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Lucerne, Switzerland

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • The Mount Pilatus Cog Railway is the world’s steepest cogwheel railway.
  • The Chapel Bridge, originally built in 1333, is Europe’s oldest preserved wooden bridge.
  • The “Lion Monument” honors Swiss Guards killed serving the French king during the French Revolution.
  • Lucerne was the first town to join the young Swiss Federation (1332).
  • Locally, Lake Lucerne has a different name, which means Lake of Four Cantons.

Of bridges and cable cars

Travelers put Lucerne on their itineraries for the simplest and most sensible reason: It is a strikingly beautiful small medieval city sitting beside a pristine lake of the same name. The Swiss themselves say this body of water, with its fjord-like shoreline, has the greatest scenic variety of any lake in the country. A lot of that scenic variety is mountainous.

Visitors may ride cable cars up the closest mountains for sweeping views of Lucerne and its environs. Similarly, they may relax on the lake aboard a paddlewheel steamer.

The destination rates well with all personality types; its tranquil setting seems designed to tame the nerves of anyone needing to slow the pace of life.

At the same time, Lucerne offers an alternative balm to the soul of active travelers who what a varied pace, not a slower one. The mountains invite walkers, cyclists and climbers or, in winter, skiers and snowboarders. And the lake invites those who would cross it slowly in a kayak or quickly on waterskis.

In other words, the city attracts a real cross-section of travelers. Regardless of their pace, most visitors make popular sightseeing rounds once they see Lucerne.

For starters, the covered 14th century Chapel Bridge and its octagonal water tower have created an indelible image for the city and so are among Switzerland’s most-photographed sites. Paintings inside the bridge depict events from Lucerne’s history. The slightly more recent (1408) Mill Bridge also is covered and worth a walk-through, in this case, to see plague paintings called “Dance of Death.”

Other vestiges of the city’s past include remnants of medieval city walls and nine towers; houses decorated with frescoes, and several historic churches of note.

For festivities, Lucerne hosts a range of musical events, from classical to jazz and blues, as well as a comics festival and events with folk themes. But the big one is the annual Carnival, which kicks off on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and brings music, dance and parades to the streets.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Schedule your visit to coincide with one of Lucerne’s eclectic collection of music festivals, such as the Honky Tonk Festival, which brings many types of live music to bars and cafes one night in March; the Jazz Festival Willisau in late August, or the Lucerne Blues Festival in November.
  • Paddle a kayak through Lake Lucerne’s waters. Or pursue other water sports, such as wakeboarding, waterskiing and windsurfing.
  • Ride on the steep Mount Pilatus Cog Railway for high-altitude panoramic views of the Lucerne area — and for the ride itself.
  • Explore the shores of Lake Lucerne by bicycle on one of several cycling paths. Or, if more ambitious, choose a trail — and appropriate bike — for a trip that takes you up into the mountains.
  • Come to Lucerne a few days before Ash Wednesday, in time to attend — or even get into costume for — Carnival, which bursts forth annually on the streets and squares of the Old Town.
  • Take a history-themed hike near the shores of Lake Lucerne, following the signposted Swiss Path. The entire trail is an 11-hour hike. Or, hike up one of these mountains: Pilatus or Rigi.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Ride the Wilhelm Tell Express, a rail journey that originates in Lucerne.
  • Photograph the iconic Chapel Bridge — and walk across the covered bridge to study the paintings of Lucerne’s history on the ceiling. Walk across the Mill Bridge, too, this time to view the macabre plague paintings on its ceiling.
  • Lucerne has its own cabaret scene. Take in a show.
  • Take your mountain sightseeing excursion — to Pilatus, Rigi, Stanserhorn or Titlis — via cable car.
  • Get your permit and fish on Lake Lucerne.
  • Explore some of the towers that are part of Lucerne’s medieval ramparts. Three — Mannli, Schirmer and Zyt — are open to the public.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Include at least one Swiss-made timepiece on your shopping list for Lucerne.
  • Admire the scenery aboard a steamship cruise on Lake Lucerne. In summer, you can swim in the lake, too.
  • Devote some quality time to the highly regarded Swiss Museum of Transport. Also, if an opera fan, visit the Richard Wagner Museum.
  • Join a guided city walking tour for the story behind the city’s bridges, churches and towers — and the “Lion Monument.”
  • Schedule an excursion to the town of Altdorf, where the legendary William Tell is said to have lived.
  • Watch cheese-making demonstrations at the Lucerne Cheese Festival, in September, and then buy cheese.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Lucerne Tourism at www.luzern.com and choose your language if necessary.