Time: 2 1/2 Hours.
Best Times: Any Sunny Day.
Worst Times: Rush Hours, Monday to Friday from 8 to 9am and 5 to 6pm.
The best way to see Lucerne is on foot, going along its lakeside quays, across its old squares, and through the streets of its Old Town.
Start in the heart of Lucerne at:
Translated as Swan Square, it lies on the north bank of the Reuss River and is reached by crossing the bridge, the Seebrücke, from Bahnhofplatz on the south bank, site of the train station.
Adjoining the square on the west is:
This is the site of St. Peter's Church. The church, the oldest in Lucerne, was built in 1178. In the center of the square is a fountain commemorating Carnival revelry in Lucerne.
From here, continue west along a major shopping street, Kapellgasse, until you reach the:
This is the old Grain Exchange or Corn Market, which is today the site of the:
4. Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
A Renaissance building from 1602, the town hall has impressive masonry, a tremendous roof, and a tall rectangular tower. The tower is a good vantage point from which to survey the crowded market scene on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
To the left of the town hall is the:
5. Rosengart Haus
This 17th-century building houses some Picassos from the Rosengart collection. The town house is entered at Furrengasse 21.
After leaving the museum, follow Rathausquai east toward Schwanenplatz again, but only to cross the:
6. Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge)
The symbol of Lucerne, this covered wooden footbridge crosses the Reuss River, leading to the south bank. Built in 1333, the bridge is 170m (558 ft.) long and crosses the river diagonally. It's one of the best-preserved wooden bridges in Switzerland, used originally for defense. There's also an octagonal Wasserturm (Water Tower), used variously as a prison, a torture chamber, and an archive. The bridge was always known for its 122 paintings that hung from its arched roof. Some of them were done in 1599 by Heinrich Wagmann, illustrating the daily activities and dress of the people. The bridge was damaged in a fire in 1993 and two-thirds of the original paintings were destroyed or severely damaged. Lucerne city officials directed that copies be made. After a $2.1-million reconstruction, this landmark bridge was reopened in the spring of 1994.
You emerge onto Bahnhofstrasse; you can continue right (west) until you see the next covered bridge across the Reuss, the:
7. Spreuerbrücke (Mills Bridge)
Built in 1407 and restored in the 19th century, this wooden bridge spans an arm of the Reuss. Its gables are painted with the Dance of Death, a mural by Kaspar Meglinger dating from the 17th century. The mural commemorates a plague that swept through the city.
Cross the bridge and take a sharp right to reach:
8. Mühlenplatz (Mills Square)
This square dates from the 16th century. This was the old site of Lucerne markets.
From Mühlenplatz, walk down Kramgasse (to the east) to reach the:
9. Weinmarkt (Wine Market)
Here you'll find a lovely old square with a fountain, west of Kornmarkt. Long ago the mystery play Confraternity of the Crown of Thorns was performed here. Among the colorful old dwellings on the square is the Müllersche Apotheke, a "drugstore" from 1530.
Directly northeast of the Weinmarkt lies:
10. Hirschenplatz (Stag Square)
Another landmark square of Lucerne, it's filled with restored buildings, many of them with painted facades and wrought-iron signs. In 1779, Goethe stayed at the Goldener Adler, which is located here.
From Hirschenplatz, head east along Weggisgasse, which opens eventually onto Falkenplatz. From Falkenplatz, continue east along Hertensteinstrasse until you come to Löwenplatz. This is the site of:
Panorama is one of the largest canvases in Europe, covering 1,009 sq. m (10,861 sq. ft.) and curving in a circle around a central platform. Painted in 1889 by Edouard Castres and contained in a round building that was designed especially for it, it depicts the bloody retreat of the French army into Switzerland during the Franco-Prussian War.
The next stop on this tour is not immediately visible from Löwenplatz, but requires a brief detour north along Denkmalstrasse. Within about a block of Löwenplatz, high above your head, you'll see one of the most famous statues in Switzerland, the:
12. Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument)
Carved in deep relief into the sandstone cliff above the town, the monument is an allegorical reference to the bravery of the Swiss Guards who died in the Tuileries of Paris in 1792 trying to save the life and honor of Marie Antoinette. During his grand tour of Europe, Mark Twain called the "Dying Lion" of Lucerne "the saddest and most poignant piece of rock in the world." Designed by the great Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, the statue was dedicated in 1821.
Retrace your steps back to Löwenplatz, then head south along Löwenstrasse all the way to the lake and Kurplatz, a few steps east of Schwanenplatz, the site of the:
This spot is a casino-and-restaurant complex on Kurplatz on Nationalquai.
Above Nationalquai, view the twin towers of the Catholic:
14. Hofkirche (Collegiate Church of St. Leodegar)
Named after the patron saint of Lucerne, this is the most important church in the city. There was once a monastery at this site, but the present Gothic-Renaissance building dates from the 17th century. The interior has rich wrought-iron work, carvings, and a famous organ from 1640, with 4,950 pipes. Concerts are presented in the summer. The church also has a beautiful courtyard with arcades.
A good way to end the tour, you are now standing at:
From here, you can take in the best view of the lake from its northern rim. You can also take steamers from this area to visit various resorts along the lake. The view from here encompasses not only the lake, but also the Alps from Rigi to Pilatus. The quays are lined with trees, hotels, and shops, ideal for exploring on foot. At the end of the promenade is the lido, called Lucerne's "Riviera."
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.