The Best Things to See and Do at Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne’s crystal clear waters, lush green vegetation and the dramatic backdrop of the Swiss Alps combine creating a stunningly, beautiful landscape. If you have a few days to spend in the area here are the best things to see and do at Lake Lucerne.
Along the lakeshore, you will find the town of Weggis, known as the “Riviera of Switzerland”. This small village is an excellent place to stay and explore all the area has to offer. Weggis provides easy access to beautiful Mt Rigi, 5900 feet (1800 meters). The area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Switzerland and provides a range of year round activities. In the winter it is a popular ski destination and the summer provides excellent Swiss Alpine hiking opportunities.
Weggis has a mild climate and provides an ideal place for agriculture. You can find a number of Mediterranean plants including palm trees, grapes, orchids and chestnuts. The area is often referred to as the “veggie garden” of Switzerland. The grass is also lush and as you might expect there are a number of dairies in the area as well.
What to Do in Weggis
A scenic town, it is easy to walk and explore. At the town square on the lakefront there are a variety of daily activities for tourists including regular music and dancing. There is a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and shops in the town.
Explore the Nearby Town of Vitznau
Vitznau is another small town on the banks of Lake Lucerne.You can enjoy a walk around the town and have a meal in any of the many cafes or restaurants. You can take the boat on Lake Lucerne from Weggis to Vitznau.
Both Weggis and Vitznau provide the opportunity to try several of Switzerland’s more famous foods.
Switzerland is perhaps best known for chocolate and cheese.If you would like to find out more about the food of Switzerland look for the next post which explores the food of Switzerland in more depth.
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Enjoy a Wellness Treatment
This area is well known for its wellness treatments and many people come for a relaxing wellness break. Many hotels have spa facilities and treatment rooms and offer packages that include both accommodation and spa services. Medical wellness is also available. The Swiss are well known for their wellness and it is a chance to experience some world class services.
Explore Mt Rigi
Mt. Rigi is known as the “Queen of the Mountains”. There are three options for how to get to the top: walk, take the cable car, or ride the cog railway. You can also combine these options, perhaps taking the cable car or train up, and walking down.
Hiking to the Top of Mt Rigi on the Mark Twain Trail
Mark Twain visited this area in 1897, from his notes of the visit he writes Weggis is “the loveliest place” he’s ever visited. The Mark Twain Trail is the original trail visitors used to walk before the summit of Mt. Rigi could be reached by train.
This is the trail Mark Twain used to reach Rigi Kulm with his journey taking 3 days. There are a number of sign posts along the trail and you can learn of other famous people that used this route, including Queen Victoria of England. The pictures are very interesting.
This trail climbs up, up, up. We started this trail in Weggis. We took a break from our climb at a very picturesque retreat center with a stunning view and a small cafe. Here we had lunch and a cold refreshing drink.
We did not complete the entire hike to the summit, instead walking down toward Vitznau and then cutting across on a trail toward Weggis to make a loop. This was a long hike, quite strenuous and I am not sure I recommend our route. If you continue to the summit though, you will need to either walk down or take either the cog railway or the cable car.
Taking the Cable Car
You can also take a cable car or gondola to the top of Mt. Rigi. The cable car runs from Weggis to the top of the mountain providing access to skiing in the winter and in the summer it provides access to hiking and other activities without having to walk up the mountain. There is no road access to the top of the mountain and no cars in the villages at the top, which is very pleasant.
Riding the Cog Railway
You can also take the cog railway from Vitznau to the resort of Rigi Kaltbad (30 minutes), or stay on for a further 30 minute journey to reach the summit of Mt Rigi. This railway built in the late 1800’s, was the first cog railway built in Europe.
At the Top of Mt. Rigi
There are two resorts, Mt.Rigi Kaltbad and Mt.Rigi Kulm. There are a range of things to do including a visit to the mineral spa, hiking, skiing (winter) and visits to several restaurants, small villages, and dairies.
