Why did we decide to visit Lucerne? We wanted to see the mountains of Switzerland, the pastoral postcard-perfect beauty of the land. Of course, it turned out that we wouldn’t see the mountains anyway, and despite that, there was much more to Lucerne than we had expected.
- Dates visited: April 26-28, 2014
- Base of operations: Best Western Rothaus, just off Old Town
- Currency: Swiss franc ($1 = about 1 CHF)
- Major attractions: KKL Luzern, Lion Monument, Chapel Bridge & Water Tower, Swiss Museum of Transport
The first thing we encountered in Lucerne was the beautiful rail station facade. This lovely piece of architecture was an excellent example of the other structures we would see in the city, for we immediately came out and walked along the lake and its many bridges.
Like Zurich, Lucerne is a city made for walking. We began with the Musegg Wall, part of the old city’s fortifications. The wall has been standing since the 1300’s and has nine towers, four of which are open to the public. There is a very old clock here as well. Lucerne’s tourism website provides an excellent guide on the towers.
Climbing the wall led us to some wonderful views of the city, despite the day being overcast. We even found a llama (or possibly an alpaca?) in a field behind the wall. Walking the battlements took only an hour or two at a leisurely pace. The stairs can be a bit of a challenge for some, so take care.
SPREUER BRIDGE & WATER SPIKE
The Spreuer Bridge is beautiful both from the outside, and while walking along it. There are paintings called “The Dance of Death,” painted on panels right along the arches of the bridge. It goes from the wall side of the lake, Old Town, to the more modern part of Lucerne.
The water spike is easily viewed from the bridge. Its purpose is to regulate the water level of Lake Zurich. Watching it can be hypnotic, and it is a pretty fascinating piece of architecture for those interested in such things. I almost wished there was a good way to get closer.
WATER TOWER & CHAPEL BRIDGE
When you see a picture of Lucerne, these two things are probably prominent.
The water tower served as an archive, treasury and prison in various times of Switzerland’s history. It is connected to either bank of the lake by the Chapel Bridge.
Like the Spreuer Bridge, the Chapel Bridge is decorated with beautiful paintings. However, unlike the Spreuer Bridge’s paintings, the Chapel Bridge has depictions of life in Switzerland, as well as famous figures in its history.
The Chapel Bridge can be pretty crowded at times, but the crowd comes in waves and swells. It’s easy enough to take a seat and gaze at the city, or watch the people walking by, or the swans that float serenely on the lake.
This is by far my favorite thing in Lucerne. I spent a lot of time photographing swans and I enjoyed walking along the bridges and the wall. However, seeing the Lion Monument was a different experience entirely.
A memorial to the Swiss mercenaries that died at the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution, it was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and built by Lukas Ahorn in 1820. The names of the soldiers are carved into the rock just above the water.
The lion too was carved out of rock, the very rock it rests in. It is shown curled up in its lair, dying, a broken haft from a spear protruding from its side. I’ve seen many sad things, but this sculpture evoked a gentle sorrow. It is beautiful and quietly heartbreaking. The artist perfectly captured the tragedy of such a noble-looking animal even in its death.
If you only have a day in Lucerne, the itinerary I’ve described here would be a good glimpse of this beautiful city.