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Lucerne is among the most beautiful towns in Switzerland. It’s on a lake, surrounded by dramatic and steep mountains, and is on all the major train routes – in short, it’s a good pick for tourists. There’s a compact medieval old town, a river with two covered bridges (one built in 1333) and a promenade lined with bars and cafes. Note that Lucerne (city) is perhaps a half-day for tourist activities, but there’s lots more to do around the lake, easily accessible by bus, train, or boat, and a 2-3 night stay would be pleasant.

Activities

  • **Bourbaki Panorama, which is a fine piece of boosterism for Swiss “charity”. I wouldn’t pay to see it, but it’s free with the Swiss Museum Pass.
  • Walking the **city walls is worthwhile – great views, several towers (including one from the 13th century), a *small museum (fine if you’re there, otherwise unremarkable), and on the backside, a cute small “farm” (the Hinter Musegg) with goats, alpacas, mini-pigs, and cattle.
  • **Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument) is very moving – even surrounded by hordes of tourists, which invariably it will be. It’s much larger than expected, and very sad.
  • *Puppenhausmuseum Luzern is slightly creepy and also sweet – a couple’s collection of vintage dolls, toys, dollhouses. Wife has passed on and the husband personally showcases the toys on Saturday afternoons.
  • **Seebad Luzern is really lovely – a historic bathhouse on the water, extremely Wes Anderson,  with better than you’d expect food. It’s a great place to hang out with excellent views. Crowds can be significant, but in a festive way.
  • The ***Swiss Museum of Transport is very impressive. It’s designed for the 7-14 year old set, but has plenty to entertain adults. Trains, planes, cars, gondolas, boats, etc. It takes at least half a day.

Dining & Lodging

  • **BAYTS: High concept vegan food, set (and quite tasty) menu. Good natural wine selection, food pairings available.
  • ***Geissmatt: This place was amazing! Set menu, Italian, discrete location you’d never find on your own. Lovely staff, great setting.
  • ***Grottino 1313: awesome! Very hip/rustic setting, with a patio and charming interior. Fixed menu, lovely food, great service. 
  • ***Hotel Chateau Gutsch: Stay in a CASTLE! This is excellent, charming, definitely worth doing. Cocktails are elaborate and expensive, food is good enough, setting is lovely, and the rooms are perfect.
  • **Hotel des Balances: A very nice hotel and great restaurant. The food is ambitious (for Switzerland) and beautifully executed. Great staff, elegant setting.
  • **Hotel Restaurant Rebstock was surprising – while in a very touristy area (we even saw a Viking cruise tour group walk by), it doesn’t appear to attract a particularly touristy demographic, and the food is quite good. Nice outdoor dining area.
  • **Schützenhaus is a decent, friendly option if you find yourself at the Messe center (football stadium and concert venue). Schnitzel, cordon blu, and the like.
  • **Wilden Mann: one of the oldest restaurants (and hotels) in the area, this is a fancy and not quite good enough dining option. It’s worth trying once, and ask for the more casual/newer bistro area.

Engelberg

Engelberg is famous for Bollywood filming, and is an easy 40-minute train journey from Lucerne (or drive). We have yet to visit in summer; in winter it’s a pretty box canyon surrounded by high peaks. For a full report and ski notes, see the Engelberg post.

Hergiswil

The **Glasi Hergiswil is a Swiss factory that manufactures glass. Founded by the brothers Siegwart in 1817, it’s had an interesting history from handwork to mass manufacturing and back again. The story of the saving of Glasi is told rather creatively in the small museum (we liked it a lot). You get to see the actual glass blowing floor, and there’s a very large discount outlet for the works – beautiful stuff. We’ve been told it’s very popular with kids.

**Glasi Bar am See & Seelokal is a counter-service waterfront restaurant attached to the glassworks. It’s large, and there’s surprisingly good Thai food along with some Swiss standards.

Pilatus

This is the tallest peak in the area, and it’s completely spectacular. Expect to be surrounded by hordes of tourists, but it’s worth it for the views. Apr-Oct do the complete circuit to the peak (world’s steepest cog railway – gondola – ferry boat), or just do the winter gondola version. This takes a full day. There are also two hotels at the top, which I’d skip, very touristy and not very nice.

Rigi

On the opposite side (accessible from Weggis) of the lake is Mt. Rigi, which like Pilatus offers many hiking and dining opportunities and great views. The spa at the top looks a little dated and very public. We loved our hike and lunch at **Chalet Schild, which had Swiss-German classics and cozy decor.

Stanserhorn

The Stanserhorn is one of the many peaks overlooking Lucerne (1,898 meters above sea level). It’s a popular tourist destination, without quite the same level of crowds as Pilatus. Views are great, and the journey up is fun – a section on a cog railway funicular, and a Cabrio (open top) gondola. Summer only. There are a variety of hiking trails down from various points along the route.