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Ideas & Inspiration Holiday in Luzern / Lucerne by train
A quiet moment at Luzern station

Holiday in Luzern / Lucerne by train

Discover why Luzern is a great location from which to explore Switzerland by train

| Last Updated: 29 days ago
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Luzern is a great base for a scenic Swiss holiday for those who would rather not travel too far to access epic experiences by train.
Though as you'll see below, if wallowing in fantastic scenery is your idea of heaven on earth, you can also take easy longer rail journeys from Luzern.

Another tick in the Luzern / Lucerne box is its easy access, it it less than 90 minutes from both Basel and Zurich, so the mountain railways in the area around Luzern, are the closest to the two largest cities in northern Switzerland.
Luzern also has direct international trains from and to Milan.

Luzern station also has a wonderful location, as it's both adjacent to the charming old town area and steps away from the piers used by the cruise boats that cross the stunning Luzernsee.

So the boats on the Luzernsee / Lake Lucern link the station (and the old town area) to multiple other wonderful locations, including:

  • Alpnachstad - an alternative access to taking a train to connect with the The Pilatusbahn.
  • The funicular up to the Burgenstock resort.
  • Fuelen, which has a station on the beautiful Gotthard rail route to Göschenen - for Andermatt, Bellinzona and Locarno.
  • Vitznau for the transfer to the Rigi Bahn.

Lucerne / Luzern is also included in multiple Swiss rail holiday packages on which ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount!

  • The Best Of Switzerland themed holiday
  • the Magical Moments themed holiday
  • the Classic Grand Tour
  • the Classic Grand Tour Plus Jungfraujoch
  • the Hidden Treasures tour
  • the Grand Tour: Winter Edition
  • the Golden Pass Holidays

Easy access to mountain railways

Travelling on the Rigi Bahn Travelling on the Rigi Bahn
How to Travel on the RB (Rigi Bahnen) How to Travel on the RB (Rigi Bahnen)
Book Tell Passes with ShowMeTheJourney Book Tell Passes with ShowMeTheJourney
Riding the Brienz Rothorn Bahn Riding the Brienz Rothorn Bahn

Switzerland has eight mountain railways which have been solely constructed so that tourists can admire the views from their respective summits, without strapping on climbing or hiking gear.
Three of them can be easily accessed by direct trains from Luzern station in under 90 minutes.

  1. to Arth-Goldau for the Rigi Bahn
  2. to Alpnachstad for the Pilatusbahn
  3. to Brienz for the the Brienz Rothorn Bahn
    No other Swiss town or city has direct trains to more than two of these railways.

What also makes day trips from Luzern / Lucerne extra special is the easy access to two spectacular circular routes, which are continually wonderful, and can be completed in under four hours - if you don't also break the trip to have meals in the restaurants on the mountain summits, or spend time on other attractions, such as the cable cars.

1: The Golden Round Trip

The Pilatusbahn is one part of The Golden Round Trip to/from Luzern - the timetable is here.

The Golden Round Trip tickets include:

  1. The cruise boat trip from the piers outside Luzern station to Alpnachstad;
  2. The ride on the Pilatus Railway up to the summit of Mt Pilatus;
  3. The ride on the cable car down to the base station at Kriens; which requires a transfer between cable cars at Fränkmüntegg.
    There are rope courses, a toboggan ride and a restaurant at Fränkmüntegg.
  4. The bus ride back, to Luzern

It's easiest to travel in this direction as the bus stop in Kriens is just to the right of the gondola base station, though if you take route/line 15, which stops by the base station, you'll then need to connect into line/route 1 at the bus station in Kriens.
However, if the weather is fine, this bus stop in Kriens town centre, used by route 1, is a 10 min walk from the cable car.
This trolleybus route/line 1, which will be heading to Ebikon, Fildern, makes several stops in Luzern city centre, including at the railway station.

2: The Rigi round trip
If you want to make a circular trip from Luzern that takes in both Rigi Bahnen lines - the ARB blue line and the VRB red line, the cable car and the lake cruise - the ultimate route is:
(1) train from Luzern to Arth-Goldau
(2) ARB train from Arth-Goldau to Rigi-Kulm
(3) VRB train from Rigi-Kulm to Vitznau
(4) boat from Vitznau to Weggis
(5) cable car from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad
(6) VRB train from Rigi Kaltbad - to Rigi-Kulm
(7) ARB train from Rigi-Kulm to Arth-Goldau
(8) train from Arth-Goldau to Luzern

Go this way round and you can avoid the scramble for seats on the train at Vitznau, after the boat has docked.

to cable cars and funiculars

Book trips to Stanserhorn Book trips to Stanserhorn

The cable cars and funiculars which can be most easily accessed from Lucerne are:

  • The boats from Luzern go to Weggis for the cable car route up Mt Rigi, though it's a fairly steep walk up from the boat pier
  • The cable cars from the base station in Engelberg, which gave access to the unique rotating cars up to the summit of Mt Titlis, are within a 20 minute walk of Engelberg station.
  • The Stoosbahn is the the world's steepest funicular railway and it can be accessed from Schwyz rail station by buses on route 501.
  • The Stanserhorn with its double-deck cable cars - pictured above.

