Your trip to Switzerland will be incomplete without a visit to the gorgeous city of Lucerne that lies at the heart of the country. Located by a magnificent lake, in the midst of picturesque mountains, it’s also one of the most populous cities in Switzerland and is the hub of transportation, telecommunication and government in Central Switzerland.
We spent a couple of days in Lucerne this spring and fell in love with the city where tradition and modernity stand side by side with ease. The most memorable experience was the romantic evening city walk around the scenic Lucerne Lake. Here’s our pick of Lucerne’s most iconic landmarks, you must not miss if you want to make the most of an evening in Lucerne.
We started our walk from the centrepiece of Lucerne’s townscape – The Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) that diagonally crosses the Reuss River. The iconic bridge was made in 1333 and is considered one of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged by a fire in 1993 but was then completely rebuilt. What you will see today is the reconstruction of the original footbridge.
The most fascinating element of the bridge, we believe, are the 17th century gable paintings hanging from the roof. While most of them were destroyed in the fire, 30 of the original 158 are on display today. Depicting patron saints and historic scenes, the paintings gave us a glimpse of the city’s history.
Beside the bridge is the 13th century, octagonal, 140 ft tall Wassertum (Water Tower) that was once part of the city’s fortifications. It sends jitters down the spine to think of this tower once being used as a prison and torture house. It’s now closed to visitors except a small souvenir shop at the base along the covered walkway.
We would recommend spending some time, while you take a leisurely walk on this iconic symbol of Lucerne, enjoying the creaky sound of wooden planks, peeping out to soak in the beauty of the surrounding lake as you accustom yourself with the history of the place.
This is Switzerland’s first large church made in the Baroque style between 1666 and 1677. We couldn’t make it to the interior but have heard that it has impressive painted ceilings and ornate marble side altars.
The Old Town
We crossed over the Kapel Bridge to the north end to land into the Old section of Lucerne that has been well preserved. This is where you can witness Lucerne as it was centuries before modernity.
Here the buildings are arranged around little squares with fountains with narrow cobblestone lanes streaming out from it and bordering these lanes are old timber framed houses. Many buildings display elaborate and bright-coloured frescoes on their exteriors making it a photographer’s delight. Our camera shutters went click-click-click.
We witnessed many markets and shops here that offer anything from Swiss watches to wine to chocolates and is an ideal destination to select Swiss made souvenirs. We bought a whole lot of chocolates and souvenirs for our friends in India. If you are going for a watch, do consider the difference between “Swiss Made” and “Made in Switzerland”.
Among the monuments that caught our attention here, was the Altes Rathaus- The Town Hall built in the 1600s in Italian Renaissance style. The gorgeous clock tower stands out in the Old Town neighbourhood.
Very near to it, at Kapellplatz stands the oldest church in Lucerne – St. Peter’s Chapel, built in 1178.
Hofkirche St. Leodegar
As we went past the narrow lanes of the Old Town towards the east end, we arrived at the base of St. Leodegar, one of the most impressive Renaissance churches in entire Switzerland. The twin-towered Hofkirche is easily spotted from a distance and is a must visit. This is situated at the site of an eighth century monastery that originally laid the foundation of the city of Lucerne.
Right from the bottom of the steps we were impressed by the grandeur of the exterior of the church. We took the flight of steps to reach the church’s courtyard. The interiors with vaulted ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows are equally impressive.
We observed beautiful Choir stalls and impressive Choir bars. It would be a great experience to hear the organs play. During the summer months (July until September) there are concerts on Tuesdays.
As we left the church, we took a look back over the city and were greeted with a breathtaking view.
Old Swiss House
As we made our way to the incredible Lion monument, we witnessed the Old Swiss House. We recommend sparing a few minutes to a walk around the oldest wooden house that exists in Switzerland.
Lowendenkmal – The Dying Lion Monument
The figure of a giant dying lion that was carved into the cliff face of a sandstone rock, just above a pond is one of the best-known monuments in Switzerland. It was designed as a memorial in remembrance of the heroic death of Swiss guards, serving the French king during the French revolution, killed during an attack on the Tuileries in 1792.
You can observe the head of the spear sticking out from side of the lion – the cause of its pain and eventual death. The dying lion lies upon symbols of French monarchy depicting the cause for which the Swiss Guards sacrificed their lives. The Latin inscription on the top means “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”.
The mortally wounded lion’s expression is that of pure agony. Mark Twain, the renowned American author called this monument “the saddest and the most moving piece of rock in the world”. You will have to visit it to believe that it indeed is.
As you stand on the northern banks and view across the lake you can see the Lucerne Railway Station that connects the city to almost every part of Switzerland. No wonder tourists treat Lucerne as an excellent central spot to explore the country.
We had some time at hand till our cruise left the shores. We decided to spend it beside the lake. Sunlight shimmering over the surface of the Lake Lucerne and the beautiful Alpine peaks in the background make it the perfect spot to sit back and relax. Swans gliding across, tourists having a great time at lakeside cafes, occasional roadside music performances by the locals – all make the mood very romantic. A perfect honeymoon destination.
Lake Lucerne Cruise
The pristine waters of the Lake make it an ideal destination to go on a memorable Sunset Cruise.
We had a lovely experience of the natural spectacle of a radiant sunset over the towering peaks of Swiss Alps. As the cruise glided gently on the waves, the tranquility of the lake and the scenic surroundings seemed magical. There was some music and dance on board. We tried our hands at some Swiss musical instruments and played along with the locals. The crew served us some fine drinks and a refined dinner. A picture perfect end to the evening at Lucerne.
Surrounded by the Swiss Alps, the Lucerne Lake provides unmatched panoramic views both from the banks of the city and also from the cruise around the lake. If you are among the less fortunate who miss out the cruise on the lake, don’t get disheartened, taking a leisurely stroll by the banks of the lake is an awesome experience in itself.
Breathtaking scenery, relaxing atmosphere make us want to come back here for more. Have you visited Lucerne? What are your special memories of the city? Share your stories with us.