Lake Lucerne, Switzerland: Travel Guide and Pictures


Lake Lucerne is a beautiful lake centrally located in Switzerland. Its German name is Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forested Cantons) because it borders the four cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. With an area of 114 square kilometres (44 square miles), it is the fourth largest lake in the country. Its deepest point is 214m (702ft).

While it is possible to take a road trip around the lake, the journey is full of twists and turns and will be slow; there are also a number of tunnels to pass through. But as the lake is undoubtedly a sight to see, a much better option is to take a paddle steamer or another passenger boat and hop between towns along the lakeshore. Because the lake is historically a hub for passengers and postal deliveries, the transport network is well established. For sightseeing, a number of options are available: a themed excursion (for the expected, choose the cheese fondue cruise, or for the unexpected, the Mexican fiesta cruise) at lunchtime or in the evening; or a regular steamboat or passenger boat that runs all day (see the timetable featured on the official website of Lake Lucerne). There are a number of piers which serve as departure points in Lucerne.

The photos below were taken in June 2013, so they show the perfect midsummer atmosphere. The first half of the collection shows the excursion by steamboat from Flüelen to Lucerne, and the second half shows the return journey. The roundtrip takes about 6 hours in total – 3 hours each way. You can see the beautiful jade colour of the lake against the blue summer sky. Along the way there are many resorts offering refreshments and the opportunity to take in the lake from the shore.

The section of the lake on the journey from Flüelen to Brunnen is known as the Urnersee. The lake is situated in various valleys, and is thus also surrounded by adjoining mountains. The Urnersee is in a deep cleft and the result is spectacular: the cliff face rises directly from the water, and the scenery is as stunning and breathtaking as the Norwegian Fjords.

Lucerne has a population of just over 75,000. It looks onto the lake and onto Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi in the Swiss Alps. Lucerne bears resemblance to Venice, because it straddles the outflowing River Reuss, so there quite a few bridges. The Chapel Bridge and Mill Bridge are the most famous.

Lucerne offers music and culture festivals and events year-round, so you’ll find something to do whatever time of the year you visit. While there, taste some alpine cheese, check out some Swiss wrestling, or catch the alpine cattle drives. Stay in the historic Romantik Hotel Wilden Mann or the spectacular Art Deco Hotel Montana for unparalleled views. Or try the Ameron Hotel Flora Luzern, the Hotel Pickwick and Pub, or the exceptional Brunnhalde apartments, also boasting panoramic views. Camp at the modern Camping International Lido.

Weggis is located at the base of Mount Rigi, on the southwest side. Famous for its mild climate and plants to suit, such as palm trees, Weggis the second most popular tourist destination in the region after Lucerne. An aerial tramway takes you up Mount Rigi – you can even dine in a cable car in the summer. The area is great for walkers – Rigi, after all, is known as the ‘Queen of the Mountains’ – but is also often called the ‘Riviera’ of central Switzerland. On the banks of the Lake, the Park Weggis hotel provides luxurious rooms, spa facilities and gourmet restaurants, while Hotel Beau Rivage was newly renovated in 2014. A more down-to-earth option is the family-run Seehotel Gotthard. For something in between try the Seehof Hotel du Lac. You can even camp on a farm at Camping Gerbeweid.

Squeezed in between an idyllic bay along the lake shore and Mount Rigi, this village’s population is not quite 1,500. From Vitznau you can also ascend the mountain on a rack-and-pinion railway. At about an hour’s boat trip from Lucerne, Vitznau is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for peace and quiet. The Park Hotel Vitznau is luxurious and boasts a private beach on the banks of Lake Lucerne. Hotel Rigi is a much more everyday option, located in the village centre. And for a summer break in the foothills of the mountain, stay at the Art Nouveau Seehotel Vitznauerhof, which dates back to 1901. There is a family-run campsite – Camping Vitznau, which offers plots on terraces, meaning everyone has a great view.

Another town with a small population (it boasts just under 3,500 inhabitants), Beckenried stretches along the southern lakeshore and is surrounded by pastoral views. From Beckenried you can take the longest cable car in central Switzerland up to the popular holiday resort of Klewenalp. Hotel Seerausch is located on the shore of Lake Lucerne and offers panoramic views of both the lake and mountains (Mount Rigi can be seen across the water). Go for a charming and unique setting at Boutique Hotel Schlüssel. Alternatively, stay at the Nidwaldnerhof Hotel and Apartments.

Nestled in a recess of the lake at the south face of Mount Rigi, Gersau is protected from cold winds and forms part of the Rivieria. There is a car ferry between Gersau and Beckenried on the opposite bank, and the town is famous for its silk weaving and woodworking traditions. Another small town, with a population of just over 2,000, Gersau is quite romantic. During the summer, the Gersau Youth Hostel offers a variety of different holidaying options, with buildings suited to both families and school groups. Otherwise, try the Paradieshotel Rotschuo or the more laid-back Gasthaus Tübli Gersau and Seehotel Schwert.

Brunnen boasts fantastic views of the Urnersee to the east, where mountains fall into the waters of the lake, and is the ideal launch pad for excursions by boat or by train. Check out the views from a cycling or walking trip; explore the Muotathal cave; relax by sailing and swimming in the summer; and generally enjoy the town’s great restaurants and bars. The extra-special Seehotel Waldstätterhof Swiss Quality is set in a private park and boasts a private lake entrance. City Hotel is centrally located, just a short walk to the lakeshore, and offers a roof garden with beautiful views. The quiet Camping Hopfreben gives you direct access to the lake and the local hiking trails, while the Camping Urmiberg offers a wide range of recreational activities.

For centuries, Flüelen was a vital link in the transport and shipment networks in Switzerland. Today it is a small town with a population of approximately 2,000 inhabitants, making it easy to explore on foot. With a castle, a small marina and historic buildings dating back hundreds of years, it is the perfect calm getaway. At the opposite end of the lake to Lucerne, Flüelen is the end-point of a 3-hour boat trip from Lucerne. Stay at the family-friendly Hotel Tourist guest house, in typical Swiss accommodation, or at the Hostellerie Sternen, whose excellent restaurant serves freshly caught fish daily.

From Flüelen to Lucerne
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