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Lucerne

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Lucerne (Luzern in German, Lozärn in Swiss-German) [1] is a beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland, across the lake from Altdorf, where legend has it William Tell shot an apple off of his son's head. In addition to being a fine place to visit in and of itself Lucerne is a great base from which to explore famous Swiss sites such as Mount Rigi and the Rütli Meadow.

Mnt. Pilatus and the covered bridge in Lucerne

Understand

The first city to join the Swiss Confederation, today Lucerne is a lovely small city with a thriving tourism industry, owing mainly to its status as a gateway to Central Switzerland. The city became a center of Swiss history and legend, and is the setting for the most memorable part of the William Tell legend (the bit with the boy and the apple).

Tourism in Lucerne has a distinguished history dating from the mid 19th century, with Mark Twain among them. In "A Tramp Abroad" he recalls the nascent souvenir business, and other budding examples of the tourism trade.

The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them. -- Mark Twain

Get in

By train

Thanks to its central location Lucerne can be reached easily from nearly every other city in Switzerland using the Swiss Federal Railway [2]. There are hourly trains from Olten and Zurich Airport and half-hourly trains from Zurich, and a direct train every other hour from Berne, although departure times are more frequent with connections.

The "Zentralbahn" branch of the Swiss Federal Railway provides also hourly trains between Interlaken and Luzern during daytime.

By bus

From Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina [3]

By boat

Lucerne sits at the north end of the Vierwaldstättersee, one of the busiest waterways in Switzerland, for travel information from Schwyz, Flüelen, Weggis, and outbound points see the schedule at the Schifffahrt Vierwaldstättersee [4].

Get around

Able-bodied travellers will find Lucerne a complete joy to get around in on foot. The Old-Town is tiny, and most other interesting sites are within 20 minutes or so walk, there is also a city bus system [5], as well as assistance for disabled visitors on request from Mobility International Switzerland [6]. The Lido beach and the Swiss Transport Museum are a bit further out and can be reached by bus or by one of several boats per hour from just in front of the central railway station.

Lucerne also makes a very good base for discovering the rest of Central Switzerland, using the Swiss Federal Railway [7], the Schifffahrt Vierwaldstättersee [8], or any one of several private rail or boat companies.

Bicycles are available for rent at the central railway station, at ticket window 21 on the lower level. For 31 CHF per day, you can rent a 24-speed, sturdily-built bike with a baggage clamp. Electric bikes are also available. Bike pick-up and drop-off are around the left side of the train station, at a kiosk across the street from the Swiss Post building. Bike lanes are present on most secondary streets, and Lucerne drivers are generally aware of and polite towards bicyclists.


By bus

Lucerne has an efficient bus network: Verkehrsbetriebe Luzern [9] (German only). It covers the city and the suburbs.

