Lucerne, a beautiful town that resides above its namesake lake in the centre of Switzerland, is effectively everything that Switzerland has to offer wrapped lovingly in a picture perfect bundle. From the watercolour scenery, to the pastel-hued architecture, through to the sun-kissed al fresco bonhomie of its streets, Lucerne is the ultimate idyllic destination.
Switzerland is the land of the stunning mountain panorama, and that which encircles Lucerne is no exception. Yet when I arrived here, I was yet to hike among its emerald peaks. I decided to rectify this by heading up Mt Pilatus, which rises to the South West of Lucerne, my next port of call. I could’ve slapped on the hiking boots and walked up the 2128 metres, but decided to opt to do it through a string of cable cars instead. Sure, it’s not the same as a rugged climb, but I’d done the three peaks challenge in the UK merely a few days prior, so I’d earned a bye!
There was still some climbing to be done upon reaching the uppermost mountain station, as I wanted to get to the very top of the peak at Tomlishorn, so I did get in a stint of trekking. Very much worth it too, although with steep, rocky and narrow paths only enclosed in by the thinnest of fences, it’s not for those with vertigo.
The landscape here is simply spectacular. Below you, patchwork quilt farmland is bejewelled by glittering lakes, and rising around these are hills thick with woodland and, surrounding you on all sides, the snow-covered peaks looming on the horizon. It’s definitely worth the trip up; buy the right ticket, and you even get the added bonus of riding the world’s steepest cog railway on the way down.
Lucerne itself is lakeside bliss. With that remarkable mountain scenery encircling it, and its limpid lake its sparkling centrepiece, this is European charm of the highest order. They say wandering the two medieval bridges – Chapel and Spreuer – that cross the Reuss are the quintessential Lucerne experiences, and the welcome respite they provide from the fierce summer sun is most definitely welcome. As well as fine lakeside views, the bridges also give you period art, adorned on their ceiling panels.
Fine architecture abounds in Lucerne, and the iconic Lion’s Monument, a tribute to Swiss soldiers who died defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution, is particularly moving. Another Swiss-Franco exhibit very much worth your time is the Bourbaki Panorama, an epic painting on a sprawling 1100 square metre circular canvas. This depicts the Swiss relief effort in aiding a shattered French army during the Franco-Prussian war. It’s an action the Swiss are justly proud of as a demonstration of the good they can do as a neutral state.
It is, to be honest, all rather neat and ordered, with any rough and wonky edges Lucerne may have (no litter or graffiti to be seen in its pretty centre) smoothed away by the Gothic flourishes, waterfront promenades and chocolate box houses. A bit too fairytale-like? Possibly, but to me, unless you have a real aversion to pretty European towns, Lucerne is a place that simply cannot fail to charm the visitor.