Not sure if you should visit the Lucerne Glacier Garden while you’re in the city?
This detailed guide covers all the most important information about the popular Lucerne attraction.
The history behind the place, the best time to visit, and ticket prices are just some of the things included in this guide. Keep reading to learn more about the Glacier Garden Lucerne, and see if it’s the right tourist attraction for you!
Table of Contents
Glacier Garden History
Tens of thousands of years ago, Lucerne used to be entirely covered by an ice sheet. As the Reuss Glacier slowly melted, glacial potholes appeared – they’re also known as giant’s cauldron and glacial mill.
These pots were uncovered during standard construction, and it wasn’t until then that the discovery of the glacial history of Lucerne was made. It took less than a year to transform the place into a tourist attraction, and in 1873, Amrhein-Troller opened the Glacier Garden for the first time. And it has been a hit with locals and tourists ever since!
How to Reach The Glacier Garden
The Glacier Garden is located in the northern part of the city, just a couple of meters away from the iconic Lion Monument in Lucerne. You can easily reach it on foot or by public transport from the heart of Lucerne. It is actually only a 10-minute walk away from the Chapel Bridge. But, if you are tired from walking all day like I was, then here are your transport options.
As for public transport options, the museum is very close to the Löwenplatz bus stop that is serviced by three bus lines – 1, 19, and N1.
The Glacier Garden is also easy to reach by car and there are some parking spaces for visitors, but it’s worth noting that there aren’t too many parking spaces in the area, so you’re better off visiting on foot or taking the bus.
The following are the ticket prices for entry into the Glacier Garden in Lucerne:
|Seniors, Students, Handicapped||17|
|Familes (1 Adult, up to 5 children)||44|
|Familes (1 Adult, up to 5 children)||59|
The Lucerne Glacier Garden is open every day. The opening hours vary depending on the season
|Summer Season (April – October)||10 AM to 6 PM|
|Winter Season (November – March)||10 AM to 5 PM|
It’s worth noting that the same opening hours apply on Sundays, and the Glacier Garden is closed only during some national holidays.
Things To Do
Felsenwelt (Rock Underworld)
The Rock Underworld is undoubtedly the most unique exhibit at this museum. It’s located entirely underground and it tells the history of Lucerne from about a billion years ago. This area actually has many geological peculiarities, which is why the glacial pots are here in the first place. Lucerne’s sandstone has a lot of unusual fossils and other stratifications and fracture systems. The building takes you on a journey through all of that but amps it up to another level.
Thanks to an imposing entrance portal, and the unique sounds and light show within, Felsenwelt is an exhibit that you can’t really miss. It was actually part of a large renovation project from a team of architects, Millar & Maranta, and was only recently completed. They designed the area to integrate naturally with the sandstone in the area, very much like the Lion Monument next door.
The underground exhibition is divided into multiple spaces, each dedicated to a different epoch. You can see fossilized shells from some 20 million years ago, remnants of the last Ice Age, learn how the sandstone formed in the sea before it ultimately became a rock mass, and even get a glimpse of a future without mountains. What’s perhaps the most impressive is that you can leave your own message here, one that will likely outlast you.
You actually slowly climb your way through the rock and exit at the top into a park with a tall viewing tower that is worth climbing for great view of Lucerne, Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus in the distance.
The glacier pots or glacier mills are easily the top attraction at the Glacier Garden, mostly because their discovery is the entire reason why this tourist attraction exists in the first place. They are evidence that more than 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, Lucerne used to be entirely covered by a thick ice sheet.
Glacial pots are an interesting phenomena that is caused by the meltwater below the glacier exiting and forming pools and finally tunnels. There is a similar thing in Zermatt next to the Furi Suspension bridge which I saw just recently while hiking there. They are basically swirling tubes or tunnels in the rock that are of different sizes.
Along the sides of the site are some history about its discovery and excavation that you can read as you walk along.
Swiss House Museum
The Amrein-Troller family discovered and owned the Lucerne Glacier Garden, and you can learn a bit more about them by touring the Swiss House Museum. The family actually lived in this house from 1874 onwards and expanded their collection while living here.
Many of the objects that the prominent family members collected are on display at this museum, so a quick tour of the place is certainly warranted, especially if you paid full price for the ticket.
