6 reasons to visit Lucerne, Switzerland City of Lucerne © Herbst Musegg/LTAG

6 reasons to visit Lucerne, Switzerland

If you’re not into the classical music that fills the air or art on every street, Lucerne has hundreds of added extras. We chart its top hidden gems here.

Lucerne is a city in which wherever you go, you get something unexpected. From the 2 million year old glacier, Medieval architecture to musical disposition that rings through streets, as well as tributes to famous writers and artists who have graced the city over the centuries there is plenty to be entertained by. We've picked the best lesser-known points of interest in Lucerne to enhance your stay:

1. The city's oldest clock

The Nine Towers are a focal point of Lucerne, making up part of the city walls that date back to 1386, are virtually intact, and popular with everyone interested in the Middle Ages. After getting there, and  climbing up the steps to reach the ramparts, enjoying the views from the top of the towers, you find an added extra: the city’s oldest clock is within the Zyt Tower, built in 1535, with an exhibition on clocks and clockmaking. This timepiece is still functioning, but it’s best not to set your watch by it, because it has a special privilege: it chimes the hour one minute before the other clocks in the city. www.luzern.com/musegg-wall

2. History and glaciers

800x600 titlis 2Inside the Glacier Garden

Lucerne is a place with a lot of history, even by European standards. You can see it all around wherever you go. For example, the Lion of Lucerne, reckoned by some as being the saddest monument in the world, commemorates a battalion of Swiss Guards who served France’s King Louis XVI, and who were decimated by revolutionaries in 1792. 760 were killed, 350 survived. Carved into a vertical rock face, it is very large, and surmounted by a Latin inscription meaning ‘To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.’ It’s moving because the gigantic lion is wounded and dying, his noble face rift with pain, his huge paw uselessly protecting the emblem of France.

The perhaps not so well known spots here are the English Gardens, with a fine selection of Alpine plants, a sunny terrace, and the Gletscher Garten Museum, where the history goes back 20 million years, when Lucerne was under a glacier 1,000 metres thick. In addition there is a mirror maze, with 90 mirrors framed in Moorish-style mouldings, where children will have amazing fun. www.luzern.com/lion-monument

3. Kapellbrücke/Chapel Bridge


Closer to the city centre is Kapellbrücke, a bridge that’s also an art gallery. Originally built in 1333, it is the oldest surviving bridge of its type in the world, and it originally had a series of 150 paintings depicting scenes from the city’s history. In August 1993 a discarded cigarette set fire to the bridge and destroyed most of the roof: it was quickly restored, along with 30 of the panels. www.maison-du-chapeau.ch

4. Rosengart Museum

Rosengart BEA4963-2132pxRosengart Museum © My Switzerland

Lucerne seems to be a city that loves painting. Lots of the buildings are decorated with frescoes, most of them added in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Later, Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter Angela became close friends with Picasso and collected 32 paintings and many drawings by the artist. Today, their collection has become the core of a museum, Museum Sammlung Rosengart Luzern, at the amRhyn house, near the Kapellbrücke. What do you get extra here? Braque, Cézanne, Chagall, Klee, Matisse, Modigliani and many other great modern artists, in a beautiful setting. Unmissable for any art lover. www.rosengart.ch

5. KKL Concert Hall

A--Pirates-SymphonyDinner in the KKL auditorium

Also central is the large, modern building designed by Jean Nouvel housing KKL, the Lucerne Concert Hall that is a focal point for music and performance for the city and for the whole of Switzerland. Its programme ranges from opera and orchestral music to jazz, pop and fusion, with the music enhanced by the excellent acoustics. Here there are lots of extras: the rooftop Lucerne terrace with its spectacular views, the Museum of Art Lucerne with its temporary exhibitions, and the fine bars and restaurants. KKL, and the whole city, achieves even greater visibility from 14 August to 13 September 2015, with the Lucerne Festivalwww.kkl-luzern.ch 

6. Mount Pilatus

View from the top of Pilatus KlumView from the top of Pilatus Klum

In Switzerland, just about every city has an added extra: amazing scenery close at hand. In Lucerne, Mount Pilatus is a short train ride (or boat trip) from the city, and from Kriens you can take the steepest rack-and-pinion railway in the world up the mountain, or go up by cablecar. Whichever way you go, you travel through verdant meadows strewn with Alpine flowers, past mountain torrents and dramatic rock faces, up to Fräkmüntegg. From here, you can take the new aerial cableway up to Pilatus Kulm. You’ll feel like you’re flying in the modern cabins with large windows and cockpit-like design. From the top, you’ll be immersed in a classic Swiss Alpine mountainscape. And there’s not much extra you need to add to that. For all info, as well as train times and cable cars see www.pilatus.ch

1 The Nine Towers
2 Glacier Garden
3 Rosengart Museum
5 Kapellbrücke
6 Mount Pilatus