Alps sunrise, Lucerne, Switzerland (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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What to do in Lucerne

Luzern (Lucerne in English) is spectacularly located beside a glistening lake backed by snow-capped Alpine mountains. A manageable city of about 60,000, Lucerne retains an Old World feel, especially along the cobblestone streets or crossing the wooden Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), originally built in the 14th century. Luzern also contains the modern—sophisticated art, cutting edge architecture, and one of Europe's most popular music festivals. When you tire of urban life, nearby hiking trails lead through forests and twist up mountains.

Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Cantons, a.k.a. Lake Luzern), with its gray waters and mountains in the distance, is a quintessential Swiss image. Scenic boat tours cruise the lake.

For an exciting sampling of Alpine scenery and transportation, book what's referred to as the Golden Round Trip. From nearby Kriens, a cable car whisks you to the summit of Mount Pilatus, a family-friendly ski and summer resort with a dragon mascot. For an easy nature walk, stroll the Dragon Moor, a looping path to marsh and moor overlooks. From the Hotel Pilatus a short trails leads to Oberhaupt's 360-degree view of peaks, forests, and lakes. At the Pilatus Seilpark, a suspension rope course, kids ages eight and older can test their agility by traversing rope bridges and completing other moderately challenging tasks.

The Golden Round Trip continues with a return from Mount Pilatus on the world's steepest cog railway. The 48-percent grade pitches you down the slope like a real-life amusement park ride, but one with fabulous scenery. From the railway's terminal in Alpnachstad, you board a boat back to Luzern.

At Luzern's Verkehrshaus (Swiss Museum of Transport), find out more about Switzerland's cog railways, cable cars, railroads, rock tunnels, and autos. Explanations are in Italian, German, French, and English. Admire the massive steam engines, experience the grandeur of the Alps at an IMAX movie, and walk across a detailed aerial map of Switzerland created from 7,800 aerial photographs at the Swissarena exhibit.

For concerts, check the schedule at the Kultur und Kongresszentrum (Culture and Conference Center). The striking post-modern waterfront building has lake water rushing through it. Seal and Steely Dan are among the rock performers in July's Blue Balls Festival and classical artists take to the stage in August and September at Luzern's noted music festival.

For more culture, view art by Chagall, Cezanne, Klee, and others at the Sammlung Rosengart (Rosengart Collection) and see photographs portraying Picasso at work at the Picasso Museum.

Where to go from Luzern? The GoldenPass Line, a five-hour train trip from Luzern to Montreux is one of Switzerland's most scenic rail journeys, offering sweeping views of mountains, forests, and sparkling lakes.

Tip: The Swiss Rail pass also includes discounts on lifts, attractions, and several museums in Lucerne.

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Traveler Reviews of Lucerne


Craig rates Lucerne
The scenery in Switzerland is spectacular and like no other scenery anywhere else in the world. Far more majestic than the mountain ranges in Colorado and Canada. I went during the summer. I recommend visiting twice- one summer trip and one winter trip. Lucerne is some of the best scenery in Switzerland, but the entire country is a must see. Most people I met speak English fluently, as well as their own language. All of the neighborhoods appeared nicely maintained. I did not see any slums or homeless people, other than the prostitutes in the district where it is legal in Geneva.
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Julie rates Lucerne
Lucerne is the most beautiful small city I have ever seen. The picturesque combination of Lake Lucerne, Mt.s Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn (I think) is so amazing. The train ride from Zurich is only 45 minutes, and also quite lovely. The KKL has a restaurant that is open for lunch and is quite reasonable. I learned to ask for hahnenwasser (sp.?) for tap water, which is much cheaper than bottled water or sodas. Walking across the ancient Chapel Bridge is so quaint. I would love to go back one day. Switzerland is just so ridiculously gorgeous all around. Aahh... miss it.
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Pieter rates Lucerne
Spendy, but really nice and historic. We ate on this little lake-boat that's been converted into a restaurant and afterwards hit a little Swiss-German festival that was right outside the hotel. Quaint and pretty, but not worth more than a few days before heading up to the Alps.
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