The best panoramas are the views from any of Lucerne's nine lookout towers, which are clustered in an orderly row within a 5-minute walk uphill and north from the center of town. Part of the old fortifications erected along the north side of the medieval sector, they were all built in a different style between 1350 and 1408. At twilight, they stand in dramatic silhouette against the sky. The nine towers are known collectively as the Museggtürme; you can climb only three of them. Admission is free, and they're open from May until the beginning of October from noon to 8pm daily. You can also take a short walk on the old outer wall of the city.
Although our only walking tour is for the independent traveler, guided walking tours are also available; contact the tourist office for more details. These tours cost around 18F. In summer, tours depart daily at 9:45am; in winter, tours are conducted only Wednesday and Saturday at 9:45am.
There are dozens of half-day and full-day excursions from Lucerne -- so many that we recommend you allow at least 5 days to see the city and its environs. There are several points of interest around Lake Lucerne. Most of them can be reached by paddle steamer along the lake. While en route, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the water and mountains. Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) winds its way 39km (24 miles) into the alpine ranges of the heart of Switzerland. Many excursions can be combined with a trip to the top of a mountain by cable car or funicular. Summer is the peak season.
Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne Navigation Co.; tel. 041/367-67-67; www.lakelucerne.ch) operates a flotilla of lake steamers that chug across the surface of Lake Lucerne, much to the delight of sightseers, who appreciate the steep mountains rising on all sides. Round-trip passage from Lucerne to the lake's most distant point, Flüelen (4-hr. round-trip) costs 100F in first class or 67F in second class, and departs from the quays opposite the Hauptbahnhof in Lucerne. In midsummer, departures begin at 9:15am and continue every hour or so throughout the day. Wherever you decide to disembark en route, find out the departure time of the last boat back to Lucerne. Usually, the last boat from Flüelen departs before 4pm. All boats have a restaurant, or at least a cafeteria, onboard.
The William Tell Express offers an opportunity to see regions of German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland in one leisurely and scenery-stuffed full-day excursion. Between May and mid-October, it transports participants, as part of a 5-hour travel experience, twice a day from Lucerne, via Lugano, to Locarno. The rest of the year, there's only one daily departure. Begin with a 3-hour boat ride from Lucerne to the lakeside hamlet of Flüelen. From there, you'll hop aboard a specially designed train with panoramic windows and skylights for a continuation of the trip across some of the most jagged and precipitous mountain scenery in the world. Included in the package's one-way price of 174F per person (Lucerne to Locarno) is a simple meal, served aboard the lake steamer during the first part of the journey. Some passengers opt for an upgraded package, priced at 214F per person, each way, which features a more elaborate three-course meal aboard the boat and some touristic trinkets and souvenirs which are included in the price. Reservations, preferably finalized several days in advance, are vital. To make them, and get more information, call tel. 041/367-67-67 or visit the website at www.wilhelmtellexpress.ch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.