As soon as Lynne and I arrived in Luzern we went to the tourist office to see what kind of hikes we could squeeze into our two day stay here. We had imagined ourselves on a beautiful mountain top under the big blue sky… smiling ear to ear, and maybe yodeling. What we never count on or even thought about for a second, was rain. Two locals advising us back to back that it will rain our second day literally dampened our mood a bit. But armed with that information we modified our plans, and still got to see and experience a wonderful city and what it has to offer.
We were blessed with a gorgeous afternoon the day we arrived so we sat down to strategize first. Lynne was ready with her Luzern City Guide which she’d downloaded (we picked up a hard copy at the tourist information center) and I contributed by having my Frommer’s Walking Tour of Luzern printed out along with a map of the city. We compared the two sources, planned our route, and set out to explore Luzern.
Our hotel was just steps away from the Reuss River and the famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbruke), so it was easy to start our walk from Swan Square (Schwanenplatz) where dozens of beautiful swans floated and swam about.
We walked across the Chapel Bridge, the symbol of Luzern (built in 1333) to Bahnhofstrasse, up to the Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche, built in 1666).
Contructed in Baroque style, you can see this church from almost anywhere in Luzern. The unassuming doors to this church didn’t give me a single clue as to what beauty and grandeur I would find inside. It was quite a shock.
We continued inland a bit to the Ritterscher Palace and the Franciscan Church. The Franciscan Church (Franziskanerkirche) was a Gothic styled building, constructed in the 13th century. While the church was much smaller and modest than the Jesuit church, the ornate pulpit there stood out for me.
Getting back out to the river, we spotted what is called the Needle Dam (Nadelwehr). It was built back in 1859/60 but as recently as 2009 -2011 it was renovated to be used to regulate the water level of Lake Luzern. It’s done by hand through moving or adding a number of “needles,” or the wooden panels.
To cross back back to the north side we went over the Mills Bridge (Spreuerbrucke), built in 1408. This bridge had 67 paintings of the “Dance of Death” overhead, which were painted between 1626 to 1635. They were still in remarkably good condition.
To take advantage of the good afternoon sun we decided to walk up the old city wall, Museggmauer. Built in 1386 with a number of watch towers, we could visit and climb up three of them to get a panoramic view of Luzern and the mountains that surround the city.
The first tower, Mannli was difficult to climb (we counted 127 steps) but it was so worth the shortened breath and burning thighs. We could see the soldier on top of the tower (his bottom half making up the roof) from way down below and we just had to go up and see him.
The view from the top, was UNBELIEVABLE.
We also liked the clock tower, (Zyt or Zeit tower) with it’s cool half clock inside and a large clock shown on the outside. This oldest city clock was built by Hans Luter in 1535, and it gets to chime a minute before all the other clocks in Luzern every hour.
Walking down towards the lake we visited the Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal), which was hewn out of sandstone in honor of Swiss Guards who died in the Tuileries in 1792 trying to protect Marie Antoinette. Mark Twain called of this “Dying Lion” “the saddest and most poignant piece of rock in the world.” It was indeed very sad.
Our last stop was Hofkirche (Hof Church/ Church of St. Leodegar), the main cathedral of the city. Under the steps of this church we sat at an outdoor bistro (Hofstube at the Hotel Zum Rebstock) and enjoyed a couple of glasses of Eichhof with potato rosti and pork sausage. It POURED rain during our dinner, and we moved to three different tables trying to avoid getting too wet and cold. But with our great luck and timing (hee hee), we walked back after dinner when it stopped raining.
What an amazing day to pack so much in!