The house itself is worth the visit as it is a fabulously restored and maintained example from the period. The decorated wooden paneling on the ceiling is worth taking note of, as are the unique parquet patterns and old-world wallpaper. It’s like you are visiting a house from the 1800s!
There is a huge range of items on display here, and sometimes to collection seems a bit odd. For example, when you enter, you are greeted by Marie Amrein-Troller herself, in voice and in portrait. There are also other family portraits as well as random stuffed animals on the wall.
Don’t let that confuse you as it gets a lot better. Upstairs there are some rooms with dioramas of life in Lucerne and Switzerland many years ago.
The part of the collection that impressed me the most was the vast amount of mountain reliefs that they had. This includes the very first one created by Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher. Many are of the mountain ranges and landscapes in Switzerland.
Downstairs there is one the size of the room as well. Along with some medieval maps of Lucerne that are worth checking out as they show the way the old Chapel bridge used to connect to an even longer bridge, the Hofbrücke along the lake.
There is also a broad range of other items such as stuffed animals, old maps and paintings of Lucerne and the region.
The Lucerne Sandstone Pavilion
The Sandstone Pavilion is situated in a building that was largely made from sandstone excavated from the Underworld exhibition. It’s not a proper building, but more of an upturned rock with half of the concrete shell constructed with materials from this site.
Inside this pavilion, you can watch a short film that tells the history of the Glacier Garden and how Central Switzerland changed over the years. There’s also an exhibition room here, which currently houses the ARKTIS special exhibition that explores the effects of climate change in 2019/20.
My only complaint is that this exhibition was all in German, so if you don’t speak the language, you can only look at the images and displays, and not really understand what you are looking at.
The Mirror Maze is one of the most popular areas of the Glacier Garden. It was originally created for the Swiss National Exhibition of 1896. When the exhibition in Geneva finishes, the Mirror Maze was relocated to the Lucerne Glacier Garden and it has been there ever since 1899.
The Mirror Maze is a confusing labyrinthine that is supposed to resemble a Moorish Palace. It’s confusing because it’s entirely made up of mirrors, which can make it a bit hard to figure out which way you’re supposed to go. But it is incredibly fun, and definitely one of the highlights of this museum, especially for younger visitors.
I found my way out in about 5 minutes, but you can take as long as you want in there and have some fun with the illusions and reflections to almost infinity that you see when you roam inside the mirrors. It is not that big, and you really can’t get lost.
Note: If you get lost or confused, here is a labyrinth trick I use. Always turn right, touching the wall as you go. That way, you will always come out in the end, no matter how many turns you take. Just don’t lose contact with the wall, as it keeps you following the path out (right, right, right….).
Alpine Park is truly a lovely green oasis in the midst of this place. It’s home to numerous Alpine plants and trees that represent the flora that was dominant in Switzerland many centuries ago.
Here you can see plants and trees that were native to the country more than 20 million years ago – ginkgo trees, sequoia, magnolia, and others. There’s a path through Alpine park that takes you uphill, for spectacular panoramic views of the beautiful plants and trees, but also Lucerne’s skyline.
If you come through the Felsenwelt you will actually end up here at the top. There you can climb the viewing platform and get the epic view above. It was a little cloudy at the end of the day I was there, but I imagine on a sunny day, it is even more stunning.
Is Glacial Garden Worth Visiting?
That depends on your general interest in history and geology. At CHF 22 per ticket, the Lucerne Glacier Garden is one of the priciest tourist attractions in the city. If you’re not that interested in the attractions in the glacier garden, you most likely won’t get your money’s worth, especially if you’re visiting with one or two other people.
The tickets are quite expensive, and there are better ways to spend that money if you’re not very interested in the effects of the last Ice Age or museums filled with mountain reliefs and paintings. On the other hand, if you have a genuine interest in geology and the many exhibits in the Glacier Garden of Lucerne, you can easily get your money’s worth out of the visit.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that some travel passes in Switzerland include a visit to the glacier garden for free. If you have the Swiss Museum Pass, the Lucerne Museum Card, the Swiss Travel System Pass, or the Raiffeisen Membercard you can visit this attraction for free, and in that case, it is absolutely worth the time.