Do you believe in fairytales? No? Then perhaps you should visit Lucerne in Switzerland.
Many years ago, on one of my first trips to the European continent, I visited the beautiful city of Lucerne in Switzerland and was captivated by its fairytale charm. I remembered a shimmering blue lake hugged by traditional Swiss buildings adorned with flowers.
So when we were planning our route back from Lake Como last summer, I knew I had to add a stopover in Lucerne to our itinerary. In the last days of summer, it was as pretty as I remembered.
Lucerne – a lakeside city in Switzerland
We arrived in Lucerne mid morning having taken a scenic drive from the north of Italy. Mountain ranges soared overhead, and some of the peaks were still capped with snow. Summertime in the Swiss Alps is quite magical – right out of the pages of the Heidi novels I read as a child.
Our route hugged the shores of Lake Lucerne which stretches 30 kilometres through the heart of Switzerland. The lake was almost impossibly blue and clear. It shimmered with dappled sunlight in the last weeks of summer. The peaks of Pilatus and Rigi formed a majestic backdrop.
Things to do in Lucerne
Lucerne is a city of bridges that criss-cross the lake and the River Reuss. The most famous, and perhaps most romantic, of these is the wooden Chapel Bridge or Kapellbrücke. In late summer the Kapellbrücke was festooned with flowers and swans mingled in the waters below completing the fairytale scene.
Built in 1333, the bridge is the oldest covered wooden bridge in the world and was important as it linked the old town to the new settlement on the left bank.
In the 17th century aldermen of the city commissioned over 158 paintings for the interior of the bridge. An early form of billboard advertising, they promoted the history of the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant Reformation movement.
Fire almost destroyed the Kapellbrücke in 1992 including nearly two-thirds of the interior paintings. It has since been loving restored to its former glory.
We wandered a little further down the river Reuss and found the Spreuerbrücke, another excellent example of a covered wooden bridge.
The paintings in this bridge are a little spooky. They are scenes known as a Danse Macabre and were painted to remind people crossing the bridge that no matter who or where they were, death was the single thing uniting all citizens. This theme is probably more in line with the original fairytales of the Brothers Grimm.
From the Spreuerbrückeidge, we watched the turquoise blue waters of the lake and river merge in a massive force of power and gazed back towards the Chapel Bridge.
Lion monument – Löwendenkmal
This tragic dying lion is an enduring symbol of Lucerne. The sculpture commemorates over 600 Swiss guards who were killed defending the Tuileries Palace and King Louis XVI of France during the French Revolution in 1792.
Mark Twain described the sculpture as being “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I agree. It is an extremely solemn work of art and is well worth the 15 minute walk from the old town for a moment of quiet contemplation.
Aldstadt – Old town
Wandering the Aldstadt or old town was one of the highlights of our visit to Lucerne. Here we found romantic cobbled streets lined and traditional Swiss buildings decorated with colourful paintings. We loved the little squares with beautiful fountains, and I felt as if singing and dancing townspeople would pop out from around each corner. Just like a fairytale.. or a Disney version at least.
The atmosphere was festive in Lucerne with visitors enjoying the lakeside views from sunny terraces. I loved the little Swiss flags draped from balconies and flown from masts.
Reasons to return – more things to do in Lucerne
✪ Take a cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus for incredible views of Lucerne and its lake
✪ Relax on a scenic boat cruise of Lake Lucerne taking in the alpine atmosphere at a gentle pace
✪ Walk the city’s ramparts – the Musegg Wall – that have survived mostly intact since the 14th century
✪ Join an evening walking tour with one of the city’s night watchmen and hear stories from Lucerne’s medieval past
Plan your trip to Lucerne
Lucerne does not have an airport so you must drive there or take the train from Zurich. We recommend you book rail tickets on Rail-Europe in advance. The journey takes about an hour by train. If you wish to hire a car, we use Rentalcars.com to find the best deals.
Where to stay
We did not stay overnight in Lucerne however always recommend:
Booking.com for finding hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and apartments; and Hotels Combined if you specifically want to book a hotel. We always check and read accommodation reviews on TripAdvisor
For a full list of our favourite resources head to our travel and trip planning resources page.
I wonder if you now believe in fairytales or at least are tempted to visit beautiful Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited.
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