Snowy peaks, crystal lakes, kid friendly museums, and a classy culture - there are so many reasons your family will love Lucerne, Switzerland. Lucerne is far from being a budget friendly destination but is so jam-packed full of things to see and do that you will be happy to fork out for a night or two to soak up its amazing attractions. Centrally located in Switzerland, just a short train ride from Zurich, Bern, Geneva or Lausanne a side trip to Lucerne should be on every family travel itinerary.
Things to do in Lucerne
Swiss Transport Museum
We had visited Lucerne a couple of times without kids but the drawcard of the Swiss Transport Museum, or the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz was enough for us to stop in for another night to take the kids. This place is an interactive playground made especially for kids, and adults who are young at heart. Even if museums are not usually your thing (me!) this one has enough interesting and fun things to see and do that you will have a great day out. From the moment you walk through the front entrance you will spot the real plane suspended from the building, the driveable boats on the man-made pond and the learn to drive course for littlies which lights up their eyes in an instant.
The museum itself comprises large individual halls devoted to every mode of major transport with the swiss favourite, rail taking pride of place at the start of the journey. Every person will find something they love and the thought and creativity that has gone into the design of this museum is probably the best I have encountered. For kids, it is super educational but essentially great fun, so they don’t even know they are learning.
The highlights of the museum include the old decommissioned Swiss Air plane which has been suspended from the aviation hall. Our girls had loads of fun driving the boats around the small pond and climbing in and out of the rail carriages. There are also plenty of exhibits for curious minds encouraging kids to learn about physics and how movement occurs with simple games and experiments.
The museum itself is all inclusive with the general entry ticket however there are some add on shows and options including the Chocolate Adventure tour and the Planetarium. With our kids being quite young we found there was more than enough to see and do in the general museum itself that there was no need to add anything additional. You can easily fill a full day exploring especially with kids.
If you need a bite to eat you will be well catered for at the museums’ Restaurant Mercato which has a large range of food options in a buffet style. The food was very good overall. There is also a small retail shop inside the museum which sells all the regular souvenir items as well as stocking some ice creams and light snacks if needed.
Getting to the Swiss Transport Museum via public transport
Getting to the Swiss Transport Museum from Lucerne’s old town is super easy. Simply walk to Lucerne’s main train station and hop on board the S3 or Voralpenexpress to the "Luzern Verkehrshaus" stop. It’s a short 8-minute ride and drops you right next to the museum.
Lucerne Old Town
Lucerne is really gorgeous and you don’t need too much direction or tips to enjoy a visit to the old town. A labyrinth of winding streets and alleyways, the best way to enjoy Lucerne is without a map and simply going for a wander. Of course, make sure you find your way to the historic Chapel Bridge to admire the artwork and stroll along the lakeshore, back-dropped by Mount Pilatus. Within the old town there are lots of beautiful old buildings and you can also find some crazily modern and artistic buildings as well juxtaposed against the traditional.
Swimming in Lake LucerneIf you are visiting Lucerne on a hot summers day you can always spend a leisurely afternoon by the lake cooling off. After finishing up at the Swiss Transport Museum we headed across the road to a lovely green park bordering Lake Lucerne. Adjacent to the park itself is an actual pool with access to the lake swimming area but it isn’t necessary to pay to use this. From the banks of the park next door you can easily lay out some towels under the trees and climb down the couple of large rocks to take a refreshing swim. A really relaxing way to wrap up a day of fun in Lucerne!
Looming grand over the lakeside town of Lucerne is Mount Pilatus which is a great day trip with kids. To experience all the different views and modes of transport on Pilatus we opted to loop from Lucerne’s main train station. To travel from Lucerne to Pilatus jump on board Bus number 1 to stop Krienz, Zentrum Pilatus (approximately 15 minutes). Once off the bus you can follow the pedestrian signs to the base of the Pilatus Gondola.
The beauty of Mount Pilatus is that you travel to the top via stops, all with fun kid friendly activities to enjoy along the way. The panoramic gondola takes you through the first couple of stations and with young kids a stop at the Pilu playground is a pretty spot for some morning snacks and some playtime. This playground is very nature based and will challenge your kids balance and adventurous spirit. There are also some wonderful short walks or longer challenging hikes from each of the Pilatus stops.
