Lucerne Cruise Port

Port of Lucerne: An Overview

There's an argument to be made that, with its lake, flower covered pedestrian bridge and medieval old city, Lucerne is the prettiest city in Switzerland and, considering that Switzerland is up there in terms of the beauty, possibly the world. Imminently walkable and full of cafes, shops and restaurants, Lucerne makes for a lovely day trip, usually offered as an optional or included excursion from Basel.

No matter what your interest, you'll find it in Lucerne. Love history? Stroll around the old city, take a walk on the city walls and visit the mournful Lion Monument. Art your thing? The Rosengart Collection has large collections of both Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee, buttressed by other pieces by Cezanne, Chagall, Kandinsky, Miro and Renoir. Train buffs will either want to visit the Swiss Museum of Transport or -- if you have enough time -- take the cogwheel train up Mount Pilatus; it's the world's steepest.

Much of Lucerne's appeal, however, is that you don't have to do anything to have an enjoyable day. Take a seat at a cafe, either on the lake or on Rathaus Quai along the Reuss River. Buy chocolate and gawk at the top-of-the-line (and oh so pricy) Swiss watches. Get a closer look at the nearby mountains by taking a sightseeing boat tour on Lake Lucerne. And make sure your phone is charged; Lucerne was made for Instagram.

Don't Miss

Lion Monument: Mark Twain described "the Lion of Lucerne" as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." The rock relief sculpture of a dying lion, hewn out of a cliff, is indeed sad -- especially once you know the back story: In 1792, more than 700 members of the Swiss Guard were massacred in Paris during the French Revolution. The sculpture shows a lion impaled by a spear, with shields bearing the symbols of Switzerland and France at its side.

Chapel Bridge and Old Town: The long covered bridge over the Reuss River is perhaps the photogenic city's most captured image. Originally built in 1333, "Kapellbrucke" was destroyed by fire in 1993 and subsequently rebuilt; it remains Europe's oldest wooden covered bridge. It's bedecked by blooming flowers in the summer and nearly always crowded with tourists taking selfies near the water tower. On one side is Lucerne's Old Town or Altstadt, a wonderful warren of quaint alleys opening into sunny squares full of shops, fountains and cafes. The "new town" on the other side also has some pretty buildings, including the onion-domed Jesuit Church.

Museums: If you're an art lover, the Rosengart Collection with an extensive collection of Picasso paintings, drawings and sculptures, is a must. Collector Angela Rosengart knew Picasso personally and the artist painted several portraits of her. The Rosengart family also collected Swiss artist Paul Klee, as well as several Impressionists and Cubists (Pilatussatrass 10, in the new city; +4141-220-1660; open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Transportation buffs won't want to miss the Swiss Museum of Transport, which has more than 3,000 artifacts and five halls dedicated to various forms of getting around: rail, road, aviation, navigation and cableways. There's also a planetarium, an IMAX theater and a "chocolate adventure" informational ride. The museum is a 30-minute walk along the waterfront or you can take a train, bus or boat. (Lidostrasse 5; +4141-370-4444; open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in winter) The Richard Wagner Museum, housed in a villa where the composer lived for six years, is also about a 30-minute walk from downtown Lucerne so give yourself time (Richard Wagner Weg 27; +41 41-360-2370; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.).

Lunching: Lucerne is full of waterfront cafes and if those are too crowded, there are plenty on the various scenic squares as well. We went to Zunfthausrestraurant Pfistern (Kornmarkt 4; +4141-410-3650; open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) right next to the Rathaus (City Hall), where you can get Swiss specialties like roesti (potato pancakes) and cheese dishes fondue and raclette, as well as lighter fare such as salads and sandwiches. Chocolate is a must. We love Max Chocolatier (Schweizerofquai 2; +4141-418-7090 ; open Mondays, 1 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), where the handmade chocolate is filled with seasonal flavors such as passion fruit and elderflower. If Max's jewel box truffles are too dear for your wallet, get your fix (and sweet gifts to bring home) at Swiss staple Bachmann's, which has several locations in Lucerne's Old City.

Mount Pilatus: Your ability to visit this mountain high in the Alps depends entirely on how long your river cruise line has allowed you to stay in the Lucerne. If you're going on your own, you'll need to account several hours for the numerous means of transportation that include a boat ride across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, the cogwheel rail up the side of the mountain, coming down on a gondola and taking a bus back to Lucerne. Plus you'll want to spend some time at the top, enjoying the alpine view and hiking some of the trails. Note: Some river cruise companies offer the trip to the top as an excursion on its own. This seems like the best option to us.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The Swiss franc, seen on currency charts as CH, is the monetary unit of Switzerland. That being said, some restaurants do take euro and most take credit cards. ATMS are plentiful throughout the city.

Language

Switzerland has four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh - but the main one you'll hear in Lucerne is German. That being said, almost all waiters, shop keepers and museum workers speak English.

For More Information

On the Web: Lucerne Tourism

Cruise Critic Message Boards: River Cruise Ports

IndependentTraveler.com: Switzerland Travel Guide

--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

  • Lucerne: Viking Egil
    Jim and Jo
    Viking booked and excursion to Mt. Titlis at about 10,000 ft. Unfortunately it was snowing,so we had no view. But we had the adventure of two cable car rides and great Christmas shopping at the top of the moutain. ... Read more
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