Welcome to Lucerne! Our first stop of our 8 day tour of Switzerland by train. You can call it ‘Luzern‘ if you are a Germanophile. Or you can call it ‘Lucerne‘ if you are a Francophile. But no matter what you call it, this idyllic Swiss city will take you by surprise. It’s calm, clean, and civilized. Picturesque, fun and easy to explore. Actually, it’s almost too picture-perfect! Unfortunately we didn’t book but one day in Lucerne, which was a big mistake. But if you want to know what to do in Lucerne for one day, here are my recommendations:
- 1 Things to do in Lucerne
Lucerne at a glance
Lucerne is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland and is located in the German-speaking part of the country, so the locals call it ‘Luzern.’ The city has an unique and idilic setting: on the bank of Lake Lucerne with a backdrop of the Swiss Alps.
If you arrive by train, you will descend right in the middle of the city center and emerge onto the main street and waterfront area.
Lucerne’s medieval old town has all it needs to enchant you: white swans, picturesque squares and cobble stone streets, watch towers, covered bridges, beautiful architecture, museums, and especially cheese. Lots and lots of cheese!
If you are a cheese lover then this is your place. The fondue I tried here was without question the best I’ve ever had anywhere else.
Things to do in Lucerne
• Visit Lucerne City Center
Lucerne is compact and easy to navigate. Everything is within walking distance, which is ideal for visitors. We walked from the train station to the hotel and from the hotel to everything else.
Its colorful old town and the 14th-century city walls are very close together and can be explored on foot.
There are swans everywhere in Lucerne! A great deal of swans and ducks. These are giant swans, unlike any other I’ve seen so far. They swim both in the lake and on the river, which seems to be very common in many parts of Switzerland. The swans are constantly fed by the visitors and locals, so when they see you they simply swim close to the shore expecting to be fed.
• Cross the Chapel Bridge
The city spreads on both sides of the Reuss River and has a number of bridges. The most famous bridge in Lucerne is Kapellbrücke Bridge (Chapel Bridge), a 669 ft long wood-covered structure that crosses from the city center into the Old Town area. The bridge dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest covered bridge in Europe.
If it doesn’t look so old, it’s because much of it had to be replaced in 1993 after a fire allegedly caused by a discarded cigarette. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history. Across the bridge lies the Water Tower, an octagonal fortification that over time served as a lighthouse, a prison and a treasury.
• Wander through Old Town Lucerne
The old town is a charming and romantic place. It felt like it was taken right out of a movie scene with narrow streets, beautiful old buildings and little squares with water fountains.
• Visit the Farmers’ Market along the Reuss river bank
On Tuesdays and Saturday mornings there is a farmers’ market along the Reuss river bank. There is nothing like strolling through a Swedish farmers’ market on a sunny day! The opulence of produce and delicacies displayed there is amazing. From homemade Swiss cheeses, fresh meets, sausages, wines, fresh vegetables, fruits, homemade-sweets, flowers they had almost everything you can imagine.
The smell of freshly baked goods, flowers and herbs was filling the air. It’s a pure delight to taste some of these goodies, even though they are unbelievable pricey! We I paid about $9 (8 CHF) for a piece of homemade pie!
To my surprise, I saw merchants from many other European countries coming to sell their produce here. There were Italians selling pasta, French selling baby potatoes, Germans selling their famous sausages.
• Visit the Lion of Lucerne monument
The one attraction that will most likely capture your heart is the Lion of Lucerne Monument. Set in a park near the city center, this 20-ft lion sculpture carved in a cliff is a monument dedicated to the Swiss mercenary soldiers who died during the French Revolution.
The dying lion is portrayed pierced by a spear. His head is bowed and his paw is covering a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis (the symbol of the French monarchy); beside him there is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland.
There is so much sadness in the lion’s expression that it makes your heart break. It’s rare that I get this feeling in front of a sculpture! The monument sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the street by a green alcove of tall trees. The vertical rock where the sculpture lies has a pond at the base and is surrounded green grass.
• Shopping in Lucerne
When you think of Switzerland, you will invariably think of watches, army knives, and of course, chocolates. We couldn’t leave Lucerne without buying all these. But there is so much more to buy in Lucerne than just watches and chocolate. The Old Town area is full of souvenir shops and other stores, but if you have time to venture beyond this tourist area, you can find some really nice things to by. There is a wide variety of stores that I did not find in any of the other small towns we visited later on this trip. I wish we had more time for shopping in Lucerne.
• Other attractions in Lucerne
It was the 700th anniversary of the Firefighters’ Brigade in Lucerne when we arrived. So the brigade had some spectacular rescue and firefighting demonstrations prepared to keep the young and old entertained. There were fire trucks everywhere in town, from old-fashioned pulled by horses ones to very modern ones.