Switzerland would be many peoples choice as their favourite country in Europe or even in the world. The cities often feel almost surgically clean, public transport runs like clockwork, the alpine air is fresh, spectacular mountains seem to be everywhere, picture postcard villages dot the landscape, there are clear lakes like small inland seas and the cows wear huge bells around their necks! Lucerne and the surrounding area is typical of the country, it has all of these qualities and more.
Legend has it that the first settlers to the region were guided by an angel carrying a light, it maybe a myth but regardless of the season it has a heavenly quality of it’s own.
It is a relatively small city and easy to navigate, walking is simple around the city centre and there is an excellent public transport system to get a little further afield. A walk along the shores of Lake Lucerne is a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon regardless of the time of year.
The waves of the lake provide a natural boundary along one side, the River Reuss runs through its centre and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains, some of which have a few myths of their own. Mount Pilatus dominates the skyline, standing like a sentinel over Lucerne and protecting it from the worst of the elements. It has the steepest cogwheel railway in the world taking thousands of visitors to the summit each year, all hoping for clear skies and great views of the city. According to legend, it was once the home of a dragon, but only those that have imbibed a few strong beers are likely to see one today.
A cruise on Lake Lucerne is a pleasant excursion with some outstanding views both across the lakes and of the other mountains. Stopping off at one of the quaint alpine villages makes it even more pleasant. One of those surrounding mountains is the Rigi Kulm, the summit of which is easy to reach from the villages of Weggis or Vitznau providing still more impressive views.
The water tower is the most famous landmark in Lucerne and alongside is the Chapel Bridge which is allegedly the oldest wood bridge in Europe. There are numerous other attractions including the famous ‘crying lion’, the Bourbaki Panorama which is a fascinating glimpse of pre-cinema entertainment and then there is the cracking Swiss Museum of Transport.
The waterfront Kunst-und-Kongresshaus Luzern (KKL) has some classy restaurants and a coffee shop along with numerous conference and concert facilities. The acoustics can be changed by the use of moveable walls making it perfect for a variety of performances large or small.
The city plays host to several important music festivals, the ones before Easter and summer are especially well known. Possibly an even better party to visit is the annual Ugly Masks Carnival which is held to ward of winter and welcome spring. There are 6 days of colourful craziness which build to a crescendo on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) when the streets become crammed with revellers, many wearing vibrant costumes.
Although Lucerne is perfect to a visit at anytime, arriving during Carnival when even the usually conservative Swiss let their hair down and show the rest of the world how to throw a party maybe the best time to plan a trip.