48 Hours: Lucerne

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With classical music filling the air, this spectacular Swiss city provides the perfect setting for a summer break.

Click here for 48 Hours in Lcuerne map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

This central Swiss city on the shores of Lake Lucerne, or Vierwaldstattersee, sparkles in the sunshine. Its allure is bolstered by the Lucerne Festival (00 41 41 226 4480; lucernefestival.ch), a vast array of concerts performed in venues throughout the city between 10 August and 18 September. This annual feast of classical music, a highlight of the Swiss cultural calendar since 1938, features some of the finest musicians in the world.

Even if you're not a classical music fan, Lucerne is still a great destination for a short summer break, with plenty to see and do around town, the Alps on your doorstep, and a lovely lake in which to cool off after a hard day's hiking in the hills.

Touch down

The nearest international airport is Zurich. British Airways (0844 493 0787; britishairways.com) flies from Heathrow and London City, with competition on both routes from Swiss (0845 601 0956; swiss.com) and its fellow Lufthansa subsidiary BMI (0844 8484 888; flybmi.com) – which also flies from Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester. The only no-frills airline is easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Gatwick, Luton and Manchester.

Direct trains (00 41 900 300 300; sbb.ch) run from Zurich airport to Lucerne every hour, taking 62 minutes for Sfr13.50 (£10). Lucerne's central station (1) is on the quayside, opposite the ferry terminal and a short walk from all the city centre sights.

Get your bearings

The tourist office at Zentralstrasse 5 (00 41 41 227 1717; luzern.com) is right next to the station (1); it opens daily 9am-7.30pm.

Lucerne is at the northern end of the Vierwaldstattersee – one of Switzerland's largest and most dramatic lakes. The compact city centre straddles the mouth of the Reuss river.

The pedestrianised Altstadt (old town) on the north bank is the prettiest (and most touristy) part of town.

The Neustadt (new town) on the south bank is an attractive mix of old and modern architecture, with more traffic but fewer sightseers.

The Kapellbrucke (2), a romantic wooden bridge built in 1333, is Lucerne's main landmark, and the most convenient route across the river.

Check in

The Schweizerhof (3) at Schweizerhofquai 3 (00 41 44 218 8888; schweizerhof-luzern.ch) is one of Switzerland's oldest, most distinctive grand hotels. Built in 1846, it has been run by the same family for five generations. Richard Wagner wrote Tristan und Isolde here. Subsequent guests include BB King, Iggy Pop and Deep Purple, though not in the same room at the same time. Doubles start at Sfr360 (£270), room only.

If your budget doesn't stretch to five stars, the Hotel zum Weissen Kreuz (4) at Furrengasse 19(00 41 41 418 8220; altstadthotelluzern.ch) is a homely three-star hideaway in the heart of the Altstadt, on the north bank of the Reuss. The bedrooms are small but stylish, and the dining room doubles as a chic Italian restaurant. Doubles from Sfr230 (£174) including breakfast.

An even more economic option is The Bed + Breakfast (5) at Taubenhausstrasse 34 (00 41 41 310 1514; thebandb.ch). Housed in an attractive old villa in the new town, it has eight pleasant bedrooms. Doubles cost Sfr120 (£90) including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

Follow the lakeside path from the central station (1) along Inseliquai and Alpenquai. The pedestrianised Inseliquai leads past the lush and leafy Inselipark (6), through atmospheric docks and boatyards (7) to a beautiful, secluded beach, Strandbad Tribschen (8), (00 41 41 360 4567; www.hallenbadluzern.ch), where well-maintained swimming platforms reach out into the lake. There's beach volleyball on shore and table tennis in the adjoining garden. Open 9am-9pm daily, Sfr4 (£3).

After you've dried off, walk along the quiet Alpenquai to the Richard Wagner Museum (9) at Richard Wagner Weg 27 (00 41 41 360 2370; richard-wagner-museum.ch; open 10am-noon and 2pm-5pm, daily except Monday; Sfr8 (£6). The controversial composer lived and worked in this splendid villa for six years. Its rooms, full of his personal effects, still reverberate with the power of his personality. Allow about half an hour each way for the hike and about an hour for the museum.

Lunch on the run

Goldener Stern (10) at Burgerstrasse 35 (00 41 41 227 5060; goldener-stern.ch) is a family-run restaurant in the new town, with a cosy canteen downstairs that serves traditional Swiss food in a homely, unpretentious style. The pork or beef sausage with fries and onion sauce costs Sfr17 (£12.75).

Window shopping

The Altstadt may be more picturesque, but the best shops are in the Neustadt. A particular treat is Caroline Felber's idiosyncratic hat shop, Hutte & Mutzen (11) at Moosstrasse 1 (00 41 41 210 5363; huete.ch). You can watch her milliners at work on site, buy off the peg for as little as Sfr15 (£11.25) or commission one of her bespoke creations from Sfr 70 (£52.50) upwards.

