I came to Lucerne for a day trip. But as soon as I got off the train, I realized that I’d made a mistake. With Switzerland’s fourth largest lake, two scenic mountains (Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus), and a small but well preserved old town, the city of Central Switzerland has a lot to offer.
The best way to explore Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus is through the Golden Round Trip, a half-day or whole-day excursion involving a boat trip, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, an aerial cableway and panorama gondola.
To begin the trip with boat ride, locate the ferry dock.(Luzern Bahnhofquai) across the street from the train station.
The large building next to the dock is Lucerne Culture and Congress Center.
The scenic cruise to Alpnachstad takes one to one and half hours, passing charming villages, abandoned fortress and lush meadows.
Upon disembarcation in Alpnachstad, walk straight to the Pilatus cogwheel station
And board the train to begin your thirty minute ascend on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway.
To get a good view of the climb and Lake Lucerne, pick a spot in the back of the car.
The train makes one stop in Ämsigen, where you will encounter cows (after all, this is Switzerland), and choose to hike the rest of the way to the summit.
Or simply stay on the train and let the engine do the work.
The journey takes you to Pilatus Kulm, near Esel summit. There is a visitor center with restaurant and restroom facilities, and several short walking trails to explore. It might be a bit cold and windy, but the view is gorgeous, even on a cloudy day.
There is a poster at the end of a trail that says: You are entering a military guarded area. When called upon to “Halt”, immediately stand still and follow the instructions of military personnel. Troops have police rights. If absolutely necessary, they will shoot.
The military installation behind the wires is fortified radar by FLORAKO system.
After spending sometime at the top, ride the new aerial cableway (since April 1st, 2015) and panorama gondola down to Kriens, and enjoy a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of Lake Lucerne during the descend.
From the gondola station, walk about five minutes to take bus no.1 back to Lucerne.
There is an alphorn workshop on the way to the bus stop to pique your curiosity.
Lucerne can be reached easily from nearly every other city in Switzerland using the Swiss Federal Railway. There are hourly trains from Olten and Zurich Airport and half-hourly trains from Zurich, and a direct train every hour from Bern.