Lucerne is known as a mini-replica of Switzerland. History, culture and, of course, breathtaking landscapes make up its main attractions.
What to do in Lucerne
Lucerne attracts with a combination of urban architecture and Swiss nature. Life here does not stop all year round, offering guests and locals to visit various places and events: farmers’ markets and festivals on the lake, riding on the water surface in a boat with a picturesque view of Mount Pilatus.
Walking along the streets of the old town or along the promenade with swans, as well as visiting antique shops, will appeal to lovers of the glorious past and historical events.
Lucerne also offers ancient churches and cathedrals, beautiful streets with “gingerbread” houses, fortress walls and other attractions to lovers of antiquity.
Lucerne is also a city of large-scale musical events. The most famous in the world is the Summer Festival, which today is already 75 years old. The world’s best orchestras, conductors and musicians come to the city for a 30-day celebration of the arts. Past guests have included the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the legendary pianist Martha Argerich.
A similar smaller festival in March focuses on religious music, while the Piano Festival in November gathers both jazz and classical talent.
The fourth largest lake in the country offers travelers unspoilt natural beauty. The pond is equally beautiful on a summer day and a winter night, when the Christmas lights of Lucerne are reflected in the water surface. The lake is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks.
Tourists make cruises on it on old paddle steamers. Bicycle and skating paths are laid along the coast, as well as places for swimming and recreation. Fascinating views of the lake open from the mountain slope.
Among the mountain ranges around Lake Lucerne, tourists call Rigi the most impressive. The second name of the peak is the “Queen of the Mountains”. The massif was formed during the movement of the earth’s crust several centuries ago. Visitors appreciate its beauty and emphasize that it is better to walk near the mountain on a clear day.
Rigi is unique in that it is surrounded by three lakes: Lucerne, Zuge and Lauerz. To reach the top, you can use the railway or take a ride on the cable car. The hiking route around the picturesque peak takes 4 hours.
Another mountain range, Mount Pilatus, consists of several peaks. The highest peak is Tomlinson (2128 meters). The mountain became famous in the 19th century when the Swiss composer Richard Wagner wrote an article about it in a magazine. Later, Queen Victoria made the ascent to the summit on horseback.
A trip to Mount Pilatus is an adventure in itself: travelers ride on the most original railway, operating from May to November. Others choose gondolas or the funicular, which is available all year round.
Near the Lion Monument is a natural object discovered by scientists in 1872. This is a group of cracks in rock formations that were created during the last ice age 20,000 years ago.
But the finds found inside are much more interesting. The fossils of shellfish and palm branches clearly show that about 20 million years ago this place was the shore of a subtropical sea. After the tour, you can go for a picnic in a nearby park.
The medieval bridge has long been a favorite tourist attraction in Lucerne. Photo shoots are regularly held here, the main object of which is the bridge itself. It was built in the 14th century but burned down in the 90s.
The work of the reenactors made it possible to restore the building to its former beauty, which is admired by tourists today. About 100 photographs from the life of the city and images of its patron saints are exhibited on the restored bridge. The covered bridge crosses the river diagonally, which distinguishes it from similar structures.
Monument to the Lion
The Löwendenkmal or Lion of Lucerne Monument was carved from natural stone in memory of the Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. It was carved by Lucas Ahorn in 1820 and is 10 meters long.
The position of the wounded, sad lion is so touching that Mark Twain called it “the saddest and most touching piece of stone in the world.” There is rich symbolism in the work: a lion lies on a broken shield with a lily of the French royal family, and behind it is another one — an intact shield with the Swiss coat of arms.
There is another medieval bridge in Lucerne. It is located downstream, opposite the western corner of the Old City. The 15th-century Spreuer has a structure similar to the Chapel Bridge, with a roof, design elements and 17th-century paintings attached to the ceiling pediments. The roof panels also feature 56 17th-century paintings by Caspar Meglinger showing the impact of the bubonic plague on society.
Despite the similarity, this bridge has its own characteristics, which is why it is popular among tourists. According to legend, medieval villagers threw wheat chaff into the river from this bridge – hence its name.
One of the most memorable excursions. Green hills and a fairy-tale castle hidden between them cause a storm of emotions among tourists. Today it has become the home of a music college, and music is constantly heard from the windows.
Not only the castle itself is remarkable, but also the ancient park on its territory. It’s worth spending a few hours here. An English-style park with many old trees, flower beds and a picturesque cave.
Nine Museggmauer towers
For a bird’s eye view of Lucerne’s rooftops, sparkling lake and mountain ranges, take a walk along the old city walls built in 1386. But the best panoramic views are from the tops of the nine towers lined up in a row.
Today, only three of them are open to the public and can be freely climbed. This is a historical place, part of the old city, and the Zit tower was built by Hans Luther.
Interesting places, entertainment and shopping
The streets of Old Lucerne are adorned with elegant buildings, some of which have been standing here since the Middle Ages. You can travel back several centuries, wander through the cobblestone streets and admire the frescoes that adorn the facades of almost any house. The entire old center is free of traffic, which allows tourists and tour groups to move freely.
The menagerie has been operating since 1614 and is one of the oldest attractions in Lucerne. The 6500 m² park has three enclosures, each for 25 deer. They can be looked at and fed with the permission of the rangers with hay or grass.
