Last Updated on January 31, 2021 by Paroma
Looking for the best day trips from Basel, Switzerland? Then look no further than this guide on a day trip to Lucerne which you can easily make from Basel via train! Bonus, I have highlighted the best things to do on a Lucerne day trip as well, just for your convenience.
Lucerne, a tiny Alpine town in Switzerland is a popular tourist draw and one that can be easily visited on a day trip from Basel, thanks to the amazing train service in Switzerland. In this post, you can read about what to do in Lucerne in a few hours on a day trip, to best utilize your time.
HOW TO GET TO LUCERNE FROM BASEL FOR A DAY TRIP
Switzerland is extremely well connected by trains and if you are leaving from Basel for your Lucerne day trip, then the Basel SBB train station is the best option to catch direct trains to Lucerne on their way to Locarno. Download the SBB app on your smartphone and buy tickets electronically, at the kiosk or at the information center (if you do not have a debit card). I highly recommend utilizing the Swiss train network to plan a Switzerland road trip if you don’t drive.
The one advantage of buying tickets at the kiosk is that your round trip will be valid for one whole week and not simply for that day of purchase. Remember to wear sturdy shoes since the roads in Lucerne, like all other European towns, are cobbled and also try to get a map of the city to gauge local attractions.
BEST THINGS TO DO ON A LUCERNE DAY TRIP
Visit Lake Lucerne and Chapel Bridge
If you take the train for a day trip to Lucerne from Basel, the first thing that will greet you once you get out of the station is the glimmering waters of Lake Lucerne smack in the center of the city and the Chapel bridge, a wooden bridge spanning across it.
Although swarming with tourists busy taking selfies on the bridge, one look up will reveal a series of painted triangular wooden blocks dating back to the 17th century by local painter Hans Heinrich Wägmann, which depict events from Lucerne’s history. This is the oldest surviving “truss bridge” of Europe comprising of both strutted and triangulated trusses of moderate span, supported on stacked trestles.
The famous water tower of Lucerne is right next to the bridge and is a complete misnomer because it was once used as a torture chamber. Although closed to the public right now, it is home to a gift shop and an local artillery association.
Lucerne boasts of three wooden pedestrian bridges, all of which pretty much connect the new portion of the city to the old one. You can stand on any of these connectors and take photos of the Swiss Alps in the distance, the beautiful buildings lining up the waterfront and the minarets of castles peeking from far away.
Explore the old town of Lucerne
Once you cross the Chapel bridge, you’ll be heading towards old town with its typical European city offerings of old building facades with painted murals, cobbled streets and bustling squares. Strolling through old town is one of the best things to do on a Lucerne day trip since there are quite a few attractions tucked in here.
Owing to the military roots of the city and Catholicism, (read more on Wikipedia here about the origins of Lucerne), many of the murals that you’ll encounter here depict holy figurines or war soldiers. The charming restaurant Mill’Feuille is a great place to grab a bite or refuel for exploring Lucerne on foot. Remember to make a stop by the town hall to admire its architecture and if you are in luck, you might even stumble upon a beautiful Swiss wedding as did I.
Stop by the “Dying Lion” monument
The one thing that should absolutely be on your Lucerne day trip itinerary is a visit to the Dying Lion monument. The Dying Lion, which the famous American author, Mark Twain described as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world” is also known as the Lion monument /Lion of Lucerne.
This rock relief in Lucerne was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and sculpted in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. It honors the valor the Swiss Guards who were killed in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
Post the monument viewing you can walk along the fortified city walls, or climb up one of the many winding bylines to get a glimpse of the new part of the city from afar. If you are into museums, For museum lovers, there are several options (see here), one of them being the famous Kunst Museum of Art adjacent to the train station.
Visiting museums in Lucerne
A day trip in Lucerne might not provide you much time to explore museums, but if you are one of those diehard museum lovers, then Lucerne has several options for you to spend some quality time for one day in Lucerne. The most accessible of these is the famous Kunst Museum of Art adjacent to the train station.
Shopping in Lucerne for souvenirs
Lucerne has some very beautiful local stores to pick up souvenirs on your day trip. I highly recommend avoiding the branded shops and stopping by “Changemaker” a small boutique in the city to pick up a Swiss/local souvenir (I sure did) or stop by any of the bakeries or Swiss chocolatiers (Laderach or Max) to pick up some yummy Swiss goodies for friends and family.
Other things to do on a day trip to Lucerne
If you head out really early from Basel to Lucerne, then you will have nearly one day in Lucerne to spend. And, that means you can be a bit more adventurous and embark on a trip to Mount Pilates which is a mere 45 minutes away. There are several options to get you there but the best one is the steepest train ride in the world via the cogwheel train-read this blog post by Everywhere Forward about her adventure.
Cities to explore in Switzerland besides traveling from Basel to Lucerne
With more time on hand, you can make day trips to other cities in Switzerland such as beautiful Geneva, with this handy guide on things to do in Geneva to get you inspired. Better yet, read these posts on things to do in Basel and 20 ideas for things to do Basel penned by my fellow blogger friends for ideas on exploring Basel.
For more on Switzerland, explore these must visit places in Switzerland by train! For a stress free travel planning through Switzerland, read this excellent Switzerland travel planning guide! Besides 25 best things to do in Switzerland, here are some other beautiful countries to explore in Europe via the ultimate Europe Bucket list.
I hope you liked this post on things to do on a Lucerne day trip and have gotten inspired to do the same. Thanks so much for stopping by!