Lucerne (Luzern in German, Lozärn in Swiss-German) is a beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland, across the lake from Altdorf, where legend has it William Tell shot an apple off of his son's head. Lucerne is a fine city to visit, and is a great base from which to explore famous Swiss sites such as the mountains Rigi, Pilatus, Titlis and the Rütli meadow.
The first city to join the Swiss Confederation, today Lucerne is a lovely small city with a thriving tourism industry, owing mainly to its status as a gateway to Central Switzerland. The city is a centre of Swiss history and legend.
Tourism in Lucerne has a distinguished history dating from the mid-19th century, with Mark Twain among them. In A Tramp Abroad he recalls the nascent souvenir business, and other budding examples of the tourism trade.
- "The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them." — Mark Twain
Lucerne has cold, dry winters and warm/hot summers.
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Thanks to its central location 1 Lucerne railway station (Bahnhof Luzern) can be reached easily from nearly every other city in Switzerland using the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS)). There are hourly trains from Olten and Zürich Airport and half-hourly trains from Zürich, and a direct train every hour from Berne. There is an hourly service from Bellinzona in Ticino, and Pfäffikon and St. Gallen in the North East.
The "Zentralbahn" branch of the Swiss Federal Railways provides also hourly trains between Interlaken and Lucerne during daytime.
There are no intercity buses in Switzerland as the train system provides ample connections to many destinations in Switzerland. To make trips to the countryside in the mountains where there are no trains, refer to postauto.ch buses are available from some nearby places, such as Rotkreuz.
Lucerne sits at the northwest end of the Vierwaldstättersee, one of the most beautiful waterways in Switzerland, for travel information from Schwyz, Flüelen, Weggis, and outbound points see the schedule at the Schifffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee.
Able-bodied travellers will find Lucerne a complete joy to get around in on foot. The Old-Town is rather small, and most other interesting sites are within 20 minutes or so walk, there is also a city bus system, as well as assistance for disabled visitors on request from Mobility International Switzerland. The Lido beach and the Swiss Transport Museum are a bit further out and can be reached by bus or by one of several boats per hour from just in front of the central railway station.
Lucerne also makes a very good base for discovering the rest of Central Switzerland, using the Swiss Federal Railway, the Schifffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee, or any one of several private rail or boat companies.
Bicycles are available for rent at the central railway station, at ticket window 21 on the lower level. For Fr. 31 per day, you can rent a 24-speed, sturdily-built bike with a baggage clamp. Electric bikes are also available. Bike pick-up and drop-off are around the left side of the train station, at a kiosk across the street from the Swiss Post building. Bike lanes are present on most secondary streets, and Lucerne drivers are generally aware of and polite towards bicyclists.
Lucerne has an efficient bus network: Verkehrsbetriebe Luzern (VBL) (German only). It covers the city and its suburbs.
- 1 The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke). The Chapel Bridge, a landmark of Lucerne, is said to be the oldest wooden bridge of all Europe, built in 14th century as a protection for the city. It's amusing walking over it as you can see about 100 pictures of 12th-century city life and Swiss history. Join one of the walking tours going around! Parts of the bridge burned down on 18 August 1993, but within a few months it was rebuilt. The tower used as oubliette is still in original condition.
- 2 Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern). The KKL is a spectacular building that contains several concert halls and the Lucerne Art Museum. It was designed by Jean Nouvel. Its major concert hall ("La salle blanche") is famous for its acoustics, and world class orchestras can be heard regularly. It hosts the Lucerne Festival (classical music).
- 3 The Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), Denkmalstrasse 4. Also known as the Lion of Lucerne, it is a sculpture in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France. The American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) praised the sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."
- 4 Alpineum. A museum and diorama dedicated to the Alps.
- 5 Bourbaki Panorama, Löwenplatz 11. Nov-Mar 10:00–17:00; Apr-Oct 09:00–18:00. A circular panoramic painting. Fr. 12.
- 6 The Glacier Garden (Gletschergarten).
- 7 Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz), Lidostrasse 5 (Lido beach, the first stop for boats leaving from the central train station, preferably reached by bus). Summer 10:00–18:00; Winter 10:00–17:00. With its large collection of trains, planes, automobiles, and motorcycles, this museum of means of transport is a great place to spend an afternoon. If you get tired of the real train engines you can check out the model railroad or the miniature working steam train. The air section also features several space travel exhibits, including an unused project Mercury capsule. Fr. 32 for adults, Fr. 21 for children 6-16, and free for younger kids.
