For many the star of the Swiss show, Lucerne (population 78,000; official language German) or Luzerne. Astoundingly pretty and beautifully situated, watched over by brooding Pilatus and Rigi, the City is in constant change with the play of light and weather upon glorious Lake Lucerne.
Capturing its essence is a simple affair and doesn’t take much time. Lace up those walking shoes, brave the crowds (Lucerne is deservedly popular with tourists) and explore its gracious Old Town center and stunning location over a couple of days, and you’ll have memories for a lifetime.
Prosperity, prettiness and placement have all contrived to make the Old Town a visual feast. With fresco-ed building facades, painted wooden bridges over the Reuss River, narrow medieval streets and old-fashioned fountains, there’s a lot to look at.
The best place to start your explorations is on the northern side of the river. Here you’ll see medieval buildings and character-filled cobble-stoned streets-cum-squares such as Weinmarkt and Kornmarkt. The latter has the 17th-century Rathaus (Town Hall) and the beautiful frescoes of the Pfistern Guildhall.
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From here it’s a hop, skip and jump to the Jesuit Church. Furthermore, Lucerne stayed Catholic during the Protestant Reformation, and to this day the canton remains so.
Also on this side of the river is the impressive Sammlung Rosengart. A must for lovers of Picasso and Klee, or indeed anyone interested in the relationship between art dealers and artists.
After lunch at Wirtshaus Galliker, head through the Old Town’s streets until you arrive at the sombre, heartstring-tugging Lion Monument.
The modern architectural masterpiece that is the KKL is the focus of Lucerne’s famous love of music – the Lucerne Festival, which is definitely worth attending if you’re in town when one of its themed seasons is on. If you’re in the mood for more art, you can cast eye around Kunstmuseum Lucerne.
For dinner, head a little bit out of the touristy centre to the rusti-chic Grottino 1313. Here a roaring fireplace, Italian comfort food and down-to-earth service awaits.
On Day 2, you’re out of the city proper and experiencing one of Switzerland’s iconic journeys. The Golden Round Trip, which consist of a half- or full-day excursion, usually starting with a boat trip to Alpnachstad.
From there a cog railway all the way up brooding Mt Pilatus, whose moody countenance dominates the surrounding landscape. However, in the case of inclement weather, forgo Pilatus. Head instead to the astounding transport museum, which will only solidify your impression that Switzerland is a tad obsessed with transport infrastructure.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in or around Lucerne, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. If you wish to book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you have somewhere particular in mind, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.