Friday, March 4, 2011

Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland

Location: Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland

Time Frame: April, 3 nights, 2 days


Type. We stayed at a holiday park, which included tent camping, caravan/motorhome facilities, and static caravans (think mobile homes).  The park's name was Camping International Lido - Luzern.  We stayed in one of the static caravans, called a Holly Cab.

Cost. We paid 300 CHF (Swiss Francs) for our stay, which is about $322.

Amenities.  The Holly Cab had one double bed, and a set of bunk beds.  We brought our own baby cot.  They also provided a table and chairs, a small kitchenette which had an electric cooktop, fridge, and dishes.  There was supposed to be a bathroom (which it didn't) but did have a shower.

Other. We had a really hard time getting a reservation here.  Took forever for the staff to respond to our repeated requests.  The Holly Cab was advertised as having a shower and WC (toilet).  It had only a shower, which didn't work, as our Holly Cab didn't have hot running water (something the staff refused to fix and basically told us was our problem).  We eventually received a 30 euro credit for the lack of hot water.  We had to use the camping facilities for toilets and showers.  We had also arranged for bedding and towels, which were not in our Holly Cab when we arrived.  It took some wrangling and convincing to get the towels and bedding.

This facility was conveniently located along the shores of Lake Luzern, had parking (at our cabin), and did have bathroom facilities for the site.  They provided us with a welcome brochure, which include a map and some coupons for discounts in the area.

Even with all of it's problems, this facility was really the only affordable option in the city.  Hotels were vastly expensive in this area.

Kid Friendly Rating: This wasn't a terribly kid friendly facility (especially with the mis-advertised existence of a toilet and shower in our accommodations).


Driving.  We drove to Luzern from our home in Germany (during a longer trip through other parts of Europe).  Driving in the city wasn't too bad. 

Public Transportation.  There were buses available throughout Salzburg.

Walking. We were able to walk to most locations we wanted to see.  It was a lot of walking, but doable.  There was a nice path along the lake and into the city.  Part of the central downtown was pedestrianized.

Parking. Parking was available at our camping site.  Parking was similar to other European cities, essentially paid parking by the hour in the city.


There was a variety of restaurants in the area.  Luzern is a very cosmopolitan city.  We had breakfast in our cabin, and dinner as well.  Lunch was had out in town. 

Fast Food. There were many of the well known restaurants in the area.  We ate at McDonalds one day.  Many of these types of restaurants were located around the train station and associated underground shopping centre.

Sit DownThere were several more formal restaurants and cafes.  A variety of cuisines were covered.  Most restaurants were located in the center of the city.


Lucerne has a beautiful location along the banks of the lake bearing it's name.  Surrounded by mountains, and bearing the old world charm of the old city, you can relax and take life slow for a little while.  Lucerne is a great location.  You can check out the main tourist information website for Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne

Times: The lake is "open" at all times.

Costs: Viewing the lake itself has no cost. 

Comments:  You can take a cruise on the lake (here is more information on Lucerne cruises.) If boats aren't your style, consider a walk along the shores of the lake.  There is a Lido, beach, which is pay to use.  During the off season (outside May - September) the area is open (for free) but you can't swim.  There is a nice playground and places to sit and eat (if you are in the mood for a picnic).  There are also a few food vendors.

Mount Pilatus

Times:  See the timetable here.

Costs:   See the price list here.

Comments: Close to Lucerne, easy to reach by public transport, Mount Pilatus has 2 aerial cableways, 2 hotels, 7 restaurants, the world's steepest cogwheel railway and Central Switzerland's biggest suspension rope park. You can hike, climb, toboggan sledge, bike and sledge (6 km sledge run).  There are a variety of events as well.

Dying Lion of Lucerne

Times:  Open until dusk.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: One of the most famous sites in Lucerne, take a look at this amazing sculpture in the Glacier Garden.  It has a nice pond/lake area, and surrounding trees and green space.

Chapel Bridge

Times: Open at all times.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: Perhaps the most famous bridge in all of Switzerland, and the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, take a stroll across this historical bridge.  It houses nearly 100 priceless painted panels, many reconstructed after a fire in the mid 1990's.  Some of the original (slightly damaged) paintings are still there.  There are a few steps at either end of the bridge, but it is navigable with a stroller.

City Walls

Times: 8 am to 8 pm.  Towers may only be open to visitors between May and October.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments:  Part of the original wall built in the 14th century, it gives you an idea of the protections offered in the middle ages.  You can climb the steps to three of the remaining 9 towers, and get a great panoramic view of the city.  Stay to hear the tower clock chime the hour. 

It is a steep hike up (and down) to the city wall, so you'll need to be prepared.  The steps up to the towers are steep and difficult to climb, so bringing a stroller can be cumbersome (you may end up carrying the stroller and the children), and little legs will have a hard time with the steep narrow steps.  You'll get great views, but keep on eye on your little travellers to be sure they stay safe!

Mount Rigi

Times: See the timetable for access here.

Costs: Fares range based on season.  See a fare table here.

