Lake Lucerne is one of the country’s largest lakes and a popular tourist destination in central Switzerland. Luzern has many things to do and is easily accessible by various mountain railways, including the panoramic trains that are so popular among first-time visitors to Switzerland.
A cruise on Lake Lucerne is even included in the Gotthard Panorama Express experience, and it’s one of the highlights of the entire trip. But you can explore the lake without riding any trains first, and this detailed guide to cruises on Lake Lucerne will tell you all you need to know to plan that adventure!
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Lake Lucerne Tour Suggestions
If you just want to jump on a cruise and enjoy a short trip or a full day out on the lake, then the following three options might be just the ticket.
The first one is a Lake Lucerne Panoramic Sightseeing cruise which you can take at whichever time you like (as long as there is a boat). It is a one-hour affair that shows you all the highlights and an audio explanation in your choice of language.
The second option is an excellent combination of a small group Lucerne Tour, which covers all the highlights and ends with a one-hour lake cruise.
The third option is one of my favorite trips in Switzerland. A boat trip on Lake Lucerne to the lovely lakeside town of Vitznau followed by a ride up Mt Rigi on the stunning cogwheel railway.
Or, you can book a full day on the lake with all your friends on your own private boat, including stops at all the best spots, lunch at a fantastic restaurant and time to jump in the lake and swim. You can drive the boat yourself if you are up for it!
Another flexible and cheap option is this all-day ticket to jump on and off the local boats on Lake Lucerne, which include some fantastic historic steamboats. My favorite way to get to somewhere like Mt Rigi via Vitznau.
If you would prefer to organise your trip on the Lake Lucerne ferries, keep reading below.
Cruising on Lake Lucerne: Overview
The important thing you need to know before you book a boat ride on Lake Lucerne is that there are two main types of lake cruises – culinary and panoramic. Panoramic boat tours take you across the lake, allowing you to discover jaw-dropping views.
On the other hand, culinary cruises are usually themed – think fondue cruises, fajita cruises, etc. You’re seated at a dining table and enjoy a delicious meal while views of the lake and surrounding mountains flash in the background.
Panoramic boat rides are affordable and usually free or discounted with the various travel passes. Culinary boat rides are more expensive because they include a meal and drinks, and you can’t get a huge discount.
Choose a sunset cruise if money isn’t an object. Lake views are more magical when contrasted against the colors of a sunset, and dinner is much more delicious when paired with such stunning views.
Also, it is possible to choose from almost 20 different boats. The fleet includes five paddle steamers and 14 motor vessels, so feel free to board the boat you like the most.
How to Get to the Pier in Lucerne
Although there are piers in many towns along the lake shore, your best bet for a cruise is to head to Lucerne. There are seven piers in the city alone, and it’s where you’ll have the most options for Lake Lucerne boat trips. Piers 1, 2, and 3 operate boat trips to all the bigger towns on the lake shore.
There’s another reason why Lucerne is the best starting point for lake cruises, and that is easy public transport access. It’s the biggest city on the shore of the lake, and it has the best train connections to other cities in Switzerland. So, if you rely on public transport, you’ll be glad to know that you can easily travel to Lucerne by train from most other towns and cities in Switzerland.
The main train station in Lucerne is directly adjacent to piers 1, 2, and 3. It’s impossible to miss – look for the large steamboats and head in their direction.
Boats operate on Lake Lucerne year-round, so you can go on a lake cruise whenever you want. The main difference between summer and winter timetables is that the boats are more frequent in the summer. Also, some cruise routes are seasonal, so you won’t be able to do all the routes if you visit in the off-season.
Here’s a timetable for Lake Lucerne cruises this winter season:
You can check it out more at this link, and see what all the different annotations mean.
Here’s another link for the Spring 2023 timetable, which includes additional routes. I’ll add the summer 2023 timetable to this guide once they post it online!
Generally speaking, cruising on the lake in the summer is best. It’s a much more enjoyable experience when it’s warm and sunny, plus you have many more options for cruise routes. Winter cruises can be just as magical, especially when the boats are adorned with lovely Christmas decorations, but it can be freezing on the open decks.
Ticket prices depend on factors and range from 10 CHF to more than 100 CHF. You can get a day pass for the lake that lets you ride multiple boats or purchase point-to-point tickets to hop from one town to the next.
The prices also depend on the season, but the average number I can give you is between 40 CHF and 70 CHF for return tickets. Remember that you can also get all sorts of discounts, so don’t forget to check out your options.
The cheapest option is a one-hour catamaran cruise with no breaks or meals. Tickets start at some 25 CHF for second-class seats, without a discount.
You can use this link to estimate how much your journey on Lake Lucerne would cost.
The operating hours for cruises on Lake Lucerne depend on the season; you can check the current schedule here.
Cruises occur daily, even in the winter season, but the operating hours are shorter during the colder months. Also, remember that these opening hours are for the various ticket offices along the shore of Lake Lucerne – the boat cruise timetable is entirely different. It depends on the season and weather conditions.
There are usually two daily departures in the winter season for the Lucerne-Fluelen cruise, but more departures for the shorter routes on the lake. Click here for the current timetable of all cruises and ferries on Lake Lucerne.
Lake Lucerne Route Suggestions
One of the best cruise routes on Lake Lucerne is from Flüelen to Lucerne. This is the trip included in the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, so if you’re doing that and you’re going to ride the Gotthard Panorama Express Train, this is the route you should take. This cruise covers almost the entire lake, and it is truly a wonderful experience.
Luzern – Hergiswil – Alpnachstad is another popular route, especially with hikers who want to ascend Mount Pilatus, the closest mountain to Lucerne. Trips to Küssnacht and Ennetbürgen are also pretty popular, especially among travelers who want to explore as many lake destinations as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Swiss Travel Pass valid on the Lake Lucerne cruise?
Yes, the Swiss Travel Pass is valid for cruises on Lake Lucerne and gets you a free ride on any of the passenger ships. You can’t get a free culinary cruise, but depending on the exact boat, you might be eligible for a discount, so ask around.
If you have the local Tell Pass, that also includes free travel on ferries on Lake Lucerne.
Additionally, I have to point out that a Lake Lucerne cruise is included in the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland itinerary. When traveling from Lugano to Lucerne on the Gotthard Panorama Express train, passengers should get out at Flüelen for a panoramic boat trip across the entire lake.
Where can tickets be bought for the Lake Lucerne cruise?
Individual tickets for Lake Lucerne boat trips can be purchased once you’ve boarded a boat. There’s no surcharge for purchasing the ticket once you’re on the boat.
In addition to that, you can also buy tickets at the year-round offices in Weggis and Lucerne. Ticket offices in other towns are open only seasonally. Getting tickets from most railway operators is also possible, and you can even buy them online.
Can I reserve some seats for the Lake Lucerne cruise?
You can reserve seats only in the dining and lounge areas of the boats. You can’t reserve seats for the upper deck; they’re assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also, groups of ten or more people must make a group reservation, but remember that this doesn’t include a fixed seat reservation.