I’m going to make a bold claim: Lucern (or Lucerne, or Luzern) is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I have a co-worker who told me before my trip, “I went to Germany and it was beautiful, but Switzerland is majestic.” Nowhere did I find this more true than in Lucern. It is definitely a straight out of a storybook, literally breathtaking kind of place. Even better, several of the best sights are free!
I stayed at Bellpark Hostel in a 5-person room. The amount of space was decent, there was a bathroom in the room, and the free “oriental style” breakfast of fried rice actually hit the spot. I was also surprised to have this nice mountain view right from my bed:
Perhaps the most essential activity in Lucern is to stroll along the Reuss (pronounced “Royce”) River. Make sure to walk across the Kapellbrucke, a beautiful wooden bridge, and stop in any cafes or shops that catch your eye. From there, you can head southeast to take a lake steamer boat ride around Lake Lucern (free with Swiss Travel Pass; boats leave from the the lake piers in front of the train station), or make your way north to find Museggmauer. Museggmauer is an old city wall with nine towers, three of which you can go up for free to see panoramic views of Lucern. There is also a part where you can walk along on top of the wall.
The carved lion monument is a brief but essential stop. It commemorates the Swiss soldiers who died during the French Revolution, and Mark Twain has cited it as the most moving piece of stone in the world. After a few photo opps, I went to the Glacier Garden next door, which showcases Swiss history, a really random mirror maze, and of course glacier exhibits. Essentially, Lucern used to be covered by glaciers during the ice age, and you can still see the giant glacial potholes that remain. The Glacier Garden runs about CHF 15, or is free with a Swiss Travel Pass.
In full transparency, there were also a few museums that were covered by my Swiss Travel Pass that I wouldn’t recommend paying for. The first is the Alpineum, an exhibit near the lion monument that features poorly drawn pictures of the alps. Make sure not to confuse this with the Glacier Garden! I also visited the Bourbaki Panorama, which depicts the French-German war. This was helpful for me as someone who didn’t pay attention in high school history class, but there wasn’t a ton to see and I might have felt cheated had I paid for it rather than it being covered with my pass. Lastly, I was super excited to see the Picasso collection at the Rosengart. However, I was hoping for something along the lines of “Girl with a Mandolin” but the collection consisted mostly of paintings of boobs. A little more variety would have been ideal for me, though I’m certainly no art expert.
The one activity you’ll want to make sure to spring for is Mt. Pilatus. There are two ways to go up or down: a gondola and a cogwheel train that is the steepest in the world. I went up in the gondola and down on the cogwheel train for CHF 36 using my Swiss Travel Pass. I’ve also heard that more recently, the Swiss Travel Pass completely covers the trip. Be sure to check here for the most up-to-date prices: http://www.pilatus.ch/en/railway-cableways/prices/. It looks like as of 2017, the highest priced tickets cost around CHF 100. Obviously, the gondola and cogwheel train each offer different benefits and it’s best to experience both. The gondola will give you unbelievable aerial views of the mountains and lakes, while the cogwheel train will take you through pastures of Swiss cows (complete with their bells). At the top, take your time to explore and soak in a number of different views of the alps. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to hear someone playing an alpenhorn. Plan on allotting about a half day for this adventure.
What should I do next time I’m in Lucern? Post your recommendations below! I’ll leave you with this adorable Swiss baby goat: