Lucerne (pop. 60,000) is the Swiss traveler’s dream come true. The old city is engaging, the lake is placid, and sunrise over the famous Mt. Pilatus has hypnotized hikers and artists including Twain, Wagner, and Goethe for centuries.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains leave Bah-nhofpl. for: Basel (lVihr. 1-2 per hr. 4:40am-l 1:50pm, 29SFr); Bern (lVahr. 1-2 per hr. 4:40am-l 1:50pm, 30SFr); Geneva (3V&hr. every hr. 4:40am-9:55pm, 64SFr); Interlaken (2hr. every hr. 6:30am-7:35pm, 26SFr); Lausanne (2%hr. every hr. 4:40am-9:55pm, 56SFr); Lugano (3hr. every hr. 6:40am-10:15pm, 56SFr); and Zurich (lhr. 2 per hr. 4:55am-ll:10pm, 20SFr). VBL buses depart from in front of the station and provide extensive coverage of Lucerne (1 zone 2.40SFr, 2 zones 3.60SFr, 3 zones 5.60SFr; day pass 9SFr); route maps are available at the tourist office. The tourist office, in the station, offers free city guides, makes reservations, and sells the Visitor’s Card. (227 17 17. Open May-Oct. daily 9am-6:30pm; Nov.-Apr. M-F 8:30am-5:30pm, Sa-Su 9am-6pm.) C&A Clothing, on Hertensteinstr. at the top of the Altstadt, has two free but busy Internet terminals. (Open M-W 9am-6:30pm, Th-F 9am-9pm, Sa 8:30am-lpm.) The post office is by the train station. Address mail to be held: Firstname SURNAME, Postlagemde Briefe, Hauptpost, CH-6000 Luzern 1, SWITZERLAND. (Open M-F 7:30am-6:30pm, Sa 8am-noon.)
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. Inexpensive beds are limited, so call ahead. To reach Backpackers 0, Alpenquai 42, turn right from the station on Insel-iquai and follow it until it turns into Alpenquai (20min.); the hostel is on the right. ( 360 04 20. Bikes 16SFr per day. Internet lOSFr per hr. Reception daily 7:30-10am and 4-llpm. Dorms 27-33SFr.) Until 1998, Hotel Lowengraben Lowengraben 18, was a prison; now it’s a trendy, clean hostel with a bar, a restaurant, and dance parties every summer Saturday, (s i 17 12 12. Breakfast llSFr. 3- to 4-bed dorms 40SFr, singles 110-160SFr; doubles 160-220SFr.) Markets along the river sell cheap, fresh goods on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. There’s also a Migros supermarket at the train station. (Open M-W and Sa 6:30am-8pm, Th-F 6:30am-9pm, Su 8am-8pm.)
SIGHTS AND NIGHTLIFE. The Altstadt, across the river over Spreuer-briicke from the station, is famous for its frescoed houses; the best examples are those on Hirschenpl. and Weinmarkt. The 14th-century Kapeilbriicke, a wooden-roofed bridge, runs from left of the train station to the Altstadt and is decorated with Swiss historical scenes; further down the river, the Spreuerbriicke is decorated by Kaspar Meglinger’s eerie Totentanz (Dance of Death) paintings. On the hills above the river, the Museggmauer and its towers are all that remain of the medieval city’s ramparts. Three of the towers are accessible to visitors and provide panoramas of the city; walk along St. Karliquai, head uphill to the right, and follow the brown castle signs. (Open daily 8am-7pm.) To the east is the magnificent Lowendenkmal (Lion Monument), the dying lion of Lucerne, which is carved into a cliff on Denkmalstr. The UPicasso Museum, Am Rhyn Haus, Furreng. 21, displays 200 intimate photographs of Picasso as well as a large collection of his lesser-known works. From Schwanenpl. take Rathausquai to Furreng. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10am-6pm; Nov.-Mar. llam-5pm. 8SFr, students 5SFr.) The UVerkehrshaus der Schweiz (Swiss Transport Museum), Lidostr. 5, has interactive displays on all kinds of vehicles, but the real highlight is the warehouse of trains. Take bus #6, 8, or 24 to Verkehrshaus. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10am-6pm; Nov.-Mar. 10am-5pm. 21SFr, students 19SFr, with Eurail 14SFr.)
Lucerne’s nightlife is more about lingering than club-hopping, although the can-dle-lit Club 57, Haldenstr. 57, has DJs spin on the weekends. (Beer 4-6SFr. Open daily 8pm-2:30am, F-Sa until 4am.) The mellower Jazz Cantine, Grabenstr. 8, is a product of the Jazz School of Lucerne. (Sandwiches 6-8SFr. Open M-Sa 7am-12:30am, Su 4pm-12:30am.) Lucerne attracts big names for its two jazz festivals: Blue Balls Festival (July 23-31, 2004) and Blues Festival (Nov. 8-14, 2004.)
DAYTRIPS FROM LUCERNE: MT. PILATUS AND RIGI KULM. The view of the Alps from the top of Mt. Pilatus (2132m) is absolutely phenomenal. For the most memorable trip, catch a boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad (VAhr.), ascend by the world’s steepest cogwheel train, then descend by cable car to Krienz and take the bus back to Lucerne (entire trip 80SFr; with Eurail or SwissPass 40-43SFr). For less money and more exercise, take a train or boat to Hergiswill and hike up to Frakmuntegg (3hr.), then get on the cable car at the halfway point (23SFr round-trip, with Eurail 19SFr.) Frakmuntegg also operates central Switzerland’s longest Rodelbahn course; for 7SFY, you whizz down the hillside on a plastic slide that achieves surprising speeds. Across the sea from Pilatus soars the Rigi Kulm (1800m), which has a magnificent view of the lake; watching the sunrise from the summit is a Lucerne must. Ferries run from Lucerne to Vitznau, where you can catch a cogwheel train to the top. You can also conquer Rigi on foot; it’s 5hr. from Vitznau to the top. Return by train, take the cable car from Rigi Kaltbad to Weggis, and head back to Lucerne by boat (round-trip 87SFr; with Eurail 29SFY).