The Best of Lucerne, Switzerland
You cozy into your oversized train seat and take a sip of your frothy hot cocoa. You’re in Switzerland, and you’re about to experience the full breadth of the word ‘picturesque’.
There’s no place quite as scenic as Switzerland. Still lakes so crystal blue that they blend effortlessly into the skies. Acres of crimson foliage under snow-capped mountains. Cows grazing lazily by brick laid, thatched-roof, cottages. This is what serenity feels like. Free from the troubles of the world, this is the place where you can inhale deeper than you’ve ever breathed.. and sigh an audible release.
Switzerland is a peculiar little speck of this world. Right in the middle of Europe, you feel the influence of the neighboring countries, but not their dominance. For Switzerland holds onto something special in their heritage. This ease of life, a kind of security and comfort. A place you want to raise kids, want to retire. A place with a near-utopian quality of life.
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A trip to Switzerland is a luxury indulgence. So expensive that it makes London look affordable. $17 dollar hot dogs expensive. But if you can swing it, the experience is well worth every franc. You’re going to invariably spend a night or two in Zurich, but I suggest picking Lucerne, or Luzern, as your home base.
Art Deco Montana Hotel, Luzern – you have to take a mini cog ride to get up to this cliffside hotel overlooking the river and town below, need I say more? Well I needn’t, but I’ve never been one to quit when I’m ahead. So here’s the thing. There are plenty of arguably more luxurious places to stay, but they’re lacking, in my opinion, the charm and elegance of the Art Deco hotel. I live for a good boutique spot that feels authentic rather than a Ritz chain filled with stuffy tourists. If you’re thinking, ‘actually no, the Ritz does sound kind of nice’ then I suggest staying at Grand Hotel National for all your pomp and circumstance.
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Oh Switzerland, with your lager halls and Wienerschnitzel. Your chocolatiers turning confection into art since the 1800s. Your street fairs with garlic bread melting through the waxy wrapper. Your mulled wine and spiked cider, and your decadent cocoa. Switzerland to me is a culinary adventure, with food you don’t find anywhere in the states. You’ll never taste chocolate the way that a morsel of Bachmanns awakens your senses in a euphoric way. And fondue? This is no French gruyere dipping. This is a pungent experience of bold and indulgent gooey goodness with flavor profiles that change as the cheese hardens around your spear of bread. We had some incredible meals during out Swiss holiday, but here are the places that particularly stood out.
Mill’Feuille – on the river, great wine bar with romantic outdoor relaxed seating.
Swiss Chuchi – my favorite fondue & raclette, inside the Hotel Adler.
Pfistern Zunfthaus restaurant – You definitely can’t skip ordering fondue here – it came the most highly recommended and did not disappoint. Yes it’s touristy, but the intimate dining room and small patio overlooking the river is one of the more romantic places we dined at.
Grand Hotel National – Come here for a high tea and nibbles followed by a posh cocktail.
Where to eat purely for atmosphere and a pretty impressive tableside show as they cook your veal, but the food is sub par, at best: Old Swiss House
Now for the main attraction, the chocolate.
Max Chocolatier – exquisite.
Teuscher – There really is no comparison to the Teuscher we have in the states and the ones you’ll find throughout Switzerland. Do yourself a favor and get one of everything. In the same vain, I suggest you stop by Lindt too to experience what their chocolate is intended to taste like.
Bachmann – This is your daily indulgence spot, as there will be one on nearly every corner and they offer a greater variety of sweet and savory treats.
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You’re here for three things, and three things alone: cheese, chocolate, and scenery.
Make sure you leave a full day to do the following itinerary:
Boat -> worlds steepest cog ride -> Mt Pilatus -> gondola -> train. This is undoubtedly going to be the highlight of your trip, and quite possibly one of the most memorable of your life. You can purchase the tickets at the boat dock by the river. There is this large glass restaurant built right on the water where you can grab coffee and a breakfast nibble while you wait. The boat ride is enjoyable, and the cog ride exciting.. but Mt. Pilatus is the main event. Having lunch and hiking high above the cloud break is absolutely breathtaking. Such an incredible humbling and awe-inspiring experience that is vividly imprinted in my memory.
Another day we spent renting motorized bikes and zipping around the countryside, which I also highly recommend.
If the weather’s nice, I imagine you could spend a third day boating. It was a bit chilly for us in early October, but we were lucky enough to catch some jaw-dropping fall foliage during our trip.
Lastly, Lucerne serves as the perfect jumping off point to explore the rest of Switzerland by train – don’t be afraid to take off for day trips, the train ride is half the fun! We did a day trip to Interlocken, but if we had more time we would have ventured into the Swiss Alps.
Switzerland is so much more than a box of chocolates. It’s these quaint little villages filled to the brim with pregnant (beautiful!) women and small children. Because who wouldn’t want to raise a family in this fairytale? I of course couldn’t recommend Lucerne more for a family vacation, as it has to rank as one of the safest places in the world. But I also found it incredibly romantic. Something about sharing decadent meals and treats with the one you love surrounded by mother nature’s most saturated masterpiece? Now that’s the sweet Swiss life.