Lucerne, or Luzern as it is know in the local German dialect was somewhere which as soon as I researched I knew I had to visit. Sitting in central Switzerland the journey from Basel took just over an hour. I managed to book my tickets before hand and get them for half the price, you can read about that here: Half price train fare in Switzerland.
I booked a train for first thing in the morning and last thing at night to maximise my day in Lucerne but at the rain began to fall I wondered if my plans would be ruined and the amazing day I thought I was going to have shattered. Well, if you can have an amazing day despite the rain then this city must have something going for it!!
A little bit about Lucerne:
Beginning with humble origins as a fishing village the town grew with importance due to important trade routes through the mountains and across the lake.
Things to do in Lucerne:
Old Town Lucerne
Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke)
Town Hall/ Rathaus/ Kornmarkt
Built between 1602 and 1606 in the Italian Renaissance style the Lucerne Town hall has served may purposes in its long life. The arches which face out towards the river still today are a bustling market place filed with fresh fruit, veg, breads and cheeses.
The arcade above was once used as a trading hall but now serves as a place for concerts. The tower itself existed over 100 years before the main town hall was built as part of the towns fortifications, it also houses the oldest clock in Lucerne which chimes 1 minute before the others!
One of the smaller but yet no less impressive bridges across the river. The zig zaging Spreuer bridge gives you another angle on this beautiful city from its downriver position. Built in 1408 it also features medieval style 17th century paintings by Kaspar Meglinger as well as a small red chapel added in 1568.
Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument
The Nine Towers
The Golden Round Trip:
One of the most popular trails up the mountains in Lucerne is the Golden Round Trip up Mt. Pilatus. This is quite expensive but a truly unforgettable experience and one which really is worth the outlay. The Golden Round Trip involves taking the boat across the lake to Alpnachstad, then taking the world’s steepest cogwheel railway up the side of the mountain to the viewing platforms and various trails at the top. On the way down you take the amazing panoramic gondola (cable car) down to Frakmuntegg and the awe inspiring valley, then a 30 minute cable car ride back down the lush meadows and forests to Kriens before a bus back to Lucerne!
Despite costing 106 CHF (£75.00) the trip was one something I will never forget. I was hesitant to spend the money given the awful weather conditions, and sure the view wasn’t as good as I expected because of that, but it was still magnificent when the clouds did part and the cable car passed below them. From setting off in Lucerne to returning to the city it was also a good 4 or 5 hours so you really do get your moneys worth!
I am in the process of writing a much more detailed account of my trip up Mt. Pilatus as I really did have an amazing time up there!
Reflections on Lucerne:
But I was here and I was determined to make the most of it, with rain forecast for pretty much the whole day but calming down later in the day I decided to explore the city itself first before considering heading up the mountain. Straight away even in the pouring rain I fell in love with Lucerne, it had such a traditional feel, even more so than Basel. The streets were all so narrow and every building hundreds of years old and decorated uniquely.
It felt much less modern than Basel, literally like walking around a medieval city. The atmosphere with the lake opening up, the sounds of the horns in the mountains, the ringing of the church bells every hours and the distinctive sound track of the steamers was quite incredible. There was also a freshness, maybe it was the weather, but with the mountain air and the wonderfully clean lake it almost doesn’t feel like a city at all.
It is quite compact, even more so than Basel, which makes seeing everything in a day trip very achievable, although there are a few other mountains to head up which I would have loved to have done on a clearer day. It is also a bit of a tourist hub, where Basel flies under the radar Lucerne is in full view, at one point I turned down a street to be greeted by around 300 Chinese tourists waiting for their buses! Quite surreal!
Overall I loved my day in Lucerne, I dismissed the weather put my waterproof on and experienced every inch of its historic streets. I headed up the mountain and despite the thick covering of fog was still treated to some incredible views and unforgettable sights. Falling asleep out of exhaustion on my late night train “home” to Basel I reflected that you can’t change the weather but you can change your attitude, once I realised that I had a day to remember in Lucerne.