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Lake Lucerne by Steamer

Steamer Unterwalden on Lake Lucerne

ABOVE: The 1902-vintage paddlewheel steamer Unterwalden on Lake Lucerne (a.k.a. Lake of the Four Forest Cantons).

Lake Lucerne, also known as the Vierwaldstättersee or "Lake of the Four Forest Cantons," may be the most beautiful lake in Switzerland. It's certainly among the most spectacular, with mountains on all sides and forests coming down to the shore in many places. If you pick only one lake for cruising by boat, make it Lake Lucerne--and try to spend it least one leg of your cruise aboard a restored paddlewheel steamer or Dampfschiff like the Stadt Luzern, Gallia, Schiller, Uri, or Unterwalden (shown in photo).

The Vierwaldstättersee is a large, irregularly shaped lake that offers a new view with every change of direction--and there are many of those during cruises of the lake, since the boats zigzag across its sparkling surface as they pick up and discharge passengers at villages along the shore.

The main sailing season runs from June through late September, with a reduced schedule in April through late May and in October. Some boats run year-round; for a current timetable, see the Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee (SGV) Web site, which you can reach via a link on page 3.

Where to catch the boat

In Lucerne, steamers depart from Luzern Bahhofquai, the pier next to the railroad station. You can't miss it: Just step outside the train station, turn right, and you'll see the boat landing where the River Reuss meets the lake.


Steamer fares are based on distance and class of ticket. You'll pay 50% more in first class than in second class. (Accommodations are similar in both classes, but the first-class lounges may be less crowded during high season.).

You can save money on the fare by using rail passes:

  • The Swiss Travel Pass comes in several different versions and validity periods for travel by rail, steamer, and other modes of transportation throughout Switzerland. For more information, see the Swiss Travel Pass pages at the Swiss Federal Railways Web site.

  • The Tell-Pass is a regional transportation pass. It offers unrestricted travel for two, three, four, five, or 10 days in the Lake Lucerne region. For details, visit the Tell-Pass Web site.

Wilhelm Tell Boys

ABOVE: The "Wilhelm Tell Boys" perform on a vintage lake steamer with mountain cliffs as a backdrop.

Related articles

Swiss lake steamers
Cruise Switzerland's lakes on commuter boats and historic paddlewheelers. The boats often stop near railway stations, and you can travel free with your Swiss Pass.

Wilhelm Tell Express
From spring through fall, you can combine a three-hour voyage on Lake Lucerne with a panoramic train trip to Canton Ticino.

Lucerne Articles Index
Read about the city's bridges, Lion Monument, Transportation Museum, and more.

Steamer links

Schiffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee (SGV)
This official SGV Web site provides a timetable, fares, pictures of the fleet, excursion offers, sample meal menus, etc.

St. Niklausen Schiffgesellschaft (SNG)
Lucerne's other boat company offers narrated cruises, excursions to other towns on the lake, and private charters.