LUCERNE — North Bank

The northern bank of the Reuss River contains most of Lucern’s attractions including the Old Town which is best explored on foot as it is fairly small.

The sights found here are:
Schwanenplatz
Kapellplatz
Kornmarkt
Kapellbrücke
Spreuerbrücke
Mühlenplatz
Weinmarkt
Hirschenplatz
The Nine Musegg Towers
Bourbaki Panorama
Gletschergarten
Lowendenkmal
Alpineum
Hofkirche
Kurplatz

Schwanenplatz

Schwanenplatz
Schwanenplatz or Swan Square is found on the north bank of the Reuss River and is reached by crossing the bridge from the train station on the south bank. This square is a good place to start a visit to the old downtown area. The square itself is quite busy with traffic but the small streets around here are a pedestrian zone and much quieter. You can easily reach Schwanenplatz by bus as most lines go past there. On the square you will see a tower which was part of Lucerne’s fortifications in earlier times.

Kapellplatz

Kapellplatz
In the center of the square is a fountain commemorating Carnival revelry in Lucerne. The Kapellplatz surrounds tiny St Peterskapelle which is an 18th century chapel that was built over a former 12th century church. Kapellplatz and Kapellbrücke are named after this chapel. The exterior walls of St Peterskapelle are adorned with several works of art. An alabaster carving of the Mount of Olives remains from the previous church building. On the square you will see an unusual fountain — Fritschi Fountain that was built in 1918 in the style of much older Renaissance style fountains. On the top are painted allegoric figures. The fountain is named after Brother Fritzi, a legendary figure and supposedly his grave is under the fountain.

Kornmarkt

Kornmarkt
This is the site of the medieval marketplace where a Corn Market or Grain Exchange was held until the 19th century and is where the Altes Rathaus or Old Town Hall is found. This Renaissance building dates from 1602 and is quite an impressive building. It has a huge roof that is at odds with the rest of the building and a tall rectangular tower. You can climb to the tower for a wonderful view over the square. The ground floor of the town hall served as a grain storage from 1438 and from 1447 the upper parts of the building served as a town hall. Today the city administration is located on the other side of River Reuss, but some official activities still take place in the Altes Rathaus such as marriage ceremonies. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning a market is held in the square selling vegetables, fish and flowers.

Kapellbrücke

Kapellbrücke
The Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge is probably the most famous landmark of Lucerne and it crosses the River Reuss. It is a covered wooden footbridge that is reputedly the oldest of its kind in Europe. It was built in 1333 as a protection for the city. When you walk over it you will see around 100 pictures recording the history of the city of Lucerne. The bridge has been rebuilt in recent times after a fire in 1993 and the tower that is found at one end is still in its original condition, being made of stone. The tower is a former Water Tower which has had several uses over time including a prison, torture chamber and as an archive. It is a good way to cross the river and well worth the walk as it is very pretty with the bridge covered in flowers and if you are lucky you will see some swans swimming by in the river.

Traveller's Tip

A great time to visit the bridge is in the evening when the bridge as well as the surrounding buildings are all lit up. It is a magical sight.
  • Next to the bridge, on the upper side, you can find the Nadelwehr which are wooden water spikes dating from the 19th century. They are pieces of timber which are manually lowered into or withdrawn from the water that are still used to regulate the level of Lake Lucerne and to feed a modern hydroelectrical power plant.
    Spreuerbrücke

    Spreuerbrücke
    Spreuerbrücke (Mills Bridge) is a wooden bridge which was built in 1407 and restored in the 19th century. The bridge crosses the Reuss River. Its gables are painted with the mural by Kaspar Meglinger called Dance of Death. The mural commemorates a plague that swept through the city. The bridge dates back to the 17th century and is the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Spreuerbrücke is found downriver between Kasernenplatz and the Mühlenplatz.

    Mühlenplatz
    This square which means Mills Square dates from the 16th century. It was the old site of the Lucerne markets.

    Weinmarkt

    Weinmarkt
    The Weinmarkt or Wine Market is a lovely old square found west of Kornmarkt. A lot of the buildings on this square have painted facades and one of the more interesting buildings found here is the Müllersche Apotheke which is a pharmacy dating from 1530. Passion Plays were held in this square in the late Middle Ages. The fountain found in the square is a copy of the original which was built in 1481. There are a few hotels to stay in that face the square as well as shops and cafes.

    Traveller's Tip

    A craft market is held on the square on the first Saturday of the month from 8am until 4pm.
    Hirschenplatz

    Hirschenplatz
    Hirschenplatz is another square that is filled with restored buildings, many of them with painted facades and wrought-iron signs. In 1779 Goethe stayed at the Hotel Goldener Adler, which is located here.

