A Day in Lucerne, Switzerland

On Saturday night we saw a superb weather forecast for Lucerne on Sunday, prompting us to plan a day trip to take the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus by train, boat, cogwheel railway, aerial tramway and bus. But… it turned out to be a very different day.

First, we slept in until 9:30, putting us 3 hours later than our plan. But, we had breakfast at the hotel and then caught the #8 tram to the main railway station (with our free Mobility Ticket), arriving at 10:40, 24 minutes before the next train to Lucerne.

The main railway station at Basel, Switzerland
Our route wasn’t available from the ticket machines, but a friendly SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) ticket agent had us ready to go in just a few minutes. The total return fare for the 2 of us was 124 Swiss francs (CHF 124) – the Swiss franc is close to par with the Canadian dollar.

The main Basel railway station is huge.

The main railway station in Basel, Switzerland
I got a few shots before our train arrived. Boarding was simple, and we left the station right at the scheduled 11:04am.

The main railway station in Basel, Switzerland
It’s a very fast, very comfortable ride to Lucerne – it took 1 hour and 1 minute in this train, which I would guess hit speeds of 120 kmh or so.

The countryside between Basel and Lucerne
This was our train, a Bombardier ICN Tilting Train, which can hit 200 kmh.

Bombardier ICN Tilting Train for Swiss Federal Railways (SBB)
The weather in Lucerne was dreadful, with heavy rain and very low clouds – not a good day for a trip into the mountains. Not discouraged, we got a city guide and went for a walk, after buying an umbrella.

Heavy rain in Lucerne, Switzerland
The rain stopped briefly as we got to Europaplatz, on the waterfront. Many tour boats were running, though none had many people on board, not surprising on a day like this.

Europaplatz in Lucerne, Switzerland
A little carnival was set up at Europaplatz, brightening the day a bit.

Carnival in Lucerne, Switzerland
Our next stop was the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke), built in the first half of the 14th Century as part of the city’s fortifications. It is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. The 111-foot-high stone water tower (Wasserturm), one of Lucerne’s iconic structures, has been used as a prison, torture chamber, treasury and archives over the centuries.

Kapellbrucke in Lucerne, Switzerland
The bridge was heavily damaged in a 1993 fire, and a tiny sign near the center of the span hints that it was arson.
Kapellbrucke in Lucerne, Switzerland

Kapellbrucke in Lucerne, Switzerland
In the 17th Century, 111 paintings were added to the bridge. The 1993 fire destroyed 81 of them, but replicas are gradually being added. The paintings illustrate scenes of Swiss history, including the lives of Lucerne’s patron saints, Leodegar and Mauritius.

Kapellbrucke in Lucerne, Switzerland
The view from the steps of the Hofkirke.

Lucerne, Switzerland
The Hofkirke, the most important Renaissance church in Switzerland, was built in 1645 to replace an 8th Century Benedictine monastery that had burned in 1633.

Hofkirke - Lucerne, Switzerland
The quality of the altars in the Hofkirke is incredible.

Hofkirke - Lucerne, Switzerland
A side door at the Hofkirke.

Hofkirke - Lucerne, Switzerland
This is the sort of photo I’d seen of the Lion of Lucerne (Lowendenkmal). It didn’t prepare me for the sight of it.

Lion of Lucerne (Lowendenkmal) - Lucerne, Switzerland
It is both a massive and powerful piece, carved out of the cliff to commemorate the deaths of Swiss mercenaries at Tuileries in 1792. Mark Twain called this “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world”.

Lion of Lucerne (Lowendenkmal) - Lucerne, Switzerland
Walled cities fascinate me – it’s hard to imagine being constantly under threat of attack to this degree. This part of the Musegg Wall fortification was built in 1386.

Musegg Wall - Lucerne, Switzerland
Soaked to the skin despite our protective gear, we stopped for a beer, and my little travelling buddy Nanook got out for a look around.

Nanook explores Lucerne, Switzerland
Another view from our table.

Lucerne, Switzerland
Who is enjoying this more, the swans or the people?

Lucerne, Switzerland
The ancient and the modern working in harmony.

The ancient and the modern working in harmony - Lucerne, Switzerland
The view up the Kramgasse.

Kramgasse - Lucerne, Switzerland
This little structure at the back of a building appears to be extremely old, but there’s no sign to give any information.

Lucerne, Switzerland
The Jesuit Church, built in 1666 by Father Christoph Vogler, was the first large-scale Baroque sacral building in Switzerland.

Jesuit Church at Lucerne, Switzerland
We were getting a chill by about 4:30, and decided to call it a day. Back at the railway station, there were many temptations in this little deli, but all we walked out with was a couple of lattes, at about what we’d pay at home, CHF 4.20

Deli at Lucerne, Switzerland
The train we caught for the trip back to Basel was much older than the previous one, but still very comfortable.

SBB rail car
Passing the rail yard at Olten.

The rail yard at Olten, Switzerland
It’s lovely, peaceful country.

The countryside between Lucerne and Basel

This had been Cathy’s birthday, so we went out for a special dinner at the hotel. Although the restaurant is sadly lacking in character, the food (lamb for Cathy, perch for me) was extremely good, at a total cost of CHF 111. Unsure of the etiquette of tipping in Switzerland, I’d asked at the hotel desk when we got back from Lucerne, and Jennifer explained that it’s very much optional, but tips of up to 10% in cash are welcome. When paying by credit card, there’s no option to add a tip.

After dinner, we went out for a fairly long walk, passing by the Rhine River again (of course).

The Rhine River in Basel at night

Although not the day we’d planned, it was excellent, and we both hope to get back to Lucerne for another multi-day look some day.


A Day in Lucerne, Switzerland — 4 Comments

  1. Hello Murray & Cathy,
    To begin-Happy Birthday Cathy! The photos of the scenery are incredible. It is now on my bucket list of places. I can hardly wait to see the pictures from the River Cruise. Have a great time and talk to you when you return.
    Happy Thanksgiving,

  2. hi Murray and Cathy
    I’m follow your homepage since 2005 when i was on my first trip to america to Alaska and the yukon. see my homepage http://www.digitalpicture.ch for details of my trip back then. i’m livin at a small village near to Aarau, witch is in betwen Zurich and Bern, near to Olten, that you probably used as a place to change the train from Basel to Lucern. It’ nice to read from you about my Country. I wish you both a nice trip in Europe and i will follow you again on your fantastic homepage! I hope to get back to Alaska and the Yukon soon!!

    greetings Martin

  3. It’s funny that I’ve lived in Switzerland and have been there many times, but you’ve learnt more about the place in a couple days that I ever have! I found that wall when I was in Lucerne wandering one day but couldn’t easily find any sign to tell me about it. I had actually forgotten until I saw your photo. If you are in Lucerne again, the boat trip down the Lake to Flüelin is quite lovely.
    I also hope you’re going to the Jungfrau Joch. If you are, make sure you go further up the valley from Lauterbrunnen and see the Trümmelbach Falls. They are maybe an hours walk up the valley from Lauterbrunnen, if not less. Very much worth it IMO!

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