A little bit of planning and some fortitude can help add some pleasure to a business trip, specially if that happens to be Switzerland famous for its trains running with near clock-work precision. Long story short, work brought me to the small Swiss town of Basel (read this fantastic guide on things to do in Basel), from where trains regularly run to different towns and cities of Switzerland. On the last day of my conference, I had some time to kill and therefore after some deliberation over the destination of choice, I hopped on to a south bound train to experience the magic of Lucerne, a quintessential Swiss town an hour away from Basel (read this excellent travel guide on 20 ideas for things to do Basel here). A city in central Switzerland (language: Swiss dialect of German), the city is towered by the famous Mounts Pilatus and Rigi of the Swiss Alps and is extremely popular with tourists. If you have more time on your hand, explore these must visit places in Switzerland by train! For a stress free travel planning through Switzerland, read this excellent Switzerland travel planning guide! Besides Switzerland, here are some other beautiful countries to explore in Europe via the ultimate Europe Bucket list.
Once you hop off the train and out of the station, the first thing that will greet you is Lake Lucerne, a calming water body in the center of the city and the Chapel bridge, a wooden bridge erected across the lake. Although swarming with tourists busy taking selfies on the bridge, one look up will reveal a series of painted triangular wooden blocks dating back to the 17th century by local painter Hans Heinrich Wägmann, which depict events from Lucerne’s history. This is the oldest surviving “truss bridge” of Europe comprising of both strutted and triangulated trusses of moderate span, supported on stacked trestles. The famous water tower of Lucerne is right next to the bridge and is a complete misnomer because it was once used as a torture chamber. Although closed to the public right now, it is home to a gift shop and an local artillery association. Lucerne boasts of three wooden pedestrian bridges, all of which pretty much connect the new portion of the city to the old one. You can stand on any of these connectors and take photos of the Swiss Alps in the distance, the beautiful buildings lining up the water front and the minarets of castles peeking from the lush fall foliage far away.
Cross the bridge towards old town and you will be greeted with the typical European city offerings such as old building facades with painted murals, cobbled streets and city squares. Owing to the military roots of the city and Catholicism, (read more on Wikipedia here about the origins of Lucerne), many of these murals depicts holy figurines or war soldiers. After a bite or two at the charming Mill’Feuille, I wandered around, camera in hand to capture the beauty of this little Swiss town. Walking past tourists, stop by the town hall to admire its architecture and if you are in luck, you might stumble upon a beautiful Swiss wedding as did I. The groom with a baby’s bib around his neck and the bride decked in a simple dress, made for a beautiful photo. This was followed by an Indian wedding (groom: Indian, bride: Caucasian in Indian attire) but I moved on to my next destination, which was the garden of the dying lion, the most famous symbol of Lucerne.
The dying lion, which the famous American author, Mark Twain described as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world” is also known as the Lion monument /Lion of Lucerne ais a rock relief in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and sculpted in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. It honors the valor the Swiss Guards who were killed in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Post the monument viewing you can walk along the fortified city walls, or climb up one of the many winding bylines to get a glimpse of the new part of the city from afar. Stay clear of the branded shops and stop by “Change Makers” a small boutique in the city to pick up a Swiss/local souvenir (I sure did) or stop by any of the bakeries or Swiss chocolatiers (Laderach or Max) to pick up some yummy Swiss goodies for friends and family. For museum lovers, there are several options (see here), one of them being the famous Kunst Museum of Art adjacent to the train station. After a good four hours of walking, sight seeing and clicking umpteen photos, I retraced my steps to the train station and returned to Basel, tired yet glad of a day well spent. Scroll down below for further tips and travel plans.
Switzerland is extremely well connected by trains and if you are leaving from Basel, then the Basel SBB train station is the best option to catch direct trains to Lucerne on their way to Locarno. Download the app on your smart phone and buy tickets electronically, at the kiosk or at the information center (if you do not have a debit card). The one advantage of buying tickets at the latter is that your round trip will be valid for one whole week and not simply for that day of purchase. Wear sturdy shoes since the roads are cobbled and try to get a map of the city to gauge local attractions. I always chat up with the locals and ask them for food and sightseeing recommendations, so if you are a chatty person, don’t hesitate to ask the friendly Swiss folks! Finally, Mount Pilates is a mere 45 minutes away and if you have enough time on your hands (I did not due to a late start), do try to visit it. There are several options to get you there but the best one is the steepest train ride in the world via the cogwheel train (details here or better still read this blog post by Everywhere Forward here about her adventure). Here is a complete list of attractions of Lucerne, if interested. Finally, why just stop at Lucerne? Here is a list of 25 best things to do in Switzerland for you to explore this beautiful country!
Thank you so much for reading and do let me know if you get a chance to visit Lucerne or your experience if you have already done so! There will be more travel posts coming up, so watch out for this space!
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