Lucerne is one of the most beautiful cities of the German-speaking Switzerland. It has the status of the capital of the canton of the same name and is located on the shore of Lake Lucerne, at the foot of Mt. There’s plenty to see here at any time of year and in any weather!
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Lucerne is a favorite among travelers who prefer to vacation in places that feature many attractions and a well-developed tourist infrastructure. Lucerne even has a slogan “city, lake, mountains” and accordingly attracts beautiful lakeside landscapes, water walks, snow-covered peaks and ancient architecture.
Lovers of antiquity go to Lucerne to see the “gingerbread” houses, covered wooden bridges, medieval churches and strong wall. Those who come to Switzerland for shopping find a lot of interesting things in small boutiques, located in the historic part of town. Fans of active recreation, looking around Lucerne, rush on interesting routes in the mountains. And for those who prefer quiet, enjoy leisurely cruises on the lake, city museums and cozy restaurants.
History of Lucerne
Historians are sure that in the Roman times there was a small settlement near Lake Lucerne. Lucerne was founded in 1178, when a local monastery handed over its parish to the city. Another important milestone in the history of Lucerne is the year 1220, when the Saint-Gothard Pass was discovered. At that time, a strong fortress wall was built here. By the way, Lucerne is one of the few cities in Switzerland, where medieval fortifications have survived. In the XIV century he became the first city that became a member of the Swiss Confederation.
The first travelers came to Lake Lucerne in the mid-19th century, and among them were many celebrities. It is known that the well-known writer Mark Twain loved to visit here. He even described Lake Lucerne in one of his books.
A large natural body of water is often called Lake Lucerne. This name arose because four forest cantons used to lie on its shores.
The lake was formed after a deep valley was abandoned by an ancient glacier. Its size is impressive. Lake Lucerne is 34 km long and 3.5 km wide. The maximum depth is 214 m and the average depth is 104 m. The natural body of water consists of four basins connected by straits and is located at an altitude of more than 400 meters above sea level. Lake Lucerne is flowing, the water in it has a turquoise tint, and in the summer it heats up to +18. +20°С.
The large lake is navigable. On it ply five paddle steamers, built at the beginning of the last century and 15 more modern ships. In addition, you can sail to either end of Lake Lucerne in small private boats.
Lucerne is very easy to navigate. At the exit of the train station is the Seebrücke Bridge. Lake Lucerne spreads out to the right of it, and the Reuss River spreads out to the left. Within Lucerne, the river is home to many seagulls, wading ducks and snow-white swans, which both citizens and tourists are happy to feed.
Several dams have been erected on the Royce. The most picturesque of these is the Spokes Dam. Its water level is regulated manually by means of huge wooden beams that look like spokes. When they are removed, drainage holes in the dam open and the river rushes through them, forming a swift, foaming stream.
In front of the train station you can see the pier where the ships that cruise on Lake Lucerne are docked. If you cross the bridge to the other side, the oldest parts of the city are on your left. And if you turn right after Seebrücke and go deep into the neighborhood you arrive at the famous Lion’s Square (Löwenplatz).
Here one of the most famous sculptures in Europe, the Dying Lion, can be seen. The historical monument is dedicated to the guardsmen who in 1792 gave their lives to protect queen Marie Antoinette of France. Carved in natural rock, the figure of a lying lion symbolizes the courage and loyalty shown by the palace guards – the soldiers of the Swiss Guards Regiment. The beautiful monument was one of the most famous works by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1821). The writer Mark Twain described this monument as “the most touching statue in the world”.
On Lion Square stands the building of the Burbaki Panorama Museum, inside which one of the largest pictorial paintings in Europe can be seen. Its area exceeds 1000 m². The circular painting is dedicated to the events of the war between France and Prussia in 1870-1871. The panorama was created in 1889 by the artist Eduard Castres.
In Lucerne there is a section of the Muzggmauer fortress wall, built in 1400. It has a length of 870 meters and is fortified by eight tall towers. Three towers are accessible to tourists. Curiously enough, the Zytturm Tower has a clock which has the “right” to chime every hour one minute before all other clocks in Lucerne. The unusual clock mechanism was installed here in 1535. The clock face is so large that its hands are visible from the lake, and the local fishermen use it to tell the time.
