My backpacking trip came to fruition (you can read more about that here) from my desire to visit Europe’s highest suspension bridge in Switzerland. For that reason, we’re starting the travel series here in Lucerne.
While visiting Switzerland I stayed in the quaint town of Lucerne. With it’s beautiful lake, famous Kapellbrücke bridge (Chapel bridge) and snow capped mountains, this town is the definition of picturesque. Lucerne is a short train ride from Zurich (1 hour) and from Engelberg (45 minutes) where Mt. Titlis is located, making this an ideal location for your Swiss travels.
Chapel Bridge is a wooden pedestrian bridge that spans Reuss River. It was built in 1333 and is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe. Lucerne’s Water Tower also served as a dungeon, an archive and a treasury vault until the 19th century.
When visiting a new city, my number one tip is to book a free city walking tour. These walking tours last any where between 2-4 hours, are offered in most European cities and are a great way to get acquainted with the area. I always book them on my first day in a city, that way if I see something that intrigues me, I have plenty of time to revisit it on my own. The guides are unpaid so be sure to show your appreciation with a tip. Trust me, they go above and beyond to earn it.
I went with Free Walk Lucerne. My guide not only showed us around Lucerne but also loaded us with a ton of information about Swiss living.
Did you know… at the age of 18 men must attend military school and enroll as recruitment camp volunteers, it’s their civil duty. It is also common for Swiss homes to hold multiple fire arms as each man gets to keep his gun. The one caveat is that they must attend “refresher courses” once a year for 10 years, to practice cleaning them.
Unlike the United States which is a representative and constitutional democracy, Switzerland is a direct democracy which means citizens vote on everything from city, state and country laws.
Switzerland is expensive (I talk more about that below) and that’s because residents, on average make $5,000-$6,000 per month with income rising in higher level positions. Employers are also required to provide 4 weeks of paid vacation each year for employees over 20 years of age and five weeks for anyone under 20 years of age. Interesting huh?..
Old Town Lucerne
Old Town Lucerne is situated on each side of Chapel Bridge and offers an array of restaurants and shops.
I suggest grabbing a pretzel from the Lucerne bahnhof (railway station) it’s quick and “inexpensive”. I use that term loosely as Switzerland was by far one of the most expensive countries that I visited on my backpack trip. To put it into perspective, if a tall Starbucks cappuccino is $3.65 in the states, expect to pay $6.70.
Once you have your afternoon snack, cross Chapel bridge, stroll along the water and take in the amazing views of the Swiss Alps.
Be sure to grab a spot right off the water and visit with the Swans.
My room with a view of lake Lucerne
My room was a 15-20 minute walk from old town. It offered a stunning view of the lake
from the balcony as well as the bed, which was located directly in front of the window.
Instead of taking the bus to old town each day, I strolled along the river.
I watched happy couples walk along the river, pushing their baby stroller and spending time with one another while their children frolicked in the grass. In the evening friends gathered on the dock to listen to music, laugh and enjoy each others company. Others lounged on the grass under trees perfectly strung with lights while sipping wine from the out door bar. Life in Lucerne seems simple, family oriented and care free.
Cobble Stone Streets and incredible views.
You may have noticed that their flag looks similar to our red cross / medic logo (colors reversed)
This may sound silly but do not confuse the two. If you are looking for a pharmacy, the standard logo in most European cities is a green cross.
Popular Spots in Lucerene
- Cross Chapel Bridge and stroll Old Town Lucerne
- Stop by the Dying Lion of Lucern Monument – If you take a free walking tour, this monument will most likely be one of your stops (be sure to find out about the hidden message). Artist Bertel Thorvaldsen left a hidden message in his sculpture after being told that not enough money had been raised to pay for his services and that he would not be fully paid for his work. Unfortunately this isn’t uncommon and has occurred in cities around Europe. For that reason, I find the subtle messages left by artists quite amusing.
- Pop into Jesuit Church – The first large sacral Baroque church in Switzerland; constructed in 1666 by Father Christoph Vogler for the Jesuits.
- Look over the city of Lucerene at Museggmauer
Currency & Food
It is said, the best views of Lucerne are from Museggmauer (iconic old city wall featuring 9 towers) and I couldn’t agree more. I randomly roamed a residential street until I noticed a beautiful wrought iron gate. I walked through the gate and up hill where I was met with this spectacular view. Looking over the city, I was beyond excited to hit those Swiss Alps in the morning.