If you were to wake up in a fairy tale, you very might wellfind yourself in Lucerne, Switzerland.This is a place that swans choose to call home, where every flower-ladenwindowsill is a work of art, where plates of warm cheese fill your belly onchilly nights, where snow-capped mountains cradle a slower pace of existenceand where emerald green rivers run through magical forests. Lucerne has steppedout of the storybooks and into reality.
Most visitors arrive by train, and the town is so compactand dense with charm that a car is an unnecessary reminder of modern life. Seton a gleaming green glacial lake backed by mountains dropped out of heaven,Lucerne (or Lucern, or Luzern) is an enchanting village whose charm ringsthrough the alpine air like the bell of a dairy cow. Although the country isnot known for being inexpensive, it is knownfor being very clean and friendly. Switzerland is the sparkling gem of Europeand Lucerne is one of its finest attributes.
Things to do in
Arriving in Lucerne you will first want to stop, look around, and take a deep, invigorating breath of mountain air. You may find that much of your time is spent gazing in serene wonder at Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains, including Mount Pilatus. The charming, covered wooden Chapel Bridge spans the River Reuss in the Old Town, adorned with red flowers and murals that tell the story of Lucerne. It was originally constructed in the 14th century although much of it had to be rebuilt after a 1993 fire. The bridge is held in place by a splendid octagonal tower and is the iconic landmark of Lucerne, for good reason- it is absolutely beautiful.
You can rent a paddleboat to explore Lake Lucerne itself; bring bread crumbs to feed the swans but think twice about jumping in, for this glacial lake is as cold as the ice that carved it. To warm yourself up, indulge in a lengthy meal of Swiss fondue, a hearty cheese extravaganza found in many of the city's restaurants along with other national dishes like raclette: a big plate of cheese dotted with tiny gherkins and potatoes.
Wondering around Lucerne you will happen upon many half-timbered houses and adorable chalets. Visit the monument known as the Dying Lion of Lucerne, a memorial to Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution defending the king and called the "most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world" by Mark Twain. Go further a field and you will find yourself in the enchanted Swiss forests, where wild cherry trees grow and dark green shadows seem to dance with a bewitching breeze. Lucerne is made of dreams, and upon returning home, you may just wonder if the little town was one of yours.
Hotel Seehof du Lac: elegant old hotel on the lake, big rooms, hostess could not be nicer
Grand National: lake and mountain views, very fine service, elegant Old World charm
Jail Hotel Loewengraben: converted prison, last in use 1998, now a unique hotel
Krone: traditional façade, refurbished, very nice rooms, few minutes from Chapel Bridge
Waldstatterhof: comfortable, clean rooms, well located by everything, in historic building
Hotel des Balances: overlooks Chapel Bridge and river, charming, very large rooms
Wilden Mann: historic and romantic, also a restaurant, intimate, period-style rooms
Schweizerhof: on the lake, newly rebuilt, warm, elegant rooms, luxurious and spacious