In the heart of Switzerland, Lake Lucerne is a sparkling sight for sore eyes. Towering peaks and picturesque towns line the pristine turquoise water, and the lake is just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. At its deepest point, it reaches 702 feet, and the lake’s jagged shape makes it sprawl across four cantons.
If you’re still not sold on Lake Lucerne, take a look at its German name, Vierwaldstättersee. This translates to “Lake of the Four Forested Cantons,” which should give you yet another clue about the regional beauty.
Best of all, there are many ways to enjoy this beautiful lake. If you have limited time, choose between a cruise, a stroll down the Swiss Path, and a day of water sports. If time and weather are on your side, try all three options, and explore Lucerne and ascend Mount Pilatus while you’re at it.
What to do on Lake Lucerne
No matter when you visit Lake Lucerne, there’s always something to do. Although water sports are only available in the summer, the lake cruises run all year long, and Lucerne is a beautiful destination throughout the calendar year. Even during the Christmas season, you’ll find plenty to do here — like checking out a traditional festival or shopping at a bustling market.
Taking a short cruise is one of the most enjoyable (and popular) ways to experience Lake Lucerne. While there are modern motorized boats on the lake, the historic steamboats ensure a nostalgic excursion. Both types of boats follow the same route, so you won’t miss out on anything, regardless of the option you choose.
Once you’re on board, you’ll enjoy gorgeous views and fresh air. Make sure to take your camera with you — after all, you’ll cruise past charming towns and immense mountains.
Although these cruises are sightseeing excursions for most passengers, they also provide a practical means for getting around. After all, the official itinerary ricochets the boat across Lake Lucerne like a pinball, stopping in several small towns. And since many of the towns are located at the base of a mountain, there’s no easier way to access the region’s cable cars or cogwheel railways.
If you end up ascending one of the mountains, check out the view from up high! Lake Lucerne is just as lovely from a distance as it is up close.
For more information on lake cruises, check the official timetables.
It’s hard to beat a morning jog or afternoon walk on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Although there are several good options for this type of outing, the Swiss Path is probably the best choice.
This ingenious walkway, designed to commemorate the country’s past and present, first opened on Switzerland’s 700th birthday. On the 35-kilometer path, every five millimeters represent one person (based on the country’s 1991 population of seven million people). Each canton also has its own delimited stretch, with the length varying in proportion to the canton’s population. What’s more, the cantons’ stretches crop up in chronological order, so an outing on the Swiss Path is a literal walk down memory lane.
The Swiss Path begins in Rütli, the historic birthplace of Switzerland. According to legend, individuals from three cantons — Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden — met here in 1291 to swear an oath of loyalty to each other. While that particular story is a little suspect, historical documents do prove that the three cantons had a pact to protect each other from outsiders.
From Rütli, the Swiss Path continues around Lake Lucerne’s southernmost arm, eventually ending in Brunnen.
Although the path is incredibly scenic, you’ll want to take wear good hiking shoes! The route includes several significant elevation changes — after all, this is Switzerland.
Get on the water
Finally, if you want to do something active on the water, there’s no shortage of options. Try your hand at windsurfing, wakeboarding, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
Several companies rent out equipment or offer lessons to travelers, so pick your sport, do your research, and get going! An active adventure is the perfect way to get the most out of your trip to Switzerland, and Lake Lucerne is the ideal setting.
More about Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne is located in central Switzerland. With a total area of 44 square miles (114 square kilometers), it’s the fifth largest lake in the country, and it’s a trip highlight for everyone who visits.
The lake’s unusual shape has four arms that extend into four cantons. The southeastern arm juts into Canton Uri, earning it the local appellation of Lake Uri. But outside that particular canton, everyone simply refers to the entire body of water as Lake Lucerne.
Lucerne, which borders the eponymous lake to the northwest, is the largest city in the region. And since Lucerne offers so much to do and see, as well as plenty of hotel rooms, it’s the perfect base for travelers.
We visit the Lake Lucerne region on several of our tours! Lucerne is the first stop on our Swiss Bliss tour, as well as our Scenic Alps by Rail tour. For a holiday treat, check out our Scenic Alps by Rail — Christmas Edition tour. We’d love to introduce you to Lake Lucerne!
Cover photo: swiss-image.ch/Alain Kalbermatten
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