Lucerne (Luzern in German, Lozärn in Swiss-German) 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, Pilatus, Titlis and the Rütli Meadow.
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.
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
Lucerne has cold, dry winters and warm/hot summers.
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Thanks to its central location Lucerne can be reached easily from nearly every other city in Switzerland using the Swiss Federal Railway. There are hourly trains from Olten and Zürich Airport and half-hourly trains from Zürich, and a direct train every hour from Berne. There is also an hourly service from Bellinzona in Ticino, and Pfäffikon and St. Gallen in the North East. The "Zentralbahn" branch of the Swiss Federal Railway provides also hourly trains between Interlaken and Lucerne during daytime.
There are no intercity buses in Switzerland as the train system provides ample connections to many destinations in Switzerland. To make trips to the countryside in the mountains where there are no trains, refer to postauto.ch Buses are available from some nearby places, such as Rotkreuz
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 Schifffahrtsgesellschaft Vierwaldstättersee.
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, as well as assistance for disabled visitors on request from Mobility International Switzerland. 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, the Schifffahrt Vierwaldstättersee, 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.
Lucerne has an efficient bus network: Verkehrsbetriebe Luzern (German only). It covers the city and the suburbs.
- The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke). The Chapel Bridge, a landmark of Lucerne, is said to be the oldest wooden bridge of all Europe, 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 18 August 1993. Within a few months it was rebuilt. The tower used as oubliette is still in original condition.
- Kunst- und Kongresshaus Luzern. 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.
- Weekly Market. Every Thursday and Saturday from 6AM to 13am along the Reuss river. The market has many local products and specialities.
- Bourbaki Panorama, Löwenplatz 11. Nov-Mar 10AM-5PM; Apr-Oct 9AM-6PM. A circular panoramic painting. CHF12.
- The Glacier Garden.
- The Swiss Transport Museum, Lidostrasse 5 (Lido beach, the first stop for boats leaving from the central train station, preferably reached by bus). Summer 10AM-6PM; Winter 10AM-5PM. 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 unused project Mercury capsule. CHF32 for adults, CHF21 for children 6-16, and free for younger kids.
- The old city wall. A part of the rampart walls built in 1386; the wall is still almost entirely intact. Four towers are open to the public: Schirmer, Zyt, Wacht and Männli.
- Lucerne Art Museum.
- The Rosengart Collection (Sammlung Rosengart), Pilatusstrasse 10, ☎ +41 41 220 16 60, e-mail: email@example.com. April–October: every day, 10AM-6PM; November–March: every day, 11AM-5PM.. 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 Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), Denkmalstrasse 4. 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."
- 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 carnival of Central Switzerland) and elaborate masks. The carnival week of Lucerne starts at the end of February on the Fat Tuesday and ends at Ash Wednesday. The programme in short: Fat Tuesday, Urknall (big 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 streets 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 whole old town and surroundings, end of the official carnival 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. If you don't want to 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 Zürich and Berne started to copy Central Switzerland's carnival. At the moment mood and music isn't half as good as in Lucerne.
- 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. - 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.
- Ascend Mount Rigi. - a famous mountain overlooking the city of Lucerne. Its peak can be reached by a cogwheel railway from Vitznau and Arth-Goldau and by cable-car from Weggis. Vitznau and Weggis can easily be reached by boat. The peak can be reached by foot from everywhere in around 4-5 hours.
- Take a boat tour. Take a boat tour on the lake Lucerne with the traditional steamboats
- Take a guided tour.
- Paraglide from Pilatus and Rigi. Paragliding down from the majestic mountains surrounding Lake Lucerne is a unique experience. Tandem paragliding is possible all year round with pilots certified by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) of Switzerland.
- Rent a bicycle. Lucerne has an excellent bicycle Network. Rent a bicycle at the train station in lucerne and explore the city and the suburbs or make a day trip on the national bicycle network (http://www.veloland.ch/en/veloland.html).
- Go Trekking or Mountain Biking around Engelberg.
