How to spend a perfect on the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland

Veteran traveler Bob Taylor creates a picture-perfect itinerary for a picture-perfect place, Switzerland's Lake Lucerne

Lake steamers are plentiful in Lucerne (wikipedia)

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND, August 19, 2017 — Lucerne is arguably the most popular destination in Switzerland. Particularly for first-time American travelers.

Nestled in a bowl surrounded by majestic alpine vistas, Lake Lucerne spills into the River Reuss beneath the ancient Chapel Bridge to capture everyone’s imagination.

Lucerne’s Old Town with its frescoed facades is a shopper’s delight amid charming narrow streets and colorful cafes.

An outing on Lake Lucerne is a day full of adventure and surprises (MySwitzerland,com)

But once you have explored all the village has to offer, there is much more to see and do in the area. If you are traveling with a Swiss Travel Pass, an outing on the lake is the perfect excursion to satisfy all your wanderlust needs.

A Roman adventure along the shores of Switzerland’s Rhine

Using the rail pass as your ticket to free transportation on lake steamers and many other modes of travel, begin at the docks directly across from the railway station. It doesn’t matter which direction you choose, but for this program, we will journey in a roughly figure-8 direction aboard one of the many boats that sail across the lake.

Richard Wagner House and Museum is a wonderful surprise (MySwitzerland.com_

First stop is the Richard Wagner Museum where the great German composer lived and worked with his second wife and children from 1866-1872. Photographs, paintings, letters and, of course, musical scores are on display in the country manor in Tribschen.

A highlight of the outing is the Frard grand piano on which Wagner completed his works. Today, the site is frequently used for concerts in which the piano often plays a significant role.

The train to Pilatus will have you on the edge of your seat (MySwitzerland.Com)

Next stop, Mount Pilatus, which is actually comprised of several peaks, of which the highest is Tomilshorn at nearly 7,000 feet.

Interlaken, Switzerland where Funky Chocolate is a sweet idea

From the boat landing in Alpnachstad walk across the road to catch the Pilatus Railway, the steepest cogwheel train in the world. Trains only operate from May to November, but there are panoramic cable cars that run year-round from Kriens.

The cable car to Pilatue is also impressive (

HINT: If the Lake Lucerne trip seems too ambitious, skip the outing to Pilatus and do it as separate half-day excursion later. By doing this, you can take the cable car from Kriens up to Pilatus and go down on the cogwheel train where you can catch the boat back to Lucerne.

Hammetschwand Elevator is guaranteed to give you a life (

After Pilatus, cross the lake to ascend the highest outdoor elevator in the world at over 500 feet. Built by hotel entrepreneur and railway businessman Franz Josef Bucher, the 111-year old elevator rises above Lake Lucerne with unbelievable panoramas.

The Bernina Express: Switzerland’s best train journey features glaciers, palm trees and Italy

At the top, walk the path to the Burgenstock Resort before taking the funicular down to the landing where your lake journey continues.

At the top, walk the path to the Burgenstock Resort before taking the funicular down to the landing where your lake journey continues.

From the funicular, be sure to look to the left on the lake where you can watch your boat as it steams to the dock to pick you up; an ideal example of Swiss precision and engineering.

Park Hotel Vitznau has offered superb accommodations for more than a century (

Cross the lake again to disembark at the lovely Park Hotel in Vitznau. Even without reading this article you will recognize the hotel which dominates the surroundings on the shore of the lake. The Park Hotel has been reviving road-weary travelers for more than a century.

The Park Hotel has been reviving road-weary travelers for more than a century.

Chugging up to the Rigi where Mark Twain once visited (

Stop for a snack or a coffee before taking a short walk to the Rigi Railways. Reaching a height of just under 6,000-feet above sea level, the Rigi is the highest standard gauge railway in Europe. The Vitznau-Rigi Bahn (train), the first mountain rack railway in Europe and second in the world behind the Mount Washington Cog Railway in the US, was written about by Mark Twain in his book “Innocents Abroad.”

For variety, and another adventure on the return, take the cable car back to Vitznau and you can catch the boat to the next stop on the journey.

Ruetli Meadow dock where Switzerland was born (

Don’t be surprised to see as many Swiss on the boat as there are visitors because this is the region where Switzerland officially became a confederation in 1291.

En route to Ruetli Meadow, known as the “birthplace of Switzerland”, pay attention to the rock that rises like an obelisk from the lake. This is Schiller Stone, a monument dedicated to German playwright and poet Friedrich Schiller who wrote his widely acclaimed play “William Tell” about the legendary Swiss national hero. Oddly enough Schiller never visited Switzerland.

Oddly enough Schiller never visited Switzerland.

Traditional alphorns celebrate Swiss independence at Ruetli Meadow (

Get off the boat at Ruetli Meadow to visit the site where it is said the oath of the Swiss Confederation was taken in 1291 by the three original cantons; Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. As with the 4th of July in the US, August 1 is celebrated as Swiss Independence Day.

As with the 4th of July in the US, August 1 is celebrated as Swiss Independence Day.

One of the grinders used to bore through the mountains for the Gotthard Base Tunnel (Taylor)

Now relax for a while before making a stop at the Swiss Museum of Transport. Opened in 1959, the museum features all forms of transportation in Switzerland including trains, ships, automobiles, and aircraft.

Perhaps most impressive are the displays highlighting the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest (35.5 miles) and deepest (1.4 miles). This marvel of engineering opened in December of 2016.

Next door to the transportation museum is Hans Erni Haus, a collection of work by one of Switzerland’s most beloved artists.

Heading back to Lucerne after a busy day (Taylor)

Take the steamer back to the landing and you’ve completed your day into Swiss history, engineering, and precision. Best of all, if you are using a Swiss Travel Pass, many of the entrance fees are either free or greatly reduced.

As the slogan for the Gotthard Base Tunnel says, “Switzerland Through and Through.”

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

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