Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons; as it is known to the Swiss because four cantons have borders on the lake), or Lake Lucerne (as it is known to the rest of us) is a special place: watched over by mountains of mythical appeal (Rigi, Pilatus), crisscrossed by old-fashioned boats, ringed by picturesque towns (Weggis, Brunnen) and associated with historic highlights and subject to powerful weather-induced mood swings.
Stats-wise, the lake is Switzerland’s fourth-largest. Its total area is 114 sq km (44 sq mi) and getting around it is simple: it can be circumnavigated by car and crossed by boat.
Numerous cruises (some culinary; we give prices for the lunch cruise) depart from Lucerne, exploring as far as Lake Uri. The William Tell Express also departs from here, finishing in Ticino.
Lake swimming is available at Strandbad Lido and numerous other spots. Strandbad Lido is the easiest to access from central Lucerne.
Two great works of 19th-century classical music are associated with Lake Lucerne: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (its first movement was compared to moonlight on the lake’s surface by critic Ludwig Rellstab) and, of course, the overture to William Tell by Rossini, which opens with Dawn, as the sun rises over the Alps.