Lucerne: A Swiss gem
Lucerne was the second city we visited on our 2016 trip to Switzerland (the first was Zurich, where we flew in). Since we rented a car then, we settled somewhere in the suburbs of Lucerne with the expectation of driving ourselves to where we were going: the old town, Mount Pilatus, and the transport museum. In the latter two cases there were no problems, but finding parking near the old town proved to be very difficult. In hindsight it became clear: it was better not to enter the center of Lucerne with your car, but to use public transportation.
I hesitated for a long time before publishing this story – a lot has already been written about Lucerne in the Touristier. However, I could not resist – I wanted to express my admiration for this city, which simply captivated us.
Luzern is a beautiful city in Switzerland, where the combination of natural conditions and human efforts has created a real miracle. The origin of its name is not clear – there are several mutually exclusive theories. One theory has it that the town’s name comes from Luciarius, one of the names of St. Leodegar, the town’s patron saint; another is that it comes from the word lucerna (Latin for lamp), with which an angel supposedly illuminated the site for the monastery and the town. However, Lucerne is on a large lake with the difficult name of Firwaldstätt (“lake of four forests” in German), at the place where it flows out of the river Reuss – a tributary of the Rhine. It was this Reuss (though much higher upstream) that Suvorov forced across the Devil’s Bridge during his crossing of the Alps. The city is said to have been founded in 1178, and in 1332 it joined the union of the three original Swiss cantons, and 50 years later threw off the power of the Austrian Habsburgs, gaining political independence.
Fortune favored Lucerne after the discovery in 1220. Saint-Gothard Pass through the Alps, when it was on the route from Italy to northern Europe and goods were carried in both directions. It was then that the first fortifications began to be built around the city. Interestingly, Lucerne retained its allegiance to Catholicism during the Reformation, and still does today. This made it very difficult to surround itself with Protestants Zurich and Bern, and sometimes it was involved in military clashes. The same Catholic orientation prevented Lucerne from becoming capital of the whole Swiss Confederation in 1848, although it had every chance of doing so. Since the middle of the 19th century the main occupation of the city is tourism. With a population of about 80 thousand people, it hosted (before the pandemic) about five million tourists annually.
This beautiful arch is the first thing tourists see when arriving in Lucerne by train. It’s all that’s left of its old train station, which burned down in 1971 and was replaced by a new one.
And then tourists can appreciate the beauty of Lake Lucerne (as it is sometimes called for simplicity), with the snow-capped peaks of the Alps in the distance and swans swimming nearby.
Above the city and the lake overhangs Mount Pilatus 2128 m, which is not difficult to reach and from where you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
On the other side of the lake is Mount Rigi, also with fantastic views from the top.
The spires of St. Leodegar Church are clearly visible across the lake from the station. There used to be a Benedictine monastery, from whose parish Lucerne arose.
The modern church of St. Leodegar, dating from the 17th century, is the main church of Lucerne. But the monastery itself, from which the church has its origins and which has not survived to this day, was built at the beginning of the 8th century.
Not far from St. Leodegar Church is the world-famous Lucerne monument “The Dying Lion”. It commemorates the 850 Swiss Guard officers who were killed defending the French King Louis XVI when the revolutionary mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in August 1792. It was his initiative that led to the carving of the monument in his family’s quarry, which became the symbol of the city.
A dying lion with a spear fragment in its side covers with its paw a shield with French lilies, while the inscription “Valor and Loyalty of the Swiss” is carved in Latin on the top. Mark Twain rightly called this monument “the saddest and most touching stone statue in the world. The author of the design of the monument is the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, but actually the entire composition is cut out of stone by sculptor Lukas Achorn.
Move into the center of the city to St. Peter’s Chapel, originally built in the 12th century in the Romanesque style. It was destroyed during the Reformation and rebuilt in Baroque style in the 18th century. On the wall at the entrance is a small bas-relief.