- 8 The old city wall (Museggmauer). A part of the rampart walls built in 1386; the wall is still almost entirely intact. Four towers are open to the public: Schirmer, Zyt, Wacht and Männli.
- 9 Lucerne Art Museum (Kunstmuseum Luzern).
- 10 The Rosengart Collection (Sammlung Rosengart), Pilatusstrasse 10, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. April–October: daily 10:00–18:00; November–March: daily 11:00–17:00. Well over 200 works by 23 artists of early modernism, including 125 works of Paul Klee and about 50 by Pablo Picasso. Also works by Cézanne, Chagall, Miró, Pissarro, among others. The collection also houses 200 photographs -- previously housed in the Am-Rhyn-Haus -- by David Duncan Douglas, Life Magazine’s World War II photo correspondent who arrived with his camera uninvited at Picasso’s villa “California”, was welcomed by Picasso and his family, and over the years produced an intimate portrait of the artist’s day-to-day life. Picasso's living room was his studio, and domestic scenes -- a ballet lesson, Picasso drawing with his children, or wrapping himself in the cape and hat of his native Spain -- play out within the backdrop of some of his most famous works. Admission Fr. 15 (Fr. 8 for students, children 7-16 years).
- 12 Weekly Market. Every Thursday and Saturday from 06:00 to 13:00 along the Reuss river. The market has many local products and specialities.
- 1 Explore the Old Town. One of the main reasons that Lucerne attracts so many travelers is its small but remarkably preserved old town. You can get lost (for a few minutes anyhow) in its maze of streets, passages, and squares, admiring the many and varied murals painted on what seems like every other building. A nice short walk on the Museggmauer starts at the Schirmer-Turm, walk up the road near Jazzkantine, open only at daytime.
- Watch football ie soccer at FC Luzen, who play in the Super League, the top tier of Swiss football. Their home ground is Swissporarena, capacity 17,000, at 91 Horwerstrasse, 1 km south of city centre next to the Trade Centre.
- 2 Ascend Mount Pilatus. A famous mountain overlooking the city of Lucerne. Its peak can be reached by the world's steepest cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad (not operating in wintertime) and all-year-round by cable-car in three sections from Kriens (10 minutes by trolley bus no. 1 from Lucerne as far as 'Linde'). This trip is definitely a must and gives you a good impression of a wild and rocky peak with a marvelous view to the "real" Alps. Of course you can walk to the top on foot, which takes at least 4 hours from Kriens. A pleasant alternative is to walk down to Kriens from the bottom of the middle cable-car section. In addition to hiking, there are several other activities, including a suspension rope park and a 1,350 m long toboggan (both at the second stop of the cable-car from Kriens). Even if you don't plan to hike, allow for at least three hours to spend on Pilatus.
- 3 Ascend Mount Rigi. A famous mountain overlooking the city of Lucerne. Its peak can be reached by a cogwheel railway from Vitznau and Arth-Goldau and by cable-car from Weggis. Vitznau and Weggis can easily be reached by boat. The peak can be reached by foot from everywhere in around 4-5 hours.
- Take a guided tour.
- Paraglide from Pilatus and Rigi. Paragliding down from the majestic mountains surrounding Lake Lucerne is a unique experience. Tandem paragliding is possible all year round with pilots certified by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) of Switzerland.
- 6 Rent a bicycle. Lucerne has an excellent bicycle Network. Rent a bicycle at the train station in lucerne and explore the city and the suburbs or make a day trip on the national bicycle network (http://www.veloland.ch/en/veloland.html).
- 8 Felsenweg Buergerstock. Get a beautiful view over the Mittelland and its lakes on this 2-hour walk. Go there by boat (Lucerne-Kehrsiten) and funiculaire or by train and bus (Lucerne-Stansstad-Bürgenstock). There are some luxury resorts at Buergerstock. It's also possible to go by mountain bike to the top.
- Fasnacht. Some cities of Switzerland including Lucerne and Basel celebrate a rousing carnival just before Lent each year. The version celebrated here is famous for its chaotic "march any direction you like" street parades of the so-called Guugemusig (band of wind instruments and drummer, typical to the carnival of Central Switzerland) and elaborate masks. The carnival week of Lucerne starts at the end of February on the Fat Tuesday and ends at Ash Wednesday. The programme in short: Fat Tuesday, Urknall (big bang) at 05:00 is the official beginning, music on the streets all the day in the city, mask parade from 14:00 along the lake, music on the streets in the evening; Friday to Sunday music and masksparades in all the towns and villages of the region; Güdis Monday, second Urknall at 06:00, rest ditto Fat Tuesday; Thursday big street concert in the whole old town and surroundings, end of the official carnival at midnight... but it continues in the bars until morning of Ash Wednesday. As with carnival elsewhere the exact date on the calendar is variable according to the phase of the moon. You find the date of the next Fat Tuesday (SchuDo, Schmutziger Donnerstag) here. If you don't want to be recognised as a tourist, put on some colorful clothes. Most of the people are dressed in colors or in masks. In the last years, the cities of Zürich and Berne started to copy Central Switzerland's carnival.
