Are you planning a trip to Switzerland and want to find some beautiful cities to put on your itinerary? Look no further, Lucerne is a gorgeous place to visit with lots to see in one day.
I don’t know what it is about Switzerland, but over and over again we find ourselves in this gorgeous Alpine country. It might be the incredible mountain scenery, or the delicious cheese, or the perfectly amazing products like their Swiss Army knives, or maybe it’s a combination of all of it.
Perhaps, part of it is that at some point during the year, I find myself peeling and sticking the annual Swiss Road Tax sticker onto my windshield. From that point on I feel driven to return as often as possible to get the most out of that little three-inch square decal. At least the location is awesome, snug between Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy.
In this article:
Driving Through Switzerland
We had an amazing time in the mountains and the Lauterbrunnen Valley and got on the road early Sunday morning. By the time we had driven to the Lucerne region we were feeling the pull of the road and thinking, “maybe Lucerne will wait for the next time.” Fate, on the other hand, had a different plan for us.
We never found out what had happened, but for some reason, the highway ahead of us was closed and we were diverted onto a secondary road that had signs leading for–you guessed it–Lucerne! I looked at Corinne and she looked at me, and without any words, the decision had been made for us. We stuck with it, too, even though the detour ended soon enough and would have sent us back to the highway. We kept on driving right into town.
Of course, we had no plan, no idea of what we would do there, but we knew we had at least two hours to spend in town and were determined to make the most of it. Parking was easy enough to find. We followed the directional signs to the Centrum and noticed the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) Parkhaus was in the same direction.
First Impressions of Lucerne
As we got closer to the center we started noticing the fairytale-style spires and onion-domed cathedral bell towers. We knew we were in for a treat.
The underground parking at the new train station was simple and convenient. We came above ground into the small mall under the train station and found a bakery.
Here we picked up a couple of the “must have” pastries of Lucerne, the delicious schoggibrötli. These tasty little chocolate-filled sweet rolls would make for a nice little snack on our walk around town.
The first thing you notice when you come out of the train station is the beautifully enigmatic entrance arch from the old station. When the station burned down, the city decided to keep the old entrance as a memorial.
Now I found it as an interestingly symbolic entrance to the city. Once through the arch, we came to the lakeshore and vowed to come back for a ferry ride out onto the lake made famous by the tales of William Tell. For today, however, there just wasn’t time so on we went.
Things to do in Lucerne
The historic center of Lucerne is fairly small and compact, easy enough to walk around in one morning or afternoon and still see all of the sights. Of course, there are some highlights that should not be missed.
Wasserturm (Water Tower)
Standing proudly and stalwart in the middle of the Reuss river mouth, The Wasserturm is a 14th-century tower was once part of the city fortifications. It has been used as a watch tower, treasury, prison, and torture chamber. You wouldn’t think it to look at it, but it’s actually wider than it is tall.
Kappelbrucke (Chapel Bridge)
This ancient, covered wooden Chapel Bridge, or Kappelbrücke, has been the primary pedestrian crossing over the Reuss river for nearly seven centuries. Be sure to look up while crossing the bridge. Otherwise, you might miss the most stunning feature. The scenes painted along the ceiling in the 17th century depict the local history and the interesting biographies of the town’s patron saints, Saint Maurice and St. Leodegar.
Nadelwehr (Water Spikes)
This was the most fascinating part of Lucerne for me. I had no idea what it was when I saw it, I just knew it must be an old engineering marvel. The wooden spikes can be lifted and lowered as needed to control the water level in the lake. In older days they were used to guide the proper water flow over the city’s mills.
Spreuerbrucke (Chaff Bridge)
Another old, covered wooden bridge crossing the Reuss river, the Spreuerbrucke gets its name from the practice of townspeople bringing their wheat to the mill. Apparently, they would stand on the bridge and separate the chaff from the wheat, letting it blow into the river and be carried away downstream. I’m not sure if this is true or not. Regardless, the painting along the walkway on this bridge depict the scenes of Le Danse Macabre; they are fascinating and eerily beautiful 17th-century masterpieces.
The Lucerne Town Hall is an impressive edifice that stands in the center of town with the Kornmarkt square on one side and the river on the other.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays (6:00 am until 12:00 pm) there is a farmer’s market. We weren’t there for the market, but it’s a sprawling place to get some fresh produce.
As an added bonus, there is an excellent brewery on the east wing of the building to have lunch at when you’re finished shopping or gawking!
We could have spent even more time than we did wandering the alleys and cobblestone streets. The medieval architecture brings you back in time to the days of fair maidens and knights in shining armor.
There are many colorful buildings, with murals and other intriguing designs. The old town is just full of ornate details and hidden gems. Take your time!
After our long walk, we found a quiet bench along the river and enjoyed our schoggibrötli (a scrumptious chocolate sweet roll), contemplating the pleasant twist of fate that finally brought us into Lucerne. Boy, did we enjoy this beautiful city.
One of the most famous relief statues in the world, this monument which is not right downtown, has over 1.4 million visitors per year. It’s worth a stop.
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Where to Stay in Lucerne
Lucerne is a great walking city, and it’s great to stay right in the thick of things. We love staying downtown, on the river. Just remember you pay what you get for, and in Switzerland, things are super expensive but usually worth it. We did put a couple of cheaper options on the list.
- Hotel Des Alpes – A perfect location, great breakfast, and really comfy rooms.
- Altstadt Hotel Krone Luzern – Another hotel right downtown. This one has plenty of large rooms that are great for families.
- Anstatthotel Horw – Without going overboard, this is one of the cheaper options. The furniture is IKEA chic, so nothing special, but you can be comfortable and save a few bucks with this option.
- Hostel Lion Lodge Luzern – A pretty nice cheap alternative, this hostel has plenty of room configurations to choose from.
Where to Eat in Lucerne
In our humble opinions, Swiss food is pretty darn delicious. No matter where you pick to eat, you will probably be getting the freshest ingredients with a down-home traditional meal. Yum!
- Pfister Restaurant – Traditional Swiss. Try the raclette or fondue!
- Restaurant Frischi – More fondue…who can eat enough? The beef stroganoff is superb as well.
- Restaurant Lapin – located in the De La Paix Hotel has some great choices and a Chef’s menu that is really worth getting.
- Seebistro Luz – located in the train station with magnificent views of the river. This restaurant offers a lighter fare, a great lunch spot.
It took us awhile to really stop in the city of Luzerne, but we’re certainly glad we did. It’s all at once charming, modern, clean, and offers some of the best restaurants we’ve eaten in. Don’t miss it.
This article was truly written by both of us! I hope you enjoyed it.
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
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