Jumping back on the gondola, the next stop for us was Frakmuntegg which is where the trip gets really exciting for kids. There is a cool ropes course for older kids which finds them balancing high wires and zip lining to fulfil their adventurous spirit. A super option for younger families is to take the short walk to the top of the Frakigaudi Toboggan ride. The 1350m ride is the longest toboggan in Switzerland and pairing up with a child each we whizzed our way around the mountain to reach the bottom in the fastest time possible.
From Frakmuntegg the jaw dropping aerial cableway (known as the Dragon Ride) takes you on an impressive cliff hugging ride to the summit of Pilatus with clear views through the floor to ceiling windows.
Pilatus Kulm is the peak point and on a sunny day you can see for miles in all directions and enjoy some short walks to a couple of viewpoints. Unfortunately, the morning we travelled to Pilatus Kulm the clouds had rolled in and we weren’t able to enjoy the spectacular views. This is what you can see on a clear day though....
After a short stop to marvel at the architecture and engineering of the Pilatus Kulm perched ever so carefully on the cliff top we started the descent from Pilatus down the other side of the mountain on the cog railway. Slow and steady, travel down takes a little while but allows you to take in the really pretty scenery as you pass through high alpine farmlands with views over Lake Lucerne.
Once at the bottom of the railway you have a couple of options from Alpnachstad to return to Lucerne. If you want the full golden circle experience you can jump on board the boats that return you to Lucerne via a lake cruise. Alternately you can jump on a train directly back to Lucerne station for the express option.
If you are travelling with any of the Swiss Travel Passes you will be eligible to travel either free or at a heavily discounted rate so make sure you present your pass to check your eligibility. You can save a lot of money travelling on all of the Mount Pilatus trains, gondolas, cogwheel railway and ferry boat. Even better for families is that the Swiss Pass tickets include free travel for your children when you present your passport and receive the Family Card.
Day Trips from Lucerne – Overnight Trips from Lucerne
With its proximity to some popular swiss destinations, Lucerne is an awesome base for exploring more of this stunning country. Make sure you check out my absolute favourite swiss destinations, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald that is a short but jaw-dropping train ride away.
You can also head further south on the very impressive Golden Line train which passes through Interlaken and onwards through the most gorgeous mountain scenery making you feel as though you might just be inside a real-life Disney movie. If you feel like a splurge, pay a little extra for the special seats in the front cabin with full-length glass windows. The kids think this is awesome as though they are driving the train and parents will love the birds eye view.
On the other end of the Golden Line there are loads of wonderful places to visit. Cruise Lake Geneva, visit the United Nations or if your family are a little sport mad, I recommend the Olympic Museum in Lausanne which our family really enjoyed. Full of interesting artefacts, historically significant monuments and amazing interactive exhibits to keep the kids enthralled, the Olympic Museum is a fun outing for the whole family.
Hotels in Lucerne, Switzerland – Hotels for Families in Lucerne
Affordable, budget conscious accommodation that can accommodate families in one room can be tricky in Lucerne, particularly over the peak summer period. We found a lovely option in the heart of the old town at the Hotel Stern Luzern, a renovated pub with comfy beds and family rooms. There is a boutique pub downstairs with a handful of rooms upstairs accommodation for families. Despite the central and somewhat busy area we had a great sleep and enjoyed the ease of walking to everywhere we needed to reach.
The location is perfect – walking distance to Lucerne train station where you can find some affordable eateries, a supermarket and efficient transport options. The breakfast offered at the Stern Luzern was very boutique (almost BnB in style) but was delicious and thoughtful in its style. Loved the home made muesli with dark chocolate shavings.
Search for your great stay at the Stern Luzern here.
Where to Eat in LucerneThis is where I am not much help to you! The reality is that eating out in Lucerne is SERIOUSLY expensive – especially for a family! We roamed the streets on the first night trying to find somewhere remotely affordable for a family meal. Even a snack at Maccas cost us enough money to make you cry.
In the end we did end up buying a lot of our food from the large Coop supermarket underneath Lucerne train station. They had a lot of decent hot food options as well as pre-made salads and snacks which were perfect for on the go and at a price that didn’t completely wipe us out.
Generally speaking, the cafes and eateries around the train station are also a lot more reasonably priced than anything in the old town if you are watching your budget.
So I hope you have enjoyed reading about all the wonderful reasons families love visiting Lucerne. Make sure you sign up to my newsletter if you would like to stay updated on all the ideas and tips for fun family travel.
Until next time, happy and safe travels with your kids!
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