- Blue Balls. Music festival in July.
- Lucerne Festival. Classic music festival
- Luzerner Fest. Music festival in June-July
The shopping in Lucerne has improved somewhat since Mark Twain's visit. You'll find several good department stores with acceptable prices for most items, as well as pricey speciality shops.
- Lucerne's old town is full of shops - especially clothing
- Lucerne's station hosts several stores which have longer opening hours than most other shops.
- 1 Bucherer, Schwanenplatz 5, toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 09:00-18:30, Su 15:00-18:30. The flagship store of Switzerland's best-known watch and high-end jewellery dealer.
- 1 Treibhaus Luzern. They have fine food. 2 menus each day (menu Fr. 13, students Fr. 7), snacks, donuts and very fine coffee. There are concerts at night.
- 2 Erdem Kebap. Said to serve the best kepabs in town. Cheap.
- Migros or Coop. Huge supermarket chains with a lot of budget products. There is a small Migros and a bigger Coop at the train station, near the tourist office. There are other Migros around, ask the people. Farther there are Migros and Coop Restaurants self-service restaurants.
- Mövenpick Restaurant, Grendelstr. 19, ☎ , fax: . International dishes and English menu on request.
- Restaurant Schwan.
- Brasserie Bodu, Kornmarkt 5, ☎ . Exquisite French cuisine.
- Restaurant Old Swiss House. Famous for their Schnitzel which they prepare directly next to the table.
- 1 Jazzkantine. Quite small but comfortable bar. They have a stage in the basement. Sometimes there are jazzists playing (4 to 8 times a month). In the same building is the local jazz school, so it's a kind of student bar.
- 2 Metzgerhalle, Baselstrasse 1. Old Swiss restaurant made into a cool bar, usually full on weekends.
- 4 Shamrock Irish Pub (formerly Gracie Kelly's) (in the old-town, 5 minutes walk from the train station). A great selection of Irish and Swiss drinks, home-made food, sports on display.
- 5 Treibhaus Luzern. Small but cool alternative club, sometimes concerts, cheap food with 2 menus each day.
- 7 Sedel. The place where punk rock goes on. In the 1980s it was the place for the youth rebellion. Unfortunately it has lost a bit of its idealism, nevertheless it's still the club mothers don't want to let their kids go to. Today there are a lot of concerts from Ska to Britpop to Postrock to Gothic. The building was a jail for women and was converted to music practice rooms for bands in the 1980s. There are about 60 bands rocking and practising their sets. So, if you hear some noise somewhere in the building, just knock at the door and come for a jam session. There's a shuttle running from central Lucerne up to the club. Look it up on their website.
- 8 Rathaus. Beer brewed in this small restaurant/brewery. Get the speciality beer.
- 10 Bar 59. Opened by the former owners of Bar 58, larger and has live music venues as well but still has a neighborhood bar feel - on Industriestrasse, hidden in the basement of a warehouse looking building.
- 11 Bar Berlin, Lädelistrasse 6 (on a small sidestreet from Baselstrasse), e-mail: email@example.com. F Sa 18:00–03:30. Small bar with good sound and good drinks, nice and cozy.
Lucerne has lots of clubs for lots of different tastes. Baselstrasse is a nightlife strip emerging out of a redlight district. There are also raves in industrial buildings that require you to join their "club" as they're not legally allowed to sell alcohol to the public.
- 13 Roadhouse, Pilatusstrasse 1, ☎ , fax: . Bar and disco that is always packed, lots of people go there for their afterwork beers because it's beside the train station next to McDonald's.
- 14 Das Schwarze Schaf, Frankenstrasse 2 (behind McDonalds at the train station), ☎ . Mainstream bar/club.
- 16 The Loft, Haldenstrasse 21 (at the Casino), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. price=. From RnB to Reggaeton to Urban, gay-friendly, and hosts monthly Frigay nights.
- 17 Penthouse, Pilatusstrasse 29, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 17:00 to late night. Fancy rooftop bar.
