In the very center of Switzerland stands a little city with lots of charm: Lucerne.
Spelled Luzern in German, this idyllic Swiss town is just a short train ride from Zurich, and it has just become my choice destination for a day trip from Zurich after Justin and I gladly joined our friends visiting from Orlando, Florida one autumn afternoon. With an interesting blend of architecture, the intense blue of the lake waters, and the captivating outline of the Alps, Lucerne is sure to enchant all who visit. I, for one, am certainly under its spell!
Ambling through Old Town
Nestled along the shores of Lake Lucerne (der Vierwaldstättersee), the Old Town of Lucerne invites visitors to wander its narrow streets and discover its secrets. The building facades are lavishly decorated with Germanic patterns, wild creatures and family trees. Historic fountains constantly distribute drinkable water for the passing public. Outdoor cafes crowd the squares with activity. This is the type of place where you can just wander and wonder… and that’s exactly what we did.
Dining in Lucerne
You’ll find no shortage of dining options in Lucerne, including a number of fondue-focused eateries. Since we arrived hungry, we started our day with a delicious meal inside the greenhouse-like cafe Luz Seebistro, conveniently located between the train station and the lake. We were not disappointed by our decision to dine here!
The Lion of Lucerne
The symbol of the city was created to honor of the Swiss Guards who were slain during the French Revolution. Even as a large group of tourists crowded around the reflection pond, the Gletschergarten Löwendenkmal maintained a somber air of serenity. According to Mark Twain, the Lion Monument is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.
Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.— Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880
The Bridges of Lucerne
Perhaps the most recognizable image of Lucerne is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a covered wooden bridge that zigzags over the Reuss River. Unfortunately, a fire in 1993 destroyed most of the original structure, which dated back to the Middle Ages, as well as many paintings from the 1600s posted inside the trusses. What you see today is a reconstruction. During our visit, we could not cross the Chapel Bridge due to current restoration projects.
Another piece to the historic puzzle of Lucerne, the Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke) is just downstream from the Chapel Bridge.
The Guard Towers
The wooden bridges aren’t the only medieval relics in town. Constructed in 1386, the Musegg Wall (Museggmauer) is an impressive fortification that follows the ridge line just above Old Town. Four of the nine towers are open to the public, and the ramparts grant exceptional views of the city from above.
Speaking of views… Château Gütsch is a glamorous boutique hotel (not castle, Hailey) perched atop one of the hills overlooking Lucerne. Intrigued by this castle hotel, we took the funicular up the wooded hillside. To our great delight, we “discovered” an outdoor patio, where we decided to indulge our whims with drinks and desserts as we soaked up the sweeping views of Lucerne from the luxurious Château.
An inescapable figure looms over Lucerne: Mount Pilatus. Summiting the massive mountain is a popular activity, especially in conjunction with ferry boats, cog wheel trains, and gondola lifts that help tourists reach the top without breaking a sweat. During this particular visit, Justin and I decided to save that excursion for another day. You can read about our incredible hike to the Top of Pilatus here!
Lucerne, An Enchanting Day Trip from Zurich
In just a few hours, I totally fell for Lucerne. It was just so cute, so charming, so pleasant, and so easy to reach from my home in Zurich. I’ll gladly return to this adorable city in Switzerland, because Lucerne may just be the best day trip from Zurich!
Hello there! What do you think of Lucerne? Would you put this small city on your Tour de Suisse? If you’re familiar with Switzerland, do you think Lucerne is the best day trip from Zurich? If not, where would you recommend we go from Zurich?