On the territory of the park there are information boards with a description of the European variety of the red deer. On request, you can take an organized tour of the park with a guide. It also includes a number of recreational activities.
Cultural and Congress Center
All kinds of concerts are held in this center: from classical and pop music to rock and blues. In the summer, during traditional festivals, the hall is full every day, in the rest of the year it is easier to get to concerts.
The Lucerne Cultural and Congress Center was created by Jean Nouvel and was built between 1995 and 2000. A feature that immediately catches the eye is a flat roof overlooking the embankment. Beneath it is a complex dominated by a first-class concert hall. It is designed for 1800 seats and has impeccable acoustics.
The massive bunker is hidden under Lucerne and can be accessed from the Sonnenberg Highway Tunnel. Built in the late 70s, it was ready to provide enough space for the city’s 20,000 inhabitants in the event of a nuclear attack. However, there was no need to evacuate the population.
Now that the Cold War is over, visitors can take tours of the bunker every last Sunday of the month. Traveling through this underground time capsule will allow you to see the whole complex with hospital wards and a decontamination station, laundries and massive ventilation systems.
Chäs Barmettler is a unique store located near Löwenplatz. It is focused primarily on tourists. It offers a wide selection of Swiss cheeses, fondue ingredients and freshly baked cheese pies.
Old recipes and adherence to traditions make the store’s products very popular. Most of the varieties are not easy to find outside of Europe, so if you are in these places, you should definitely try them and take something with you.
Allmend indoor water complex
This is not just a pool, but a whole water paradise. There is entertainment for guests of all ages. For the adventurous, there is a children’s pool and a 55-meter slide. You can choose from five pools of different sizes and temperatures, depending on whether you want to swim, dive, just relax or get a water massage.
Modern architecture and large windows provide plenty of daylight and panoramic views of Mount Pilatus and surroundings.
The park is located between the Central Library and the Continental Park Hotel. Convenient transport interchange allows you to get here from anywhere in the city, regardless of the time and day of the week.
In the park, you can have a great time without leaving the city: have a picnic, sunbathe in the sun or sit under shady trees. Many take the opportunity and practice yoga on the green lawns.
Cultural attractions and museums
Swiss Transport Museum
This is more than just a collection of cars. The Swiss Transport Museum is perhaps the most famous in the country. Opened in 1959, it is interactive, showcasing the history of the automotive industry through theme parks, interactive stations, exhibits and films.
The collection includes more than 3,000 objects spread over an area of more than 20,000 square meters and demonstrates the development of rail, water, road, air and space travel. The museum also has a planetarium, a chocolate factory and Switzerland’s largest 3D cinema.
The city’s most famous cultural landmark is housed in a neoclassical building. Here, visitors can see a large collection of the Swiss art dealer and friend of Pablo Picasso — Angela Rosengart.
It also features the work of the Impressionists and Classical Modernists, including Renoir, Clie, Cezanne, Monet, Chagall, Kandinsky, Miró, Matisse and Modigliani. But the crowning achievement is a collection of 200 photographs by photographer David Douglas Duncan, which capture the last 17 years of Picasso.
Panorama of Bourbaki
Near the Lion Monument and the Glacier Garden on Levenplatz is a landmark that is almost 140 years old. Swiss artist Edouard Castre painted a panorama of a defining moment in the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s.
Against the background of a snowy landscape, the defeated French army wanders into Switzerland in search of shelter. Castres worked as a Red Cross volunteer during the war, so he could remember these paintings vividly. In Panorama Bourbaki there is a small museum that also contains other military-themed paintings.
Richard Wagner Museum
This museum dedicated to the famous composer is located in his former home in Tribschen, on the south shore of Lake Lucerne. Wagner lived in this house for 6 years, during which he wrote at least two immortal works.
Some of Wagner’s musical collections are kept here, such as a portable organ and rare photographs, paintings, letters and valuable scores. The origin of most items dates back to the 15th century. The property is under state protection, and the house itself is considered a historical monument.
Churches and temples
The medieval basilica was burned down during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. The city did not accept the loss and, despite the ongoing war, built a new church. She became one of the few erected in that period.
The architecture is in the late Renaissance style, but it has elements of the original church: a couple of towers, as well as medieval decorations in the interior. The altar, created in 1500 from black marble, was saved from fire, and the carved choir stalls have been preserved since the rebuilding of the church in the 17th century.
This church was built in the 17th century — just a few decades after the Hofkirche. The facades are made in the Baroque style, which served as a kind of opposition to the characteristic buildings of such Protestant cities as Geneva and Zurich.
The Jesuit Church was designed by architects from Austria and Italy and consecrated in 1677. That is, from the beginning of construction to the completion of work, about a century passed. Inside, the walls are richly decorated, and the two side chapels are distinguished by intricate stucco work.
Monastery of Engelberg
In the center of the mountain village of Engelberg is a quiet monastery. Since 1120, the monastery of St. Benedict opened here. Its heart was a small baroque church with a high altar and the largest organ in Switzerland.
Today about 30 monks live and work in the monastery. It has a functioning secondary school and a gymnasium. Students of different nationalities attend classes and live here. Tourists come to admire the ancient architecture and get acquainted with the local way of life.