A Perfect Day in Lucerne & Mt. Pilatus

Lucerne which is also called Luzern is a beautiful town that sits at the foot of the Alps in Switzerland. Plan for at least a day Lucerne and a day in Mt. Pilatus, the cloud-topped mountains that seem to be touching the heavens.

Kapellbrücke (or Chapel Bridge)  - Things to do if you have a day in Lucerne, Switzerland

We spent a couple of days in Lucerne, wandered the old town and did a few trips to little Swiss towns nearby. One of our favorite trips was a day trip from Lucerne to Mt.Pilatus and a trip to a cheese factory in Schwyz where we tried fondue for the very first time. Visiting Mt. Pilatus is a must-do when you are in the Lake Lucerne region. You can spend a day in Lucerne and also visit Mt. Pilatus on the same day if you are short on time.

Things to do if you have a day in Lucerne

Lucerne is a small town and you can visit most of the sites and attractions in an afternoon. We stopped at a market and the Chapel bridge on the way to Mt. Pilatus. Originally a grain market. Kornmarkt, today is a modern square with nice and modern buildings all around. We stopped at the farmers market to pick up some fresh fruits, checked out some watch stores before heading to see the medieval buildings located nearby.

Things to do if you have a day in Lucerne, Switzerland
Shopping in Lucerne (someone got his first watch here)

Shopping for chocolates, watches and more

When you think of Switzerland, you probably think of watches, chocolates or those handy swiss army knives. Someone bought his first every luxury watch here in Lucerne. But there is so much more to buy in Lucerne than just watches and chocolate. The Old Town area is full of charming stores and souvenir shops.

If you are in the market for watches, Switzerland is the place to buy them, from Rolex to Omega there are so many boutiques. There are many exclusive watch brands available here, the largest being the Bucherer showroom near the antique wooden bridge.

A farmers market along the Reuss river bank
A farmers market along the Reuss river bank

Don’t miss the farmers market along the Reuss river bank, happens every Tuesdays and Saturday mornings.

Kapellbrücke (or Chapel Bridge)

The Kapellbrücke (or Chapel Bridge) is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss River named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel.  The bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with most of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire. 

Chapel Bridge has been restored, Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.

Halfway along the bridge is the octagonal Water Tower, Switzerland’s most-photographed historical monument. Right next to the Chapel bridge is the Wasserturm, which was once served as the prison and torture chamber. Jesuit Church and the Church of St. Leodgar are other places to visit.

The Lion Monument

The Lion Monument is a carving of a lion which you can find in a sandstone quarry a few minutes from the old town of Lucerne. The sculpture of the mortally wounded lion is known to be the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. It is one of the most visited attractions in Lucerne, Switzerland and  

The Lion Monument - Things to do if you have a day in Lucerne, Switzerland

How to get to Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne

There are actually four different ways to get to the top of Mt. Pilatus. You can hike, go by cablecar, by cogwheel railway or by a round trip ride on the boat, then cogwheel railway and return by a cablecar. This last option is called the Golden Round Trip which is what we did.

Perfect Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus

Mt. Pilatus, also often just called Pilatus, is a mountain range overlooking Lucerne in Central Switzerland. The name “Pilatus” means “cloud-topped” and the mountains do seem to be touching the heavens and so close to the clouds. It is composed of several peaks, with the highest one Tomlishorn at 6,982 ft.

There is so much to do in Pilatus and you can spend an entire day playing in the parks, riding the cable cars, cogwheel railway, hiking and riding the toboggan, the longest one in Switzerland. Some people hike all the way from Lucerne to Pilatus and spend a night up in the mountains.

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com

We started our day trip to Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne with a beautiful boat ride around the lake before we got to Alpnachstad to take the Cogwheel up. We spent some time hiking up to some viewpoints and took the cableway down and a bus back to Lucerne. We spent our morning exploring Lucerne before heading out to the boat pick up point.

We were visiting in summer, by the way, you probably can tell from the photos 🙂 Here are a few ways to go about getting to Pilatus from Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne – Alpnachstad – Mt. Pilatus – Kriens – Lucerne
Lucerne – Alpnachstad – Mt. Pilatus – Alpnachstad – Lucerne
Lucerne – Kriens – Mt. Pilatus – Kriens – Lucerne

Map of Pilatus Kulm

Pilatus Map - Outside Suburbia

See the interactive map here to get familiar with the different options.

Lake Lucern

Lake Lucern is a crystal clear lake and picturesque with four arms radiating at sharp angles, and surrounded by captivating mountains. The view from our hotel balcony was just spectacular, you could see across the lake and the alps – just gorgeous. The best though was taking the boat to Pilatus and seeing the homes around the lake, it got me thinking, how lucky to wake up to a view like this every day! I’m dreaming of going back to visit Lucerne and spending more time.

We loved all the beautiful chateau and villas perfectly perched on craggy rocks around the lake.

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com

Golden Round trip in Lucerne

On our day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus, we took the Golden Round trip option. The ride involves a boat trip on Lake Lucerne, then a ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm. In Alpnachstad you will board the steepest cogwheel/rack railway in the world to reach the summit.

The bright red cogwheel railway climbs up through lush meadows carpeted with Alpine flowers, past sparkling mountain streams and fascinating rock faces. After spending time soaking in the amazing panoramic views of the Alps you take the aerial cableway and gondolas down to Kriens, where a five-minute walk brings you to bus no. 1 for the trip back to Lucerne. You can, of course, do the Golden Round Trip in Lucern the other way round.

