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What we did (and didn’t) see in Lucerne, Switzerland

Posted by on September 8, 2019

Hello strangers! It’s been a VERY long time since we’ve blogged about our trips. Never fear – we have actually taken trips (phew!) but they have been to familiar places (eg, Las Vegas, Maine [twice]) so we haven’t taken the time to blog about them.

But all of that has changed! We are now on a 10-day trip to Switzerland and Italy with my dad. For those of you who don’t know, my dad took me on my first overseas trip to Venice at the impressionable age of 15 (as I wrote about here). 

Over the years, he has taken Jeff and I as “chaperones” on multiple school trips with his Latin class, including to Italy, Switzerland, Greece, France, and more. Many friends and family have joined over the years as well.

This trip is a “thank you” to him for taking us with him so many times. But way more importantly, for sparking in me a passion that is a huge part of my identity. I am a traveler.

I cannot imagine my life without traveling the world, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people. Heck, I even married a foreigner…

So, without further ado, here’s our first blog post of this thank you trip. Dad chose the itinerary – 2 nights in Lucerne, Switzerland, then on to Italy where we’ll spend 4 nights in Florence and 3 nights in Venice. It’s a hard life we lead!!!

For those of you who don’t know much about Lucerne, it’s a beautiful lake town north of the Swiss Alps. It has a historic old town, several landmarks (which we’ll show you pictures of), and a huge lake surrounded by mountains, which provide many scenic excursions for daytrippers.

Map of Lucerne – we generally started with A (the Chapel Bridge) and went clockwise from there.

Sadly for us, the weather was rainy and cloudy and we never saw the mountains. Sigh. Having seen them in the past, it wasn’t a huge deal for us….but boy oh boy it would have been nice to have better weather!

On Day 1, we arrived in Zurich after an overnight flight from Philly. After getting scammed out of an extra 45$ for train tickets (man, I’m losing my touch!), we rode from Zurich to Lucerne, arriving around noon. Our hotel was a quick walk from the station, so we left our bags in the luggage room (since check in wasn’t until 2pm), and went to walk through Lucerne.

First stop, the obligatory pic of the Chapel Bridge. This is the most iconic image of Lucerne, with its covered wooden pedestrian bridge lined with flowers, flanked by the tower.

Chapel Bridge – Iconic Image of Lucerne (when it’s sunny)

From there we walked to the Jesuitenkirche (in middle of image).

Bridge lined with flowers, leading to the Jesuitenkirche.

I am not one for churches, necessarily, but this one stuck in my memory from past trips due to its lightness. The peaches and whites of the interior are a stark contrast to the dark colors of churches dotting Italy.

This was the first Catholic Church north of the Alps. It was begun in 1667 and consecrated in 1677.

Inside of the Jesuitenkirche

From there we headed down river to the second covered bridge – Spreuer Bridge. Smaller but similar to the Chapel Bridge, this one led us to our first desired stop – the fortress wall. You can see the 2nd and 3rd towers in the background of the below image.

Spreuer Bridge – smaller of the covered bridges

Each of the covered bridges have painted murals on their ceilings detailing items from history.

Murals on the inside of the covered bridge

From the bridge, we went to the Musegg Wall. This is something we hadn’t seen on previous trips, so it was high on Dad’s to do list. We wandered down some wrong, hilly backstreets before finding the route to the wall.

Not surprisingly, it was up, up, up to the wall.

The wall provided protection for the city in the 1500’s (and onward) and consists of 9 towers, several of which you can climb. We made our way up the hill and the boys went up the first tower. (I bowed out, due to bad feet and being out of shape).

The Mannliturm tower (“Little Man” tower, the one on the left in the pic above) climb turned out to be a doozy – but provided a nice view over the city. The stairs in this tower made the boys uninterested in climbing stairs for the remainder of the day. (smile)

View of Lucerne from “Little Man” Tower (named for the statue at the top of the tower)

Continuing along the walk by the wall took us past fields of Shetland steer (we think), alpaca, goats, veggie gardens and soccer fields; the view of the walk is below. (And FYI, that’s me sitting on the red bench, for scale [and Jeff’s amusement…])

View of walk alongside part of the Musegg Wall

The next tower was the Zyt tower (also called the clock tower). We didn’t climb this one, but it did get us up on the actual wall to walk for a bit, which provided a nice perspective on the city.

Walking along the actual wall

After the towers, we decided to walk to find the Lion Monument – another must see on Dad’s list.

A view back to three of the nine towers as we left to find the Lion Monument…

During our walk, our legs reminded us that Lucerne really is built on a hill, and it felt like we were always going up. Hmmmph. Or going down only to realize we need to go back up to get where we needed. After 15-20 minutes of walking around various hilly back streets – we finally found the lion and happily sat down for rest and the view.

The Lion Monument is an icon in Lucerne that commemorates Swiss soldiers lost in 1792 defending the Tulieries Palace in Paris during the French revolution. Mark Twain once called it the “saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.”

The Lion Monument during a moment of quiet (Zoom in to see the detail and sadness in his face)

It was here that we really stopped and were thankful that we weren’t walking around with 20+ ducklings (ahem, high schoolers) behind us. The Lion Monument was actually quiet for a time, so we took it in, relaxed, used the WC and then hightailed it out of there as soon as a tour bus moved in.

From the lion, we headed back down to the lake, so we could get our bearings, and then find food. Jeff and I grabbed a beer and Swiss hot dog (it would have been more aptly named as a cardiac dog) with Dad eating pommes frittes (aka French fries) sitting by the water with a view of the Chapel Bridge.

The Swiss (ahem, Cardiac) Hot Dog and a local brew.

It started to rain, so we headed to check in to the hotel, and tried to stay awake until a reasonable hour before conking out (it was only Day 1 after all!!).

The next day started with an awesome full breakfast at our hotel. Since it was raining, we took our time and enjoyed the coffee, food, and people watching.

Since Lucerne is relatively small, there wasn’t much to do if you couldn’t go up one of the mountains. That said, trying to go up would have been pointless, since we would have only seen clouds.

So instead, we walked through Old Town Lucerne, looking at the many wall murals painted throughout the city.

Notice not only the mural but the gilded wall hanging and the Swiss flags, both common in Old Town.
The Last Supper
Murals across multiple buildings…

The one I recalled the most was colorful and fiery (in contrast to those above).

Jen’s most memorable mural…for no apparent reason 🙂

After Old Town, we booked an afternoon boat tour of the lake. While the weather was still cloudy with the occasional rain, none of us had been on the lake before – so we did it. When in Rome, eh?

Lake Lucerne is quite large, with 4 distinct sections. We went from Lucerne (upper left) to Wessig, Vitznau, and then Breckenried (about midway) before turning back.

Our view was super average due to the stormy skies…

Panorama of Lucerne (and its bad weather) from the boat…

… but in our minds we imagined a clear day, where there were blue skies, snow capped peaks and sun warming our bodies.

In that scenario, as we got farther into the lake, I could see it being alive with boats, the small villages full of guests and locals mingling and enjoying the lakeside hotels, man-made beaches, etc.

I could see this being called the Swiss Riviera (mind you, I have no clue if anyone else thinks so).

We went all the way out to Breckenried first – viewing the lakeside villages from the boat …

Wessig Beach, dubbed the Lake Lucerne Riviera by Jen…
Hotel in Vitznau

On the way back, we stopped in the small lakeside town of Wessig, to have a coffee and relax as the rain fell. (It had been a really hard day, you see – ha!)

Mmmmm, tiny coffee. Hmmmph.

We found a hotel with a lakeside view, copped a squat and sat chatted with a coffee, HUGE paninis for Jeff and I (woah!) and then wine.

Unexpectedly huge paninis by the lake

After an hour and a half our so, we made our way back to the boat and headed to Lucerne.

From there, we went back to the hotel, at the prime hour of 6:30pm…and fell asleep. AAAAACK! Exactly what you should not do when trying to get used to a different time zone. Aye, aye, aye! So we completely messed up that nights sleep. But at least Jeff got to go out and take night pix of the city…

Chapel Bridge by night, with the Gutsch hotel in the back left and a clock tower in the far right.
Chapel Bridge from a different perspective with the Jesuitenkirche in the middle of the image.
View of the bridge from the other direction…can you tell it’s the center of Lucerne!??!?!

The next morning we had another great breakfast before checking out and heading across the street to the train station. When we entered, we were serenaded by an orchestra playing various hits.

Orchestra serenading passersby in the train station…a lovely unexpected sendoff from Lucerne!

The Lucerne Festival, a classical musical event, was going on in Aug/Sept and it must have been a part of that. It was wonderful to:

(1) be entertained unexpectedly during our 1 hour wait, and

(2) watch as music brought people from many different nationalities together via the joy of music. 

[Don’t tell the boys, but when they wandered off and I was left there to people watch, sing, and keep a hawkeye on our bags, a tear or two unexpectedly fell. One of those exquisite moments of being a part of the world – where by and large, most humans are good. On any given day, our new reality is that a train station could be bombed by terrorists or have something terrible happen. But not today. Our day was filled with joy.]

Ok, enough of that sentimental nonsense, let’s close this out with some of Dad’s impressions of the trip!! 🙂 For reference, the last time he traveled internationally was in 2012 and his last time in Lucerne was in 2008. These are in no apparent order – just Dad’s thoughts as I tried to pull them out of him!

  • People didn’t clap when the plane landed (he’s right – and I had completely forgotten that the whole plane used to do that). These days we only clap if there was big turbulence. Happily, we had a smooth flight. Whoop!
  • Lucerne has grown a lot in a decade, as evidenced by cranes everywhere with new buildings being erected seemingly on every street corner.
  • The breakfast in our hotel was MARKEDLY better (read: full buffet of bacon eggs, fruit, cereal, cheeses, meats) than in those on student group EF tours (deli meat, bread, cheese – dry as a gourd!). There has to be some benefit of getting older and making more money!
  • Since we weren’t with a school group, we didn’t get the obligatory tiny spoon from the Bucherer (dept store in Old Town) like we used to! (note: we still use those tiny spoons at home…)
  • Living near the train station and traveling by train was a better experience than expected.
  • There is a lot more graffiti than Dad remembers.
  • It’s harder to tell where people are from by their dress alone. Americans used to stick out like a sore thumb. While some still do, the global dress code has become more homogenous over time.
  • The Old Town wasn’t nearly as crowded as he expected. In the past we’ve gone in March (near Easter) and this time in September on a Thursday and Friday. It was lovely to walk the less crowded streets.
  • More bicycles now than before. (Especially outside of the train station.) It’s striking how many bicycles there are.
Bikes, bikes, and more bikes!
  • And last but not least, Dad’s last word of wisdom – if you’re going to climb the wall, rent a pair of legs. (Thanks Lieutenant Dan!)

That’s all for now. Ciao peeps, we’ll talk again once we’ve checked out Firenze!

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