The city itself is quite charming and a pleasure to explore on its own. It has a population of just over 80,000, making it the most populous city in Central Switzerland. It is also a hub for transportation and government in the region.
During the coldest winter months, the average lows in the city fall just below freezing and daytime highs are around about 4 degrees Celsius. During the warmer summer months, averages highs are around 24 degrees Celsius. Snow generally falls between the months of November and March, with occasional dustings during April and October.
SightsAlthough many people use Lucerne as a base to explore Central Switzerland, the city itself has a lot to offer travelers. The Chapel Bridge is the landmark of the city. It's the oldest woodbridge in all of Europe and dates back to the 14th century. Unfortunately the original bridge burned in 1993 but was very quickly rebuilt. The old city wall is also interesting to see. It has several towers including the clock tower that chimes one minute before the hour so that it has the first strike in town.
Other interesting sights around town include Alpineum, the Glacier Garden, Bourbaki Panormama, the KKL, and the Lion Monument. Interesting museums include the Swiss Transport Museum, the Lucerne Art Museum, the Rosengart Collection, and the Richard Wagner Museum.
NeighborhoodsLucerne is a small city and most visitors spend the majority of their time in the Old Town. The city is located on the shore of Lake Lucerne and has views of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps. Because of it's proximity to many outdoor destinations, the city makes a popular base for exploring the area.
ActivitiesPopular activities in the area include climbing Mount Pilatus, the top of which can be reached by either hiking or taking the cable car. If you choose to hike you can expect the ascent to take about four hours. Some people also decide to take a boat tour that will give you a ride between Lucerne and Alpnachstad.
There are a handful of other mountains you can visit that are near Lucerne. Many can be visited as day trips and will offer you a great overview of the beautiful surrounding countryside. Some of the popular mountains include Mount Rigi and Mount Titlis.
Lucerne also has a popular Carnival festival that is quite impressive if you're in the area.
Food and DiningFood can be expensive in Lucerne, like it is elsewhere in Switzerland. There are a couple of budget options near the train station. Alternatively, you can pick up some food at the market and make a meal out of bread, cheese, meats, and some fruit. Migros and Coop are both huge supermarket chains that are generally affordable. You'll find small Migros and a larger Coop at the train station where you can grab something to eat as you arrive or leave the city. The chains are also present elsewhere around town and make a convenient place to grab some cheap food. If you don't want to prepare your own meal, then there are some delicious, although expensive restaurants around town.
TransportationIt's easy to walk around and reach most places on foot, so a car is definitely not necessary. The Old Town area is quite small, and all of the other, more distant attractions are still within a half hour's walk. Not only is it easy to walk around Lucerne, but it's also very enjoyable and highly recommended.
If you decide to take public transit, then there is an extensive city bus system. Further out attractions such as the Lido Beach and the Swiss Transport Museum can be reached by bus. There are also several boats an hour that can be caught in front of the central railway station. Also near the central railway station are bicycle rental facilities. There are bike lanes on most secondary streets and most drivers around town are comfortable with bicyclists.
If you're using Lucerne as a base to explore Central Switzerland, then you will make good use of the Swiss Federal Railway, the Schifffahrt Vierwaldstattersee, or the private transit companies that travel around the country. There are frequent connections and it is relatively easy to get around the area.