Comments: Mt. Rigi is a place of recreation near Lucerne. It had breathtaking views of the lake and the Alps.  If walking and hiking are your forte, it offers over a hundred kilometers of paths.  You can have a picnic in one of the designated picnic areas, or the kids can have a break at one of their playgrounds.  There are also steam trains available if you get a bit nostalgic. During the season, skiing, sledding, tobagonning, and other snow sports are available.

Mill Bridge

Times: Open 24 hours.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments:  Originally built in 1408 (and still the original structure), the zig zag form of the bridge offers another way to cross the Reuss river.  The bridge is decorated with several paintings by Caspar Meglinger, which depict the "Dance of Death".  With a few steps at either end, the bridge is easily navigable with stroller.

Cathedral of St. Leodegar

Times: Open all day.  See church for times of services or contact the tourism bureau.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: With a beautiful facade, and easy location (not far from the Dying Lion of Lucerne), it is worth a stop at this cathedral.  Rebuilt in the 17th century, it houses Mary's altar and the souls altar.  Considered to be the most important Reneissance church in Switzerland, it is  a must see.  Take a minute to look around, light a prayer candle (our kids love doing this), and take a moment of reflection in this historic house of worship.  There are a lot of steps to the front of the church, so be prepared to haul your stroller up, and the church has fairly narrow aisles (so don't think you can get any big double strollers in there).

Old Town Lucerne

Times: Open 24 hours.  Shops, museums, and churches open at various times.

Costs: Free admission.

Comments: The best way to see the old town is on foot.  Take time to walk through the various squares and plazas.  Marvel at the fountains, churches, and browse the shops and cafes.  Stop by the Weinmarkt, where Lucerne signed a federal oath with the other Swiss Cantons.  See the old town hall in the Kornmarkt square, or explore the Hirschenplatz, named after an inn from the middle ages.  There are plenty of places to see, and plenty of places to stop for a bite, or a drink.  This area also houses some more modern boutiques and stores, and is home to some conveniences you might want such as banks and grocery stores.  The walks are paved, but some with cobblestone, so make sure  you have a sturdy stroller.

Swiss Transport Museum

Times: Open 365 days a year.
Summertime 10:00 - 18:00
Wintertime 10:00 - 17:00

Prices (CHF) VerkehrshausMuseum+Filmtheatre Museum FilmtheatreDaytime programme Filmtheatre
Evening programme
2D 3D
Adults 38.- 28.- 18.- 19.- 22.-
Youth (<16) 24.- 14.- 14.- 16.- 19.-

Comments: Planes, trains and automobiles!  Located along the banks of the lake, the museum houses a variety of exhibits covering the major modes of transportation.  The focus is on the effect of this transportation on the history and development of Switzerland.  If your kids (or spouse) enjoy machines, take some time to look around and have fun!

Victorinox Factory

Times:  Open from about 10 am - 4 pm (check the store itself for exact times).  Was closed on most Christian holidays (such as Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, etc) as Switzerland is very Catholic.

Costs:  Free entry, but be careful, there is a lot on offer for purchase, and they aren't cheap.

Comments:  Who hasn't heard of Swiss Army Knives?  Well, if you have ever wondered where they are made, head over to the Victorinox factory in Ibach-Schwyz.  It is about 44 km from Lucerne.  You can't tour the factory any more, but they have a shop open to the public, where you can view a variety of their products (and buy to your little heart's content).  If you have a Victorinox product (and a few days to spare), you can even drop it off for repairs or even just a tune up, all for free as the products come with a lifetime guarantee.  My husband was able to have his knife's scissors repaired on site in a few minutes (he could have sent the whole kit and caboodle in to be polished and sharpened, but we weren't going to be there long enough)Be careful with your wallet though, we ended up buying a lot of stuff (though well worth it), and you may be too dazzled to help yourself.


When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.

Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.

Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.

Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).

Nearby Amenities

Laundry: The campsite offered a paid laundry room, but other facilities were located throughout the town.  Ask at your hotel or the tourist bureau where some are located near you.

Groceries: There were a variety of grocery stores located throughout the town.  There was a store in the train station which was open 7 days a week (most on the town are not, closed on Sundays).  There are a few chain grocery stores in the Old Town as well.


Switzerland is not a cheap place to visit.  In fact, we found it to be the most expensive place we stopped in all of Europe.  Lucerne makes up for some of the costs with the stunning beauty of its surroundings.  A great amount of time can simply be spent along the lakeside.  Most of the main attractions (bridges, churches, etc) are free, so that can help with the cost savings.  Restaurants (even McDonalds) are well above prices you may be used to, so consider acommodations that include the ability to make your own meals.

If your hotel or campsite gives you a tourist brochure, check it out for deals and savings.  we found a coupon for free chocolate at one of the local Chocolatiers (which we used to bribe our children).  You can also found restaurant discounts.

Trip Highlights
- City walls.
- Chapel Bridge
- Playing on the lakeside.

Overall Rating

If you have the time (and more importantly the money) I would say Lucerne is worth the stop.  I'd give it 4 stars.

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