High-resolution quantitative temperature records from continents covering glacial to interglacial transitions are scarce but important for understanding the climate system. We present the first decadal resolution record of continental temperatures in Central Europe during the last deglaciation (~14,600–10,600 cal. yr B.P.) based on the organic geochemical palaeothermometer TEX86. The TEX86-inferred temperature record from Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee, Switzerland) reveals typical oscillations during the Late Glacial Interstadial, followed by an abrupt cooling of 2°C at the onset of Younger Dryas and a rapid warming of 4°C at the onset of the Holocene, within less than 350 years. The remarkable resemblance with the Greenland and regional stable oxygen isotope records suggests that temperature changes in continental Europe were dominated by large-scale reorganizations in the northern hemispheric climate system.