We visited Lucerne, Switzerland in November … 2016.
Yes, it has taken me this long to write about it, and I hate that. In my defense, I’ve stopped writing my blogs in order of our travel so that I could write about more recent trips as soon as they have happened. I am now trying to get back to about five trips I haven’t written about yet. I want my content to be more timely, so at some point I started posting right after trips, I just have this small backlog to fill!
Anyway, time flies. A year and three months ago seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of the universe, it’s not. I am pretty sure everything I’m writing about is still in Lucerne!
Lucerne is a beautiful city. I loved everything about it … the lake, the mountains, the intricate facades on the buildings. It was just lovely. It’s expensive to visit, but worth it.
We drove to Lucerne from Belgium (with a stop in Luxembourg on the way).
Travel tip: if you are driving to Switzerland in your own car, or any car registered in another country, you have to buy a vignette. This is a sticker that you place on your windshield that makes you legal to drive in the country. We bought ours right at border patrol. It was easy, but I would not have known to get it if a friend hadn’t told me, so I am paying it forward!
Where we Stayed
We stayed at the Grand Hotel National Luzern. This is a big, beautiful hotel in a great location, right on Lake Lucerne. We had a room with a lake view and a balcony. It was so nice to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets from our balcony with a cup of coffee. The hotel pool was a big hit for our son.
When we booked this trip, we were deciding between staying here or staying at a less-expensive option which was not on the lake. In many aspects of my life I am thrifty. I would never advise that someone spend over their budget for anything. But for this trip, spending a bit more (though still in budget) for a great location, great view, and great amenities was worth it to us.
(Sidenote: I’m not sure if I’ve said this before or not, but I don’t receive any benefits of any type for any of my hotel or restaurant mentions, nor do I attempt to receive any. That’s just not the sort of blogging I am trying to do. I just share my recommendations and experiences for my own historical documentation, and to try to help out fellow travelers. If I ever do work with businesses though sponsorships or advertising or affiliations, I promise I will tell you!)
What we Did
Yes, we live in Belgium, so we have access to amazing chocolate shops, but we were in Switzerland! We had to try genuine Swiss chocolate! We bought a variety of chocolates from Laderach. They were great. So were the chocolates the hotel left on our pillows at turn-down service every night. So are M&Ms. To be honest, I can’t tell you if there is a difference between fine Swiss chocolates and fine Belgian chocolates. My palate is not that refined. They all taste fine to me!
Chapel Bridge/Kapellbrucke and Water Tower/Wasserturm
Both the bridge and the water tower were built in the 14th century as part of the city’s fortifications. The water tower has been a prison, torture chamber, archive, and treasury. Now there is tourist gift shop in its base. The wooden bridge is quite picturesque and is a popular photo opportunity. In the 17th century, painted panels of art portraying Swiss history were added inside the bridge.
We walked from our hotel, along the lake, to the Chapel Bridge and over, and went to a weekly market being held right near the bridge. There is a weekly market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings there along the River Reuss. There is a monthly market on the first Wednesday of each month. There are also regular craft markets, a fish market, and annual Christmas markets. Here’s a link with all the market information. As we strolled through the market we grabbed some fresh bread and sausages to eat on the go.
Next, we passed the Needle Dam/Nadelwehr. This unique dam was built around 1860 and was designed by Poiree. It works by adding or removing its needles, regulating the water level of Lake Lucerne.
Next, we passed back over the River Reuss on the Spreuer Bridge/Spreuerbrucke. Though the Chapel Bridge seems to be more famous, the Spreuer Bridge is the oldest timber bridge in Switzerland. It was completed in 1408. It also has paintings, 67 of them, depicting a Dance Macabre. These were added from 1626-1635.
According to the city guide I got from our hotel, “spreu” means “cereals”. At some point in time, this bridge was the only place that people could dump “foliage and chaff from cereals” into the river.
The “Dying Lion of Lucerne” is a monument carved out of a natural rock formation in the middle of the city. It honors Swiss soldiers who died in 1792 while trying to protect the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution. Mark Twain has said it is “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.” It is tucked away down a street, a few blocks away from the lake. It’s a lovely and peaceful spot and is quite touching.
Hof Church/St. Leodegar im Hof
“The Collegiate and Parish Church of St. Leger in the Court Lucerne”, or Hof Church, or Hofkirche St. Leodegar, is a beautiful old church with two Gothic towers. According to its own pamphlet available on site, it has served as a convent of Canon Regulars since 1455. It burned down on Easter Sunday 1633. Its reconstruction began in 1644.
We spent more time walking around the city, enjoying many small squares, beautiful building facades, and views of other churches from afar, like the impressive Jesuit Church. We also took a one-day side trip to Lauterbrunnen. I will blog about that separately.
Where we Ate
We did take advantage of our hotel’s room service for at least one meal.
Just outside the hotel, along the lake, we found a bakery stand, Bachmann’s Gelateria Am Quai, which was really convenient for breakfasts. As you may gather from the name, it also sells gelato/glace.
Aside from the on-the-go lunch at the weekly market, we also had a lunch at Restaurant Einhorn Pizzeria Da Tommaso. They offered nice pastas, fish, and pizzas.
We had one dinner at Mr. Pickwick Pub, a classic British-style pub. I know, you don’t go to Switzerland for British pub fare, but sometimes, when traveling with a child, you do what you must do, and you go where you know you can get the kid a hamburger. Their food was good, and the location was convenient for us.
I think we redeemed our proper traveler credibility with our second night’s dinner. We had a more traditional meal of Swiss fondue and sausages at Restaurant Fritschi. Sure, they cater to tourists, but we enjoyed the meal and felt comfortable there. It had a nice Swiss ambiance and the exterior of the building is intricately painted and fun to see.
What We Missed
I usually like to write a section about “what we missed” in a city, but I didn’t really leave Lucerne with any regrets. Of course, there is a lot that we didn’t do, but we saw everything I hoped to see. There is a ton of shopping available in Lucerne, especially some high-end shops and of course, Swiss watches. There are also a lot of museums. If you are looking for more ideas for things to do or see in Lucerne, I recommend visiting their tourism website.