10 Reasons Why Lucerne, Switzerland Should be Your Next Summer City Break

Sitting pretty amid snow-capped mountains, its streets blessed with historic architecture and packed with diverting delights, Lucerne offers visitors a distilled taste of Switzerland at its best.

In partnership with

The city right at the heart of Switzerland - almost equidistant from Zurich, Basel and Bern - lovely Lucerne can be regarded as a compact version of the entire nation; a pint-sized metropolis that has it all. Wander its ancient fortifications, kick your shoes off at the shores of its great lake, take in modern art and classical music at its striking Culture and Congress Centre, venture underground to its enchanting Glacier Garden and scale Mount Pilatus on the world's steepest cog railway.

10 wonderful ways to fall in love with Lucerne

1. Explore historic bridges

Lucerne's most iconic site is arguably the 14th-century Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a snaking wooden footbridge - the oldest of its kind in Europe - that slices through the Reuss River, punctuated with an octagonal water tower and adorned with ceiling paintings that illustrate the city's history. Top tip: visit at dusk to see it light up in all its splendour, and don't miss its lesser-lauded little sister, the Spreuerbrücke, just downstream.

2. Linger at Lake Lucerne

Framed by mountains, cerulean blue, with dramatic fjord-like offshoots, this is a showstopper of a lake, especially during the warm summer months. Trace its edges on foot at your leisure, or hop aboard one of its historic paddle steamers and tour its clear waters from the deck. The Lake Lucerne Navigation Company (SGV) offers a range of boat excursions, including a two-and-a-half-hour loop to the pretty resort town of Beckenried and back, with a bistro and bar on board.

3. Ride the world’s steepest cog railway

Lucerne sits under the majestic gaze of Mount Pilatus. Its jagged summit, which boasts a spectacular 360-degree alpine panorama, can be reached on foot (if you're fit and keen), car or by gondola, but we recommend scaling it by way of its cog railway, a 30-minute climb with a nerve-shredding gradient of 48 per cent, making it the world's steepest. There are plenty of inviting cafés and restaurants at the top.

4. Enjoy its legendary festival

Classical music lovers will want to plan their trip to coincide with the Lucerne Summer Festival (8 August - 11 September), which has, over the past 75 years, earned itself a reputation as being one of the greatest on the planet. Bringing together celebrated orchestras, famed conductors and emerging soloists, its theme this year is diversity - so expect other styles, including jazz and folk, to creep into the programme.

5. Gawp at a chocolate fountain

Behold, Lucerne's very own Willy Wonka emporium. Located on Schwanenplatz, the gateway to the city's Old Town, is Confiserie Bachmann, a fourth-generation bakery that serves all sorts of sweet delicacies against the backdrop of its prized Flowing Chocolate Wall. Observe 750kg of liquid heaven tumble forth, then make your selection from a paradise of pastries, macaroons and ice cream.

6. Feast on culture at the KKL

A strikingly modern architectural triumph amid the cobbled streets of Lucerne, the lakeside Culture and Congress Centre (KKL) and its giant sloping copper roof is today a stalwart of the city. Check the website to see what's on across its fantastic concert hall, auditorium and art gallery, and take a tour to learn about its French creator, Jean Nouvel, and his obsession with the interplay between water and light.

7. Roam parks and gardens

Take advantage of a sunny day by making a beeline for Inseli Park, a lively, picturesque spot by the lake where you can play table tennis, have a picnic or enjoy a cooling drink at one of two seasonal bars - Volière and Buvette. Then head underground to explore the labyrinth of the Lucerne Glacier Garden, where you'll find sophisticated animations projected onto the rock structures, and an enchanting mirror maze.

8. Marvel at museums

Lucerne is home to an impressive showcase of museums, and you can visit eight of them over the course of two days for less than £30 with the Lucerne Museum Card, including the aforementioned Glacier Garden. We also recommend the Richard Wagner Museum, located in the composer's former 15th-century country abode, and the Bourbaki Panorama, a staggering 112m circular painting that depicts a crucial scene from the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War.

9. Take in the art

The Sammlung Rosengart is a small jewel of a gallery for those partial to classic modernist art, populated with the works of Picasso, Cézanne, Monet and Klee. For something more under-the-radar, head to the west of the city for a visit to the quirky Museum im Bellpark, which displays an eclectic presentation of photography, paintings and video art in a characterful 19th-century mansion.

10. Step back in time

Lucerne's ancient fortifications still stand, in part, as part of the Musegg Wall and its nine stone towers, which are floodlit at night to form an imposing crown around the city's Old Town. By day, take a short stroll to the Lion Monument, a sculpture carved into a fairy-tale grotto, inaugurated in 1821 and described by Mark Twain as being "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world".

The Lowdown

To discover more about Lucerne, visit myswitzerland.com.

Discover More
Art Collective Cicolupo’s Insider Guide to Basel, Switzerland