What I didn’t really realize existed my first time in Switzerland was the gem of a city, Lucerne, Switzerland. When I think of Switzerland, I think of the Swiss Alps and mountain culture with snowy caps and breathtaking scenery. And yes, this does exist as I witnessed in my travels stopping by at a tiny mountain cabin at the top of a long and treacherous winding road up the mountain run by a charming Swiss couple specializing in hot chocolate and amazing views. But that was just part of the journey.
Taking my first few steps in Lucerne, I felt as if I was walking directly into the first page of an old leather-bound edition of a fairy tale. With the 14th century covered bridges filled with medieval artwork and stories painted up the side of buildings, it may be one of the most traditionally quaint cities I’ve ever visited. The city is situated on Lake Lucerne with the mountains nearby and water snakes through the city, giving the lights an extra twinkle at night. In fact, Lucerne (or Luzern, in German) means “city of lights” which is appropriate, especially given the fact that the native language of Lucerne is in fact German.
Food and Drink
While in Lucerne, we had a lot of amazing German-style food and beer. We also decided to spend one of our dinners at a traditional fondue restaurant where we had giant mugs of beer and meats and bread dipped in bubbling Swiss Gruyère cheese cooked in orange pots over table fire while we watched performers in lederhosen on the small wooden stage entertain us with traditional Swiss dances, music and comedy. At one point, they had a beer chugging contest where they called some of us up on stage to compete. It was a riot. We were cracking up all night and still to this day laugh about it.
Speaking of beer, some of the beer was pretty strong, so I would take it slow at first. We found that Lucerne had plenty to do at night between the restaurants and pubs.
The people in Lucerne were great! Everywhere we went we chatted with the locals. While my German is not strong, it seemed as if many people spoke English. Especially out at night, which is where we met many folks just out at the pubs. We also noted the great service and attention to detail by wait staff and hotel staff. It felt like a really friendly and jovial city. They also cater heavily to visitors, so there is a definite focus on hospitality.
The old city portion of Lucerne (or medieval center as some refer to it) has many small shops dotted all throughout. Many specialize in Swiss watches and folk art. I would recommend taking a lazy afternoon to wind through the streets of the old city, take in the views and pop in and out of the little shops. I did wind up buying a watch, not that you necessarily need to be in Switzerland to get a quality watch, but it serves as a nice reminder for me of how much I loved Lucerne.
For a good dose of German charm and Swiss character, you can’t miss with Lucerne! I recommend a 24-28 hr stop-in.