The bas-relief depicts the Gospel story of the prayer for the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane: you can see Christ praying and the three sleeping disciples, including Peter. I wonder why this particular Gospel story is depicted on St. Peter’s Church. After all, if Peter was “famous” for anything that night, it was for denying Christ three times.
Inside the chapel, the decorations are rather modest, but in the altar you can see the Gothic crucifix, which is now its main attraction.
Next to the chapel is the famous bridge, named after it – Kapellbrücke (loosely translated into Russian as Bridge by the Chapel). This is the main (along with the “Dying Lion”) landmark of Lucerne. The roofed wooden bridge, 200 m long, was built in 1365 as part of the city fortifications. It is therefore built at an acute angle to the lake and with smaller window openings on the same side.
Next to the bridge, the “Water Tower” (Wasserturm), built around the same time as part of the city fortifications, rises out of the water. Later it served as a prison and archive.
Under the roof of the bridge on the triangular slats between the rafters are more than 100 paintings from the 17th century which reflect the history of Lucerne and Switzerland. The bridge and paintings were badly damaged in a fire in 1993, and some were lost.
The bridge is surrounded on both sides by flowers and looks wonderful in combination with the beautiful houses on the promenade.
Starting from St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge ends on the other side of the river near the Jesuit Church, the main stronghold of Catholicism in Lucerne.
The Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche) was built in baroque style in 1666-1672, when Lucerne was a stronghold of the Counter-Reformation in Switzerland. It is dedicated to Francis Xavier, associate of Ignacio Loyola in founding the Jesuit order. In the mid-19th century, the Jesuits were expelled from Switzerland, but the church is still used by the Catholic community of the city.
The inside of the church is richly decorated in the Baroque style. It is believed that it was the first Baroque church built in Switzerland at all.
Almost opposite the Jesuit church, on the other side of the river, stands the beautiful old town hall, built in 1602-1606 in the Renaissance style.
Behind the town hall is a tall 17th-century clock tower, and in front of it is a small square that once housed a grain market.
The grain trade gave the square its present name, Kornmarkt , or Square of the Grain Market. It looks very nice.
Next to the Grain Market square is a more enchanting square called the Hirschenplatz (Deer Square). It takes its name from a hotel that used to stand there. All the houses on the square are beautifully painted. The green house with the rings implies a jewelry company, the painting of the house on the left with the knights commemorates an important military victory of the Swiss.
On the white corner house on the same square you can see the image of a man in period clothing – this is Goethe, who stayed here in an inn in 1779.
The Knights’ Palace, Swan Square and 19 other sights in Swiss Lucerne
Lucerne is a town in Switzerland that is located in the center of the Swiss Plateau, next to the lake and Mount Pilatus. The village is thought to have been founded before the Roman Empire, at the point where the Reuss River flows out of Lake Firwaldstätzte. There are many sights and monuments, which reflect the history of the city and sometimes the entire country. Near the railway station you can see the cultural center. Near the church of the Jesuits there is a palace of knights. First of all, the city is suitable for a visit to those who are crazy about the luxurious architecture, design and cultural monuments.
What sights to see in Lucerne (Switzerland) in 1 day
If you’re in Lucerne for one day, you can hastily put together an itinerary to visit several colorful sights at once. For example, you could visit St. Peter’s Church and visit near the Fritschy Fountain or visit the glacier garden and see the world-famous monument to the dying lion. If you want to bask on the beach and taste the famous Swiss sweets, the route through the park area Uftöschie, across the Kappelbrücke bridge and Swanplatz square is more suitable.
On a two-day visit to Lucerne, you can visit the glacier garden, the monument to the dying lion, the Kappelbrücke, the Swan Square at Schwäneplatz, Lake Firwaldstätz and, of course, Mount Pilatus.