See

During Fasnacht the paintings on the bridge are covered by paintings promoting the various bands.
  • The Chapel Bridge, The Chapel Bridge is in some kind the landmark of Lucerne and its said to be the oldest woodbridge of Europe. The Bridge is made with wood and was built in 14th century as a protection for the city. It's amusing walking over it as you can see about 100 pictures of 12th century city life and Swiss history. Join one of the walking tours going around! Unfortunately the bridge burned down on 18th August 1993. Within a few months it was rebuilt. The tower used as oubliette is still in original condition. Walk over it in a 3D Model: [10]
  • Alpineum [11]
  • Bourbaki Panorama [12]
  • The Glacier Garden [13]
  • The Swiss Transport Museum [14], Lido beach (the first stop for boats leaving from the central train station, preferably reached by bus). With its large collection of trains, planes, automobiles, and motorcycles this museum of means of transport is a great place to spend an afternoon. If you get tired of the real train engines you can check out the model railroad or the miniature working steam train. The air section also features several space travel exhibits, including an un-used project Mercury capsule. Basic admission is 32 Chf. for adults, 21 Chf for children 6-16, and free for younger kids.
  • The old city wall
  • Lucerne Art Museum [15]
  • The Rosengart Collection (Sammlung Rosengart) [16], Pilatusstrasse 10, tel: +41 41 220 16 60 (info@rosengart.ch). April-October: every day, 10 AM-6 PM; November-March: every day, 11 AM-5 PM. Well over 200 works by 23 artists of early modernism, including 125 works of Paul Klee and about 50 by Pablo Picasso. Also works by Cézanne, Chagall, Miró, Pissarro, among others. The collection also houses 200 photographs -- previously housed in the Am-Rhyn-Haus -- by David Duncan Douglas, LIFE’s WWII photo correspondent who arrived with his camera uninvited at Picasso’s villa “California”, was welcomed by Picasso and his family, and over the years produced an intimate portrait of the artist’s day-to-day life. Picasso's living room was his studio, and domestic scenes -- a ballet lesson, Picasso drawing with his children, or wrapping himself in the cape and hat of his native Spain -- play out within the backdrop of some of his most famous works. Admission CHF 15 (CHF 8 for students, children 7-16 years).
  • The Richard Wagner Museum [17]
  • The KKL (Kunst- und Kongresshaus Luzern [18], The KKL is a spectacular building that contains several concert halls and the Lucerne Art Museum. It was designed by Jean Nouvel. Its major concert hall ("La salle blanche") is famous for its acoustics, and world class orchestras can be heard regularly. It hosts the lucerne music festival [19]
  • The Lion Monument (German: Löwendenkmal). or the Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France. The American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) praised the sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."

Do

A marching band parading to exactly where they feel like parading
  • Fasnacht Some cities of Switzerland including Lucerne and Basel celebrate a rousing carnival just before lent each year. The version celebrated here is famous for its chaotic "march any direction you like" street parades of the so called Guugemusig (band of wind instruments and drummer, typical to the carneval of Central Switzerland) and elaborate masks. The carneval week of Lucerne starts on the Fat Tuesday and ends at Ash Wednesday. The programm in short: Fat Tuesday, Urknall (a loud bang) at 5am is the official beginning, music on the streets all the day in the city, mask parade from 2pm along the lake, music on the steets in the evening; Friday to Sunday music and masksparades in all the towns and villages of the region; Güdis Monday, second Urknall at 6am, rest dito Fat Tuesday; Thursday big street concert in the hole old town and surroundings, end of the official carneval at midnight... but it continue in the bars until morning of Ash Wednesday. As with carnival elsewhere the exact date on the calendar is variable according to the phase of the moon. You find the date of the next Fat Tuesday (SchuDo, Schmutziger Donnerstag) here: [20]. If you won't be recognised as a tourist, put on some colorful clothes ;) Most of the people are dressed in colors or in masks. In the last years, the cities of Zurich and Berne started to copy Central Switzerlands carneval. At the moment mood and music isn't half as good as in Lucerne.
  • The Golden Round-Trip [21]
  • Explore the Old Town One of the main reasons that Lucerne attracts so many travelers is its small but remarkably preserved old town. You can get lost (for a few minutes anyhow) in its maze of streets, passages, and squares, admiring the many and varied murals painted on what seems like every other building. A nice short walk on the Museggmauer starts at the Schirmer-Turm, walk up the road near Jazzkantine, open only at daytime.
  • Ascend Mount Pilatus [22] - a famous mountain overlooking the city of Lucerne. Its peak can be reached by the world's steepest cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad (not operating in wintertime) and all-year-round by cable-car in three sections from Kriens (10 minutes by trolley bus no. 1 from Lucerne as far as 'Linde'). This trip is definitely a must and gives you a good impression of a wild and rocky peak with a marvelous view to the "real" Alps. Of course you can walk to the top on foot, which takes at least 4 hours from Kriens. A pleasant alternative is to walk down to Kriens from the bottom of the middle cable-car section. In addition to hiking, there are several other activities, including a suspension rope park and a 1,350 m long toboggan (both at the second stop of the cable-car from Kriens). Even if you don't plan to hike, allow for at least three hours to spend on Pilatus.
  • Take a boat tour [23] from Lucerne to Alpnachstad or back when you go to Mt Pilatus.
  • Take a guided tour [24]

Learn

Work

Buy

The shopping in Luzern has improved somewhat since Mark Twain's visit. You'll find several good department stores with acceptable prices for most items, as well as pricy specialty shops.