    The Nine Musegg Towers

    The Nine Musegg Towers
    Above the Old Town lies a ridge that runs from west to east and this is where the rampart walls which were built in 1386 still stand alsmost intact. Individual watchtowers were built along the wall which offered a view of the city below and the surrounding countryside. Nine of these towers are still standing today and three of them are open to the public. These are Schirmer which served as a gateway from the city of Lucerne into the countryside. The Schirmer Tower is made of polished stones and features fitted cornerstones and like the other towers it has a frieze of round arches at the top and a low pyramid-shaped roof. This tower is 27.5 metres tall. The next tower open to the public is Männli or Little Man Tower and is the second tower along the wall. It is 33 metres tall and is named after the little iron man, a merry figure carrying a banner which is known throughout the countryside. The third tower open to the public is Zyt Tower which is named after the large clock which is found on it which was put here in 1535. It is the oldest city clock and it is allowed to chime every hour one minute before all the other city clocks. The dials and the numbers on the clock are huge and can be read from quite a distance away. The towers are open from April to November from 8am until 7pm.

    Bourbaki Panorama
    This is a painted panorama which is a 360° scene painted in a circular shape. They were very popular in the 19th century and were housed in rotunda-shaped buildings. They were found in major cities of the world at that time and the scenes were of the locale they were found in. Later on the themes of these paintings were more about battle scenes. The circular Borbaki Museum was built especially to house Edourard Castres’ circular painting depicting the defeated French army fleeing to the Swiss border during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Under the viewing platform you will find information about the panorama as well as the Franco Prussian War and the artist.
    For more information about the Bourbaki Panorama visit the website at: http://www.bourbakipanorama.ch/eng/index.php

    Gletschergarten

    Gletschergarten
    These glacier gardens are found next to the Lion Monument and are an interesting place to visit with lots of attractions to keep you amused for several hours. There are several activities that you can undertake and view including the Rock-clock walk, the glacier diorama, the observation tower and there is a park with many types of plants and trees. The highlight of the garden is a natural monument of polished rocks and glacial potholes that was discovered during construction work in 1872 and show that Lucerne was covered by glaciers during the Ice Age. There is also a museum with lots of information about glaciers as well as videos and hands-on exhibits. A highlight is the amazing room of mirror mazes which is great fun for all the family.
    For more information about the Gletschergarten visit the website at: http://www.gletschergarten.ch/Home.10.0.html?&L=2

    Lowendenkmal

    Lowendenkmal
    This is one of the world’s most famous monuments. It commemorates the 600 or more Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The dying lion is impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the coat of arms of the French monarchy and beside him is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription below the sculpture lists the names of the officers, and approximate numbers of the soldiers who died (760) and survived (350). The sculpture of the lion is carved out of the natural rock that surrounds it. The American writer, Mark Twain described this monument as the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world which probably just about sums it up.

    Alpineum
    This Diorama found near the Lion Monument shows 3D representations of the beginning stages of alpine tourism. These large dioramas were created by the artists Ernst Hodel Sr and Ernst Hodel Jr to give an illusion of reality. The dioramas are a series of large-scale paintings of the Alps. The exhibition also includes a rare collection of stereoscopic equipment and 3D photography dating from around 1900.
    For more information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.alpineum.ch/

    Hofkirche

    Hofkirche
    This church is named after the patron saint of Lucerne, St. Leodegarn and it is the most important church in the city. The monastery that was once found at this site dated from the mid-8th century but the present Gothic-Renaissance building dates from the 17th century. The white stone interior has rich wrought-iron work, carvings, and gilt statues and altars and of special note is the black marble High altar. There is a mixture of plain wooden pews which are found in the northern part of the church but more ornate ones are found in the southern part of the church. This shows a time when there was a separation in the church between the rich and the poor. The famous organ found here dates from 1640 and has 4,950 pipes. Near the centre of the sanctuary on a supporting pillar is a plaque honouring Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen who was a wealthy 17th century Swiss who was instrumental in bringing the Jesuits to Lucerne which in turn introduced the Counter Reformation to Switzerland. Concerts are held at the church in the summer months.

    Traveller's Tip

    Make sure you visit the courtyard with its beautiful arcades.
  • When you have finished looking at the church take a walk through the area just behind the church. It has many half-timbered houses and is like a little village in the midst of the busy city and is a pretty place to take a stroll through.
    Kurplatz

    Kurplatz
    This a casino and restaurant complex that is found on Kurplatz near the quays. On the northern end of Kurplatz you will get the best view of Lake Lucerne. The view from here includes the Alps from MountRigi to Mount Pilatus. This area is great for exploring and shopping. At the end of the promenade is the Lido or beach and is known as Lucerne’s ‘Riviera’. Also at this end of Lucerne you will find the Swiss Transport Museum. It is located on the Lidostrasse at number 5. It was opened in 1959 and it is one of Switzerland’s most popular museums. It contains over 3,000 objects spread over an exhibition area of around 20,000 square metres and covers the history of mobility and communication in Switzerland. As well as exhibitions of different types of transportation the museum has lots of other attractions including a radio and TV studio; a planetarium, IMAX as well as lots of working machinery and artwork as well. If you have time this is a very worthwhile place to spend a few hours especially if you are travelling with children.
    For more information about the Swiss Transport Museum visit the website at: http://www.verkehrshaus.ch/index.cfm?dom=4