Ah! Lovely Lucerne – good choice! Travel Secrets editor-in-chief Shubhra Krishan was there recently and has fallen in love with the Swiss city. Here’s how she describes it:
“Take a blank canvas and a lavish palette of paint. Dip your brush in blue, mix with a little white, and create a lovely lake. Float some fluffy white ducks into the lake. In the background, paint tall, stunning mountains draped in snow. In the foreground, a few brushstrokes depicting people walking by. You have just painted Lucerne!”
Now, about your itinerary – here are a few suggestions from Shubhra. Let’s start with where to stay.
Grand Hotel National:
Shubhra says: “I have stayed in some seriously lovely hotels, but this one swept me away.”
Founded in 1870, the hotel is built in French Renaissance style and has witnessed some powerful moments in history. During the later years of Word War 1, for instance, the ground floor and cellar of the hotel served as a warehouse. And in 1920, British Prime Minister Lloyd George met Italian President Giolitti at this hotel—this was where the foundation of the Treaty of Versailles was laid! But walking down the ornate corridors of the hotel, history would be far from your mind; luxury uppermost. Framed in the large glass windows of the beautiful suites are stunning snow-clad peaks. And to help see them right up close, you will find a pair of binoculars on the desk. In the foreground, the lake ripples—in all its blue beauty, complete with bobbing ducks and boats. The hotel’s elegant restaurants ‘Le Trianon,’ ‘Il Padrino’ and “Thai Lotus”, will keep your taste buds busy too.
What to see:
The Lake: Lucerne’s liquid centrepiece is said to have inspired Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ While you are in Lucerne, the Lake will simply relax and romance you. Those ducks! And swans! And boats! And the painterly sunlight falling on them all, setting them afire in golden glow tinged with mouthwash blue…
Chapel Bridge: The wooden structure is arched artistically across the lake, complete with bright red geraniums and begonia lining its sides, to get that effortless painted effect. It is to Lucerne what the Palais des Festivals is to Cannes—you have to get a picture taken here!
The Old Town: Quintessentially an European affair – the narrow alleys off this Weinmarkt Square are lined with tall houses, some with colourfully painted shutters. Dotted with houses converted into hotels, boutiques and restaurants, this part of Lucerne is perhaps even more laid-back and leisurely than the rest of the city. Just bask in the sun, enjoy some coffee or indulge in a spot of shopping!
The local markets: As farmer’s markets go, the Sunday morning market in Lucerne is not huge, but about 80 local vendors sell all sorts of fresh fruit, jams, preserves, cheese, baked goods, flowers, plants, spices and herbs. Lucerne also has a fish market, a flea market, crafts market, Christmas market and a monthly market…whenever you go, there’s sure to be something on!
Shop at the Railway Station: The transparent entrance hall of the railway station was designed by a Spanish architect. After the fire of 1971, it was rebuilt, and looks quite unlike a railway station from the outside. Inside, too, it does double duty as a shopping mall!
Lucerne is in the German speaking canton of Switzerland, so you will encounter the German word ‘Banhof’ which means station. The only downer is that Switzerland is an expensive country to shop in. Stuck to the two big department store chains: Migros and Coop, and invest in chocolates and Caotina cocoa mix as recommended by locals.
Food and wine: A blogger described Lucerne as the ‘Swissest city in Switzerland’. But when it comes to food, Lucerne goes cheerily beyond its Swissness and embraces the cuisines of all the world! Be it simple coffee and cake, a tiny, taverny sort of affair, or a grand restaurant offering elaborate Provencal spread, Lucerne has them all. There are nearly 250 restaurants packed into the 15 square kilometres! Try dinner at Kanchi, a famous Indian restaurant in Lucerne – a good bet if you are craving a touch of home.
At night, the somnolent pubs and bars take centrestage. Many of them are perched high above city roofs, letting you soak in the jewelled beauty of Lucerne. For the gaming inclined, there is the Grand Casino, with 140 slot machines, poker, roulette, blackjack, the works!
Ready for some history ?
Lucerne is also a city of palaces, churches, and squares. The squares Kapellplatz, Hirschenplatz, Mühleplatz and Franziskanerplatz retain vestiges of their past history. The Hof Church, the Town Hall and the Rittersche Palace are important monuments dating from the late Renaissance, while the Jesuit Church is one of Switzerland’s finest baroque churches. The Franciscan Church is considered to be the finest Gothic church in Central Switzerland.
The Lion of Glacier Garden: It was hewn out of natural sandstone cliff, in a form of a dying lion pierced by a spear, in memory of the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792. Globetrotter
Mark Twain described the Lion of Lucerne as ‘the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world’.
The glass factory at Hergiswil: Located approximately 8 km south of Lucerne, the Hergiswiler Glass Factory was established in 1817 and is Switzerland’s only glassworks; where glassmakers work in the most traditional methods. Look over their shoulders and in the Museum “shaped by fire” you are shown the history of glass and of the Glasi-Hergiswil. The admission to the Glasi is free and can be booked with a guided tour. There is a factory shop, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a playground for children, with a large tube slide.
Know Before You Go
www.livinginluzern.info: a blog for the locals, but very helpful for you, the visitor. Tips you off on where to buy
shoe-shaped chocolates, pluck the best pumpkins and see the best of cheesemaking.
Want to try an offbeat hotel stay? Check into Luzern’s most interesting hotel, the Jailhotel Löwengraben —
converted from an actual prison. Stay in a simple cell with a tiny barred window, thick door, and institutional
Farmer’s Market: Every Tuesday and Saturday morning. Every year from 6.00 to 13.00 hours at the Rauthaus Quai, very close to the Railway Station and right by the Chapel Bridge. You can’t miss it, actually!.
A Word about the Weather
Lucerne is bustling during winter, when the Alps come alive with snow sports. The lake is all fluffed up with snow.
In February, the driest month, there is a vibrant Carnival. Lucerne gets about 138 days of rain during the year.
The Grand Hotel National
Haldenstrasse 4, 6006 Luzern,
Phone: +41 (0)41 419 09 09
Kanchi Indian Restaurant
Zürichstrasse 4, 6004 Luzern,
Phone: +41 (0)41 410 67 08,
Glasi Hergiswil, Seestrasse 12,
6052 Hergiswil NW,
Phone: +41 (0)41 632 32 32,
Grand Casino, Haldenstrasse 6