Luzern

Luzern grew from a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Lucerne, and gained recognition after the Benedictine Monastery of St Leodegar was founded there circa 700 AD. The first written record of its Latin name, Luciaria, dates back to 840 AD. Throughout its history, the city had a tight connection with the St Gotthard Pass crossing the mountains. During the 13th Century, it could only be reached via crude mule paths. In 1332, Luzern became the first city to join the Swiss Confederation, and by 1820 the mule path had evolved into a passage for carriages. In 1882, the town gained a new railway tunnel. Unlike Geneva and Zurich, it did not support the Reformation and has remained a predominantly Catholic site. Apart from being a trading and a religious hub, Luzern has been a well-known cultural centre over the centuries. 

The city’s connection with the Reuss River has brought about an abundance of bridges. One of the most well-known of these is Chapel Bridge, or Kappelbrücke, a 204-metre wooden structure dating back to the 14th Century. It was originally constructed in 1333, but much of it had to be replaced as a result of a 1993 fire. The bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a 13th-century fortification. Inside, there are a series of 17th-century paintings depicting episodes from Luzern's history. Downriver at Kasernenplatz and Mühlenplatz stands the Spreuerbrücke, or Mill Bridge, zig-zagging across the Reuss. Erected in 1408, this is Europe’s oldest covered bridge. It features a composition of 17th-century plague paintings by Kaspar Meglinger entitled 'Dance of Death.' The Spreuerbrücke also has a small chapel, a later addition of 1568.

It’s also highly recommended to visit the Old Town of Luzern, located north of the Reuss River. It still has several half-timber structures with painted fronts. Remains of the walls are preserved on the hill overlooking the city, and they include eight tall watchtowers. The twin needle towers of the Cathedral of St Leodegar also sit on the mount above the lakefront. This church was built in 735 and re-erected in 1633 in the Renaissance style, with the towers being the only surviving remnants of its past. Also known as the Hofkirche or Hofchile, the cathedral has a richly decorated interior. Another of Luzern's principal landmarks, Bertel Thorvaldsen's carving of a dying lion, Löwendenkmal, can be found in a small park off of Lowenplatz. Its aim was to commemorate the hundreds of Swiss Guards massacred during the French Revolution in 1792.

You can also make your way to the Swiss Transport Museum, which exhibits all means of transport including locomotives, automobiles, ships and aircraft. The Culture and Convention Center Luzern, set beside the lake in the city centre, was designed by star architect Jean Nouvel. The building boasts one of the leading concert halls in the world, with acoustics by Russell Johnson. Interestingly, composer Richard Wagner spent his most productive years in Tribschen, one of the city’s suburbs, and a museum has been founded to commemorate his stay. What's more, Arturo Toscanini founded the Luzern International Festival of Music, a major European musical event, taking place annually in August and September.