Family Vacations to Lucerne, Switzerland

Family Overview: Lucerne, Switzerland
Lake Luzern mixes old world architecture and scenery with new modern art and trendy festivals (Digital Vision)

Luzern (Lucerne in English) is spectacularly located beside a glistening lake backed by snow-capped Alpine mountains. A manageable city of about 60,000, Lucerne retains an Old World feel, especially along the cobblestone streets or crossing the wooden Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), originally built in the 14th century. Luzern also contains the modern—sophisticated art, cutting edge architecture, and one of Europe's most popular music festivals. When you tire of urban life, nearby hiking trails lead through forests and twist up mountains.

Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Cantons, a.k.a. Lake Luzern), with its gray waters and mountains in the distance, is a quintessential Swiss image. Scenic boat tours cruise the lake.

For an exciting sampling of Alpine scenery and transportation, book what's referred to as the Golden Round Trip. From nearby Kriens, a cable car whisks you to the summit of Mount Pilatus, a family-friendly ski and summer resort with a dragon mascot. For an easy nature walk, stroll the Dragon Moor, a looping path to marsh and moor overlooks. From the Hotel Pilatus a short trails leads to Oberhaupt's 360-degree view of peaks, forests, and lakes. At the Pilatus Seilpark, a suspension rope course, kids ages eight and older can test their agility by traversing rope bridges and completing other moderately challenging tasks.

The Golden Round Trip continues with a return from Mount Pilatus on the world's steepest cog railway. The 48-percent grade pitches you down the slope like a real-life amusement park ride, but one with fabulous scenery. From the railway's terminal in Alpnachstad, you board a boat back to Luzern.

At Luzern's Verkehrshaus (Swiss Museum of Transport), find out more about Switzerland's cog railways, cable cars, railroads, rock tunnels, and autos. Explanations are in Italian, German, French, and English. Admire the massive steam engines, experience the grandeur of the Alps at an IMAX movie, and walk across a detailed aerial map of Switzerland created from 7,800 aerial photographs at the Swissarena exhibit.

For concerts, check the schedule at the Kultur und Kongresszentrum (Culture and Conference Center). The striking post-modern waterfront building has lake water rushing through it. Seal and Steely Dan are among the rock performers in July's Blue Balls Festival and classical artists take to the stage in August and September at Luzern's noted music festival.

For more culture, view art by Chagall, Cezanne, Klee, and others at the Sammlung Rosengart (Rosengart Collection) and see photographs portraying Picasso at work at the Picasso Museum.

Where to go from Luzern? The GoldenPass Line, a five-hour train trip from Luzern to Montreux is one of Switzerland's most scenic rail journeys, offering sweeping views of mountains, forests, and sparkling lakes.

Tip: The Swiss Rail pass also includes discounts on lifts, attractions, and several museums in Lucerne.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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