The city of Lucerne (Luzern in German) is a popular stop for most people visiting Switzerland. The city is well known for its stunning medieval architecture and its stunning location on the edge of Lake Lucerne amid snow capped mountains. Many people touring Switzerland spend at least a few days in Lucerne. It’s no mystery why Lucerne is so beloved by tourists. The city rests beside Lake Lucerne, couched in a heart-lifting mountainous landscape. Both the lake and the mountains are at your fingertips, whether you feel like a paddle steamer cruise or want to conquer a mighty Alpine peak like Pilatus or Rigi. After going ashore you’ll ride the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, with a maximum gradient of 48%. And then after being dazzled by the scenery you’ll catch the new “Dragon Ride” aerial cableway, followed by a gondola cableway back down. “Lake of the Four Cantons”, Lake Lucerne is a stunning body of water with an irregular shape that invites you to explore. The Nationalquai and Schweizerhofquai are refined, leafy promenades traced by mansions and where you can contemplate the lake and alpine peaks like Pilatus and Rigi. Near the Lion Monument and Glacier Garden on Löwenplatz is a visitor attraction now almost 140 years old. The Swiss artist Édouard Castres painted a panorama of a defining moment in the France-Prussian War at the start of the 1870s: In a snowy landscape, the defeated French army trudges into Switzerland for refuge. Castres had worked as a Red Cross volunteer during the war so could draw on firsthand recollections for his painting. There’s a small museum at the Bourbaki Panorama, offering some context about the painting and the war.
Lucerne has a second medieval bridge downriver, against the western corner of the Old Town.The 15th-centtury Spreuer Bridge is in the same format as the Chapel Bridge, featuring a roof, truss design and more 17th-century paintings on its ceiling pediments. Painted between 1616 and 1637 these depict a Danse Macabre and each image is accompanied by a description and details of the donors. Carry on downriver for a moment and you’ll come to the Nadelwehr (Needle Dam). The river’s history of floods was consigned to the past in 1852 when this dam was installed to maintain the level of the lake. It’s an ingeniously simple system, involving wooden planks (needles) that are added or removed to regulate the flow on the Reuss. Where the Reuss flows off the lake is jaw-dropping piece of modern architecture. The Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre was drawn up by Jean Nouvel and took shape between 1995 and 2000. The feature that will catch your eye right away is the colossal flat roof pushing out over the waterfront. Underneath it is a complex dominated by first-class concert hall, which has 1,800 seats and the best acoustics you could hope to experience. The Lucerne Art Museum is also inside and has works from the Renaissance to the present. Day or night you can also grab coffee or a bite at the unfussy World Café, which has warming stews in winter and ice cream in summer.
Lucerne’s medieval Romanesque basilica was burnt down During the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. So while the war was still raging in the 1630s the city built its new church, and it was one of only a few churches to be erected north of the Alps in that period. The architecture is in the late Renaissance style, but there are elements from the original church, like the pair of towers and some medieval and Renaissance ornamentation in the interior. On the north side of the nave is the polychrome Maria-End-Altar, which was rescued from the fire and was crafted in the 1500s. It shows a dying Virgin Mary surrounded by the Apostles. From the time of the 17th-century rebuild check out the black marble high altar and the exceptional carved wooden choir stalls.