Great for kids (and adults) who enjoy a thrill ride!

Mountain coasters which give similar thrills to a toboggan ride when there's no snow and ice, have appeared in multiple locations in Switzerland, not all of which can be easily accessed by train.
However, three of those which are reachable from a station, can be easily accessed from Luzern.

  1. Take trains from Luzern to Arth-Goldau and connect there for trains on to Sattel-Aegeri, from where the cable car leads up to the Sattel-Hockstuckli adventure park - pictured above.
  2. The cable car up to the Brunni-Engelberg toboggan run, is within a 20 minute walk of Engelberg station, which can be accessed from Luzern on the hourly Engelberg Express trains.
  3. The Fräkigaudi toboggan is part of the Fräkmüntegg Experience adventure park on Mt Pilatus.

Take Trolleybus Line 1 from the front of the station (direction Obernau Dorf).
Then at the Linde Pilatus stop you can connect to bus line 15 which stops directly in front of the gondola station at Pilatus-Bahnen.
Or travel the opposite direction and make the first stage of the journey, taking the train from Luzern to Alpnachstad and then take the Pilatisbahn to the summit, for the cable car down to Fräkmüntegg.

Stunning longer day trips by train

Ride the Luzern - Interlaken Express Ride the Luzern - Interlaken Express
Looking down on the church at Wassen on the older Gotthard main line Looking down on the church at Wassen on the older Gotthard main line
Looking down the valley after Gstaad Looking down the valley after Gstaad
The spectacular Wallensee is also on the left of the train The spectacular Wallensee is also on the left of the train

For those not averse to longer journeys, particularly when they happen to be stunning, another tick in the box for choosing Lucerne as a location for a Swiss Holiday, is the easy access by train to the other stunning locations where those five other railways to the mountain summits can be found.

  1. to the Gornergrat Bahn in Zermatt - by connecting in Bern and Visp
  2. The Monte Generoso Railway - by connecting in Lugano
  3. The Schynige Platte Bahn - by connecting in Interlaken Ost and Wilderswil
  4. The Jungfrau Bahn - by connecting in Interlaken Ost, Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg
  5. The line between Montreux and Rochers-der-Naye - by connecting in Lausanne and Montreux

What also underlines why Luzern / Lucerne can be such a great choice as a base for a Swiss rail holiday is the easy access it has to multiple other locations which also have easy access to stunning rail journeys.

to Interlaken

The Luzern - Interlaken Express trains which depart hourly live up to their name, so by connecting at Interlaken Ost station, it's possible to spend most of a day in the Jungfrau Region on a day trip from Luzern.
The wonderful journey to and from Interlaken takes 1hr 50 minutes in each direction.

Connect in Interlaken for the routes into the Berner-Oberland to Grindelwald, Jungfraujoch, Mürren and Wengen.

to Montreux

Or you can continue beyond Interlaken and make additional connections in Speiz and Zweisimmen to ride the entire 'Golden Pass route' to Montreux - and take the line between Montreux and Rochers-der-Naye

Then connect in Lausanne for a fast train back to Luzern.
You can leave Luzern after 10:00 and return at around 19:00.
And the journey from Lausanne back to Luzern also has a fantastic beginning.

to Locarno

Every other hour there are direct RE (Traverso) trains from Luzern which take a spectacular route to Locarno - connect for the Centovalli Railway on to Domodossola in Italy.
Or in most hours it's possible to be in Locarno in under two hours by taking a faster IC or EC train and connecting in Bellinzona.
The fast trains share some of the scenic sections of the route that the RE trains take.

to Chur

Chur can be reached in under 2hr 15 mins by taking the trains which will be typically heading to Konstanz and connecting at Thalwil station for trains which take a wonderful route on to Chur.

Connect in Chur for the stunning Rhaetian Railway routes to the likes of Arosa, Disentis, Davos, Klosters and St Moritz.

