Horw is first mentioned in 1231 as Horwe.
Horw has an area of 12.8 km2 (4.9 sq mi). Of this area, 32.6% is used for agricultural purposes, while 42.5% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 24.2% is settled (buildings or roads) and the remainder (0.7%) is non-productive (rivers, glaciers or mountains). In the 1997 land survey, 42.42% of the total land area was forested. Of the agricultural land, 30.54% is used for farming or pastures, while 1.94% is used for orchards or vine crops. Of the settled areas, 14.61% is covered with buildings, 1.01% is industrial, 1.09% is classed as special developments, 1.79% is parks or greenbelts and 5.59% is transportation infrastructure. Of the unproductive areas, 0.39% is unproductive standing water (ponds or lakes), 0.08% is unproductive flowing water (rivers) and 0.54% is other unproductive land.
The municipality is located on the outskirts of Lucerne on the Horwer peninsula. It covers the base of Mt. Pilatus and the, until the 20th Century swampy, valley below the mountain.
Horw has a population (as of 31 December 2016) of 13,884. As of 2007, 16.2% of the population was made up of foreign nationals. Over the last 10 years the population has grown at a rate of 8.8%. Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (86.5%), with Italian being second most common (2.3%) and Serbo-Croatian being third (2.0%).
In the 2007 election the most popular party was the SVP which received 25.2% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were the CVP (24.5%), the FDP (23.2%) and the SPS (13.4%).
The age distribution in Horw is as follows: 2,583 people or 19.9% of the population is 0–19 years old. 3,224 people or 24.8% are 20–39 years old, and 4,584 people or 35.3% are 40–64 years old. The senior population distribution is 1,990 people or 15.3% are 65–79 years old, 513 or 4% are 80–89 years old and 89 people or 0.7% of the population are 90+ years old.
The entire Swiss population is generally well educated. In Horw, about 74.2% of the population (between age 25–64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule).
As of 2000 there are 5,426 households, of which 1,951 households (or about 36.0%) contain only a single individual. 282 or about 5.2% are large households, with at least five members. As of 2000 there were 1,771 inhabited buildings in the municipality, of which 1,537 were built only as housing, and 234 were mixed use buildings. There were 913 single family homes, 209 double family homes, and 415 multi-family homes in the municipality. Most homes were either two (692) or three (508) story structures. There were only 82 single story buildings and 255 four or more story buildings.
Horw has an unemployment rate of 2.15%. As of 2005, there were 235 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 45 businesses involved in this sector. 736 people are employed in the secondary sector and there are 120 businesses in this sector. 3423 people are employed in the tertiary sector, with 344 businesses in this sector. As of 2000 50.9% of the population of the municipality were employed in some capacity. At the same time, females made up 44.6% of the workforce.
In the 2000 census the religious membership of Horw was as follows: 8,153 (64.5%) were Roman Catholic, and 1,905 (15.1%) were Protestant, while an additional 247 (1.95%) were of some other Christian faith. Three individuals (0.02% of the population) were Jewish. 472 individuals (3.73% of the population) were Muslim. Of the rest, there were 135 (1.07%) individuals who belonged to another religion, 1,091 (8.63%) who did not belong to any organized religion, and 642 (5.08%) who did not answer the question.
The historical population is given in the following table:
The International School of Zug and Luzern has its Lucerne campus in Kastanienbaum, in Horw.
Horw is served by Horw station on the Brünig railway line, and the linked Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line. The Lucerne S-Bahn services S4 and S5 combine to provide four trains per hour at the station. The buses (lines 20, 21, 14 and 16) from VBL Verkehrsbetriebe Luzern connect Horw frequently to Lucerne and Kriens.