When we travel, we prefer never to have a full itinerary. It adds a sense of adventure and randomness. We have found that some of our best days traveling are the ones where we randomly pick a place to visit and let the winds of fate guide us. With nothing pressing on our agenda, we decided to take the train from Basel to the small city of Lucerne, located in the heart of Switzerland.
Arrival in Lucerne
It was a short walk to the train station in Basel where we could hop a train for the short trip up to Lucerne. The weather was not being especially cooperative, but we hoped there would be enough breaks in the weather to walk around town. Known for its medieval architecture as well as its scenic natural beauty, Lucerne lies on the bank on a pristine mountain lake, surrounded by tall Swiss mountains. It is a beautiful city to explore, even in inclement weather.
The first thing we decided to investigate was the famous Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge), a pedestrian covered bridge. Located near the Lucerne train station, the Chapel Bridge spans the Reuss River, which flows through the heart of the town. Built in 1333, the Chapel Bridge provided protection for citizens as a defense against attacks from the south. The bridge is also an excellent spot to take photos of the medieval buildings on the north side of the river.
Crossing the Reuss, we toured part of the “Old Town” of Lucerne north of the Reuss, with wonderful small shops housed inside old medieval buildings. As is typical in many European towns, there are a good assortment of old family tourist shops intermixed with modern stores and offerings. We spent a good deal of time in this area so DJ could shop while we waited for the weather to clear.
The Lion of Lucerne
As the rain clouds disappeared we resolved to walk over to Lion Monument, found in a small park just off of the Lowenplatz. The monument is a memorial to the Swiss guards who lost their lives defending King Louis XVI in the 1789 French Revolution. Sculpted out of natural rock, the dying Lion, impaled by a spear, lies on a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy. Beside him is a shield bearing the coat-of-arms for Switzerland, a testament of the bravery of the Swiss guards who lost their lives, dedicated “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”.
We moved to the south of the Reuss and walked the bank of the Lake Lucerne. The view from the lake to old town to the north as well as the majestic peaks of the Swiss Alps that were visible in nearly all directions made us realize that our impromptu decision to visit this city was definitely one of the best we have made in a while. While the weather was fickle, there were definitely enough good weather to experience the parts of the town we were interested in exploring.
Lucerne is definitely worth visiting if you are in Switzerland. While there is a lot to see and do, a day there is plenty of time to see the city and explore some of the backstreets and Old Town. It is definitely our “favorite bit” of Switzerland, and we look forward to returning one day (hopefully with better weather!)
For this part of our trip, Rick Steves Switzerland was DJ’s favorite guide book. Click on the image below to view it on Amazon: