Luzern (known as ‘Lucerne’ by the French-speaking people) is located on the edge of a sizeable lake, the Vierwaldstättersee. Its medieval old town (Altstadt) remains intact; buildings of importance include the Hofkirche, the old Town Hall (1602-1606) and the famous Löwendenkmal, a memorial to the city mascot the ‘dying Lion of Lucerne’, carved out of a cliff.
Spanning the River Reuss, the 170m long, covered wooden Chapel Bridge, was the oldest in Switzerland (1333) until it was damaged by fire in 1993. It has since been reconstructed. Luzern also houses the Swiss Transport Museum and the Richard Wagner Museum. An international music festival is held here each year.
The Lucerne region, with mountains, lakes, pine forests and meadows, is by tradition a very well-liked tourist area. Ferries on the Vierwaldstättersee services the tiny villages surrounding the lakes and connect with various mountain railways and cableways. Cablecars, passenger lifts and cogwheel railways are a means of transport to the Pilatus, Gütsch and the Sonnenberg and other mountains.
South of Luzern, near the small town of Engelberg, the world’s first revolving cable car ascends Mount Titlis, the highest lookout point in central Switzerland. Historians must visit Schwyz, one of the three original cantons, the country’s namesake and home to the Museum of the Swiss Federal Charter and the Forum of Swiss History.
The main ski areas near Luzern include the eye-catching, traditional village of Andermatt with reliable snow and challenging skiing, and Engelberg, with a small ski area suitable for all.