An aperitif

The best view of the city is from the Lake View Lounge of the Art Deco Hotel Montana (12) at Adligenswilerstrasse 22 (00 41 41 419 0000; hotel-montana.ch), a splendid pile perched on the hillside above Lucerne. It is open to non-residents from 4pm Friday to Sunday (from 5pm other nights). There's no need to walk up, unless you need the exercise; the hotel's free funicular runs from the lake shore right into the lobby. The bar's house speciality is its array of 80 single malt whiskies, with prices from Sfr7 (£5.25).

For cocktails, head for the Astoria (13) at Pilatusstrasse 29 (00 41 41 226 8888; astoria-luzern.ch). This sleek high-rise hotel was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, but with half a dozen debonair bars and a fabulous roof terrace, it's a great place to party. The penthouse special (tequila, peach liqueur, passion fruit) costs Sfr16 (£12).

Dine with the locals

In Switzerland, a Rathaus is as much of a meeting place as a seat of local government. Lucerne's Rathaus (14) at Unter der Egg 2 (00 41 41 410 5257; rathausbrauerei.ch) also brews its own beer, and its cosy basement is a convivial bierkeller serving hearty Swiss favourites. A plate of bratwurst and sauerkraut, washed down with half a litre of the house lager, costs Sfr28.80 (£21.60).

To sample classic Swiss cuisine in traditional surroundings, book a table at Wilden Mann (15) at Bahnhofstrasse 30 (00 41 41 210 1666; wilden-mann.ch). A tavern since the 16th century, this historic four-star hotel houses two fine restaurants in its old stables. Restaurant Sauvage is the gastronomic option, but the Burgerstube is the most atmospheric, decorated in glorious mock gothic style. The four-course menu (soup, scallops, veal, sorbet) costs Sfr82 (£61.50), excluding wine.

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

The grandest church in Lucerne is the 16th-century Jesuitenkirche (16) at Bahnhofstrasse 11a (00 41 41 240 3133; jesuitenkirche-luzern.ch; daily 6am to 6.30pm, Sunday services at 7am, 3pm, 5pm & 8.15pm). Services are in German, but, unlike much of Switzerland, Lucerne is a Catholic city, and the ritual and settings are spectacular, even if you don't understand every word.

Out to brunch

Brunch means something entirely different in Central Europe. It's not half a meal, more like a meal-and-a-half. The Sunday brunch buffet at 1871, the lakefront restaurant of the five-star Grand Hotel National (17) at Haldenstrasse 4 (00 41 41 422 1871; 1871.ch) is a case in point – salmon, cheese, bacon, sausages, pancakes – all you can eat for Sfr44 (£33). It's not the cheapest meal in town, but you probably won't want to eat again all day (served 10am-1pm).

A walk in the park

Lucerne's prettiest park is the green ribbon that runs along the north bank of the Vierwaldstattersee. Start at the Grand Hotel National (17) and walk east for about half-an-hour along Carl-Spitteler-Quai to the lakeside Lido (18) at Lidostrasse 6a (00 41 41 370 3806; lido-luzern.ch). You can take a refreshing dip here any day from 9am to 8pm, for a price of Sfr7 (£5.25).

Take a ride

The nicest way to see Lucerne and its surroundings is aboard the handsome ferries (some paddle steamers), which criss-cross the Vierwaldstattersee (00 41 41 367 6767; lakelucerne.ch). Boats depart from the Bahnhofquai (19) beside the central station and dock at about a dozen scenic spots along the lake. The entire trip takes three hours each way, but most passengers opt for shorter journeys. A 40-minute return trip to the quaint lakeside town of Weggis costs Sfr35 (£26.25).

Cultural afternoon

Angela Rosengart started out as an art dealer at 16, apprenticed to her Swiss father. Now 79, during the last 60 years she has accumulated a wonderful haul of modern art, and you can see it all in the Rosengart Collection (20) at Pilatus-strasse 10 (00 41 41 220 1660; rosengart.ch). Her elegant gallery houses more than 100 pictures by Paul Klee plus dozens of paintings (and hundreds of sketches) by Picasso, including five portraits he made of Angela as a young woman. Other famous names on show include Matisse, Miró, Braque and Chagall – all of whom she met in the course of her incredible career. Open daily 10am-6pm; admission Sfr18 (£13.50).

The icing on the cake

Lucerne's top attraction is Mount Pilatus, the 2,132m high peak that towers over the city. You can scale the mountain by cable car from Kriens (21) (reached in 15 minutes on bus 1 from Lucerne's central station (1) or on the world's steepest mountain railway from Alpnachstad (22) (20 minutes from Lucerne by train or 90 minutes by boat). The mountaintop is a tourist trap, but it's easy to escape the crowds on the hiking trails around the summit.

The adventure playground at Frakmuntegg, half way up, boasts Switzerland's longest summer toboggan run. Allow a whole day for the round trip, or half a day for a shorter section. Prices from Sfr9.50 (£7.10) for one section to Sfr94 (£70.50) for the round trip, by boat, bus, cable car and mountain railway (00 41 41 329 1111; pilatus.ch).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape