Time to visit LucerneNalynn Dolan Caine ▼ | Saturday November 30, 2013 5:01PM ET
In the Middle Ages, with only four bridges, the city was famous as a European city of bridges. Today, the Chapel Bridge, the oldest preserved wooden bridge in Europe, and the Water Tower built around 1300 as a part of the city wall, are city's most attractive attractions. Inside the bridge you can see triangular paintings from the 17th century telling Swiss history and legends, one of them being about William Tell, a tell about a man, his son and an arrow through an apple.
The river Reuss that feeds Lake Lucerne splits the town in two banks clustered with medieval squares, churches, and frescoed houses. And exactly there you will find the ambience both locals and tourists like, a place filled with cafes and restaurants, and while walking by the river it is natural to make a stop and eat something.
Order Rösti, a popular potato dish, fondue or pastetli (mushrooms and meat on a creamy sauce). Taste the soft Vacherin cheese, the aromatic Appenzeller, the full-flavoured Sbrinz or the world's famous Emmentaler, and finish the meal with Apfelsaft - apple juice, Swiss favourite drink. Then take a funicular ride to the Art Deco Hotel Montana, sip a fine white wine by the candlelight and enjoy a peaceful moment and spectacular views of the city and the mountains - every table has a pair of binoculars for exploring the scenery.
With its pedestrian-only streets and alleys, numerous small boutiques and shops - especially clothing - hotels and restaurants, Lucerne's Old Town is the most charming part of the city. Don't miss Bachmann, a cafe and sweet chocolate shop and home to most probably the longest praline showcase in Switzerland. Of course, a visit to Switzerland would be incomplete without buying a famous Swiss watch. They are usually cheaper here than in others countries, pick one/two at Bucherer, the biggest high-end jewelery and watch retailer.
Take an easygoing walk through a maze of small streets, squares and bridges. Start in the heart of Lucerne at Swan Square and take a walk to see St. Peter's Church. A major shopping street Kapellgasse will take you to the Old Town Hall and Picasso Museum to the left. Cross the Chapel Bridge, walk through the Mills Square to Löwenplatz, the site of the Bourbaki Panorama, a museum and cultural center to see a 112 meter by 10 meter large painting, one of the last preserved giant panoramic paintings of the 19th century.
Nearby you will find Lion Monument and The Glacier gardens, a museum and park centred around numerous glacial holes left over from the Ice Age. The park displays evidences that before the Ice Age Lucerne was a subtropical palm beach. You will love it, it's definitively a must. Finish your tour at Kurplatz located on Lucerne Lake's northern shore and visit The Swiss Transport Museum that showcases the development of traffic on roads, by rail, on water, in the air and in space.
Try the locomotive simulator, take a look at the Swiss satellite EURECA, and then take the Wilhelm Tell Express, a boat and panoramic train line connecting Lucerne and Lugano across the Alps. Spend the day on Lucerne Riviera - swimming, palms, restaurants, hotels, a view over the mountains, all included.
Don't miss to take the world's steepest cog-railway up to Mount Pilatus. Breathtaking Alps, 2 hotels and 7 restaurants promise a day to remember. Stay overnight and watch the sun coming over the horizon while having breakfast. Ski, hike and take paraglide down in tandem with a certified pilot. The next day take the Rotair, a revolving aerial cable gondola lift that will take you to the Titlis, the highest mountain in the region. For more fun during the summer visit Frakmüntegg hill and its longest summer toboggan run in Europe. That's the real Lucerne, that's Switzerland.
Want to see more of Switzerland? Take the Glacier Express, advertised as the slowest express train in the world, from Zermatt in southwest Switzerland. It crosses more than 291 bridges and goes through 91 tunnels, climbing some of the country's most inaccessible mountains and have an alpine journey of your lifetime. ■