- 18 ROK, Seidenhofstrasse 5, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. House, electro, minimal, mash-up, tech-house, dub.
- 19 Madeleine, Baselstrasse 15 (at the beginning of Baselstrasse). Concerts, open mics, chillout, soul, funk, disco, alternative crowd.
- 21 Klub Kegelbahn, Baselstrasse 24, e-mail: email@example.com. F Sa from 23:00. A small basement club with good electronic music, from techno to more experimental stuff, check their website.
The three bakery chains, Hug, Heini and Bachmann, have several good cafés spread all over the city.
For its size, there are quite a few places to stay in Lucerne, in all price ranges.
- Lion Lodge Luzern, Zürichstrasse 57, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Next to Lion Monument, Old Town and shopping center. Free kitchen facilities and bed sheets. 3 large verandas. Dorm/shared rooms from Fr. 32.
- Backpackers Lucerne, Alpenquai 42, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Dormitory: no curfew, no lockout, no membership, Phone them as they don't accept e-mail booking. Free kitchen facilities. It's a very nice place, clean, close to the lake and the old town. A lot of clubs (Treibhaus, Schüür) are just around. Fr. 32/person/night; Double Room: Fr. 36/person/night (sheets included).
- Youthhostel Lucerne, Am Rotsee, Sedelstrasse 12, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm rooms only, from Fr. 30
- Private rooms, ☎ . Ask for them at the tourist information.
- Hotel des Alpes, Rathausquai 5, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Facing the lake, and overlooking the chapel bridge, this clean well-run establishment offers excellent views including Mount Pilatus. Some of the rooms have balconies, with very large, but semi-private, balconies on the first floor which might be just the thing if you are with a group. Single room starts at Fr. 128 per night including breakfast.
- Hotel Pickwick, Rathausquai 6, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Bed + Breakfast, Taubenhausstrasse 34, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. A nice bed & breakfast about a 15-minute walk from the train station or quick ride on bus #1. Single starts at Fr. 80. Friendly and helpful staff.
- NH Luzern, Friedenstrasse, 8, ☎ . Ten minutes from the Exit A2 Luzern Zentrum or Luzern Süd. After the exit, follow the direction Vehrkehrshaus/Ebikon. The train station is 10 minutes by foot from the hotel and 5 minutes by bus (bus number 1).
- Cascada, Bundesplatz 18, fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 500 m from the train station. Single room from Fr. 197, double room from Fr. 324 (as of 2009)..
- Monopol, Pilatusstrasse 1, fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Opposite the railway station. The famous Chapel Bridge is 2 minutes by foot. Single room from Fr. 230, double room from Fr. 270 (low season 2009)..
- Waldstätterhof, Zentralstrasse 4, fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 100 m from the railway station directly in the city center. Single room from Fr. 129, double room from Fr. 184 (low season 2009)..
- 1 Grand Hotel National, Haldenstrasse 4, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. César Ritz was hotel manager of the Grand Hotel. A single room starts at Fr. 300 per room per night.
- 2 Hotel Schweizerhof, Schweizerhofquai 3a, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Palace Luzern, Haldenstrasse 10, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. The hotel is a haven of hospitality which combines old world charm with the most modern comforts. The ambience is one of stylish elegance.
- 4 The Hotel, Sempacherstrasse 14, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Billing itself as a boutique hotel, with interior design by the French architect Jean Nouvele, "The Hotel" is as posh as it gets just about anywhere. The theme is classic French with an Indochinese touch which suggests an easy-beats/spy film soundtrack.
- 5 Art-Deco Hotel Montana, Adligenswilerstrasse 22, ☎ , fax: . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Best rated hotel in Lucerne for a couple of years, slightly above the lake and offers amazing views over the lake and mountains.It rooms are modern (art deco), well maintained and the service is superior. Also the Scala restaurant (15 Gault Millau points) and the Sunday brunch are very popular. from Fr. 250.
Lucerne is a heavily touristed destination, and where there are tourists there are pickpockets, con artists, and other sorts of folks up to no good. As with everyplace else keep your passport and other valuables where people can't get to them. However, Lucerne is a friendly and safe city. Women can move safely almost anywhere also at night. There are few areas that should be avoided, including the area around the Basel street, where you will find a colourful and exciting cultural mix is relatively harmless. According to the police it can be dangerous at night in the neighbourhood "Tribschen" (Inseli-Ufschötti-Weinbergli-Tribschenstrasse). Most violent crimes and robberies happen in this neighborhood. But compared with other cities in Europe it's a safe area.