Lucerne, Switzerland

Culture and cuisine in a lakeside winter wonderland

Overview

Quite possibly the prettiest city in the world, Lucerne in Central Switzerland is a fairy tale combination of culture, lake and mountains. What’s more, it’s reachable in just an hour on board a super-efficient direct train from Zürich’s international airport. The warm summer months see tourist families and tour buses arrive en masse attracted by Lucerne’s charming cobbled lanes, street entertainers and popular al fresco dining options.  As the weather turns the crowds move to the higher ground of Switzerland’s renowned Alpine ski resorts leaving the city in a distinctly refreshing and relaxed state where the low season traveller can experience reduced rates on top accommodation and some winter fun with a more local mix of clientele. Snow lovers won’t miss out though. Lucerne’s unique location means day tripping to the peaks is totally possible without the cost of staying in pricy ski resorts.

The Historic Centre

You can easily wander this compact city on foot, taking in the beautiful balustrades, charming details and fascinating old frescos that cover many of the buildings. The old town is a pedestrian zone of attractive squares and a riverside promenade dotted with cafes and bars. Here, in the low season months there’s a winter atmosphere and festive lights. Big draws are the gorgeous 14th century covered wooden bridges, spanning the River Reuss in the old centre. Visit the huge sandstone Lion Monument, a memorial to the Swiss soldiers killed during the French Revolution. Check out the beautiful Jesuit Church, a stunning Baroque edifice or the more simple Franciscan Church in the Gothic style. If you are feeling energetic climb the 800 metre long Musegg Wall, the medieval fortifications with nine watch towers. The effort is well worth it for fabulous views over the mountains of Central Switzerland. Besides you will build up an excellent appetite for a bowl of sticky cheese fondue served all over the city during the winter months.

 

Lake Lucerne

On the city’s south-eastern side lies beautiful Lake Lucerne. Lovely to gaze over from the shore, but even better once you get out onto the water. Yachts and motor boats take passengers out year round, but a favourite option is to travel by one of five vintage paddle steamers. These offer warm inside seating or on deck areas, full food service and bar, or you can take your own picnic. The boat dock is easy to find, right outside the train station and the departure schedule operates with typical Swiss efficiency. The routes are planned so you can get off at nearby villages or lakeside hotels en route to the surrounding mountain access points which link up brilliantly with the mountain railways and cable cars. A new shuttle stops at Bürgenstock where you can access a beautiful hiking trail along the cliff edge with sweeping views back across the lake.

 

Mountain Feats

Wrap up warm, cross the lake and get out of the city. It is a great way to spend a few hours in the crisp air or make a day of it with plenty of places to stop for lunch. Mount Rigi is a popular trip and home to Europe’s first ever mountain railway, built in 1871, while nearby Mount Pilatus claims the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. Mount Stanserhorn boasts the world’s first double-deck open-top aerial cableway or you can take the world’s steepest funicular railway to the village of Stoos. If getting there by these fascinating vintage feats of engineering isn’t adventure enough, there are some great hiking trails along the mountain paths or hire a sledge and get some snow action.


Major Airport

Zurich International Airport - ZRH

Low Season Months

Jan
-2°C
50mm
2hrs
Feb
-2°C
55mm
3hrs
Mar
1°C
75mm
4hrs
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
2°C
75mm
2hrs
Dec
-1°C
70mm
-1hrs

Featured Hotels

Top Experiences

Lilu Light Festival

For 11 days in January Lucerne hosts artists from all over the world showcasing heart-warming creative light installations to brighten the dark winter nights. A feast for all the senses as the city’s squares, attractions and alleys are artfully illuminated each night from 6pm.

Lucerne Carnival

A unique experience with historical significance dating from the Middle Ages. Amongst the carnival chaos each February, a wonderful variety of colourful costumes converge on Kornmarkt and you’ll have no choice but to join the locals as they dance to the rhythms of "Guggenmusigen".

Outdoor Winter Bathing

Soak away your stress and strain in steaming hot water surrounding by a stunning mountain panorama. Whether you opt for a luxury wellness resort with exclusive facilities or a more back-to-nature rustic style thermal experience, you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed.

Insider Tips

  • Christmas time in Lucerne is a magical period to visit with market stalls full of handcrafted gits, festive delicacies and mulled wine. At the iconic KKL Culture and Convention Centre there’s a unique Christmas fantasy with musical entertainment, decorations and skating rink.
  • Discover Lucerne’s rather under rated live music scene with heaps of cool events taking place. KKL hosts big classical concerts and top international performers, or seek out lesser known quirky venues like Sedel (a former prison) or Neubad (a disused swimming pool).
  • Don’t miss the surprisingly huge Transport Museum, Switzerland’s most popular collection of exhibits, 2 miles outside the city centre through the lakeside park. Trains, planes, automobiles and so much more are to be discovered through the fun interactive displays.

Good To Know

  • Top pick for easily accessible city views is the Manora Restaurant perched at the top of a Weggisgasse department store. Not only are you offered a reasonably priced and varied buffet lunch, the views from the open air top floor are marvellous.
  • Be sure to use the Lucerne Visitor Card available to travellers via their accommodation provider. It gives free use of the area’s buses and trains as well as discounts for cableways, mountain railways, museums and excursions as well as access to local wi-fi hotspots.
  • Take a walk early as the city comes to life. You’ll have the place to yourself apart from the swans looking for breakfast on the river. Tuesdays and Saturdays you’ll catch the riverside farmers market from 6am and get first choice of their fresh fruits, veggies, and bread.

Food & Drink

Pfistern Restaurant

£££

Originally the home of the 14th century bakers’ guild, this traditional Swiss venue serves up hearty meals in charming Unter der Egg. In winter you can choose from 100 different fondues. Outside dining is available wrapped in blankets with a warming bag of heated cherry stones on your lap.

Burgerstube

££££

Close to the old centre in the historic Wilden Mann boutique hotel, Burgerstube exudes a traditional charm and cosy ambience. Delicious authentic cuisine is served with an imaginative twist among the dark wood and Gothic elegance that seems unchanged since it was first furnished in 1908.

Wilhelm Tell Restaurant Ship

££££

Dine on board this wonderful vintage paddle steamer moored on the edge of beautiful Lake Lucerne. Fondue is a seasonal speciality including such varieties as beer & whisky, curry, meat and truffle, all served on the winter deck or in the saloon with views of the lake, city and mountains.

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