  • Bucherer - The flagship store of Switzerland's best known watch and high-end jewelery dealer
  • Luzern's old town is full of shops - especially clothing

Eat

Budget

  1. Treibhaus Luzern [25], they have fine food. 2 menus each day (menu Chf 13, students Chf 7), snacks, donuts and very fine coffee. There are concerts at night.
  2. Migros or Coop. Migros and Coop are huge supermarket chains with a lot of budget products. There is a small Migros and a bigger Coop at the train station, near the tourist office, perfect to buy something to eat if you arrive or leave Lucerne. There are other Migros around, ask the people. Farther there are Migros and Coop Restaurants self-service restaurants.

Mid-range

  • Mövenpick Restaurant Grendelstr. 19, Tel. +41-41-4105222, Fax +41-41-4104437. International dish, very good service. They even have an English menu.

Splurge

  • Restaurant Schwan
  • Restaurant Bodu, exquisite French Cuisine.

Drink

  • Jazzkantine [26], quite small but comfortable bar. They have a stage in the basement. Sometimes there are jazzists playing (4 to 8 times a month). In the same building is the local jazz school, so it's a kind of student bar.
  • Löwengraben,
  • Mr. Pickwick's Pub
  • Gracie Kelly's Irish Pub
  • Opus
  • Parterre
  • Treibhaus Luzern [27], Small but cool alternative Club. They have cheap food (2 menus each day) too.
  • Schüür
  • Sedel [28], the place where punk rock goes on. In the 80s it was the place the youth rebellion went on. Unfortunately it lost a bit of its idealism, nevertheless it's still the club of mothers don't want to let go their kids. Today there are a lot of concerts from Ska to Britpop to Postrock to Gothic. The building is an old women jail and was converted to music practice rooms for bands in the 80s. There are about 60 bands rocking and practicing their sets. So, if you'll here some noise somewhere in it, just knock at the door an come for a jam session.
  • Rathaus, Simply the best beer you will ever have in your life. Brewed only at this small restaurant/brewery. Get the specialty beer. You will not be disappointed.
  • Bar 58, Nice neighborhood bar on Klosterstrasse.
  • Bar 59, Newly opened by the former owners of Bar 58, larger and has live music venues as well but still has a neighborhood bar feel - on Industriestrasse, hidden in the basement of a warehouse looking building.

Sleep

For its size, there are quite a few places to stay in Lucerne, in all price ranges.

Budget

  • Lion Lodge Luzern [29], Zurichstrasse 57, +41 (0) 41 410 01 44, info@lionlodge.ch. The Backpackers in the heart of Lucerne. Next to Lion Monument, Old Town and shoppingcenter. Free kitchen facilities and bed sheets. 3 large verandas.
  • Backpackers Lucerne [30], Alpenquai 42, +41 (0) 41 360 04 20, fax: +41 (0) 41 360 04 42, info@backpackerslucerne.ch. Dormitory: Chf. 28.00 pers/night Double Room: Chf. 34.00 pers/night (Sheets included), no curfew, no lockout, no membership, Phone them as they don't accept e-mail booking. Free kitchen facilities. It's a very nice place, clean, close to the lake and closer to the old town than the youth hostel Lucerne. A lot of clubs (Treibhaus, Schüür, Boa) are just around.
  • Youthhostel Lucerne [31].
  • Private rooms, ask for them at the tourist information +41 (0) 41 227 17 17

