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Choosing between Lucerne and Locarno

We are travelling with our children aged 6 and 9. We'll be visiting Lausanne and Lauterbrunnen and have 7 more days to fill.

We thought of spending 3-4 days in Bern with day trips to Avenches and Murten. For our remaining days, would you expert travellers recommend Locarno or Lucerne? We have heard great things about the Italian part of Switzerland but Lucerne also seems very pretty.

For the route, would you recommend Lauterbrunnen - Bern - Locarno (or Lucerne) OR Lauterbrunnen - Locarno (or Lucerne) - Bern?

Many thanks!

Posted by
3336 posts

Between Locarno or Lucerne I would spend my time in Lucerne. Locarno is beautiful but more Italian in feel when considering the architecture and culture. Lucerne is about as Swiss as it gets and the lake and mountains there are stunning.
Is there a burning reason you want to stay in Bern? It's nice but not a place I would spend more than one night in on my way somewhere else.

Posted by
31471 posts


While all of Switzerland is scenic, I'd probably skip Bern, Avenches and Murten and focus on Lucerne and Locarno. That will provide a nice blend of German and Italian areas.

The route I'd probably use is Lauterbrunnen > Lucerne > Locarno, although that would depend to some extent on where you're going after that.

A few thoughts......

  • the trip from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne is only about 2H:25M, so very easy.
  • while in Lucerne, you could easily do a day trip to Bern if you want to see the Bear Park or whatever. It's only about an hour each way.
  • your children might enjoy the fantastic Museum of Transport in Lucerne. You could easily spend the better part of a day there.
  • you might also like to visit the famous Lion of Lucerne as it has an interesting history, and was referred to by Mark Twain as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."
  • while in Lucerne you could also take a trip to Mt. Pilatus

For the trip to Locarno, one route you could consider is to travel by train to Domodossola (about 3 hours or so) which is on the Italian border. From there take the scenic Centovalli Railway to Locarno (that trip is about 2 hours as I recall). Locarno is worth a few days and while there you could......

  • visit the impressive Madonna del Sasso Franciscan Monastery.
  • take the cable car up to Cardada & Cimetta, which provides incredible views of the lake and the city. You could so some light hiking up there and have lunch at one of the restaurants. There's a restaurant right next to the top cable car station that has a great patio, and you can watch the Paragliders sailing by while dining.
  • stroll along the waterfront
  • explore the many stores and restaurants surrounding Piazza Grande.

Depending on where you're going after that, you could return to Stresa by boat and then take the train from there to your next destination. You should easily be able to fill in seven days in those two places.

Posted by
3 posts

This is great info. Bern was recommended to us by a Swiss friend as a neat place to visit but doing it as a day trip makes sense. We'd thought about going to Avenches because our kids are into Roman history. It looks like it could be a day trip from Lausanne however, if we really want to see it.

Thanks very much!

Posted by
31471 posts


While Bern is a beautiful city, seeing it as a day trip will probably be adequate.

Are you staying in hotels or apartments during your trip. If hotels, have you chosen any yet? As you may have heard, Switzerland is expensive, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Were you planning to see Chateau de Chillon while in Lausanne?

Posted by
3 posts


Thanks for your note. Yes, we're aware of how expensive Switzerland is as my husband is often there on business. We've got hotels booked for the first 7 days and I am looking for an apartment rental for at least part of the second week. They seem scarcer in Lucerne than I expected - any tips?

We're definitely seeing the Chateau de Chillon while in Lausanne and friends are taking us hiking for a day.
One of our friends suggested waiting to see what the weather does before making final decisions about the second week but I prefer to have accommodations booked before I arrive!

Thanks again for your advice!

Posted by
31471 posts


Unfortunately I travel solo, so don't have any information to offer on apartment rentals. I'm sure some of the others will be able to help with that. I can provide hotel suggestions if needed.

For the trip from Lausanne to Chateau de Chillon, I'd suggest taking the boat one way and returning by train. The ship La Suisse is an elegant way to make that trip, and it would probably be very interesting for your children as the engine parts are mostly exposed. It's fascinating to watch it all work. If you expect to be at the Chateau at lunch time, you might want to pack a sandwich or something as there are no food services there (aside from a few vending machines). The food on the steamer can be expensive.

I also prefer to have accommodations booked in advance. These days that's prudent, as a lot of people travel and places can book up quickly.