Lucerne is popular on Switzerland itineraries due to its central location. Day trips out of Lucerne are plentiful and it also serves as a launching point for journeys around the country. We spent two nights here exploring remnants of the old medieval city and checking out some of the kid friendly attractions.
Meiringen to Lucerne takes a bit more than an hour by train. This section of the Golden Pass route has brand new panoramic trains. The trains are incredible comfortable. There is a baggage area right by the door with several racks, or bags can be stored between the seats, or on overhead racks. (The overhead racks should be your last resort though as they will block your view.) There is a cafe car onboard and drinks can be ordered and delivered to your seat using an app on your phone. The only disappointment is that there is no wifi onboard.
Kids maps are provided by the door in every car and are even available in English. The maps have a scavenger hunt for carved wooden animals placed alongside the tracks. We were able to find most of the figures. They are not hidden, but the train moves quickly and the figures appear on both sides of the track so you need to constantly look back and forth.
As usual the scenery was amazing. You really appreciate the large windows as you take in each blue lake and green field.
The boys can be quite rambunctious, but on this leg of the trip they were glued to the window.
Lucerne’s central train station is large. This was the largest station we had been in on the trip. After the peaceful train ride, we were jolted into the reality of being back in a large city. We opted to walk through town to our Airbnb. Lucern is easily walkable and navigable by public transport. The Swiss Rail Pass covers all your travel on public transport in Lucerne, making it easy to get around town.
Once we dropped off our things we decided to go see some of Lucerne’s sights. The Lion monument is perhaps one of the most famous, it is dedicated to the Swiss Guard killed in the French Revolution. It is lovely and peaceful, despite being right off the main drag.
Next door is the Glacier Gardens whose entrance is included with you Swiss Rail Pass. This museum hosts a weird collection of things. The Glacial Potholes preserve the landscape and fossils found under Lucerne. Parts of the museum present videos and other artifacts from Lucerne’s early days as a subtropical beach. The museum houses a collection of landscape reliefs, including the oldest in the world.
The highlight for the kids though was the mirror maze. We’ve done a few of these in Europe but this one was the best yet. I legitimately got confused in the maze. I tried three or four times and always found myself coming back out the entrance! The boys wanted to do the maze over and over.
The Bourbaki Panorama is also located in the same area and is included with the Swiss Rail Pass. Make sure to ask for the kids scavenger hunt at the admission desk. They gave us two, even though only our Big Little (5) was capable of completing it. The panorama has a narration that is available in several languages. The front desk activates it so make sure you ask before you go up.
This was about all the culture the kids could handle for one afternoon, so we went back to the Airbnb and made dinner. We are in an “avoid restaurants phase” currently, since the little little wants to walk everywhere. Being home to eat is often easier.
The next morning we headed to Mt Pilatus for a morning excursion in the mountains. Mt Pilatus and Mt. Rigi are your two day trip options. We left our Airbnb by bus and returned into the center of Lucerne by boat. Upon departing our boat we immediately hopped onto a different boat to head across town.
The boat to Verkehrshaus-Lido is always full on sunny days. This side of Lucerne hosts plenty of options for families. The large recreational swimming area and park is here, in addition to tons of shady, lakefront grass. We however, were headed to the Swiss Museum of Transportation.
The transport museum is absolutely incredible. We could have spent a full day there. Our only complaint was that it was so hot. The museum is essentially five hangers full of amazing stuff, but no air conditioning. Each hall follows a theme. There’s an airplane hall, an automobile hall, etc.
We started with the airplanes. There are so many things to touch and do. The exhibits are geared to all ages, so everyone could find something they enjoyed doing. The Middle Little (3) loved the slide where the kids pretended to be baggage going to be sorted. There is a luggage x-ray exhibit where kids get to scan luggage and see what is inside. There are also simulators, airplanes to climb in and you can even pretend to be sky diving!
To get some relief from the heat we headed to the outside play areas and then never went back inside the museum. A variety of Micro-scooters, my kids’ favorite and a Swiss product, are available to scoot all over the courtyard. It is like a kids dream.
The central courtyard is further arranged into different themed play areas. The dock area is what initially attracted my kids outside. The Middle Little drove the cargo train. Using his feet he could power it along the track. It drives between the docks, where there is a crane and floating boats with cargo bins and the warehouse, where cargo needs to be sorted into the trucks. There were plenty of kids there so every station was manned.
In another area a full scale construction area was set up. The kids donned hard hats and vests and set to work moving dirt, rock and sand around.
The kids again all work together to make all the equipment work. The Middle Little laid claim to a little digger in a hole and the Big Little acted as the foreman, directing willing participants to run the gravel down a hand-cranked conveyer belt.
I found a seat under an umbrella around a raised pool with electric boats on it to feed the Little Little. I looked up to see the drivers of the red speed boat waving at me. The Big and Middle Littles were driving their dad around the pool!
The adults found seats at the outdoor cafe, where we all had a beer while the kids resorted to pushing each other on these large mini-buses. There was a station and a car wash to keep them busy. The parents largely all joined us under the shaded tent with a beverage in hand. Ahhh… Europe.
Then the meltdowns started. It was almost 5pm! Although there was much more to see at the museum we decided to call it a day and take the bus back to the Airbnb. Jeff headed out to pick up take-out food for the adults.
The next morning was our last in Lucerne. The kids were up early so we opted to go for a self guided walk in town. We took the bus to the central station and walked around from there armed with the Rick Steves Switzerland book. To give the kids some buy-in we told them we would pop into any bakery they could find for some pastries.
Our first stop was Chapel Bridge. The kids needed no encouragement to be really into visiting this picturesque place. Then we told them that the center section of the bridge had burned in 1993 when a boat underneath caught fire. They were amazed and set off to find for themselves which part of the bridge had been replaced!
It was quite early so we virtually had the town to ourselves. This gave the boys plenty of space to run on the bridge. The Big Little also loved looking at the paintings and disagreeing with the book about what they depicted.
The first part of the walk stuck to the water. We crossed bridges whenever we came across one. The boys loved looking at the old water management system, still used today. The slats are added or taken away to the wall to help determine water flow. We’ve seen them try to recreate this in the backyard with the hose a few times now!
I loved all the painted buildings. It’s fun to guess what was likely housed in the building based on the painting.
I also found some more modern painted buildings as well.
Some of the squares in Lucerne have an entire motif. The story of a party with plenty of wine runs throughout this entire square.
The boys finally found an open bakery and were so hungry we ended up each getting a pastry, plus a few local breads and treats we had not yet tried. The Middle Little refused to remove his flag before eating this sweet bread.
We utilized the public unicorn drinking fountain to finish off our snack. Then we turned away from the water and headed up toward the old city walls. I was a bit grumbly about walking uphill. There was a bunch of construction that kept thwarting our path. However, when we got to the walls I was glad Jeff dragged me up there.
The views from the walls are unmatched. We could see all of Lucerne laid out in front of us.
We walked a section of the wall up top and then came down the tower stairs and walked a bit next to the wall.
The Big Little was in full nature mode and found these lovely mushrooms growing on a tree that made its home in the shade of the wall. Who doesn’t love finding urban nature?
We headed back down the hill to our Airbnb to grab our bags and board a boat for the next leg of our Switzerland adventure.
Swiss Rail provided me with a first class Swiss Rail Pass in exchange for a review of our trip. All opinions are my own.