- Felsenweg Buergerstock. Get a beautiful view over the Mittelland and its lakes on this 2h walk. Go there by boat (Lucerne-Kehrsiten) and funiculaire or by train and bus (Lucerne-Stansstad-Bürgenstock). There are some luxus resorts at Buergerstock. Its also possible to go by mountain bike to the top.
- Blue Balls. Musicfestival in July.
- Lucerne Festival. Classic Music Festival
- Luzerner Fest. Music Festival in June / July
- Luzerner Theater. Top End Theater and Musicals
- Theaterpavillon. Nice Theater with a bar. A place for art work and to meet people. Inexpensive.
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.
- Luzern's old town is full of shops - especially clothing
- Luzern's station hosts several stores which have longer opening hours than most other shops.
- Bucherer. The flagship store of Switzerland's best known watch and high-end jewelery dealer
- Treibhaus Luzern. 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.
- Parterre. Good, friendly atmosphere. They have different menus every day.
- Migros or Coop. 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. There are other Migros around, ask the people. Farther there are Migros and Coop Restaurants self-service restaurants.
- Mövenpick Restaurant, Grendelstr. 19, ☎ +41 41-4105222, fax: +41 41-4104437. International dishes and English menu on request.
- Restaurant Schwan.
- Restaurant Old Swiss House. Famous for their Schnitzel which they prepare directly next to the table.
- Jazzkantine. 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.
- Metzgerhalle, Baselstrasse 1. old swiss restaurant made into a cool bar, usually full on weekends
- Mr. Pickwick's Pub. usual irish pub.
- Shamrock Irish Pub (formerly Gracie Kelly's) (in the old-town, 5 minutes walk from the train station). A great selection of Irish and Swiss drinks, home-made food, sports on display
- Treibhaus Luzern. Small but cool alternative club, sometimes concerts, cheap food with 2 menus each day
- Schüür. popular concert place with an outdoor bar in summer
- Sedel. The place where punk rock goes on. In the 80s it was the place for the youth rebellion. Unfortunately it has lost a bit of its idealism, nevertheless it's still the club mothers don't want to let their kids go to. Today there are a lot of concerts from Ska to Britpop to Postrock to Gothic. The building is a former female 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 hear some noise somewhere in the building, just knock at the door and come for a jam session. There's a shuttle running from central lucerne up to the club. look it up on their website
- 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. 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.
- Bar Berlin, Lädelistrasse 6 (on a small sidestreet from Baselstrasse), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 18.00-3.30 on Weekends. small bar with good sound and good drinks, nice and cozy
Lucerne has lots of clubs for lots of different tastes. the place to be at the moment is Baselstrasse where a new nightlife strip is emerging out of a kinda redlight district. There are also raves in industrial buildings that require you to join their "club" as they're not legally allowed to sell alcohol to the public.
- Casineum (Grand Casino Luzern), Haldenstrasse 6. fancy club in a casino, mainstream music
- Roadhouse, Pilatusstrasse 1, ☎ +41 41 220 27 27, fax: +41 41 220 27 28. Bar and disco that is always packed, lots of people go there for their afterwork beers because it's centrally located, located beside the train station next to McDonalds
- Das Schwarze Schaf, Frankenstrasse 2 (behind McDonalds at the train station), ☎ +41 41 227 00 33. mainstream bar/club
- The Loft, Haldenstrasse 21 (at the Casino), ☎ +41 41 410 92 44, fax: +41 41 410 27 28, e-mail: email@example.com. price=. from RnB to Reggaeton to Urban, gayfriendly and hosts monthly Frigay nights
- Penthouse, Pilatusstrasse 29, ☎ +41 41 226 88 88, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. starting 5PM to late night. fancy Rooftop Bar
- ROK, Seidenhofstrasse 5, ☎ +41 41 410 41 90, e-mail: email@example.com. House,electro, minimal, mash-up, tech-house, dub
- Madeleine, Baselstrasse 15 (at the beginning of Baselstrasse). concerts, open mics chillout, soul, funk, disco, alternative crowd
- Gewerbehalle, Baselstrasse 46. cool bar to hang out with a nice downstairs club, starting to offer hostel beds soon
- Klub Kegelbahn, Baselstrasse 24, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. FR and SAT from 11 PM. small basement club with good electronic music, from techno to more experimental stuff, check their website
- Tamilenschule, Tribschenstrasse 51 (in the industral building), e-mail: email@example.com. no regular opening hours. raves in industral building, mostly techno and innovative electronic musig, you need to join the club to be let in, cheaper than most other places, check their facebook for their parties cheap.