To the east of the city stands the old collegiate church Hofkirche. Its two spires rise high into the sky and serve as good landmarks. The church was built in Lucerne in 1639 on the site of a Roman basilica that had burned down in a fire. The architecture of the church combines Gothic and Renaissance features. During its construction, the black marble left over from the old building was used to decorate the altar of the Virgin Mary. Inside you can see sculptures of Lucerne’s patron saints Leodegaard and Mauricius, as well as an antique organ that was made in 1640. The facades of the Hofkirche are decorated with carved stone patterns and bas-reliefs, and an arched gallery has been built around the church building. In summer, organ music concerts are held there.
The first Swiss church built in Baroque style was the Jesuit church of 1677. It was used both for church services and as a secondary school. The popularity of the church is evidenced by the following figures: a few centuries ago, out of 4000 inhabitants of the city, 300-400 were students of the local school. The interior rooms of the church are made in noble white and gold colors. A large organ is installed here. The ceiling is covered with paintings created in the middle of XVIII century. Its subjects are dedicated to the Catholic saint and missionary Francis Xavier, who is revered by the people of Lucerne. His sculptural portrait adorns the facade of the church.
Lucerne boasts the largest transport museum in Europe. It was founded in 1959 and exhibits various types of air, water, rail and road transport. The museum exhibits occupy a huge area and are housed in several pavilions. The museum also houses a 1:20,000 scale aerial photograph of the country and a rich collection of works by Swiss artist and sculptor Hans Arney. A planetarium and an IMAX movie theater are open to visitors.
Tourists visiting Lucerne like to visit the Glacier Park Museum, which was built on the site of a former glacier bed; it is also called the Ice Garden. The exhibits on display in the museum are the work of nature itself, they are unique and unparalleled in Europe. These are items that were extracted from ancient glaciers during drilling. It is very interesting to look at the imprinted in a stone palm leaf or shells, which are more than 20 million years old. The Glacier Park has created an unusual mirror maze Alhambra, which has 90 mirrors. They are arranged so skillfully that the illusion is created that there are thousands of mirrors.
Near the sculpture “Dying Lion”, at number 11 on Denkmalstrasse there is the Alpineum, a modern museum, where you can see a 3D panorama of the Alpine mountains. Of particular interest is the 3D image of Mount Pilatus, standing next to Lucerne.
Not far from the station, on the Europaplatz square, is the Art Museum building. There are permanent and temporary exhibitions of graphic works, sculptures and paintings created by contemporary artists, as well as masters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The beautiful museum building was designed by the Parisian architect Jean Nouvel. Its different parts offer picturesque views of the quarters of Lucerne and the lake.
Another valuable art collection is on display in what is commonly referred to as the Picasso Museum. This is a private museum of works of art that were collected by members of the Rosengart family. In addition to works by Picasso, you can see the paintings of other famous painters, as well as about 200 works of the famous photographer Douglas Duncan, famous for his realistic photos of World War II battles.
On the street Pfistergasse, 24, is located the Museum of Swiss History. It occupies an old building erected in Lucerne in 1560 as an armory. Today, it houses art and handicrafts made in the country between 1600 and 1900.
One of the most popular tourist attractions is considered a pedestrian wooden bridge Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge, which has a length of 205 meters. It is located near the railway station. The name of the bridge was determined by the chapel (chapel). This church of St. Peter – the oldest church in Lucerne, built in 1178.
All who come to Lucerne, surprised by the venerable age of the bridge Kapellbrücke. It was built in 1365 and today is considered the oldest in Europe. The bridge led to the castle wall and connected the Old and New Town areas. Chapelbrücke has a roof and under it there are 47 triangular paintings by the late Renaissance master Gang Heinrich Wagman and his four sons. The subjects of the ancient paintings were the most important moments from Swiss history and mythology.
In August 1993, the Kapellbrücke was badly damaged by a fire caused by a cigarette that was not extinguished in time. Despite considerable damage, the bridge was rebuilt rather quickly and opened to the public. To leave a memory of the fire, a few burnt logs were left between the old bridge and the reconstructed part.
