Luxury in Lucerne: An Elevated Guide to the Swiss City

Italy’s lakes often get all the glory, but don’t sleep on Switzerland.

lake and city of lucerne switzerland
Lucerne. Uwe Conrad

Italy’s lakes often get all the glory, but don’t sleep on Switzerland. The Swiss landscape boasts equally stunning lakes, including the particularly scenic Lake Lucerne. 

Located at the base of the Swiss Alps, the vast body of water is the country’s fourth largest lake. It’s also home to Lucerne, a charming city tinged with medieval history, a love of art and culture and views that no camera can properly capture. The city is accessible by train from Zurich (you can arrive directly from the airport in less than two hours) as well as from Basel and Geneva. Once in Lucerne, visitors can easily walk or cycle, or even hop on a boat. 

The city of Lucerne centers itself directly on the lake, divided by the Reuss river, and its Old Town is the most popular draw. Visitors can cross the Chapel Bridge, which dates back to the 1300s, or visit the famed Lion Monument, carved in the face of the cliff. There’s plenty to do in the city itself, from museums and boat tours to shopping and dining, and the nearby Mount Pilatus also offers hiking, sightseeing and mountain biking. Whether you’re visiting over a long weekend or planning a longer jaunt in Switzerland, Lucerne offers the tranquility of a resort getaway with the ease and convenience of a city trip. Here’s what you need to know. 

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Where to Stay

a light bedroom with corner windows
Mandarin Oriental Palace Luzern. GEORGE APOSTOLIDIS

Mandarin Oriental Palace Luzern

Haldenstrasse 10, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland

The Mandarin Oriental Palace Luzern is a shiny new jewel in the Lucerne hospitality scene. Opened in 2022, the lakefront hotel is located in a Belle Époque landmark building, recently renovated with every possible modern touch. The service is impeccable, the views are unparalleled and the property’s location is convenient, making it easy to explore Lucerne either on foot or on one of the hotel’s e-bikes. Opt for one of the lake view rooms with a balcony or terrace, or go all in with a Panoramic Rooftop Terrace Suite, found on the top floor. Enjoy a facial at Spa Bellefontaine, relax in the spa or visit the gym before indulging in afternoon tea, an Instagram-worthy affair with views of the lake. There are four restaurants, including MOzern Bar & Brasserie, which serves drinks, Asian-inspired bistro fare and a buffet breakfast that is worth the splurge. 

interior baroque hotel bedroom and bath
Hotel Château Gütsch. Gabriel Ammon / AURA

Hotel Château Gütsch

Kanonenstrasse, 6003 Lucern, Switzerland

Perched high on the hillside above Lucerne, the Hotel Château Gütsch offers a historic stay. The hotel, built inside an actual castle, was renovated in 2021, and retains its classic luxury, but now features modern details in the ornately-designed rooms and uniquely themed suites. There’s a notable cocktail bar and high-end restaurant; however, the hotel is missing amenities like a gym and spa. The location is made more accessible by the Gütsch Funicular rail, which brings guests up to the hotel from the city center in less than two minutes. The vistas are the main draw, so be sure to book an accommodation with a lake view.

coffered ceiling hotel bedroom and living room
Grand Hotel National Luzern. Franca Pedrazzetti

Grand Hotel National Luzern

Haldenstrasse 4, 6006 Luzern, Switzerland

Grand Hotel National Luzern has welcomed travelers since 1870, giving its guest rooms a truly historic flair. There’s a compelling old school charm to the hotel, although its views are even more enticing. Reserve a lake view suite (the classic rooms are relatively small) or settle into one of the residences, which have kitchens and are optimal for longer stays. The centrally-located hotel has an indoor pool and spa, as well as multiple restaurants. Brasserie Juliette, a classic French bistro, is especially popular for its terrace. The hotel is also home to the historic National Bar, where you can sip on its signature drink, the aptly named The National. 

What to Do

an overhead of a lake with mountains
Seebad Luzern. Emily Zemler

Seebad Luzern

Nationalquai, 6006 Luzern, Switzerland

The blue waters of Lake Lucerne are a popular draw, with several beaches dotting the shore,  but one of the best places to swim in the lake is Seebad Luzern. The floating baths, which date back to 1885, offer visitors an opportunity to sunbathe on the decks, take a dip in two saltwater pools or dive into the lake itself. There’s also a restaurant and bar, as well as a schedule of outdoor yoga and Pilates classes. 

exterior of art museum
The Rosengart Collection. Anna Caetano

The Rosengart Collection

Pilatusstrasse 10, 6003 Luzern, Switzerland

Pablo Picasso’s work is at the heart of The Rosengart Collection, an art museum that focuses on Impressionism and Modernism. You’ll also find dozens of pieces by Paul Klee, whose small drawings comprise the entire lower floor, as well as paintings and sculptures by artists like Marc Chagall, Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky. It’s a relatively petite collection, but still impressive. If you plan to visit multiple museums, including the Swiss Museum of Transport, opt for the Lucerne Museum Card, which covers entry to nine museums for two days. 