The three bakery chains Hug, Heini and Bachmann have several good cafés spread all over the city.
For its size, there are quite a few places to stay in Lucerne, in all price ranges.
- Lion Lodge Luzern, Zürichstrasse 57, ☎ +41 41 410 01 44, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Next to Lion Monument, Old Town and shopping center. Free kitchen facilities and bed sheets. 3 large verandas. Dorm/shared rooms CHF 32+.
- Backpackers Lucerne, Alpenquai 42, ☎ +41 41 360 04 20, fax: +41 41 360 04 42, e-mail: email@example.com. Dormitory: CHF 32 pers/night; Double Room: CHF 36 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 the old town. A lot of clubs (Treibhaus, Schüür) are just around.
- Youthhostel Lucerne, Am Rotsee, Sedelstrasse 12, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm rooms only, CHF 30+.
- Private rooms, ☎ +41 41 227 17 17. Ask for them at the tourist information.
- Hotel des Alpes, Rathausquai 5, ☎ +41 41 410 58 25, fax: +41 41 410 74 51, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Bed + Breakfast, Taubenhausstrasse 34, ☎ +41 41 310 15 14, fax: +41 41 310 15 40, e-mail: email@example.com. 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. Ten minutes from the Exit A2 Luzern Zentrum or Luzern Süd. After the exit, follow the direction Vehrkehrshaus/Ebikon. The train station is 10 minutes by foot from the hotel and 5 minutes by bus (bus number 1).
- Cascada, Bundesplatz 18, CH-6003, fax: +41 41 226 80 00, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 500m from the train station. Single room from 197CHF, double room from 324CHF (Rates of March 2009)..
- Monopol, Pilatusstrasse 1, CH-6003, fax: +41 41 226 43 44, e-mail: email@example.com. Opposite the railway station. The famous Chapel Bridge is 2 minutes by foot. Single room from 230CHF, double room from 270CHF (Rates of low season 2009)..
- Waldstätterhof, Zentralstrasse 4, CH-6003, fax: +41 41 227 12 72, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 100m from the railway station directly in the city center. Single room from 129CHF, double room from 184CHF (Rates of low season 2009)..
- Grand Hotel National, Haldenstrasse 4, ☎ +41 41 419 09 09, fax: +41 41 419 09 10, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Palace Luzern, Haldenstrasse 10, ☎ +41 41 416 16 16, fax: +41 41 416 10 00, e-mail: email@example.com. 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, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, Adligenswilerstrasse 22, ☎ +41 41 4190000, fax: +41 41 4190001. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Best rated hotel in Lucerne for a couple of years, slightly above the lake and offers amazing views over the lake and mountains.It rooms are modern (art-deco), well maintained and the service is superior. Also the Scala restaurant (15 Gault Millau points) and the Sunday brunch are very popular. from 250 CHF.
Lucernce 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. However, Lucerne is a friendly and safe city. Women can move safely almost anywhere also at night. There are few areas that should be avoided, including the area around the Basel street, where you will find a colorful and exciting cultural mix is relatively harmless. According to the police it can be dangerous at night in the neighborhood "Tribschen" (Inseli-Ufschötti-Weinbergli-Tribschenstrasse). Most violent crimes and robberies happen in this neighborhood. But compared with other cities in Europe it's a safe area.