try going to Seebrücke or Bahnhofstrasse for a silhouette appearance of the Chapel Bridge under the sky painted with warm light. Try taking pictures closer to the water so you may include the reflection of the Chapel Bridge on the surface of the river.

Suppose you want to take pictures of the Chapel Bridge a golden hour after sunrise. In that case, I suggest you go to Rathaussteg Bridge, located west of the Chapel Bridge. It has beautiful curly railings, which you can use as a “frame” for more stunning Chapel Bridge photos.

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Night — most spectacular

Sometimes, the weather can be cloudy when you visit Lucerne. If that is the case, you might not be able to see the golden hour appearance of the Chapel Bridge. Gloomy weather can be a bummer for seeing Chapel Bridge’s most lovely appearance during the day, but it doesn’t matter at night.

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View of Chapel Bridge from Rathausquai (Night) in Lucerne, Switzerland
View of Chapel Bridge from Rathausquai (Night)
View of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (south end) in Lucerne, Switzerland
View of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (south end)
Zoomed-in view of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (south end) in Lucerne, Switzerland For Landscape
Zoomed-in view of Chapel Bridge from Rathaussteg (south end)
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The Chapel Bridge appears like a light tunnel at night, looking spectacular because the water reflects its light. The glittering city lights of the old city’s buildings are the backdrop of the Chapel Bridge. I think it’s a very romantic sight for a romantic date with someone you want to live forever with.

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Inside The Chapel Bridge

Do you know what makes the Chapel Bridge more interesting? It’s the triangular paintings under the roof of the bridge. They’re more than just elaborations but fascinating masterpieces depicting some of the historical events in Lucerne and Switzerland.

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Entrance of Chapel Bridge from Rathausquai in Lucerne, Switzerland
Entrance of Chapel Bridge from Rathausquai
Triangular paintings on the roof of the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
Triangular paintings on the roof of the Chapel Bridge
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Whether you are from the Rathausquai or Bahnhofstrasse, you can immediately see triangular paintings even before you enter the bridge.

You will notice that some parts of the Chapel Bridge no longer have these triangular paintings. Those parts of the bridge, including the artworks, were burned in the 1993 fire incident. Out of the 158, only 62 paintings remain.

It’s sad that most of them vanished from the fire. Most importantly because they are a part of the cycles of paintings created in the 17th-century Lucerne. You can find the other paintings on Spreuer Bridge.

Don’t you agree? It would be so nice if they still existed today… Like, it must be fantastic to see the complete set of some of the most important artworks in Switzerland!

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One of the paintings on the roof of the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
One of the paintings on the roof of the Chapel Bridge
Beautiful array of paintings on the roof the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland
Beautiful array of paintings on the roof the Chapel Bridge
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Some of the paintings you can find in the Chapel Bridge are called “The Killing of Amasa,” “The Night of Murder of Lucerne,” “The Musegg Procession,” and “It Doesn’t Go Quite So Well With The Dragon.”

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How Long To Visit The Chapel Bridge

You can finish a stroll on the bridge within only a few minutes (I measured 3 to 5 minutes). Still, I suggest giving at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to have a full experience of the Chapel Bridge. An hour of a visit includes:

  1. Appreciating the Chapel Bridge from the cafes or restaurants along Rathausquai while sipping a hot coffee or chocolate. (30 minutes)
  2. Strolling on the bridge to see the triangular paintings. I suggest you stroll the bridge back and forth because there are artworks on the opposite sides of the bridge’s roof truss. (15 minutes)
  3. Taking pictures of the different parts and scenes of the bridge. (15 minutes) 
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Inside the Chapel Bridge at night in Lucerne, Switzerland
Inside the Chapel Bridge at night
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Do you need more ideas where to go in Lucerne? I can help you with that! You can try reading: 10 Must-See Landmarks In Lucerne (Free Things To Do), 10 Unique Things To Do In Lucerne and Lucerne Is A Beautiful City: 10 Beautiful Things To See. (Links open in a new tab)

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Sources: Chapel Bridge

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