Lucerne (Luzern in German, Lozärn in Swiss-German) is a beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland, across the lake from Altdorf, where legend has it William Tell shot an apple off of his son’s head. Lucerne is a fine city to visit, and is a great base from which to explore famous Swiss sites such as the mountains Rigi, Pilatus, Titlis and the Rütli meadow.
With panoramic views of the glorious rugged peaks of the snow-capped Alps the breathtaking central Swiss city of Lucerne is the picturesque gateway to the popular tourist destinations Mount Rigi and the Rütli Meadow. Located in a German speaking area of Switzerland, the city hugs the shores of gorgeous Lake Lucerne which adds further to the charms and delights of what is truly a glorious destination. Basking in a glory of a booming tourism industry, the city has a magical charm, whisking visitors right back to a fairy tale era, some thousands of years ago – to the 13th Century.
Starting out life as a humble yet integral trading point for travelers and merchants making their way across the Swiss Alps, Lucerne’s vast wealth has antique roots. With a charismatic and glamorous history, the city of Lucerne is steeped in myths and legend including being the epic site where Swiss folk hero William Tell was to have shot an apple off of his son’s head.
Diverse and spectacular, Lucerne is a city that offers something special for every visitor. And whether you have come for the mountains, the city, the lake, the history, the festivals or the culture – you will not be disappointed. This incredible medieval city centre is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland and has grown in leaps and bounds from its origins as a small lakeside fishing village. Breathtaking sights, historical attractions and the staging point for outdoor pursuits in wonderful countryside, Lucerne is fabulous any time of year.
The first city to join the Swiss Confederation, today Lucerne is a lovely small city with a thriving tourism industry, owing mainly to its status as a gateway to Central Switzerland. The city is a centre of Swiss history and legend.
Tourism in Lucerne has a distinguished history dating from the mid-19th century, with Mark Twain among them. In A Tramp Abroad he recalls the nascent souvenir business, and other budding examples of the tourism trade.
“The commerce of Lucerne consists mainly in gimcrackery of the souvenir sort; the shops are packed with Alpine crystals, photographs of scenery, and wooden and ivory carvings. I will not conceal the fact that miniature figures of the Lion of Lucerne are to be had in them. Millions of them.” — Mark Twain
The Best Time to Go
The best time to go and visit Lucerne depends only on your budget, your seasonal and climate preference and whether or not you like crowds. Summer runs from June through to September and is the most popular season for visitors as the weather isn’t so cold and you can expect daytime averages reaching about 23°C (73°F). However, being the high peak tourist season, everything from flights to accommodation to meals will be expensive and accommodation is virtually impossible to get if not booked well ahead of time.
In addition there are queues to get into all of the attractions and sites and the entire city will be heaving with holiday makers. So the best time to go if you want to visit when there are no crowds will be April or May and around the end of September and October. Spring and Fall, the crowds have dispersed, the high season prices have dropped – although the day time temperatures are not as high.
But if you are visiting the city with your skis and or snowboard, then the best time for you to visit would be any time during winter. The snow fields around Lucerne offer sporting facililites and good snow from November right through to April. December is a much favored month in Lucerne and the city is busy not only with winter sports enthusiasts but also visitors flock into the city for the Christmas markets and a super special Swiss white Christmas.
Lucerne has cold, dry winters and warm/hot summers.
Getting Around in Lucerne
With a major slice of tourist action going on all year round, there is a good visitor infrastructure and Lucerne is easily accessible to all travelers. Navigating the city on foot is one of the most sensible ways to get around. The most popular historic sights and the Old Town are all about 20 minutes or so away from each other on foot. With plenty to see on the way, a journey on foot is favored, especially when the weather is nice.
There is also a fantastic city bus system that will assist less mobile and disabled visitors getting around to see the city. If you plan to go out of the city and explore the rest of Central Switzerland then the Swiss Federal Railway has lines that will take you where you want to go.
Cycling is another popular way to see the sights of the city and bike rentals, pick up and drop off is available at the central rail station and throughout the city. You can also rent electric bicycles and other bikes with baggage clamps that will take you zipping around the streets of Lucerne. The city is well planned, organized and easy to navigate and you can tour around at your own leisurely pace.
Thanks to its central location Lucerne railway station (Bahnhof Luzern) can be reached easily from nearly every other city in Switzerland using the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS)). There are hourly trains from Olten and Zürich Airport and half-hourly trains from Zurich, and a direct train every hour from Bern. There is an hourly service from Bellinzona in Ticino, and Pfäffikon and St. Gallen in the North East.
The “Zentralbahn” branch of the Swiss Federal Railways provides also hourly trains between Interlaken and Lucerne during daytime.