The tickets are 103 CHF for adults and 52 CHF for kids

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com

Silver Round trip in Lucerne

The Silver round trip is another popular option to get to Pilatus from Lucerne. You skip the boat and start at the Lucerne railway station. The train ride takes about 20 minutes along the shores of Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad.  From here you ride the cogwheel train to the Pilatus, then you take the cableway and gondolas to Kriens and ride a bus back to the railway station.

The only thing you are missing is the boat ride on this Siver Round trip from Lucern to Pilatus, it includes the railway, the cogwheel railway, the aerial cableway and the Panorama Gondolas. This is similar to the ‘Golden Round Trip’, except that you reach Alpnachstad by regular train instead of the boat.

The tickets are 85 CHF for adults and 42 CHF for kids

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - Outside Suburbia
The Pilatus cogwheel railway is the steepest in the world

The Pilatus Cogwheel Railway

The Pilatus cogwheel railway is the steepest in the world. It is an engineering marvel! The rack railway was commissioned in 1889(can you imagine, the Swiss perfect the train system that many years ago!). The bright red cogwheel train climbs up a gradient of up to 48 percent, in about 30 minutes. It goes from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm, passing through alpine meadows and striking rock formations. The cogwheel railway operates from around mid-May to mid-November.

Once you reach the summit, you can admire views over Lake Lucerne and the Alps. There are several things to do in Pilatus, you can decide if you want to stay inside the panoramic gallery, relax on the terrace, climb one of the peaks, or get a bite to eat at the restaurants. We did a little bit of each!

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com
Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - Outside Suburbia
The climb!
Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com
Golden Round trip - Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com
The view of the mountains as we ride up on the Cogwheel train
Golden Round trip - Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com

Aerial Cableway (Dragon Ride)

The aerial cable car which is called Dragon Ride gets its name due to the legend – that dragons roamed in the mountains and flew over Lake Lucerne to hide their nests in the nooks and crevices of Mount Pilatus. The cablecar is pretty cool with a cockpit-like cabin with windows extending down to the floor and plenty of space.

Once you are on the aerial cableway it feels like you are flying. In three-and-a-half minutes you will glide from Fräkmüntegg to the summit(or the other way), with breathtaking views in every possible direction. 

Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com
The was taken a few years ago, the current cablecars look cooler
Day trip from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus - outsidesuburbia.com
Drogon ride aerial cableway to Mount Pilatus
Drogon ride aerial cableway to Mount Pilatus (Photo by: Mt. Pilatus)

Hiking in Pilatus

There are several hiking trails, from easy to more serious trails. Regardless of which ones you choose the alpine scenery is stunning. Here are a few hiking trails that are perfect for families and people like us who like soft adventures. Serious hikers can hike up to the top of Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne.

We went on some short hikes for about an hour, played in the park and enjoyed lunch at the Pilatus Kulm. See the Pilatus website for all the hiking trail options.

Hiking to Mt. Pilatus
View from the top of the summit

Hiking to Tomlishorn on Mt. Pilatus

Mount Pilatus is a mountain massif composed of several peaks, of which the highest (2,128 m (6,982 ft)) is named Tomlishorn at 6982 ft. If you want to do a short and scenic walk along the jagged peaks, this hike is a good one. Most of it is paved and only the very end is a little rough and rocky. You should be able to get this hike done in under an hour.

You can sometimes see paragliders here. We had no problem hiking this trail to Tomlishorn, it was more of a walk and well marked and pretty safe for little ones.

Hiking in Mount Pilatus
A hike up Tomlishorn
Can you believe these views!

Rope Park

Fräkmüntegg is between Kriens and Mount Pilatus. It’s where you change from the gondola to the cable car, and you’ll find a long toboggan run, a rope park and a restaurant there. We stopped here for some playtime and ice cream.

Rope park in Fräkmüntegg

The longest Toboggan run in Switzerland

The longest Toboggan run in Switzerland is at Pilatus. Kids can zoom through crazy curves, dragon dens and over jumps. The spectacular 1350 meter run begins near the Fräkmüntegg mountain station. The kids really enjoyed this part of the trip our day trip to Pilatus and didn’t really want to leave. No photos were allowed while you are on the toboggan kids under 8 have to ride with an adult.

 The longest toboggan ride in Switzerland is at Fräkmüntegg in Pilatus
The longest toboggan ride in Switzerland is at Fräkmüntegg in Pilatus

Pilatus Tours and Tickets

Photos from our day trip to Pilatus

After the Toboggan ride
Somewhere near Fräkmüntegg
Someone is taking a nap after all that hiking
View of Pilatus Klum with the peak in the background
View of Pilatus Klum with the peak in the background
A man playing Alphorn
A man playing the Alphorn in Pilatus Kulm
A fun day with Pilu at Pilatus Klum
A fun day with Pilu at Pilatus Klum!

Where to stay

Wouldn’t it be cool to stay up on the mountain in Pilatus?! There are 2 hotels that you can stay at in: Check for rates and discounts at the Pilatus Kulm hotel here or find the rates for the hotel we stayed in Lucerne here. We were at the Grand Hotel National that had these amazing views of Lake Lucerne. 

The kids to this day cherish the hot chocolate mug and little stuffed sheep that they were given when we checked in!

You might also like: 
A day trip to Mount Rigi and Schwyz
A day at the Top of Europe
Hiking in Upper Engadin
Best things to do in Zermatt
Best of Alps Road trip Itinerary

If you like alpine adventures, you might also like Peak2Peak Whistler & Blackcomb, Vail, Maroon Bells, JacksonHole, Whitefish, Bad Gastein


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