At Rigi Kaltbad there is a state of the art, mineral spa. Featuring a spectacular view over Lake Lucerne and the valley, the spa building was designed by Mario Botta a Swiss Architect and opened in 2012.
The spa is built on the same site used over 500 years ago. People made pilgrimages to the mineral baths for their healing properties. In the 16th century as many as 150 people a day visited the pools.The new, modern facilities enable visitors to enjoy the 35 degree mineral baths once again. Facilities include new spa baths, sauna, steam and treatment rooms.
At the top of Mt Rigi there are a number of well established hiking trails. You can pick one to suit your fitness level and time available. There are loop trails or trails leading down the mountain to either Weggis or Vitznau if you would like to walk down.
This is a heavily visited area and you are unlikely to find solitude but it is pleasant. The scenic views and wildflowers are spectacular. There are a number of cafes and restaurants to provide a break on your hike. You can source a trail map of the area.
After a day of hiking, you might enjoy a soak or a massage at the Rigi Kaltbad Mineral Bath and Spa.
Spend the Night
Both Rigi Kaltbad and Rigi Kulm have hotels and offer overnight accommodation should you wish to stay a night at the top of the mountain. Staying at the Swiss Quality Hotel at Rigi Kaltbad includes access to the Mineral Bath & Spa.
You can take a boat ride across Lake Lucerne to a variety of destinations. It is a short ride to Vitznau from Weggis, or you can also take the boat all the way to Lucerne (a 45 minute trip.)
There are also several beaches and swimming piers around the edge of the lake.The water is crystal clear and very inviting on a summer day.
You can make an easy day trip to the nearby city of Lucerne. Some of the highlights of Lucerne include the:
The Chapel Bridge
This beautiful covered bridge, built in 1333, in painted with historic scenes depicting aspects of everyday life and the history of the city. It was partly destroyed in 1993 by a fire lit from a discarded cigarette, but has been restored.
Walking the Medieval Walls
Built in 1386 as part of the city’s fortifications, the defensive wall remains almost entirely intact. Originally there were nine towers, four of them, Schirmer, Zyt, Wacht and Männli, are open to the public. In the Zyt tower, you will find the city’s oldest clock dating back to 1535. Climbing the stairs to the towers provides some stunning views of the city and a glimpse of medieval history.
Learning about the Water “Spikes”
The “spikes”, as they are called, is the manual system used to regulate the level of water in Lake Lucerne. Built in the mid 1800’s, it replaced a series of steps that helped regulate water flow for the cities many mills.
The Old Town of Lucerne
With no particular destination in mind have a wander through the very picturesque Old Town of Lucerne. It is full of shops, cafes and old churches. It also provides some wonderful picture taking opportunities.
Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument
One of the most recognized symbols of the city of Lucerne, the Dying Lion Monument carved from natural rock is in honor of the Swiss Guards who died in a battle at Tulleries in 1792 during the French Revolution.
If You Go to Lake Lucerne
Switzerland is a picture postcard destination. As you travel around, much of the scenery resembles something from a fairy tale. The Swiss enjoy a very high standard of living and their reputation for efficiency is well earned.
Many of the things included on our list of the best things to see and do at Lake Lucerne might be considered expensive, especially for a family. Transportation, including the cable car and cog railway, were very expensive if purchased separately. Depending on the length of your stay and your travel plans, there are a number of Swiss Passes you can purchase which provide a discount or include these forms of transport. Discounts also apply for children and youth.
Some accommodation packages also include passes or discounts for transportation. If yours does not, it is worth asking at your hotel if they have discount vouchers. Booking an accommodation package can also save you money on meals (breakfast is often included) and spa treatments.
Lucerne is in the German speaking area of Switzerland, although it is relatively easy to find someone who speaks English. Many Swiss nationals are multilingual.
There is a lot to do in the surrounding areas as well. You could easily spend a week or more in this area, using it as a base to explore. We hope you have enjoyed our suggestions of the best things to see and do at Lake Lucerne. If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment below.