After having the time of my life hiking Mount Rigi, I made my way back to the town of Lucerne and found my way to my hostel.
I stayed at the Backpackers Lucerne for the three nights that I was in Lucerne. Although not in the center of town, it was a pleasant fifteen minute walk along the water in a nice residential area. My four bed female dorm had a balcony overlooking the water (score) and there were comfy couches in the lounge. Most importantly, there were two communal kitchens to cook meals in (a must in expensive Switzerland) and plenty of bathroom space.
My one complaint would have to be the lack of a real social atmosphere – something that I noticed throughout the hostels I stayed in in Switzerland (though this might have just been because I was traveling in the off season). At CHF33 a night, it wasn’t exactly inexpensive. But this cost seems to be standard for hostels throughout Switzerland.
It was already pretty late by the time I arrived, so I cooked myself some dinner and went right to bed.
Rainy days in Lucerne
The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast of rain… for the whole day. I hoped that it would clear up after a while, and made my way into town. I was completely soaked by the time I arrived at the Kunstmuseum Luzern. The museum itself was charming – a few rooms of your normal art museum stuff and one temporary exhibit entitled ’10 rooms, 40 walls’. This temporary exhibit was definitely my favourite part. Despite the dreariness of the day outside, it was still bright and cheerful in all of its colors. For once, an art exhibit actually made me feel something (happy) and so I really appreciated that.
Unfortunately, by the time I emerged from the museum it was still pouring down rain. Feeling a little bit defeated, I decided to head back to my hostel and take a much needed recuperation day. I finished loads of work and, to be honest, really just enjoyed a day not feeling like I had to stay out as long as possible to squeeze everything in. I’ll definitely be incorporating these sorts of days on my longer trips from now on.
It was still pretty gloomy out the following morning, but since it was my last day in Lucerne I was determined to actually get out and see the city. I had read all about how beautiful of a place it was, and I was not about to miss that. The weather forecast said no rain, but I brought my rain jacket along anyway just in case. As always, I preferred to be safe, rather than sorry.
Even though the skies were gray and the clouds were looming over me as if they were trying to send a warning, I enjoyed one of my last walks into town along the lake. My first stop that morning? Kapellbrücke. Also known as Switzerland’s most photographed landmark. I have to admit, it was pretty darn photogenic – even if half of the thing isn’t original anymore. Due to a disastrous fire in 1993, large sections of the bridge were rebuilt. No one really seemed to care, though. Even in the dreary March weather hordes of tourists were snapping away – myself included. All of the swans floating around provided for some particularly good photo ops. Oh, and the mountains in the background? Not bad at all.
I criss-crossed the river several times after walking over the Kapellbrücke, hoping to get all of the angles I possibly could of the riverfront and dipping in and out of the old town. I found the Jesuitenkirche, proudly standing guard, and watched as travelers with a far bigger budget than mine took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city. Most importantly, I scoped out the various gelato shops along the river front. I would most definitely be returning to one of those later in the day.
Lucerne Historical Museum
I stopped by the Lucerne Historical Museum as well that day, drawn in by its enticing blue and white door. Unfortunately, I was a little bit underwhelmed. It was in interesting hodgepodge of historical items from Lucerne, but there was no information about any of them. To get that, you had to rent an audioguide, which I didn’t figure out until after I was inside. With a CHF8 student entry fee for a small museum I was already feeling pretty cheated, so I opted to just make up my own darn stories.
Just outside of the Lucerne Historical Museum, however, lay my favorite bridge of the day: The Spreuerbrücke. Even if the Kapellbrücke hadn’t burned down, this bridge would still be the oldest in Lucerne. Only a few blocks away from each other, the two felt like completely different worlds. The Kapellbrücke is the bridge that everyone comes to see. Crowded around, they get their photos and seem satisfied. Spreuerbrücke is the overlooked little sister – smaller, less well known, and always compared to its older sibling. And yet I found this bridge to be far superior. Maybe it was the charming red turret or the simple fact that there were less people there. Either way, I was in love.
From the Spreuerbrücke, I climbed my way up hilly streets, following signs to find the Museegmauer. No matter where I go, I always make it a goal to get a birds eye view of the place somehow. This time, the Museegmauer would be how I achieved this. Built as the defense walls for Lucerne, the Museegmauer is now a popular place to climb and overlook the city. At least, in the summer it is. It’s not possible to climb the walls in the Winter, and unfortunately I was there in March – still the winter season, as far as Switzerland is concerned.
All the same, I wanted to see the wall and hoped that I would still be able to get a relatively good view from the hill it sat atop. And I was right! I sat on a bench overlooking the city while I ate my packed lunch and spotted landmarks I had already seen below.
The Dying Lion
Once I had finished my lunch, I found my way back down the hill and once again used signs to navigate my way to my next stop: The Dying Lion. This well-known statue was commissioned to commemorate the Swiss guards who were massacred in the French Revolution. The two shields symbolize Switzerland and France. Maybe it was just the gloomy weather or the green water which was in such contrast with the beautiful blues of Lake Lucerne, but I definitely felt a sense of reverence while here.
Right next to the Dying Lion monument lies the somewhat tourist-trap-y Glacier Garden. Best known for its well-preserved glacial rocks, it also has an interesting mix of glacial science & historical house museum as well as a mirrored maze. Since I was already right there and running out of ideas for things to do, I paid the entrance fee and went inside. I spent perhaps an hour or so exploring the ‘garden’, checking out the glacial rocks, and getting lost and disoriented in the mirror maze. From the top of a small tower, I was able to get yet another bird’s eye view of Lucerne.
Gelato & More
After learning more than I probably need to about glaciers, I wandered around the old town for a little bit longer. I found churches, fountains, and beautiful buildings and winding streets galore.
And of course, there was a beautiful view of Lake Lucerne if you popped outside for just a minute.
My final stop for the day was at one of the gelato shops I had scoped out earlier. I sat by the river and watched the swans as I enjoyed my expensive (but delicious) strawberry gelato. Finally, I crossed back over the river, ready to make my way back to my hostel. Which, of course, was when I saw a stand selling candied nuts. So I had to stop and buy some of those as well. Then, finally, I walked back along the lake and to my hostel, ready to fall into bed after a long day of exploring.
Even though the weather wasn’t fantastic, I think I made the most of my time in Lucerne. It was one of those cities that I got the feeling I could move to if I really wanted to. There was a nice residential neighborhood, a lake, and hiking opportunities abound only a short ride away. I really enjoyed the three days that I spent there, and I’m sure I’ll be back again sometime soon.
If you go:
I highly recommend staying at the Backpacker’s Lucerne if you’re on a budget. Of the three museums that I visited, I would suggest the Glacier Garden over the Historical Museum and the Art Museum above all. But in reality I think the best thing you can do is just wander around the town! Be sure to make time to do a day trip to one of the surrounding mountains (Pilatus, Rigi, and Titilis) and relax by Lake Lucerne. Just don’t provoke the swans!
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