After looking at hotel prices (wow!) for Lucerne, would it be cheaper to stay in Zurich for 3 nights or somewhere else and do a day trip to Lucerne? Thinking we may stay an extra night in Italy and only do Swiss for two nights.
did you check Hotel Restaurant Goldener Stern? Hotel website price for a double room at the end of December is 179 CHF; triple is 201 CHF. Booking.com shows the double for $193. That is pretty good for Luzern (which is an expensive city but so is Zurich).
My experience is that Zurich is more expensive than Luzern. If price is more important than location, Luzern has a suburb of Kriens where there is an Ibis and if you are driving it even has (as I remember) a free car park. We often stay, with a car, just north of Luzern at a highway rest area that has a Holiday Inn Express. There are other budget end Accor properties in Luzern as I understand although I haven't used them yet.
Luzern was a favorite for us on our recent trip. Nigel is right about the pricing , Zurich is more expensive . We stayed at one of the accor properties , the Ibis styles hotel at Lowenplatz . ten minute walk to the Hauptbahnhof , and the town . The hotel was $190 USD and included a nice breakfast . It was a very quiet location about a block from the Lion monument .
I would choose my attractions and then pick the city. For example, if going up a mountain is important to you, it's very time-consuming and you'd be better off staying in Lucerne - which does have at least two very important museums, as well as other attractions. If you've absorbed Rick's book, the answer "Lucerne" is an easy one. (I don't mean Rick is "right" for you, I just mean that his advice is pretty good!) Not because I want you to change your mind, but it's a useful exercise to think about Basel as a major attraction (with the unsubstitutable Fondation Beyeler) and with the Vitra Design museum just over the border in Germany. But Zurich is decently close to the Rheinfall and lake Konstanz, so it's not an entirely "urban" experience if you leave the city.
Will two nights be too much in Lucerne? We would arrive in the afternoon and spend two nights before departing to Zurich late afternoon on the third day.
JR, NO, two nights is not too much in Lucerne. It's a beautiful city (nicer than Zürich in many ways), with more sightseeing options (although those might be a bit limited at this time of year). The Museum of Transport is awesome! I agree with Lola that the Hotel Goldener Stern would be a good choice. I found the rooms very comfortable and it was an easy walk to the river and some of the sights.
We are going to stay the two nights, and side trips or must see's info welcome. We looked into the Stern and it is 239 chf incl breakfest (a double and a twin) for 3
We also loked at the Alpina that is 3 single beds for $218.80 chf inc break or the Alpha for 170 chf inc break THoughts?