If you only have one day, be sure to stroll through the Old Town
Beautiful places for a photo shoot in the city
And for sure you’ll want to take some beautiful pictures as a memento. The best places for this are:
- The “Dying Lion” statue;
- The Muzggmauer Wall;
- Swiss Museum of Transport;
- Biological Museum;
- Historical Museum;
- Museum of Art;
- Glacier Garden;
- Swan Square;
- Train Station;
- Uftöschi Park area;
Beautiful photos can be taken against the background of the Kappelbrücke Bridge
Lucerne is a city of incredible beauty. Almost anyone can have a good time here. A huge number of historical monuments, architecture, natural nooks and simply beautiful places will certainly leave good memories forever.
You can get here from Swiss Basel, Geneva, Zurich or take a bus from the nearest European settlements such as Lyon, Toulouse or Milan.
St. Anne’s Monastery
A convent for the Capuchin sisters. After the cantonal government bought the land on which the convent was built in 1899, they decided to reconstruct it. In this convent the locals are engaged in the production of products. The place is famous for its anise cookies and the monastery tea, which is made from herbs grown in the monastery. They are also involved in the production of prosphora.
A unique place in Lucerne to study natural history. The history of this place goes back to the times of the Kunstkammer of the 18th century. Here you can see the remains of ancient animals and prototypes of people who were our ancestors. There is a specimen in the museum, which is called the “Dragon Stone”. According to legend, this stone is the frozen fiery saliva of a dragon who lived on the mountain.
Swiss Transport Museum
The museum was opened in 1959. Its construction lasted about 2 years, after the foundation of the transport union in Zurich. In the museum you can view a large collection of ships, locomotives, airplanes and communication exhibits. Its exhibits are divided into groups. In the museum you can trace the stages of development of the Gottard Tunnel and try your hand at simulators and simulated aircraft. A unique attraction of the museum is the car theater.
Fountain “Man with Geese”
A copy of the Nuremberg statue. The original is the most famous Renaissance bronze sculpture. According to legend, a local man loved beer more than water, and after squandering all his money, decided to sell the geese. But he was thirsty on the way, and the geese offered to quench it and let him drink from their own beaks. A man walking by turned out to be a sculptor and captured it all.
The Fritschy Fountain.
It was installed in 1581 after the Swiss victory over Austria in 1446. The fountain is named after the knight Fritschi, under whose leadership this victory was won. Another version of its origin says that he brought the news of the victory to the locals. After that, annual carnival festivals of Fastnacht using masks are held. The fountain is located in the old part of town next to another Lucerne landmark, St. Peter’s Church.
Swan Square Schwanenplatz
Notable for the fact that it is usually the start of all sightseeing routes in the city. Locals call it the heart of Lucerne. It begins its route and the bridge Kapelbrücke. There are many jewelry, watch and souvenir stores on the square. The sweets and cakes available here will satisfy the tastes of even the most picky visitors.
It was built in 1481 in the late Gothic style by Caspar Lutz. The fountain is a column that is decorated with dragons and warrior figures. But this fountain is a copy, while the original was built in the knight’s court on Bahnhofstrasse.
One of the symbols of the city. It is a former medieval fortification. It was first mentioned in documents of the XIII century. The construction of the wall itself began in the XIV, and construction took place until the mid-15th century before the construction of the Cit Tower. In 1535, a unique ornament was hung on it – the clock, which, unlike all other clocks in the city, sped by one minute. The length of this wall is about 870 meters, and its thickness is up to one and a half meters.
Temple of St. Leodegar.
Built on the site of the ancient monastery, which was founded in 735 by St. Mauritius. It was first described in documents in 760, after a royal donation by King Pepin the Short. In 1633, the building was destroyed by fire. The treasury, the image of Our Lady on the altar and the sculpted Pieta were spared from the fire.
Museum of Art
The museum was built in 1998 out of glass. The project of this building was designed by Jean Nouvel, an architect from France. He proposed to build the building in the lake, but because of the enormous sums in the estimate the building was decided to be built on land. Previously the museum was located in the Kunthaus. The foundation of the museum consists of the collection of Bernhard Eglin-Stiftung and the collection of paintings of Dr. Vater and Alice Minnich, who gave it to the museum in 1937.
