Buildings on the bank of Reuss River in Lucerne

Lucerne: A Picturesque Lakeside City

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Owning a pristine blue lake, a glamorous promenade, and an old town that is as lovely as a children’s book, it is no difficult to understand why Lucerne attracts so many visitors. Its name is derived from the Latin word Luciaria, which means “the city of light” – a popular sobriquet for this stunning lakeside city.


Positioned at the heart of Switzerland, Lucerne was predestined to be a thriving centre of commerce. For centuries, merchants, especially from Milan and Lombardy, flocked to this city to trade with those coming from the north. They brought not only wealth to this town, but also the Italian art and culture.

Since the mid-19th century, Lucerne has, however, grown into a tourism stronghold thanks to its excellent connectivity to nearby natural attractions, including Lake Lucerne, Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi. Combined with a charming old town and a pretty lakeside promenade, Lucerne understandably ranked among Switzerland’s most beautiful cities.

Chapel Bridge

Stepping out of the train station, the first thing that captured our attention was the 14th-century Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). Spanning the Reuss River diagonally, this wooden footbridge is the centrepiece of Lucerne’s townscape. It connects the Old Town on the northern bank with the New Town on the opposite side of the river. Together with the nearby octagonal Water Tower, they become Lucerne’s most recognisable symbol.

Chapel Bridge and the Water Tower

But what we are seeing today is a mere reconstruction of the original Chapel Bridge. A disastrous fire broke out in 1993 and destroyed most of the centuries-old structure. All that could be saved were the two bridgeheads and the Water Tower.

When crossing this creaky bridge, we caught a glimpse of Lucerne’s history. A total of 158 important events in the past as well as in mythology are vividly illustrated on the roof panels. This is a unique feature of Chapel Bridge that none of Europe’s other wooden footbridges has. Unfortunately, only 30 original panels could be fully restored. The rest was lost in the flame.

Through the Chapel Bridge
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Lucerne Old Town

As a cultural melting pot, Lucerne Old Town has long treasured the differences. At one turn, we found ourselves standing in a sunny plaza surrounded by beautiful Renaissance buildings. By another turn, we were delighted by seeing a half-timbered house painted in red and white, just like in a Grimm’s fairy tale. The Italian and German culture, which brought by travelling merchants, undoubtedly have had an impact on the city’s urban landscape. They make Lucerne looks like a charming village in the Italian lake district, but with a German twist.

Posing over Lucern Old Town is the Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), the last fortification that still exists in Switzerland. Erected in 1400, this 800-metre-long wall separates Lucern’s historic core from the 20th-century boomtown quarters. It has withstood the test of time, with several parts even maintain its original state. Museggmauer features nine towers, and from afar it looks like a giant crown circling around the city.

View of Lucerne from the Museggmauer
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Lion Monument

Not far from the Old Town is the Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), one of Switzerland’s best-known statue. Carved in stone, yet deceptively real. This dying lion is a powerful memorial created by two sculptors Bertel Thorvaldsen and Lukas Ahorn in 1820. They carved this monument to pay homage to Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Helvetorium Fidei ac Virtuti – “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss” – are the words above the lion.

Lion Monument

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Lake Lucerne

Calm and pristine, Lake Lucerne is undoubtedly Lucerne’s piece-de-resistance. Encircled by an impressive mountainous setting, this cobalt blue lake extends over 114 km². It passes through four cantons: Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. Hence, it’s also referred to as Vierwaldstättersee, which means “The Lake of Four Forest Settlements”.

Every day, steamers and other boats ply between the different villages and towns around the lake, bringing passengers to their desired destinations. Lake Lucerne looks even more picturesque on sunny days as sunshine glitters on the water and the mountains appear on the horizon.

Practical Information

  • The best place in Lucerne to view the lake is obviously the lakeside promenade. More specifically, the section between Schweizerhofquai and Nationalquai. From there, you can have a view of the lake with Mount Pilatus as background.
  • Due to its location at the outflow of the lake, Lucerne is an ideal starting point to explore this gem of Central Switzerland. Depends on your time-contingent and how many towns you want to visit, you can choose between a four-hours trip around the whole lake or a short trip with a modern yacht. All necessary information regarding timetable and fares can be found on the shipping company’s website.
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41 thoughts on “Lucerne: A Picturesque Lakeside City”

  1. 3sistersabroad – Albury New South Wales – Love to travel, meeting new people. Love taking photos of food and pets. Places I have traveled. Sharing my travels and what works for me. I also have 2 Rare Diseases, Tuberous Sclerosis and Lam Lung Disease. I also have Hashimoto's Thyroid Disease, Fibromyaglia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, High Blood Pressure and Meniers Disease. These conditions will not stop me from traveling the globe.
    3sistersabroad says:

    Oh my so beautiful xx

  2. You know, I was in Lucerne for four days and I never went to the bridge or the Old Town! Spent all my time hiking around the mountains and taking the train to other towns! Guess I’ll have to do it next time.

    1. And I must do what you did 🙂 This time I didn’t have the chance to go to the mountains. How was your hiking? I have heard that the view from Mt. Pilatus is really awesome, right?