exterior of museum with water feature
Kunstmuseum Luzern. Franca Pedrazzetti

Kunstmuseum Luzern

Europapl. 1, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland

Lucerne’s cultural center, KKL Luzern, is home to the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Art Lucerne, known as the Kunstmuseum. The museum features rotating exhibitions with an eye towards contemporary artists. Don’t worry about what’s showing when you visit (everything they install is engaging and surprising), and the views from the galleries are nearly as good as the art. There is also a café, designed by Urs Lüthi, where visitors can grab a coffee or a snack. The museum accepts the Lucerne Museum Card, as well as the Swiss Travel Pass

exterior of rock formation
Glacier Garden. Emily Zemler

Glacier Garden

Denkmalstrasse 4a, 6006 Luzern, Switzerland

Lucerne was covered by ice 20,000 years ago, and you can hear all about it at the quirky Glacier Garden, an attraction that combines natural science, history and, somewhat oddly, a mirror maze. Visitors are able to explore the glacial rock formations, which were unearthed over a century ago, or peruse the museum, which hosts fossils, rocks and even the skeleton of a cave bear discovered nearby. The highlight, though, is a winding tunnel that leads into the rock, where eons of history are projected onto the walls. The newly-added Sandstone Pavilion, which opened in June 2023, showcases exhibitions and films, which are aimed at understanding the climate crisis and encouraging a connection between humans and the natural world. It’s a peculiar and deeply compelling visit. 

exterior of lake and boat
Panoramic Lake Tour. Emily Zemler

Panoramic Lake Tour

Hop aboard the MS Saphir, a two-level yacht, for a one-hour tour of Lake Lucerne. The boat offers a relaxed atmosphere  and plenty of seating, and guests can opt for an audio guide that comes in 11 languages. It’s a great way to get a sense of the lake without committing to a several-hour-long boat trip, and the tours leave regularly from the center of town. Guests with a Swiss Travel Pass can get tickets for half price. If you’re hoping to see more of the lake, several tour companies offer longer experiences, including a Sunset Cruise and a winter-only Fondue and Raclette Cruise

Switzerland: summit of the Pilatus mountain with the cog railway and the Pilatus Bellevue Hotel, in the area of Lucerne (Photo by: Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Mount Pilatus. Universal Images Group via Getty

Mount Pilatus

The scenic Mount Pilatus towers over Lucerne. It may look far away, but a round-trip day excursion to the mountain is worth the extra effort. First, you’ll take a train from Lucerne to Alpnachstad. Ascending the peak is unexpectedly relaxed onboard the train from Alpnachstad, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. Once there, the highlights are the panoramic gondolas and Restaurant Pilatus-Kulm, a traditional Swiss restaurant that opened in 1890. Book the Golden Round Trip, offered between June and October, which begins and ends in Lucerne, or ask your hotel to arrange a private transfer. 

Where to Eat and Drink 

exterior of homely swiss house
Old Swiss House. Old Swiss House

Old Swiss House

Löwenpl. 4, 6004 Luzern, Switzerland

Founded in 1858, Lucerne’s Old Swiss House emphasizes the best of traditional Swiss cuisine in a charming, historic building. The vast wine cellar holds around 40,000 bottles, while the food menu focuses on meat-heavy dishes like Wienerschnitzel, the restaurant’s signature dish for more than 80 years. The service is considerate and well-mannered, with an emphasis on tradition. Be sure to reserve a table in advance.

interior checked floor and columns resturant


Haldenstrasse 10, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland

For a special occasion or a splurge-worthy quiet evening out, try Colonnade. The fine dining restaurant, which opened in April 2023, is a refined, artistic showcase from executive chef Gilad Peled, who previously helmed the two Michelin-starred Le Pressoir d’Argent. The well-paced tasting menu features numerous Swiss ingredients, including local cheese, produce and butter. Go big with the eight-course menu, (there’s also a vegetarian option), and be sure to splurge on the wine pairing. 

interior of wooden bar and grill
The American Bar.

The American Bar

Kanonenstrasse, 6003 Luzern, Switzerland

Enjoy panoramic views over Lucerne at The American Bar, inside Hotel Château Gütsch. Formerly known as the Gütsch Bar, this chic cocktail spot serves imaginative signature drinks and classic tipples, as well as wine and beer. There’s also a substantial bar food menu, which includes dessert options like a Sacher Torte. During warmer weather, opt for a table outside in the courtyard, where you’ll be able to see all the way over Lake Lucerne. 

shot of shelves of bread
Jazzkantine Luzern. Sylvan Müller

Jazzkantine Luzern

Grabenstrasse 8, 6004 Luzern, Switzerland

Part bakery, part restaurant and part concert venue, Jazzkantine Luzern is one of the city’s newer culinary entries. During the day, stop by for some of the restaurant’s famous sourdough, which comes with a variety of toppings, or book a table for dinner, a five-course affair that changes based on what’s available from the local suppliers. Jazzkantine also hosts regular events, including live music and seasonal dining offerings. 

exterior of outdoor dining

Quai 10

Haldenstrasse 10, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland

Why visit Lake Lucerne if you can’t dine on a waterside terrace? Quai 10 is a casual restaurant that serves fresh Mediterranean dishes, as well as a rotating weekly lunch menu. Stop by for lunch or dinner, or just a glass of wine or a cocktail. Plus, the people watching is as good as the food. The hours depend on the weather, so call ahead if you’re unsure. 

interior of kitchen with beams
Max Chocolatier.

Max Chocolatier

Obergrundstrasse 42, 6003 Lucern, Switzerland

Switzerland is known for its chocolate, and there is often debate about where to find the best treats. In Lucerne, Max Chocolatier is a sophisticated pick for truffles, chocolate bars and assortment boxes. The chic boutique is in the heart of Old Town, and in the summertime also serves ice cream. It’s a good place to buy gifts to bring back home—or to eat later in your hotel room. 

Luxury in Lucerne: An Elevated Guide to the Swiss City