If you go to Switzerland, either for skiing or for enjoying the beautiful views of this small European country, you should definitely add Lucerne to your must-see cities. Many people consider this city to be a gem of Switzerland and even one of the most beautiful cities in Europe which – without a doubt – says a lot.
Lucerne has a very convenient location as a gateway to central Switzerland, just one hour by train from Zurich. For those who are not sure if this city is even worth visiting, I can say that I don’t know a single person who would not like Lucerne. Here, everyone can find something dear to them: old houses, medieval bridges, nice shops in the Old town, romantic quay with cozy restaurants, picturesque mountains and the lake.
Lucerne is a very quiet small town with the population of just around 60,000 people, so if you are searching for exciting club life and cool parties, you probably should not stay here for a long time. Maybe for a couple of days to see the Old town and enjoy the views while taking a break from more hectic days of your vacation. But if you are up for a peaceful holiday with regular walks around the lake, lazy exploring of the Old town with its medieval atmosphere, a cup of coffee with amazing desserts in local cafes, Lucerne is an ideal place for you. Despite the atmosphere of a seemingly quiet solitude, you won’t get bored here. You can always go on a lake cruise to enjoy the spectacular views of the mountains, or you can go up the mountain peaks Rigi and Pilatus – just to observe or for skiing or snowboarding.
You can also make Lucerne a central point for your one-day trips to nearby cities, such as Zug or Zurich. Often, hotels in Zurich are overbooked (especially during the conferences season) or they are just too expensive, and then it makes sense to go for more budget-friendly options in Lucerne, especially because Zurich is within an easy reach from here.
And now the most important thing – where to stay in Lucerne and how to choose a hotel.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Lucerne?
Just as in Zurich, most sights in Lucerne, including the Old town, are located almost in one place, within close proximity of the main railway station. Actually, in terms of location the city can be visually divided into two parts with the river Reuss and Vierwaldstättersee being the natural border. Along the river sides you will see the historical part of the city, and along the lake there are more modern building but their architectural style is in harmony with the Old town and we do not sense any piercing dissonance here like there is in some cities. Of course, the city is divided on paper but when you walk along the beautiful streets of the Old town, you do not care which part of the city geographically you are in, eventually you will end up at the lake where you can have lunch in one of numerous cafes and restaurants and enjoy the views of the mountains (unless you have bad luck with the weather and the mountains are lost in the fog which happens sometimes.)
When choosing a hotel, you should keep in mind that the historical part of the city that starts almost at the main train station, is the best district for accommodation. Once you are out of the station building you will see the bridge Seebrücke. Links to this bridge there are a few more pedestrian bridges, including the famous bridge Kappelbrücke. Once you cross the Reuss you are in the Old town.
The Old town is not large, you can see all of it in less than an hour if you are in a hurry but it might take you at least half a day if you want to do it right, taking closer looks at old houses decorated with wall painting and unusual architectural elements, wandering down elegant narrow streets, enjoying a cup of coffee with famous cakes in one of local cafes.
To sum it up, there is no question where exactly in the Old town you should stay. From any part of it you can reach the lake, wooden bridges, and the lion monument – another famous sight in Lucerne – within minutes.
At the same time, the railways station is just 10-15 minutes away, depending on where in the Old town you are going to stay. And from here you can also reach the Mount Pilatus (10–15 minutes by trolley bus, its end stop is right here), Zurich and Zug (trains depart every hour, the trip will take roughly the same time), Mount Rigi or Engelberg (great places for mountain skiing lovers, and for all mountain lovers, in general), where you can enjoy magnificent panoramic views that make us love Switzerland so much.
If you decide to go for the lake cruise (it lasts from 2 to 5–6 hours), then staying in a hotel in this part of the city will also be very convenient because the pier is located right opposite the train station.
Now, let’s talk about hotels. Lucerne is not a large city but there are hotels here for any taste and budget, starting with hostels and guest houses and ending with luxurious 5-star hotels housed in the buildings looking so like the 19th century Vienna palaces. Almost all of them are situated in the historical part of the city. Actually, you should probably put a lot of effort to be able to find a hotel outside the Old town. There are such hotels, of course, for example, in the area of Pilatus or other parts of the city. But even they are just within 10-15 minutes away from the train station, though in this case you will have to take a bus to reach there. However, there is a distinctive charm in staying in the Old town and not having to use any public transport, unless you plan to go up Mt. ilatus, Mt. Rigi or would love to enjoy the lake cruise.
