The Swiss Museum of Transport is a great day out by itself or combined with a visit to its beautiful lakeside setting near Lucerne. Covering everything from trains to planes and even space exploration, the museum is aimed at children and adults alike and offers something to interest, educate or entertain all ages – the mark of a really good family day out in my opinion.
We headed there with Roo and Beth on a rainy day in early June. It was a Saturday and we made the mistake of taking a route directly through Lucerne itself, ironically getting caught up in horrendous traffic whilst on the way to the Swiss Museum of Transport. It took us an hour to get through town but we had to laugh. At least Roo and Beth got some up close views of the electric buses on the way! Lesson learned: pick a route to the Swiss Museum of Transport that avoids the centre of Lucerne, particularly on weekends!
Inside the museum itself we were relieved to find it pleasantly full. Lots of people were there but nowhere near as cramped as I expected for Switzerland’s most popular museum on a wet Saturday summer afternoon. Perhaps it’s due in part to the huge floor space the museum takes up and the huge amount of exhibits. You really could spend two full days there easily.
Inside the Swiss Museum of Transport
It’s worth taking a few minutes to plan your day at the Swiss Museum of Transport before dashing off into the railway hall – the first of the exhibitions you will reach. There is so much to see and do in the museum that without a bit of a plan you are at risk of missing out. This is is particularly true if you are visiting with children over the age of 6. There are a lot of free, timed events and demonstrations throughout the day, most of which are tailored to children six or older. These include events such as getting to take part in a demo crash test or explore inside a submarine – definitely worth thinking about!
The museum is split into different exhibition buildings, each one based around different modes of transport. These all back onto a central courtyard with picnic facilities (picnic aboard a ship in pirate costume when it’s rainy) and some fantastic outdoor play facilities for children. There is everything from ride-on trams and trains to a miniature railway, pedalo boats and the most fantastic play construction yard complete with digging machines and working miniature quarry belts! Leave plenty of time for the courtyard if you have little ones with you – Roo and Beth could have stayed out there all day.
Back in the main exhibits most displays have English explanations. Where they don’t then take your pick from German, French or Italian. The advantage of a multilingual country is that you triple your chances of understanding! There’s also a nice combination of more grown-up exhibits and information boards coupled with things to hold the interest of little ones.
For example, the fantastic play-railway set complete with working points that is set just next to a big display on the intricacies of tunnelling and laying railway across the challenging mountainous Swiss terrain.
For older children there were plenty of hands-on experiences such as airplane simulators. Even the little ones can have a go at trying to land a plane using their arms as wings and balance to direct the plane down safely. Some of the more popular of these can involve a bit of a wait for your go – perhaps worth planning to include them first thing in the morning or whilst everyone else is eating lunch?
There truly was so much to see that I cannot begin to describe everything we saw at the museum. These are just some of our personal highlights:
- Giant, walk on topographic map of Switzerland. You can view it from a platform above or put on some giant Swiss flag slippers and take the easiest route yet over the Swiss Alps whilst tracking down where you are staying. This was my choice but the girls absolutely loved it and spent ages exploring and finding bits of missing map on the jigsaw activity.
- Looking underneath a train. In the train hall you can go down some steps and take a look back up at exactly what a train looks like from underneath. OK – so I come from working in the rail industry so this was always going to be fun for me, but the girls enjoyed it too!
- Learning how cable cars work, including Roo getting to pretend to operate the cable car station! This was great given we had been riding on quite a few cable cars in the last week and my husband and I finally solved the technicalities behind why they go so slowly when they pick you up and then so much faster once going up the mountain! There was also a real cable car carriage you can go in where you get a bit of a sudden surprise with the floor…I won’t spoil it for you!
- Going down the escape slide on the airplane. OK – so this is basically just a normal, indoor slide in the airplane hall but Roo thought it was ace, as did all her other little friends judging by how many of them were coming squealing down it! I’m sure I saw Roo purposefully trying to wobble our airplane on the flight back to the UK…
- The massive automobile gallery – literally an entire huge warehouse wall of cars. You can select one of them by group voting buttons and it is then brought down by a ‘grabber’ and a short information film played about its history. The film bit was lost on our preschoolers but the concept of picking a whole car off a shelf was pretty impressive for all of us!
- The space gallery. This was always going to be a hit, given how space crazy our four year old daughter is right now. The exhibition took a bit of finding (we accidentally exited the museum trying to find it) but Roo and Beth enjoyed exploring the space-station mock-up, whizzing round to test out their tolerance to space sickness on the roundabout and watching the video showing a local school project where a lego man had been blasted up into the atmosphere and then parachuted back down with a video recorder on his back!
There are so many things I haven’t got room to include here and so many more we didn’t even get to see or try out due to lack of time! It really is a fantastic museum though and I suspect one of those that gets better with each visit as you find your way around.
Getting to the Swiss Museum of Transport
The Swiss Museum of Transport is aptly easily accessible by public transport, with a boat ride to the lakeside just a minute’s stroll from the museum no doubt most likely to thrill little transport enthusiasts – full details can be found on their website.
Alternatively if you are driving like we were, there is plenty of parking around but it does fill up early. One word of warning (other than not driving through Lucerne centre!) – if you park in the car park area opposite the Lido on Lidostrasse then make sure you are parking inside the barrier area. The cost of parking on the pull-in section near the shops is prohibitive for the day but the main Lido car park is very reasonable.
Entry to the Swiss Museum of Transport costs 30 Swiss Francs for an adult – around £20 at current time of exchange. A family ticket costs 65 CHF. There are further discounts for holders of a Swiss Travel Pass and children under six years old get free entry. You can buy tickets online ahead of your visit but that doesn’t include the option for family tickets or special discounts.
If you want to visit the other attraction based at the Swiss Museum of Transport, such as the Chocolate Adventure, planetarium or cinema, then there are additional charges although you get a discount if visiting the main museum too. We didn’t visit any of the above though – even if we had wanted to, there simply wasn’t time!
Food-wise, it is totally up to you what you do but chances are you’ll be staying long enough to need some kind of refreshment. There are plenty of outdoor picnic options including some under shelter and the location of these areas right next to the fantastic kiddy play area is worth considering this seriously. There is also a sausage van in the courtyard or indoor restaurant and self-service options.
Finally, should you actually have time to do something in the day other than just explore the Swiss Museum of Transport then you are perfectly placed to explore the beautiful lakeside area of Lucerne too. You can walk into town on lakeside parks, enjoy the Lido with its family activities, relaxing area and lakeside bathing or just follow your feet along the lakeside in the other direction with the most gorgeous mountain back-drop. Head down to the lake on the hour to hear what seems like a million bells striking the hour from around the lake shores. It’s worth giving yourself plenty of time.
For full information about the Swiss Museum of Transport and their latest events and prices, please visit their website.