Here comes the ultimate all-in-one day trip that you should not miss. I personally think this is – besides Jungfraujoch – one of the best day trips that Switzerland has to offer. You can either organize it on your own, which is not terribly complicated, or you can book the Golden Round Trip package, offered by Lucerne Tourism. We never reserved anything in advance. We just showed up and purchased our tickets. However, if you travel in high season or in a group, I recommend to check the Lucerne tourism website or call the tourism office in advance to get advice on the best possible option.
If you travel by car you may want to park next to the central railway station. The covered parking is quite large and situated in a good central location. If you come by train you will arrive directly in the city center. Everything is very close to the central railway station.
Right next to the railway station you will find the boat pier where you can purchase the boat tickets and check the departure schedules. From there, you can already see Switzerland’s most photographed bridge, the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbruecke), which will lead you directly into the historic center.
Lucerne’s old town is small but very cozy. There are many things to discover and some great architecture to admire. Shopping queens will not be disappointed either. Fashion, souvenirs, accessories, watches, food and so on and so forth. There are lots of small boutiques around the old town.
Once you are ready to relax, return to the pier at the train station and board one of the boats that will take you to Alpnachstad. On a sunny day it is particularly nice to sit on deck outside. The journey will take about 90 minutes. Upon arrival proceed to Pilatus station. Just follow the signs. You cannot miss it. From here the world’s steepest cogwheel railway will take you up to the top of Mt. Pilatus. Since it is a popular excursion, there may be a long queue. However, I was surprised that the wait wasn’t bad at all. It took just 15-20 minutes and there were appox. 100 people ahead of us.
When you enter the train, try to get a good spot on the side so that your view is not blocked by someone else. It is not important to sit in the first or last compartment, it is important to sit by the window towards the lake. Have your camera ready! During the 40 minute train ride (from 436 m/1,431 ft to 2’130m/7.000 ft altitude) you will be rewarded with some stunning views. Upon arrival on top, proceed to the terrace and enjoy the panorama. It is magnificent. Sometimes there will be even authentic Alphorn music and/or you can watch paragliders start. I love Alphorns. It’s is such a nice, deep sound. Unmistakebly Swiss. Take a walk around the platform and enjoy the different views. No need for hiking gear or anything like that. Just regular sneakers will be fine. Last time, I was so busy running around taking pictures that we did not have the time to sit down and test the panorama restaurant.
To get back down, proceed to the gondola instead of the train stop where you arrived. We took the train back down, but next time, I will definitely prefer the panorama gondola. It will be a new experience and the views will be totally different while you descent on a different side of Mt. Pilatus. The gondola arrives in Kriens after 30 minutes. Follow the signs to the SBB train station and hop on the next train back to Lucerne. In just 15 minutes you will be back to your starting point, Lucerne central railway station.
Useful links to plan your trip:
Lucerne Central railway station parking http://www.parking-luzern.ch/en/Luzerner-Parkhaeuser/Bahnhofparking-P1
Lucerne guided city tours: http://www.luzern.com/en/stadtfuehrungen
Online Train Schedule: http://www.sbb.ch/fahrplan.html
Mount Pilatus: http://www.pilatus.ch/en/
Lucerne Tourism: http://www.luzern.com/en/index.cfm
Lucerne Tourism Contacts: http://www.luzern.com/en/contact-us
Webcams Lucerne, Lake Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus: http://www.luzern.com/en/webcam-luzern