For those whose visit is limited by time, the 40-minute drive around town on this hourly train is a bargain not to be missed. The inexpensive price includes a set of earphones. The pre-recorded commentary (available in ten languages) with Mozart piano concerti playing quietly in the background, provides many interesting facts as each historic site comes into view.
The journey begins and ends at the Schweizerhof Hotel. On fine-weather days, it’s recommended to arrive early as many trips sell-out quickly. (Customized trips can also be arranged.)
There’s a lot to see and learn as the train weaves its way through traffic and the narrow streets. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- The city walls were built between 1350 and 1500; a facelift is currently underway but most of the towers (notably the Zyt tower which houses the oldest clock in Lucerne; due to that singular distinction—the clock was built in 1535—it has the honour of striking one minute earlier than any other town timepiece) are still open for public viewing.
- Two of the beautifully maintained churches along the way are The Church of St. Leodegar with its impressive twin spires and the Jesuit Church—a marvel of baroque architecture and the venue for well-loved masses—Mozart’s C Minor Mass, K. 427 was performed in 2010.
- The world-famous, covered Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) can be seen from several angles during the trek around town. Built in the fourteenth century—its famous pictures added in the seventeenth century—it took just minutes for the “Great fire” of 1993 to destroy most of the art; the bridge was more readily repaired.
- As well as its world-class concert hall, the KKL (Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern) also houses Switzerland’s fourth largest art museum. Located directly across from the train station (where the first train from Basel arrived in 1886, beginning the country’s superlative rail service), it’s the city’s most impressive modern building with all manner of treasures awaiting concertgoers and art lovers alike.
- Surrounded by mediaeval walls and driving over several cobbled streets, the sense of “old town” is further enhanced by a view of the Hofgarten Hotel, now a boutique hotel; it is the oldest in town, not far from the Old Swiss House where traditional cuisine is served in fine style daily.
- The Lion’s Square is also on the route. Here the primary attraction is the Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), sculpted into the rock in 1821 by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldson. It commemorates the hundreds of Swiss mercenaries who lost their lives needlessly in the “protection” of Louis XVI. It’s a lesson still to be learned.
When the train completes its circuit, every passenger will have a great overview of Lucerne and come away with lots of ideas for a more detailed look at some the fascinating sights within easy walking distance. JWR