Saving money with Tell Passes

The other worldly views as the train nears the summit of Mt Pilatus The other worldly views as the train nears the summit of Mt Pilatus
Travelling on the Rigi Bahn Travelling on the Rigi Bahn
Looking down on Arth-Goldau from the blue route of the Rigibahn Looking down on Arth-Goldau from the blue route of the Rigibahn
The train on the left awaits departure from Luzern The train on the left awaits departure from Luzern
Book to Mt Titlis with ShowMeTheJourney Book to Mt Titlis with ShowMeTheJourney
ride on Switzerland's steepest funicular, the Stoosbahn ride on Switzerland's steepest funicular, the Stoosbahn
take the steam railway up Mt Rothorn take the steam railway up Mt Rothorn
Looking down on the village of Wassen Looking down on the village of Wassen

The Tell Pass, named after William Tell, can be a great value pass if you will be spending an extended period of time in Lucerne / Luzern.
It covers 2nd class rail travel, buses, lake boats and the majority of the cable cars and funiculars in central Switzerland.
The prices are cheaper in winter because the heavy snow and ice causes some of the mountain railways to close for the season.
Hence there is a summer map of validity; and a winter map which show the validity of the routes covered by the pass.
They include:

The Tell Pass is available for unlimited travel, for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 consecutive days in 2nd class, with children's passes a flat rate of 30CHF.
It can be booked online or at a travel desk in Swiss stations, or from tourist offices.
Prices are cheaper in winter, as some of the mountain railways will be closed.
As with the other passes for Switzerland, whether a Tell Pass will save you money depends on how it's used.
As a comparison a 2nd class Adult Tell Pass valid for 2 days, costs around 7CHF more than a Golden Round Trip on Mt Pilatus + a return rail trip to the summit of Mt Rigi.
So you would only need to take one more journey, such as the lake boat, for the Tell Pass to be cheaper than buying tickets.
Or if want to solely do the Golden Pass Trip + a return journey by train and cable cars between Luzern and Titlis, you will save with the Tell Pass compared to tickets.

Saving with other rail passes

Between Spiez and Interlaken Between Spiez and Interlaken
Along the shore of the Zurichsee #3 Along the shore of the Zurichsee #3
From the Interlaken to Grindelwald train From the Interlaken to Grindelwald train
You can't see these views from the trains which travel through the Gotthard Base Tunnel ou can't see these views from the trains which travel through the Gotthard Base Tunnel

Swiss Travel Passes can be a good option for a holiday in Luzern, particularly if you'll want to;

  • take longer journeys beyond the area covered by the Tell Pass, to locations such as Bern, Chur, Grindelwald, Locarno or Montreux
  • travel along the lines and routes around Luzern that are also fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.
    They include:
  • the Mt Rigi Railways and cable cars;
  • the boats on Lake Luzern;
  • the trains between Luzern and both Interlaken and Engelberg;
  • The Stanserhorn with its double-deck cable cars;
  • the Stoosbahn - the world's steepest funicular railway + the buses on route 501 between its base station and Schwyz rail station;
  • the railway between Luzern and Goschennen and on to Andermatt, Oberalp and Realp.

Though if you want to travel on some other routes around Luzern, the balance tips towards the Tell Pass because of the greater discount it provides:

Using InterRail

If you want to take longer journeys fully covered by the InterRail passes for Switzerland, such as day trips to Chur, Locarno or Montreux, then these can be good value for money while using Luzern as base for exploring Switzerland
Though they only give a 50% discount on the routes closer to Luzern such as Mt Pilatus, Mt Rigi and the lake boats -and no discount at all on other routes fully covered by the Tell Pass. including the steam railway up Mt Brienz, the Mt Tilis cable cars and the Stoosbahn.

However, if you'll be using multi-country 'Global' Eurail and InterRail passes, Luzern can an ideal location for a stopover on an pan-European itinerary.
The 50% of the costs you'll have to spend to ascend the likes of Rigi or Pilatus, won't be more expensive than the overall travel savings you'll make on the entire trip.

Epic day trip circular routes

For those not averse to spending a whole day riding incredibly scenic railways, Swiss Travel Passes, InterRail passes for Switzerland and global Eurail and InteRail passes also fully cover these fantastic itineraries:

1: Luzern → Göschenen → Andermatt → Disentis/Mustér → Chur → Thalwil → Luzern; 7 hours approx

2: Luzern, depart 10:06 → Interlaken Ost* → Spiez → Brig via Kandersteg → Andermatt → Göschenen → Luzern; 8hr 30mins approx

3: Luzern → Interlaken Ost* → Spiez → Zweisimmen → Montreux → Lausanne → Luzern; 9 hours approx
*= you will be connecting into an express train in Interlaken which will be travelling on towards Bern and Basel

to Luzern / Lucerne by train

The access to the gleis (platforms/tracks) at Luzern is step-free The access to the gleis (platforms/tracks) at Luzern is step-free

Luzern typically has two two trains per hour from the station at Zurich airport, with the journey only taking between 50 minutes and an hour, these trains also call at the main station in Zurich.
There are also hourly trains from Geneve-Aeroport station, which have a journey time of around 3hr 10min.

Those trains from Geneva also call in Lausanne and Bern, plus there are typically two trains per hour to Lucerne from Basel.

Luzern also has direct international trains - there are typically two trains per day to and from Milano and a daily train from Frankfurt (Main) which also calls in Karlsruhe and Freiburg - though this service is currently suspended,

Also you can make the easy connection in Basel when travelling to Luzern from Amsterdam and Paris.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

ShowMeTheJourney

This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.

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