A good way to start your Lucerne holiday is with a look from afar, and the best place for this is atop nearby Mt Pilatus, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and surrounding area. During summer months there are plenty of hiking and walking routes that lead to the top, or you can hop aboard the Pilatus Bahn, Europe’s steepest functioning cog-wheel railway, with mountain valleys and Lake Lucerne providing picturesque backdrops.
The world’s first open-air, double-decker cable-car, the CabriO sets off from the village of Stans on a scenic journey to Mt Stanserhorn, where Swiss-German delicacies are served up at the summit restaurant which features a revolving upper deck that gives diners a 360-degree view of the stunning surrounds with every 45-minute rotation cycle. This is one of the region’s best sightseeing opportunities, so neglect to pack a good camera at your own peril.
Boating excursions along the 38-kilometer-long Lake Lucerne are a popular tourist activity. Visitors can travel by paddle-wheel steamer and enjoy a multi-course shipboard meal while taking in the many lakeside sights with headset-audio commentary provided in several languages.
Originally built in the 14th century, Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) is undoubtedly Lucerne’s best-known historic attraction. The covered wooden walkway stretches across the Reuss River, and features a 13th-century octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm) which was once part of the city’s defensive fortifications. The bridge is actually an exact replica, the original having burned down in the late 1980s.
Lucerne’s other ancient covered bridge, the Spreuerbrücke dates back to 1406. The wooden span’s most distinguishing feature are the triangular panels under the rafters which hold 45 paintings depicting of the Dance of Death (German: Totentanz). Completed in 1637 by painter Kaspar Meglinger after more than 20 years of work, the paintings together represent the largest example of a Totentanz in existence.
Lucerne’s Old Town (Allstadt) is popular for strolling, as most of the streets are restricted to pedestrian traffic. Passing by the brightly coloured houses, quaint town squares and cafés is like a trip back through time, while traditional markets sell local produce and handicrafts not found anywhere else.
A stay at the 127 year-old Château Gütsch offers guests a taste of the city’s elegant past with all the modern comforts. The former castle-turned-luxury hotel sits perched atop a steep hill overlooking the city, with picture-postcard views of Mt Rigi. Even without a room key, the meticulously renovated building looks magnificent when viewed from below.
Located at the scenic Löwenplatz (Lion’s Square) the historical artwork known as the Bourbaki Panorama depicts a key Swiss military victory over the invading French army in 1871. The massive circular painting covers some 11,000 sq. metres, and was created by a team of renowned Swiss painters of the day.
The nearby Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal) is a revered memorial to the over two dozen Swiss Guards killed during the French Revolution in the late 1700s. Completed in 1821, the stunningly realistic sculpture — hewn from a solid rock wall — depicts a dying lion with a spear through its chest.
For a sampling of Switzerland’s internationally renowned confection, head for Max Chocolatier. Everything sold here is made on-site, as the irresistible aroma of melting chocolate and roasting nuts will attest. Signature creations include the paper-thin SchoggiPlättli and other bite-sized delights such as dark chocolate with cranberry and chilli, and white chocolate with candied rose petals.