Lucerne, the capital city of the canton of Lucerne in Central Switzerland, is famous  internationally for its tourist attractions. The city, divided in two „vome Fluss“ (en.: by the river) Reuss, is picturesquely situated on the banks of Lake Lucerne

History of Lucerne

The city of Lucerne

It is not known exactly when Lucerne was founded, but it may have been around 1200 AD. The Abbey of Murbach in the Alsace ruled over the Luciaria region (today’s Lucerne). King Rudolf I of Hapsburg acquired the sovereign rights over Lucerne in 1291 and lost them in 1386. The city received imperial immediacy in 1415, which triggered massive economic growth. You can still see remnants of Lucerne’s medieval wealth and importance today.

Modern Lucerne has a population of 80’000 and is, with an „Usländerahteil“ (en.: proportion of foreigners) of 25 %, one of the most international and interesting cities in Switzerland. This is a city where the traditional and the modern blend in a very special and impressive manner.

Geographical situation

The city lies in the centre of Switzerland and is therefore an ideal base for excursions  to all of the country. It is not just scenic Lake Lucerne that draws visitors; the two local mountains, Pilatus and Rigi are in the nearby „Umgebig“ (en.: surroundings). You can take the world’s steepest cog railway up to the top of Pilatus (over 2000 m high). If you want to go to the top of Rigi (1800 m high), you can choose between two cog railways and a panorama cable car. „Vo beidne Bärge“ (en.: from both mountains) you can enjoy a one of a kind view over the surrounding Alps; ski and snowboard in winter; and hike, cycle and climb in summer.

The Wilhelm-Tell-Express will take you on an unforgettable journey by boat and train to the foot of the Gotthard and even into the Ticino should you care to venture further. A visit to the village and cloister Engelberg as well as up Titlis, the „höchschtglegeni“ (en.: highest situated) glacier in the region cannot fail to delight.

Sights in Lucerne’s old town

Kapellbrücke Lucerne

The 200 m long Kapellbrücke over the river Reuss is one of the most distinct landmarks in Lucerne. The 15th century footbridge is one of the oldest still standing wooden bridges in Europe and is unique because of its 17th century interior paintings depicting historical scenes. Next to the bridge is probably the most photographed landmark in Switzerland, Lucerne’s water tower. The octagonal tower is one hundred years older than the bridge, is 34,5 m high with a circumference of 38 m. Historically, it has been used as the city archive, a prison, a torture chamber and a treasury.

The Spreuerbrücke (en.: chaff bridge) is nearly as famous as the Kapellbrücke. The bridge is named after the chaff that the city’s millers would throw over the railings into the Reuss. This bridge features interior paintings of the famous dance macabre.

The old town

In the centre of the old town on the banks of the Reuss is a beautiful baroque church. This church was consecrated in 1677 and has been associated with the Jesuit college since 1755. The Franciscan church Sankt Maria in der Au, close to the city centre, is older still. Parts of the church date back to the 13th century, when the church was „vomene Chloschter“ (en.:of a monastery) of the barefoot order. The old wine market has an interesting history as well; this is where Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden formed the alliance of the Swiss Confederation in 1332. Walk a little further and you will come across a piece of the old city wall, the Mussegmauer. The wall is „verziert“ (en.: decorated) with little towers and is over 850 m long.

Interesting historical titbits

Lucerne – the Lion Monument

Mark Twain once said that the Lion Monument was the “most moving piece of stone in the world”. The monument was erected to honour the 1792 of King Louis XVI’s Swiss guard who were slain during the French revolution. If you are interested in culture, you should also visit the Museum of Natural History, the Historical Museum and the Richard Wagner Museum. Worth seeing is also Edouard Castres huge tondo painting where he commemorates the flight of the defeated French army to Switzerland in 1871, where they were saved in a extraordinary act of solidarity. The Bourbaki Panorama of Lucerne is an important cultural monument as well.
The Swiss Transport Museum will never cease to fascinate; it houses a huge „Sammlig“ (en.: collection) of locomotives, cars, aeroplanes, ships and cable cars and shows many interesting films in 3D.

Ässe und Trinkä“ (en.: eating and drinking) and shopping

Lucerne is a paradise for tourists who enjoy food and drink, but want to shop as well. The city is known for its many boutiques, jewellery stores and souvenir shops, but do not forget to try one of the many chocolatiers, where you can taste the mouthwatering chocolates Switzerland is famous for. You can also find larger shopping centres and department stores in Pilatusstrasse, Kapellgasse and Weggistrasse. The weekly market in Lucerne is known as the most attractive „Wucheendmärt“ (en.: weekend market) of Switzerland and takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays at the Rathaus-Quai and Unter der Egg. But it is not just the shopping that is fun at this market; you can also enjoy typical Swiss food such as „Lozärner Chügelipaschtetli“, „Rossbölle“ or „Vogelheu“. Another typical speciality from Lucerne is „Chässschnitte“, a melt in your mouth cheese toast. Coffee is often accompanied by „Birrewegge“ or „Älpler Magronen“. Grab some food and enjoy your meal sitting by the banks of the Reuss in „Summer“ (en.: summer) or book a lunch cruise on Lake Lucerne.

Language of Lucerne

In the canton of Lucerne or „Lozärn“ as it’s called in Swiss German, more than 90 % of the population speak Swiss German. If you want to communicate properly with the locals, take one of our courses at learn-swiss-german.ch. You’ll learn how to navigate daily situations in one of the current Swiss dialects.

Have fun!

Vocabulary list

Vome Fluss – by a river

Usländerahteil – proportion of foreigners

Umgebig – surroundings

Vo beidne Bärge – from both mountains

Höchschtglegeni – highest situated

Vomene Chloschter – of a monastery

Verzierti – decorated

Sammlig – collection

Ässe und Trinkä – eating and drinking

Wucheendmärt – weekend market

Summer – summer

Lucerne – tourist magnet of Switzerland?
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