10 Reasons to Visit Lucerne
Top Things to See and Do in Lucerne
Lucerne is one of the most picturesque cities in Switzerland and is very easy to get to from Zurich by car or by train.
Here are 10 reasons to visit this beautiful Swiss city:
1 Kapelle Bridge
One of the most distinctive landmarks is the Kapelle Bridge and the Octagonal Water Tower. The Kapelle Bridge or Chapel Bridge connects the old and the new part of the city across the River Reuss. It takes its name from the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel and was built to protect the city from attacks from south from the lake.
In fact it holds the record as the world’s oldest covered wooden bridge and dates back to 1332. In the 17th century paintings by Hans Heinrich Wagmann were added to triangular frames inside the bridge, depicting Lucerne’s patron saints St. Maurice and St. Leodegar and other aspects of Swiss history.
Of the 158 original paintings 147 of the paintings survived the 1993 fire, but following restoration only 47 remain.
2.The Musegg Wall
The Kapelle Bridge and the Water Tower along with Musegg Wall and turrets formed a part of Lucerne’s fortifications dating back over 500 years. They are among the few Swiss medieval ramparts which have survived. Constructed in the 14th century to protect the city they are 870 meters long, approximately 1.5 meters thick and on average 9 meters high. The walls stretch from the Nolli Tower near Geissmatt Bridge all the way to Museggstrasse 7 in the eastern part of the Old Town and are interspersed by 9 watchtowers.
One of the watch towers, the Zytturm tower, has a clock dating back to 1535 and a bell which rings every hour, exactly one minute before all other clocks in Lucerne.
3. Stroll In The Historic Old Town
Take a stroll along the meandering cobblestone streets of the old town. There are lots of nooks and crannies and little bars and beautiful shops. The city is full of charm and very picturesque.
4. Lake Lucerne- Vierwaldstattersee
Lake Lucern or Vierwaldstattersee as it is known in German is the 4th largest lake in Switzerland. It is extremely beautiful and in Summer often has the most beautiful blue green colour to it. You can enjoy a stroll along the lake, maybe stopping at a pavement cafe to take in the views, or alternatively why not take to the water and go for a short boat ride?
The Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstattersees run historic paddleboat steamers and motor boats take visitors on trips to the lakeshore towns of Rigi, Burgenstock, Klewenalp and Pilatus.
The water level of Lake Lucerne is regulated by a “needle dam” which was built in 1860.
5. The Jesuit Church
The Jesuit Church is very ornate and striking and is in fact Switzerland’s oldest baroque church and the largest baroque church north of the Alps. Built by the Catholics in Lucerne in reaction to the Protestant Swiss Reformation, the Jesuits, in the Catholic Canton of Lucerne, were leading a spiritual fight against Protestantism. The church with its opulent design was built in 1666-1673 alongside the Jesuit college in the city to emphasise the Catholic Church’s tradition, power and defiance.
Two onion topped towers were added to the church in 1893 and there is a statue of Saint Francis Xavier, patron of Lucerne’s Jesuit Church. The mural on the ceiling mural depicts the Glory of Saint Xavier and inside it is very ornate with a high altar and marble stucco.
Photo credit Beat Brechbühl
6. The Lion Monument – Löwendenkmal
One of the most popular attractions in Lucern is the Löwendenkmal or monument to the Dying Lion and it is Switzerland’s oldest preserved figurative monument. It is carved in relief out of the rock face in a small park near the Glacier Garden. Designed by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen it was carved in 1821 by Lukas Ahorn to commemorate the Swiss Guard which had protected the French royal family but in the process had been massacred in 1792 in Paris during the French Revolution.
Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer in the Swiss Guard in Lucerne initiated a collection to establish the memorial monument. The inscription reads “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”. Unfortunately there was not enough money in the fund for sculptor Thorvaldsen to complete the monument and out of respect for the soldiers he didn’t destroy the sculpture but instead made a statement by leaving the lion’s den in the shape of a pig.
7. The Gletschergarten or Glacier Garden
The Gletschergarten Glacier Garden was discovered in 1872. It’s a network of glacier potholes which were formed in the Ice Age showing various fossilised sea life and vegetation – for example mussels, sea shells and palm leaves indicating it was once a subtropical beach millions of years ago! It is Lucerne’s oldest attraction.
There is a garden, a museum and a labyrinth. The museum shows a multimedia presentation, the Million Year Show, with interactive displays of the glacier holes. The labyrinth, known as the Alhambra Mirror Maze was built in 1896 and is equipped with 90 mirrors and in addition there are also distorting mirrors too.
8. Spreuer Bridge or Mühlenbrücke
In addition to the more well known Chapel Bridge there is also the Spreuer wooden covered bridge across the River Reuss. It also has a series of 67 paintings to admire, which were painted by Kaspar Meglinger in the 17thcentury with a more morbid theme than the Kapelle Bridge. The paintings are about the Dance of Death, where death is represented by the Grim Reaper trying to encourage everyone in the “dance of death” with him.
Spreuer Bridge was built around the year 1400 to connect the mills on the right bank of the river with the the bakeries on the left bank, as the bakers, who kept their ovens alight all night, needed to be on the opposite side of the river due to the fire risk. In 1566 the bridge was destroyed but rebuilt in 1568 and it has a small chapel on it dating from 1568.
9. Swiss Museum of Transport
One of the most popular museums in Switzerland this is the perfect retreat for a rainy day and can keep young children especially, amused for hours.
With over 3,000 exhibits the Swiss Museum of Transport explores the history of transportation and mobility over the years. There are lots of real vehicles – planes, helicopters, motorbikes, trains, engines and event boats. There are also simulators and multimedia shows as well as EURECA, an enormous satellite which went into space in the 90s. Hybrid cars, a giant model railway, crash test cars, the Breitling gondola – the list is endless – and the exhibits are displayed both inside and outside. The film theatre has largest screen in Switzerland and there is an IMAX theatre and a planetarium. There is also The Chocolate Adventure which is a theme park-type ride created in conjunction with Lindt Chocolate taking you on a journey on how chocolate is made.
10. A Trip to Pilatus
You can hardly go anywhere in Lucerne without seeing the magnificent Mount Pilatus which overlooks the city. The highest peak, is Tomlishorn and is situated 2,128 meters above sea level.
There are a variety of ways to ascend the mountain, including the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, which goes from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm, May to November. The Panoramic Gondolas go from Kriensand the Aerial Cableway goes from Frakmuntegg to Pilatus Kulm. You can of course, also hike up the mountain!
We visited Pilatus – see our report here.
There are plenty more things to to see than the ten we’ve listed but hopefully this is just a starter. You might also like to visit the KKL Luzern (the Culture and Convention Centre by architect Jean Nouvel).
Photo courtesy of KKL Luzern
Another ideas might be to wander round the cobbled streets and enjoy a coffee in one of the cosy cafés or maybe check out Max Chocolatier chocolates which were founded in Lucerne.
Whatever you do, have fun in this magical city!
Photos by NewInZurich and courtesy of Beat Brechbühl and Lucerne Tourism
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