Lake Hopping in Switzerland: Lucerne & Maggiore

The Alps is filled with gorgeous ocean-like lakes and many have become posh summertime hotspots. Interlaken, Zurich, Lugano; you’ve heard of these. However, there are so many more that you haven’t. And that’s exactly why you need to check out these 2 hidden gems (hidden to Americans at least): Lake Lucerne and Lake Maggiore.

Where are they?

Lake Lucerne is nearly smack dab in central Switzerland, about an hour Southwest of Zurich and Lake Maggiore is right on the Italian border, about an hour Northwest of Lake Como. So to reach either I recommend flying into Zurich and then either taking the train or renting a car for that final hour or two.

View of Lake Lucerne

Lake Lucerne

When you first arrive on Lake Lucerne you’ll think you haven’t left Zurich. It appears to have just as many grand hotels lakeside as it’s bigger brother and yet far fewer English speaking crowds.

Like Zurich, you’ll have your choice of hotels, something for every budget is available. But for the luxury traveler, the obvious choice is the Palace Luzern, right on the Northern side of the lake. With parking available in an onsite garage, this hotel is certainly road trip friendly, so why not do as we did and do a tour of Switzerland and perhaps start in Basel and work your way down?

This hotel has several different types of rooms, but I must recommend one of the junior suites facing the lake, large balcony included. The view in the morning will make the whole trip worth it alone!

Oh and the hotel even provides some complimentary binoculars with a viewfinder map so you can scope out all the mountains peaks on the other side of the lake.


Downtown Lucerne

With a magical little old town filled with funky bars and restaurants, Lucerne is perfect for both the history buff and the cool kid. Enjoy walking through the winding cobbled streets on your way tore Jazzkantine restaurant.

And for an after dinner romantic stroll, head across the lake on the he Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), which is filled with paintings from the 14th Century. Although unfortunately a large portion of them were destroyed in a fire in 1993.

Lake Maggiore

When visiting Lake Maggiore, you can either stay in Switerland or in Italy; we stayed on the Swiss side in a little town called Ascona. Ascona has a few 5 star hotels, but for the one with the largest and sunniest lakeside presence you need to head to Castello del Sole. This hotel is actually a massive compound, complete with 3 hotel buildings, a large spa, 5 restaurants, a pool, a beach and its own farm!

Aerial View of Castello del Sole

As you can see above the grounds are quite vast, with the 3 main buildings in the foreground and the farm on the side and in the background.

What to Do in Ascona

There are only 2 activities I recommend when visiting Ascona: taking a cruise around the lake (in either a car or a boat) and luxuriating at Castello del Sole. With so many places to relax lakeside, this is one of those resorts that you will not want to leave. And with restaurants serving up some of the tastiest dishes, made with ingredients straight from their own backyard, there is really no need to venture outside the gates.

For lunch we dined at Ristorante Tre Stagioni and enjoyed all the fresh delicacies of the day. Including: some deliciously crisp salads and some amazing risotto and pasta.

If you are feeling adventurous and don’t feel like staying on campus all day, take one of the hotel’s Vespas for a little ride around town to see it like a local.

Now for dinner, you are in for a real treat. In the hotel’s most gourmet restaurant, Locanda Barbarossa, you will be wined and dined like royalty. With a set menu and wine parings, you need not make any decisions, just sit back and enjoy the ride. We were wowed by the level of elevation the chef was able to bring to humble ingredients like trout and pigeon.

Our Suite

We stayed in the “Well-Being” pavilion and had a lovely junior suit overlooking the grounds. Oh and by the way, the view from in the morning light was just breath taking.