Lovely Lucerne Should Not Be Missed

Reading books to children can make a great impact on their lives. As a youngster, I fondly remember the book, Heidi. The story features a young orphan girl sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. She developed a deep love of the mountains and nature, something that still appeals to me. Looking back, I believe I was drawn more to the illustrations than the storyline, as I clearly recall wishing to see the Alps, chalets, and grazing cows. My chance finally came when I signed up for a Riviera River Cruise from Basel, Switzerland, to Cologne, Germany.  

A farm tucked into the Swiss Alps.
Imagine living in the Swiss Alps.

My travel buddy Judy and I flew to Zurich and boarded a train directly from the airport to Lucerne. Swiss Rail makes it so easy and the trains are very clean and comfortable.

I’m glad I listened to a friend’s recommendation to spend two days in Lucerne because the beauty and ambiance of the city can’t be overstated. The stunning Old Town rests on the banks of Lake Lucerne, surrounded by stunning mountains featuring Mt. Pilatus, rising approximately 7,000 feet. 

Chapel Bridge and view of Mt. Pilatus from Lucerne, Switzerland.
Sunlight shines on the flower boxes lining the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. Mt. Pilatus in the rear.

After a five-minute walk from the train station, Judy and I dropped our bags at Hotel des Alpes, on lodging choice bordering the lake. We set off to explore the enchanting city by crossing the world famous Chapel Bridge. This covered wooden bridge rests on stilts with a picturesque tower first built in 1333. Lush flowering window boxes line the railings, and religious paintings grace the architectural archways. 

Artwork on the rafters of Chapel Bridge.
Artwork is displayed on the rafters of Chapel Bridge.

A stroll through the pedestrian-only historic center uncovered fascinating houses painted with historical scenes or artistic details of former artisan guilds. I adored these. You’ll see fountains, flowers, unusual rooflines, and inviting shops. 

Artwork on buildings in Lucerne.
Intricate artwork on many buildings in Lucerne.
Many of Lucerne's building include artistic paintings.

We then headed across town to the Lion Memorial, another famous landmark carved into a rock face. The Lion Monument stands as a poignant tribute to the Swiss Guards who lost their lives during the French Revolution in 1792. It’s carved into a large sandstone cliff and depicts a dying lion, wounded and draped in the Swiss flag. The lion’s expression of pain and sorrow is so palpable, that it evokes a powerful sense of sacrifice and tragedy. When Mark Twain visited he called it “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”

The Lion Memorial honors the Swiss Guards.
The poignant Lion Memorial is carved into a stone wall.
Old black and white images of the Lion Memorial from yesteryear.
The Lion Memorial dates back to 1821.

Next to the monument lies the Glacier Garden Museum, a place that truly surprised us. The interactive displays start with geology, the Ice Age, and the formation of the Alps. You wander through a cave-like tunnel and come to stairs that lead to rock gardens offering fantastic views above the lake and city. Unexpected fun came when we entered the Mirror Maze and lost our way among our mirrored reflections and the path. This hall of 51 mirrors was built in 1896 for the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva and moved to Lucerne in 1899. We were totally confused and left exhausted from laughing at ourselves. I absolutely recommend a visit.  

Fun in the Mirror Maze.
Seeing many reflections of yourself in the Mirror Maze.

 In the evening, we dined lakefront on (you guessed it) cheese fondue. When in Switzerland, you must try it as well as decadent Swiss chocolates. 

Yummy cheese fondue.
When in Switzerland, you must eat Cheese Fondue.
Evening dining in Lucerne.
Lakeside Dining in Lucerne.

 The following day, we signed up for the Golden Day Round Trip Tour beginning with a lake cruise that transported visitors to the entrance to the most vertical cogwheel railroad in the world. The morning weather came in with overcast skies and low hanging clouds, but I still enjoyed being on the water. On the thrilling and speedy cog-rail ride up Mt. Pilatus, we experienced ever-changing landscapes. Leaving behind the fog-enshrouded lake, we ascended to clear, sunny skies at the summit. Here, I basked in the soaring panorama of the Alps: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, a life-long dream come true. The quick change from being in a town to the top of the Alps transcended all and a spirit of communing with nature seemed to appear.

Hiking up Mt. Pilatus.
A few hearty souls hike up Mt Pilatus, as seen from the cogwheel railroad window.

We also saw and later met hearty hikers who climbed the peak, something I do not dream about.  

Fog covers Lake Lucerne.
The fog covered Lake Lucerne.
At the top of Mt Pilatus.
One of the lodges and restaurants at the summit of Mt. Pilatus.

We delighted in the panoramic views from a variety of overlooks and enjoyed a late morning coffee. When ready, we rode part way down the mountain to Kriens on the aerial cableway known as the Dragon Ride. I marveled at a tiny church at the edge of a mountain cliff. At this point, we stopped to watch visitors tobogganing down runs and eyed the challenging rope courses.

Toboggan Anyone?
The toboggan run looked like fun.
The challenging Ropes Course on Mt. Pilatus.
The ropes course or an adventerous walk in the Alps.

We lingered awe-inspired by the dramatic background and I could have stayed for hours. Instead, we grabbed a sandwich and then rode a second gondola down to the outskirts of Lucerne. From there we walked about five minutes to a bus stop that took us back to the historic center.

Gondola ride down to Lucerne.
A second gondola takes visitros down to the city.

The day ended with a second sunset cruise on the lake, albeit without a memorable sunset, but the narration answered many questions about the area. 

Cruise boats in Lucerne harbor.
About to board a boat for a sunset cruise.

Before leaving on a train to Basel the next morning , we wanted to visit the impressive Jesuit Church but found it closed. Instead, we discovered a fascinating cuckoo clock store (very pricey) and numerous chocolatiers (very fattening).

Cuckoo Clock Shop in Lucerne.
The Cuckoo Clock Shop displays fine workmanship and is a lot of fun.

We missed Lucerne’s many museums but I am so thankful I included Lucerne in our itinerary. I loved every minute of our stay. The city becomes a photographer’s jackpot and the perfect way to start a trip through Switzerland and Germany. Don’t miss it!

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