Old Town Hall
The building was built after the demolition of part of the market in the 16th century by Italian masters. It is finished in the style of the houses of Milan at that time and is decorated with two kinds of clocks. With a large canopy, the town hall was protected from wind and slanting rain. On June 24, 1606, the first meeting of the city council was held in this building. Today, as in the old days, part of this place is used to sell food. Here you can buy organic products in a small market.
Richard Wagner Museum
House of the composer, conductor and art theorist of the same name, who certainly knew a lot about the good life. The house, which has become a museum today, is complemented by an excellent garden overlooking the mountains and lakes. Wagner and his family lived in the house from 1866 to 1872. The five rooms of the house on the first floor illustrate photographs, paintings and the composer’s original writings. After Wagner lived in this house, it was empty and rented only for the summer.
The oldest information about this fortress dates back to 1240. Its last reconstruction was completed in 1870. The castle was erected according to the template of Chambord Castle from the banks of the Loire. Its special feature is the famous garden, in which you can see a collection of hydrangeas. In 1990, Mary Heine, who owned the château at the time, built a five-meter statue of Jesus Christ in gratitude for her recovery from a serious illness.
Its construction dates from the beginning of the 13th century. The first part of the church was made by monks in 1269 and consecrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. It does not have the high towers and transept characteristic of the Gothic style.
A park area with a very clean sandy beach is located near the train station. The park is divided by garden paths into segments and resembles an oasis, which abounds with green color, views of lakes and alpine peaks. A place for romantic strolls and admiring picturesque scenery. In the summertime, it attracts about half of the locals. It is their favorite vacation spot.
Located next to another striking landmark in Lucerne a statue of a dying lion carved into the rock. The museum opens at 9 a.m. Above the cone you can see the deep pits formed by the melting of the glacier. You can see traces of icing, glacial grinding, cauldrons, and erratic boulders called feedlings. They suggest that Lucerne was a glacier at the time of the melting. Lucerne Glacier Park was discovered by accident in 1872 when a wine cellar was opened.
The first church in Switzerland consecrated in honor of St. Francis Xavier. It was built in the middle of the XVII century. Belongs to the order of the Jesuits. It is made in Baroque of the Renaissance. In the middle of the last century has been restored the building. Inside you can see the altar, which is decorated with red marble. When important festivals are held, the church is used as a concert hall because of its terrific acoustics.
This bridge is the oldest wooden bridge in all of Europe. It was built in 1365. It is located in the “old town”. Several hundred years ago was a city fortification. Its length is more than two hundred meters. During its existence the river grew shallow, the city was built up and the bridge on both sides was dismantled by 40 meters. Under the roof of Kappelbrücke you can see panels depicting the events of life in the city.
The name was formed from the names of several cantons, on the shores of which the lake itself stands. In German it means “Lake of the Four Lands”. Its volume is about 12 km? and its area is more than 110 km? The lake fully performs its function as a site for water floating, as there is a regular ferry service. It is famous for its unusual cleanliness. The task of tracking the purity of the lake is entrusted to a Swiss research institute.
A popular place to visit in the canton of the same name. Pilatus is a mountain range, whose highest point is located at an altitude of 2821.5 meters. Its topography looks like the back of a dragon, as it mostly consists of sharp edges. You can climb there by train, cable car or on foot. The hike will take about four hours. Legends still circulate through the local villages that the local caves are inhabited by dragons.
Dying Lion Monument
The monument, a sign of courage and devotion, was carved into the rock in 1821. It is called the saddest monument. The stone lion, lying in a carved niche, symbolizes the courage of the Swiss Guard. They defended the monarchy of France, displayed on a shield, which the lion covers with his paw. The dimensions of the niche are 13 and 6 meters. The length of the reclining lion is about 9 meters. This work of art will not leave anyone indifferent.