      1. I didn’t hike Pilatus, but I did do Rigi and some other small mountain towns!

  3. That lion monument is striking.

  4. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
    Jolene says:

    Ahh… you did all the things I wanted to do on my itinerary! The shot of Chapel Bridge is so classic. A dreamy little town indeed…

      1. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
        Jolene says:

        Yup. Spending about a week there!

  5. Mel & Suan – Singapore – Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!
    Mel & Suan says:

    Heheh… Suan has been triple unlucky with getting to Switzerland with Mel. So guess these pictures will have to do until we actually do get back to Lucerne again

    1. Such a pity! What did happen? I think we all have a so-called “unlucky destination”. For me, it is Milan. Every times I go there, it was either pouring rain or bitter cold. The fog was too thick that I couldn’t go to the cathedral’s rooftop and restaurants that I wanted to go are closed for unknown reasons 🙂

      1. Mel & Suan – Singapore – Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!
        Mel & Suan says:

        Always something cropping up at work….!

  6. Ann Marie Bryant – As of late, I am a fifty-something grandmother who loves to write. Since I come from a long line of storytellers, I believe it's time to share those stories and preserve our family history. My hope is that my family will treasure these memories as much as I do!
    Ann Marie Bryant says:

    lovely!

  7. Nano @ Travels With Nano – Tokyo, Japan – Hi, I'm Nano! Welcome to my site! Travels With Nano is filled with everything I am passionate about: uncovering the world one sight, bite and cultural experience at a time. I'm here to share savvy travel tips and inspire (not influence!) your future travel adventures. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have you here reading!
    Nano @ Travel With Nano B. says:

    I think you visit all the charming cities! How beautiful!

  8. rahult&m – Like travelling to different places and experiencing different cultures with family and friends Listens to a broad different types of music
    travelrahul says:

    Beautiful photos!!

    Kindly check my blog at:-
    travelrahul.wordpress.com

    Cheers

  9. I have great memories of Lucerne. Such a pretty place 🙂

  10. Seeking Wonderful – Ljubljana, Slovenia – Hi. I'm Janja from lovely little country in the heart of Europe called Slovenia. I am constantly planning new trips, even if I can't afford to take them. Seeking wonderful in the world around me and travel with my love to see some more of it. Love big cities, green nature, little surprises, Taiwanese ice teas, chocolate and sea.
    Seeking Wonderful says:

    Ooh wow! Switzerland has some really charming cities. I just wish it was a bit cheaper. Thanks for sharing.

    1. My pleasure! I agree with you that the cost in Switzerland is certainly a deterrent. I had to plan my stay in Switzerland as cost-effective as possible. Longer stay will harm my bank account 🙂

  11. Well captured, Len!! And you were really lucky with the weather! Lucerne has the fame of being the prettiest city in Switzerland. I’m not sure if the most beautiful, but it’s certainly one of the most charming and one of my favorite! I usually include Lucerne in the tours I make when family and friends visit me 🙂

    1. Hihi it’s a shame to skip this city 😛 Have you been to the Fasnacht in Lucerne? I heard it’s a huge festival.

      1. I haven’t been!! I’ve only been in Baden during Fasnacht and the atmosphere was great! But Baden is a very small city… I’ve heard too that Lucerne’s Fasnacht is great. The most famous one in Switzerland is the one in Basel! I hope I can go one year… Maybe next one! This year, all festivities have been cancelled due to the coronavirus… 🙁

      2. Yeah, so annoying 🙁 So far, I haven’t plan any trip because outbreak can occur everywhere. Flight disruption and quarantine make things even more complicated. It would be better to stay at home…

  12. Nắng rực rỡ, tươi thắm như thế này khiến người ta quên đi mọi lo nghĩ hiện thời.

    1. Hiện thời thật sự ảm đạm quá cô à 🙁 đến ra đường cũng ngại chứ đừng nói là du lịch.

      1. Cô cũng phải ngưng một số dự tính. New York Manhattan mới có trường hợp đầu tiên, mà từ chỗ cô ở đến đấy thì chỉ cách Manhattan chưa đầy một tiếng đồng hồ. Không biết sự đảo lộn này sẽ tiến triển đến mức nào. Thôi thì ngồi nhà xem phim travel vậy.

    1. Thanks a lot, Caroline 🙂 I would love to see more of Switzerland. So far I have only been in the German-speaking part.

    1. Yeah, somehow I get bored with the old one. Actually, I used this design when starting this blog 😛 Thanks for your compliment!

  13. vinneve – I believe in this quote "Life is a JOURNEY, travel it well." Wherever we may end up so long as there is LOVE we will be happy!
    vinneve says:

    We went there 3x already but unfortunately it’s not enough as I didn’t see the lion monument. Good to know this from your blog so we can check next time and perhaps spend more than a day there. Cheers!

    1. I would recommend spending more than one day there 🙂 Aside from the city, the lakeside villages is definitely worth visiting. Cheers and be healthy!

      1. vinneve – I believe in this quote "Life is a JOURNEY, travel it well." Wherever we may end up so long as there is LOVE we will be happy!
        vinneve says:

        Yes hopefully once this cv is over. Take care too!

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