Lucerne’s other wooden bridge is called the Mill Bridge or Dump Bridge. It too is covered, but shorter than the Kapellbrücke, has a darker color and was erected later, in 1408. 160 years later, a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary was added to the bridge. The ancient bridge is decorated with panels by the artist Kaspar Meglinger. They all have a single religious theme, The Dance of Death, and speak of man’s fall into sin and the Last Judgment awaiting him.
Features of a winter vacation in Lucerne
The main flow of tourists comes to the city in late summer, but among travelers there are many who seek to visit Lucerne in winter.
The city is not one of Switzerland’s winter recreation centers. For fans of time on the slopes in this country there are popular resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz. However, in Lucerne is equipped with elevators slopes, which are happy to skiers and snowboarders.
Tourists visiting in the winter can use the discount card “Snow Card”. It is easy to get it, just make a reservation in one of the hotels that participate in the winter program. Holders of the card receive a discount on accommodation and have the right to ski in any of the 13 sports areas. Savings are substantial and up to 30%. Winter holidays in Lucerne can always be combined with a pleasant cultural program – to visit the local attractions, admire the beautiful monuments and visit interesting museums.
Every year at the end of winter before Lent, the city hosts a big carnival, which is considered one of the most cheerful street festivals in Europe. Six days of festivities gather thousands of tourists in Lucerne. People dress up in fantastic masks and costumes and parade colorful through the streets of the city. During the carnival days there are concerts, and the evening sky is colored by grand fireworks.
Restaurants in Lucerne
The Swiss city has more than 250 restaurants and cafes. The most popular establishments in Lucerne are Mövenpick Restaurant and Le Trianon, where the real gastronomic masterpieces of Swiss, French and Alsatian cuisine are served. These restaurants have beautiful interiors decorated with antique furniture and heavy curtains.
Seafood lovers prefer to go to “Les Artistes”. Especially famous are spicy grilled carps prepared by local chefs. The restaurant “Le Maritime” is located by Lake Lucerne. Tables there are located on the outdoor terrace and are protected from the sun by snow-white umbrellas during the day. You can have a good meal here and admire the cruise ships cruising along the lake at the same time.
The large Coop and Migros supermarkets offer inexpensive eateries for lunch. And the cooking rooms at these supermarkets sell cheap ready-made meals like salads, desserts, and pastries. This is a good option for those who want to save a little money.
There are good bars and pubs in the city. The private brewery “Rathaus” is very popular with connoisseurs of delicious local beer. Those who want not just to eat, but also to see a live concert, prefer to visit the restaurant of the most famous rock club in the country “Sedel” or restaurant “Jazzkantine”, where several times a month there are concerts of jazz music.
Lucerne is famous for its pastries. If you come to this city, you should try the famous pear pie, or as they say here, “pear gingerbread”. This tasty delicacy is baked with raisins, spices and nuts.
It is not customary in restaurants and cafes of the city to include a tip in the bill, so visitors traditionally leave about 10% of the order for quality service.
Special offers on hotels
Lucerne’s historic center is completely closed off from automobile traffic and can easily be bypassed on foot. If you need to travel outside the old town, it’s worth taking the buses. They stop at the train station. Buses run through Lucerne and its suburbs from early morning to 9 p.m.
The fare depends on the distance of the trip. To save money, you can buy daily or three-day passes. Travelers who have purchased a Swiss Pass can use public transport completely free of charge. In addition, they receive discounts on selected excursions. The card is sold at tourist bureaus and major hotels in Lucerne.
Bicycle rentals are available near the train station. Modern electric bicycles can also be rented here. Cycling is very popular in Lucerne, there are marked bicycle lanes all over the city and local drivers treat cyclists with great care and respect.
How to get there
The nearest airport to Lucerne is located 70 km away, in the country’s largest city, Zurich. Planes of various airlines as well as direct flights from Moscow fly here. The train from Zurich to Lucerne takes 50 minutes.
Zurich and Lucerne are connected by modern highways № 14 and № 4. The distance between the cities is 52.7 km, and it can be covered by direct and passing buses, cabs or rented cars.
The rail connections to Lucerne are from Berne, Lugano, Geneva and Interlaken.