Things to Do in Central Switzerland
Located at the heart of Bernese Oberland and surrounded by the famous peaks of Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) is one of Central Switzerland’s most photographed natural wonders and the country’s fourth largest lake. Whether you’re soaring overhead in a cable car, cruising the lake itself, or visiting waterfront villages such as Weggis and Gersau, Lake Lucerne is mesmerizing from all angles.
Set on the left bank of the River Reuss, the Lucerne Old Town is encircled by medieval walls and watchtowers and connected to the right bank by two covered wooden bridges: Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) and Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke). The narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are lined with half-timbered houses and 15th-century buildings.
Nicknamed the “Queen of the Mountains,” Mount Rigi has long captured the hearts of writers like Mark Twain and painters like JMW Turner. Encircled by a trio of lakes—Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz—and adjacent to the neighboring peaks of Mount Pilatus and Brunnistock, Mount Rigi is the enduring postcard star of Central Switzerland.
The oldest covered bridge in Europe, Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) has spanned the river Reuss in Lucerne since the Middle Ages. Decorated with paintings along the interior, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Switzerland.
With its network of cable cars and cogwheel railways traversing the snow-clad slopes of the mighty Mount Pilatus, Pilatus Railways (Pilatus Bahnen) provides the link between the lakeside resort of Lucerne and the 7,000-foot (2,133-meter) summit.
Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the Titlis Cliff Walk provides panoramas across the Uri Alps for any intrepid explorer willing to cross the 10,000-foot- (3,041-meter-) high, open-air walkway. Linking two snow-capped crags on the summit of Mt. Titlis, the bridge connects the Ice Flyer chairlift and Südwandfenster viewing platform.
Carved into the low cliff face on the outskirts of the Old Town of Lucerne, the Lion Monument is the city’s most distinctive landmark. Described by Mark Twain as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world,” the giant sandstone sculpture depicts a dying lion resting in a shaded nook above a shimmering pond.
The Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) is dedicated to the past, present, and future of transport and mobility on land, at sea, in the air and even outer space. More than 3,000 displays bear witness to a moving history in the truest sense of the word and show the inventions and deeds of explorers and inventors.
Reaching 10,626 feet (3,239 meters) above sea level, Mt. Titlis is Central Switzerland’s highest peak and probably its finest vantage point. The mountain has a cutting-edge transportation system—including, most famously a revolving cable car that turns 360 degrees during the ride to the top station at 9,908 feet (3,020 meters). Those lucky enough to be inside the car are graced with stunning panoramic views of Alpine peaks, sheer rock faces, and an icy crevasse-cracked glacier.
The Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre, referred to as KKL by the locals, is the work of the French architect Jean Nouvel. It has an extraordinary presence among the more traditional buildings of Lucerne, especially due to the modern square shape and the enormous flat roof overhanging Europe Square. This floating roof, sometimes called the magic roof, soon became a symbol of the city and is definitely the building’s most prominent feature. Also remarkable is the successful fusion of nature and construction. The Culture and Congress Centre almost merges with the adjoining water of Lake Lucerne and not only do the aluminum plates covering the surface reflect the light and ripples in the waves but the water also flows into the building itself and separates the KKL into its three parts. One part of the structure houses smaller halls and meeting rooms, offices as well as a bistro and an art museum, while the versatile middle part called the Lucerne Hall is the venue for bigger events, shows and conventions.
The Culture and Congress Centre’s main feature and the third part of the building is the huge concert hall. It has a lining made of maple wood, reminiscent of a violin case, but is popularly referred to as “Salle Blanche” due to the isolating side walls made out of gleaming white plaster reliefs. The blue ceiling is reminiscent of the starry night sky and the five floors beneath it, capable of holding 1,840 spectators, are furnished with plenty of pine, cherry and maple wood. The concert hall was mainly built for classical concerts and thus, meets the highest acoustic demands, allowing for absolute silence in which sounds from the quietest pianissimo to the loudest fortissimo can develop. But among all the culture and music, don't forget to climb to the roof-top terrace for an incredible view over the city and Lake Lucerne.