Old Town (Lucerne City Center)
As it was already mentioned, hotels in Lucerne have different stars and price categories – the price can go up to several hundreds of Swiss francs per room per night. In this article I will try to focus on an average tourist and discuss a few affordable options that meet main criteria: convenient location, complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi, great views at the mountains and the lake, an affordable price (this last criterion is very debatable because even affordable in Switzerland means expensive elsewhere.) I think that out of all hotels in the Old town that meet these criteria, there are some that stand out. These are Best Western Hotel Krone, Renaissance Lucerne Hotel, Waldstätterhof Swiss Quality Hotel and Hotel Restaurant Stern Luzern.
What makes these hotels so special?
Hotel Krone is a member of famous hotel chain Best Western, and is located in the heart of the Old town of Lucerne, just 5–7 minutes away from the train station. In addition to the above-mentioned advantages, spacious and comfortable rooms in this hotel have a kettle and a coffee machine at guests’ disposal.
Renaissance Lucerne Hotel is located just three minutes away from the railway station at the lake (200 m away from the lake) in a beautiful historical building. All rooms are soundproof, have complimentary Wi-Fi and an air conditioner. This hotel is a bit more expensive than the Krone hotel but if you have breakfast in one of the nearby cafes and not in the hotel, you can save some money. Service quality and comfort level are just what you would expect from a 4-star hotel.
Waldstätterhof Swiss Quality Hotel – is another hotel located near the train station with views at the lake and the Old town (the station is 100 meters away, the pier and the lake 200 meters, the famous bridge Kappelbrücke where all the tourist routes into the Old town begin is also just 200 meters away. The hotel’s building is 100 years old but it should not scare you away, actually it is the average age of all hotels in Lucerne but all of them are renovated and have modern rooms with a great level of comfort. An added bonus is a budget-friendly (for Switzerland) room rate.
Finally, Hotel Restaurant Stern Luzern. This hotel is also located in the Old town, but a little bit farther – around 600 meters away from the train station and the lake. This hotel has the same advantages as hotels described above. Additionally, you have a unique opportunity to have breakfast or lunch (or maybe even dinner) in a restaurant with views at the garden of the Franciscan church. Besides, there is a multi-level parking lot nearby which is very convenient for tourists travelling by car. During Christmas season there is a Christmas market just opposite the hotel. Based on the price/quality ratio Hotel Restaurant Stern Luzern is probably one of the best hotels in Lucerne.
If your budget is very limited, you can book a room in B&B Bettstatt-Neustadt (that is if you are fine with sharing your bathroom with other guests) or Erlebnishotel Jailhotel. Both of them are located in the historical part of the city, the railway station is just 8-10 minutes away on foot. Erlebnishotel Jailhotel, by the way, is known for its very specific atmosphere. Up until recently, this place was a city jail. If that does not scare you away, you can stay in this hotel for just 50 francs which is as good as for free in Switzerland. However, you should understand that for this price you will have to deal with drawbacks, such as small rooms, a night club nearby and a meager breakfast.
However, if you want to enjoy your stay in Lucerne, I recommend choosing hotels in a higher price range, so that you do not ruin your Lucerne experience.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Lucerne
In conclusion, I would like to add a few words about some characteristics of hotels in Lucerne. As I have already mentioned, the average age of hotels here is more than 100 years, but as a rule, all historical buildings are renovated and provide the best comfort for their guests.
Most hotels are located in the Old town, and this is a pedestrian zone which means no cars are allowed there and you will have to walk to your hotel from the train station. That will take not more than 10 minutes, though, unless your hotel is at the far end of the Old town. If you travel by car, Hotel Restaurant Stern Luzern is a great option because the public (paid) parking lot is located just nearby.
Many tourists are afraid there will be noise from streets, especially if the hotel is not far from the train station. But as a rule, rooms are sound proof, and you can also always ask for a room that will face the court yard if that will help you feel more comfortable.
To enjoy your vacation in Lucerne to the full extent, ask for a room with a view at the lake. It will be a bit more expensive but it is definitely worth the money!