Mid-range

  • Hotel des Alpes, Rathausquai 5, +41 (41) 410 58 25 (, fax: +41 (41) 410 74 51), [32]. Facing the lake, and overlooking the chapel bridge, this clean well-run establishment offers excellent views including Mount Pilatus. Some of the rooms have balconies, with very large, but semi-private, balconies on the first floor which might be just the thing if you are with a group. Single room starts at CHF 128 per night including breakfast.
  • Hotel Pickwick, Rathausquai 6, +41 (41) 410 59 27 (, fax: +41 (41) 410 51 08), [33].
  • The Bed + Breakfast, Taubenhausstrasse 34, +41 (41) 310 15 14 (, fax: +41 (41) 310 15 40), [34]. A nice bed & breakfast about a 15 minute walk from the train station or quick ride on bus #1. Single starts at CHF 80. Friendly and helpful staff.
  • NH Luzern, Friedenstrasse, 8, +41.41.4183333 [35]. The NH Luzern is only ten minutes from the Exit A2 Luzern Zentrum or Luzern Süd. After the exit, follow the direction Vehrkehrshaus/Ebikon. The train station is only 10 minutes by foot from the hotel and 5 minutes by bus (bus number 1).
  • Cascada, Bundesplatz 18, CH-6003, (, fax: +41 (0)41 226 80 00). Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Located 500m from the train station. Single room from 197CHF, double room from 324CHF (Rates of march 2009).
    www.cascada.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
  • Monopol, Pilatusstrasse 1, CH-6003, (, fax: +41 (0)41 226 43 44). Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Located right opposite the railway station. The famous Chapel Bridge is reachable within only 2 minutes by foot. Single room from 230CHF, double room from 270CHF (Rates of low season 2009).
    www.monopolluzern.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
  • Waldstätterhof, Zentralstrasse 4, CH-6003, (, fax: +41 (0)41 227 12 72). Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Located 100m from the railway station directly in the city center. Single room from 129CHF, double room from 184CHF (Rates of low season 2009).
    www.hotel-waldstaetterhof.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com

Splurge

  • Grand Hotel National, Haldenstrasse 4, +41 (41) 419 09 09 (, fax: +41 (41) 419 09 10), [36]. César Ritz was hotel manager of the Grand Hotel. A single room starts at CHF 300 per room per night.
  • Hotel Schweizerhof, Schweizerhofquai 3a, +41 (41) 410 04 10 (, fax: +41 (41) 410 29 71), [37].
  • Palace Luzern, Haldenstrasse 10, +41 (41) 416 16 16 (, fax: +41 (41) 416 10 00), [38]. The hotel is a haven of hospitality which combines old world charm with the most modern comforts. The ambience is one of stylish elegance
  • The Hotel, Sempacherstrasse 14, +41 (41) 226 86 86 (, fax: +41 (41) 226 86 90), [39]. Billing itself as a boutique hotel, with interior design by the French architect Jean Nouvele, "The Hotel" is as posh as it gets just about anywhere. The theme is classic French with an Indochinese touch which suggests an easy-beats/spy film soundtrack
  • Art-Deco Hotel Montana [40], Adligenswilerstrasse 22, ++41 41 4190000, fax: ++41 41 4190001. The Hotel Montana is a bit down the price and posh scale from "The Hotel". Some might prefer it though for it's architecture (surprise! art-deco), and the commanding views of the lake, and mountains. Double rooms with a lake view start at 250Chf.

Contact

Stay safe

Lucerne is a very safe place, safer even than most of the other cities of Switzerland. That said, it is a heavily touristed destination, and where there are tourists there are pickpockets, con artists, and other sorts of folks up to no good. As with everyplace else keep your passport and other valuables where people can't get to them.

Cope

Get out

  • Mount Pilatus [41]
  • Mount Rigi [42]
  • Guides Lucerne [43]
  • LucerneGuide [44]
  • Mount Titlis
  • Schwyz
  • Zug
  • Felsenweg at Mount Bürgenstock, not very tall, but you get a beautiful view over the Mittelland and its lakes, best in the morning or evening after rainfall; go there by boat (Lucerne-Kehrsiten) and funiculaire or 1.5h walk, by train and bus (Lucerne-Stansstad-Bürgenstock), by bicycle 1.5h up and 0.5h back ;)
  • Mount Lopper, not touristic, but also beautiful view, also best in the morning or evening, only a very short trip from Lucerne; by train to Stansstad (15min), walk back over the bridge and up to the white chapell, follow this only way, always direction west (direction Pilatus), after 1.5h you'll get to a lookout, follow the way, at the crossing you go down to Hergiswil and by train back to Lucerne (10min)




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