More Things to Do in Central Switzerland
Towering 13,025 feet (3,970 meters) above the town of Grindelwald, Eiger (German for ogre) is one of Switzerland’s most recognizable and fearsome mountains. Scaling the near-vertical north face is a notoriously challenging feat, one that has claimed a number of lives since the first successful ascent in 1938.
Along the banks of the Reuss River in Lucerne, Jesuit Church is the most magnificent Baroque church in Switzerland. While it no longer serves a role in local church and religious life, the church is a major tourist attraction for its beautiful Rococo interior, marble stucco nave, and ceiling paintings. It often serves as a concert venue.
The Hofkirche (also known as the Church of St. Leodegar) in Lucerne is a mainly 17th-century structure, with two distinctive towers that belonged to an older building on the site. This Roman Catholic Church is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Switzerland.
Mt. Stanserhorn’s CabriO cable car is the first in the world to boast a roofless upper deck, bringing you closer to the Swiss landscape. Breathe in fresh Alpine air as you ascend to the 6,227-foot (1,898-meter) summit and enjoy panoramic views of the mountain towns, lakes, and meadows below.
Kloster Engelberg is a working monastery that’s home to around 30 Benedictine monks. It was built in 1120, and then rebuilt after fire damaged it in the early 18th century. Visitors can take a guided tour to check out the beautiful interior, interesting artifacts, and the baroque monastery church.
Rosengart Collection Lucerne houses the extensive and once-private collection of art dealer Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter Angela, who had collected one of the biggest private art stashes, including works by Picasso, Paul Klee and another 23 artists from the the Classic Modernism and Impressionism era.
The Richard Wagner Museum is located in a country manor where the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner lived for a short time, just before his death. The building, located on the southern shore of Lake Lucerne, in Tribschen, houses a variety of interesting items, including historical musical instruments and Wagner memorabilia.
A multi-peaked massif, Mt. Pilatus towers over Lucerne and Central Switzerland. Though Queen Victoria enlisted a mule to help her ascend the mountain in 1868, visitors now venture up by cable car or cogwheel train, which—with a gradient of up to 48 percent—is said to be one of the world’s steepest. Crisscrossed by hiking trails and sled runs, Mt. Pilatus features a kid-friendly adventure park and a suspension rope park. From the top, you can see as far as Italy on a clear day.
Weggis is a municipality in central Switzerland, which is located right on the shores of Lake Lucerne and at the foot of the Queen of the Mountains, the Rigi. The inhabitants of Weggis often claim that their town is a little bit warmer than other places on the northern side of the Alps and they might just be right. Due to being protected from the harsh north wind, the climate is milder and there is hardly a garden in Weggis that doesn’t spread that little bit of vacation feeling with a palm tree or two. Even Mark Twain once described Weggis, where chestnut trees, grapes and figs flourish, as “the most charming place…” and compared it to the French Riviera.
The town is strongly based in tourism and has many great hospitality and gastronomy options, but is also the starting point for a number of beautiful hikes around the Rigi. Many visitors choose to arrive aboard one of the old paddlewheel steamers and follow the trail of history through Weggis and beyond. One of them is the Mark Twain Trail, which commemorates the famous author and leads to Rigi Kulm. Another historic walk follows the side of the mountain to Küssnacht , leading through the Hohle Gasse, a historic alley that played an important part in Swiss mythology. According to the legend, it was in that spot, where Switzerland’s national hero William Tell shot Gessler, the evil Habsburg bailiff, with his crossbow.
Situated on the shores of sparkling Lake Lucerne, at the base of Mount Pilatus, the city of Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s most scenic destinations and a popular basecamp for exploring the Swiss Alps. Visit to see the city’s historic medieval center, then head into the mountains for hiking, cycling, and winter sports adventures.
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