Don't Miss in Lucerne
Lion Monument: Mark Twain described "the Lion of Lucerne" as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." The rock relief sculpture of a dying lion, hewn out of a cliff, is indeed sad -- especially once you know the back story: In 1792, more than 700 members of the Swiss Guard were massacred in Paris during the French Revolution. The sculpture shows a lion impaled by a spear, with shields bearing the symbols of Switzerland and France at its side.
Chapel Bridge and Old Town: The long covered bridge over the Reuss River is perhaps the photogenic city's most captured image. Originally built in 1333, "Kapellbrucke" was destroyed by fire in 1993 and subsequently rebuilt; it remains Europe's oldest wooden covered bridge. It's bedecked by blooming flowers in the summer and nearly always crowded with tourists taking selfies near the water tower. On one side is Lucerne's Old Town or Altstadt, a wonderful warren of quaint alleys opening into sunny squares full of shops, fountains and cafes. The "new town" on the other side also has some pretty buildings, including the onion-domed Jesuit Church.
Museums: If you're an art lover, the Rosengart Collection with an extensive collection of Picasso paintings, drawings and sculptures, is a must. Collector Angela Rosengart knew Picasso personally and the artist painted several portraits of her. The Rosengart family also collected Swiss artist Paul Klee, as well as several Impressionists and Cubists (Pilatussatrass 10, in the new city; +4141-220-1660; open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Transportation buffs won't want to miss the Swiss Museum of Transport, which has more than 3,000 artifacts and five halls dedicated to various forms of getting around: rail, road, aviation, navigation and cableways. There's also a planetarium, an IMAX theater and a "chocolate adventure" informational ride. The museum is a 30-minute walk along the waterfront or you can take a train, bus or boat. (Lidostrasse 5; +4141-370-4444; open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in winter) The Richard Wagner Museum, housed in a villa where the composer lived for six years, is also about a 30-minute walk from downtown Lucerne so give yourself time (Richard Wagner Weg 27; +41 41-360-2370; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.).
Lunching: Lucerne is full of waterfront cafes and if those are too crowded, there are plenty on the various scenic squares as well. We went to Zunfthausrestraurant Pfistern (Kornmarkt 4; +4141-410-3650; open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) right next to the Rathaus (City Hall), where you can get Swiss specialties like roesti (potato pancakes) and cheese dishes fondue and raclette, as well as lighter fare such as salads and sandwiches. Chocolate is a must. We love Max Chocolatier (Schweizerofquai 2; +4141-418-7090 ; open Mondays, 1 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), where the handmade chocolate is filled with seasonal flavors such as passion fruit and elderflower. If Max's jewel box truffles are too dear for your wallet, get your fix (and sweet gifts to bring home) at Swiss staple Bachmann's, which has several locations in Lucerne's Old City.
Mount Pilatus: Your ability to visit this mountain high in the Alps depends entirely on how long your river cruise line has allowed you to stay in the Lucerne. If you're going on your own, you'll need to account several hours for the numerous means of transportation that include a boat ride across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, the cogwheel rail up the side of the mountain, coming down on a gondola and taking a bus back to Lucerne. Plus you'll want to spend some time at the top, enjoying the alpine view and hiking some of the trails. Note: Some river cruise companies offer the trip to the top as an excursion on its own. This seems like the best option to us.