Lucerne, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and a beautiful lake, is beyond picturesque. A short 1-hour train ride from Zurich and 45-minutes from Engelberg. it’s an ideal base for your Swiss Travels.
things to do
in the center of town
- Visit Jesuit Church – The first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps. Built-in 1666 by Father Christoph Vogler for the Jesuits.
- Check out Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) a wooden pedestrian bridge that spans Reuss River, built-in 1333 it 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.
- Book a tour with Free Walk Lucerne – A free walking tour is a great way to get acquainted with the area. Most cities in Europe offer these tours so I often book them on my first day in a city that way if something intrigues me, I have plenty of time to revisit it on my own. Walking tours last anywhere between 2-4 hours and while the tour is free and the guides are unpaid, they do go above and beyond to show you their city so be sure to leave a tip, they’ve earned it. My guide with Free Walk Lucerne not only showed us around the city 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 firearms 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) but 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.
- Explore Old Town Lucerne– Situated on each side of Chapel Bridge, this is the main area of Lucerne and where you’ll find most restaurants and shops.
Grab a pretzel from the Lucerne Bahnhof (railway station). It’s quick and “inexpensive”, however, I use this term loosely as Switzerland is by far one of the most expensive countries I’ve visited. 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 and stroll along the water until you find the perfect spot to sit and visit with the Swans while taking in the views of the Swiss Alps.
- Dying Lion of Lucerne Monument – If you book the free walking tour with Free Walk Lucerne, this will be one of the stops (be sure to ask 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 which I find the subtle message’s left by artists quite amusing.
- Museggmauer – It is said the best views of Lucerne are from this iconic old city wall featuring 9 towers, and I couldn’t agree more.
I highly recommend booking accommodations along the lake, my room offered a stunning view from the balcony as well as the bed which was located directly in front of the window. Since Lucerne is such a walkable city I opted against taking the bus to Old Town and instead enjoyed a 15-20 minute stroll along the water each day.
During the day happy couples pushed their baby strollers as others watched their children frolic around. In the evening friends gathered on the dock to listen to music, laugh and enjoy each other’s company, others lounged on the grass under trees strung with lights, sipping wine from the outdoor bar. I quickly learned that life in Lucerne is simple, family-oriented and carefree.