Pristine waters, picturesque facades and snow-capped mountains – that‘s the first impression Lucerne leaves. This fairytale city in the heart of Switzerland, surrounded by the Alps, is definitely one of the most beautiful European cities I have ever been to. And yes, everyone says that after every trip to a new place. But trust me, there is something special about Lucerne that makes you fall in love with it!
My boyfriend and I did a day-trip to Lucerne from Zurich. The time we had was quite enough to walk around and explore the center. However, if you would like to dig deeper, visit museums or go to the nearby Mt. Pilatus, maybe consider spendind 2 days. We focused mainly on the city centre and explored by foot.
What I love the most about the city is that you don´t need to break the bank to see all the monuments and sites. Also almost everything is gathered in the heart of the old town, so walking through it is basically like a walk through times. Today I will share with you some facts about the most popular sites in Lucerne, because pretty much every one has its fascinating story.
This is one of the two remaining covered bridges, altough it is not as important as the Chapel Bridge. Built in the 13th century, it is a little art gallery above the pristine waters of the Reuss. In the 17th century, 67 paintings depicting the Dance of Death (Totentanz) were painted on the pediments of the bridge. Nowadays, only 45 can be seen. Inspired by the dark epidemic times Europe has suffered, the images show different scenes of death inviting people to their last ´dance´.
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Probably the most famous monument and symbol of the city, the Chapel bridge is the oldest covered bridge in Europe. It also houses artworks from the 17th on its pediments, but unfortunately a large part of them was lost during a fire in 1993. The most well-known part of the bridge is actually the octagonal ´water´ tower. It was actually built before the bridge itself. During the centuries, it served as a prison, torture chamber and local treasury among others. The Chapel bridge with the tower is probably one of the most photographed sites in Switzerland. It gets quite busy during the day, and if you can give it another try at night when it is beautifully lit up.
Kornmark is a small square in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by old houses with one of the most beautiful facades. In fact, the whole old town is dotted with buildings, each painted differently. It really is worth strolling down the cobblestone streets, starting from Kornmarkt. Each is filled with well-known or unique shops. What Kornmarkt is known for, however, is the town hall and the watch tower. The latter predates the builgind of the town hall and at some point it was used as a dungeon.
In my opinion this is the most unique aspect of Lucerne. A bit further from the old town, this monument is found in a little garden with a lake. It really looks like a fairy-tale place with trees in different colours – red, yellow, green – surrounding the lake. The monument itself depicts a wounded lion. It commemorates the massacred during the French revolution Swiss guards. Honestly, pictures do not do justice of the place, you have to see it with your own eyes! As Mark Twain said, it is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
As if everything else is not enough, Lucerne also has a relatively preserved fortress wall and nine watchtowers! Hovering above the city, the Musegg wall provides probably the most beautiful view of the city. Apart from all the houses, one can also spot the Chapel bridge and the Jesuit church, the lake and the majestic Mount Pilatus. The old fortifications ´house´ a small garden with a terrace as well. What Musseg wall is famous for, though, are the towers. Nine of them stand proudly today and can also be visited. One of them, Zyt tower, features a giant clock. Why would this be interesting, you may ask. Well, its digits are so big, that fishermen in the lake could see them! Also, its bell rings one minute earlier than every other in the city!
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Stroll along the river
The waterfront of Lucerne is a reason itself to visit the city! Cute cafes, fancy restaurant, colourful facades and artsy shops – all overlooking the Reus river! There are plenty of shady benches along the two banks, inviting you to sit and enjoy a tasty gelato while admiring the Jesuit church. It is the first baroque-style building in Switzerland and reminds of the times when Europe´s religous world was shaken by the ideas of the Reformation and Counter Reformation. Nowadays, the church serves as a concert venue because of its outstanding acoustic.
It would not be Switzerland if a crystal-clear lake didn´t take your breath away! As with many other cities, Lucerne lies on the shores of a big alpine lake with turquoise waters. You can take a ferry trip or rent a boat yourself. You could also stroll along and admire the snow-capped Alps in the background and have a little picnic with a million-dollar view. In summer, the lake would be great for a refreshing swim!
Of course, there is so much more to Lucerne. To me, the magic of this city is in the small details you can find when you are not looking for any! It is a must-see place if you ever find yourself in Switzerland. I hope you found this little guide – or collection of facts – helpful. Let me know what your thoughts are! Have you ever been to Lucerne?
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