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Lucerne Switzerland City Facts

On a beautiful lake, this smallish city has many attractions. I am a postcard collector. I am going to guess that based on the postcards in my collection from 1900 on, Lucerne never had a bad comment about it. And I have more cards from Lucerne than any other city in Switzerland. It seems that everyone who visited Europe for the grand tour in the olden days just had to visit Lucerne.



Me, I like the transportation and communication museum. Here's more about it:








Lucerne Tourism can only be reached via telephone...















All about Lucerne

Are you looking for maps, ways to come to Lucerne, history, statistics, media news or pictures ? We have listed this and much more for you.

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Location and climate

Lucerne is situated at the end of the Lake Lucerne at 436 meters above sea level, and nestled between gently rolling hillsides. The relatively low to medium temperature of 10°C (50°F) should not discourage you. Warm and cold temperatures are fairly well balanced with the changing seasons. 

City of Lucerne:


436 meters above sea level
























(Source: Annual Abstract of Statistics, Canton of Lucerne)

Lucerne - the "City of Lights"!

Why is Lucerne called the "City of Lights"? Get to know more about the history of Lucerne. Find out why Lucerne is one of the most well-loved cities in the world with its bridges and tower, its art and culture - and what happened on the murder night in Lucerne. 

The city of Lucerne

Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and in many respects the most important

city in Central Switzerland. It is the cultural centre of the region and the fourth biggest

Swiss agglomeration. Lucerne owes its development firstly to its geographical location on

the important north-south transport axis, sandwiched between the Swiss Plateau and the

Alps at the threshold to Central Switzerland, and secondly to the uniquely picturesque

scenery of this region.

Some brief historical notes

The city does not appear to have been officially founded. There was probably a small settlement

here near the lake during Roman times or earlier. The St. Leodegar monastery has existed since

the early 8th century and was first mentioned in documents in the year 840. An important marketplace

developed around the Reuss Bridge, which connected the monastery with the feudal court

to the south. Historians regard 1178 as the year of the birth of Lucerne, because it was then that

the parish was transferred from the monastery to the city. The opening of the Gotthard Pass

around 1220 created new impetus for growth. The first fortification wall with towers was constructed

during this time and stretched from the Grendel via Grabenstrasse to the Mühleplatz

square. It also encompassed the still-insignificant left bank of the city, ending near the lake with

the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower.

Lucerne was sold to Rudolf von Habsburg in 1291. The city population protested against the limits

on their autonomy and in 1332 pledged to form an eternal pact with the other forest cantons.

The year 1332 is considered one of the most important in Swiss History. For the first time, city

and country populations enjoyed the same rights under an agreement that would last for many

years, and this was of great importance to the Confederation of States. Lucerne’s decision to join

was probably the factor that ensured the survival of the young Confederation, which rapidly

turned into a city state.


The Confederation’s victory at the Battle of Sempach in 1386 permanently freed Lucerne from its

ties to Austria and paved the way for the formation of the territorial state of Lucerne. A visible sign

of the power gained was the outward expansion of the fortification ring around the city and the

construction of the Musegg wall, which was completed in 1408. Thereafter, Lucerne’s City Council

was able to rule over 14 provinces. At the end of the 18th century a patrician group of only 29

families ruled the entire city state. Yet, in 1800 Lucerne was still a small town with only 4,300

inhabitants, despite its dominant position as the centre of Catholic Switzerland and focal point of

a large subservient region.

As the first city in the Confederation, Lucerne had always held a special position, and its geographical

location should have predestined it to be the Swiss capital. But since the Canton of

Lucerne had led the «Sonderbund» Alliance, which was defeated in 1847, and then in 1848 voted

against the Federal Constitution, Bern was finally chosen as the capital. In the mid 19th century

the city gratefully seized the opportunity offered by tourism to recapture some of its lost glory.

On a sightseeing tour

Already in the Middle Ages, Lucerne was a city of bridges. In 1400, Lucerne was the only city in

Europe to boast four bridges. The Hof Bridge, constructed ca. 1250 (demolished in 1834) and the

Chapel Bridge, built ca. 1300 formed part of the city fortifications. The Mill Bridge («Spreuerbrücke

») served to connect the lower parts of the city. It got its name from the chaffs of wheat that

were thrown into the River Reuss at this point. The nowadays less attractive Reuss Bridge was

the oldest river crossing and contributed considerably to the city’s development. It was not until

the 19th and 20th centuries that four more bridges were added: the Seebrücke (1870), the Geissmatt

Bridge (1890), the St. Karli Bridge (1908) and the motorway bridge (1974).

Lucerne is also a city of palaces, churches, and squares. In the late Middle Ages passion plays

were performed on the Weinmarkt square. The city instituted a public market hall on the Kornmarkt

around 1370. It also served as a storage house for grain and was later converted into a

town hall. The squares Kapellplatz, Hirschenplatz, Mühleplatz and Franziskanerplatz also

retain vestiges of their past history. The Hofkirche (Cathedral), the Town Hall and the Rittersche

Palace are important monuments dating from the late Renaissance, while the Jesuit

Church is one of Switzerland’s finest baroque churches. The Franciscan Church is considered

to be the finest Gothic church in Central Switzerland.


The Water Tower and the Chapel Bridge, both built ca. 1300, are Lucerne’s trademarks. The

oldest preserved wooden bridge in Europe displays a series of 17th century paintings on triangular

panels under its eaves. A major part of the bridge, including the paintings, was almost completely

destroyed by fire on August 18, 1993. The reconstructed bridge was reopened on April 14, 1994.

In the meantime, many of the paintings have been replaced or recopied. The octagonal Water

Tower, like the Chapel Bridge, formed part of the inner city fortifications and has served as an

archive, a city treasury and a prison. Lucerne’s second wooden bridge, the Mill Bridge, was built

ca. 1408. It boasts its own series of 17th century paintings featuring the famous «Dance of Death»

on 65 panels by Caspar Meglinger.

The 800 meter long Musegg Wall with its nine towers was built in 1400 after the Battle of Sempach

and is nowadays considered one of the longest and best-preserved city rampart walls in

Switzerland. The Dying Lion Monument created by the Danish sculptor Thorwaldsen is worldfamous.

It is dedicated to the memory of the Swiss mercenaries who were slaughtered while protecting

the French monarch at the Tuilleries in 1792. The Bourbaki Panorama is one of the few

remaining monumental circular paintings in the world. In it, Edouard Castres depicts a moving

scene from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71: General Bourbaki’s defeated army crossing the

border into Switzerland.

Lucerne and tourism

Lucerne remained a small medieval town until the end of the 18th century, but with the beginning

of tourism around 1830, it began to change and grow. River and lakeside promenades like the

Jesuitenquai, «Unter der Egg» and the Schweizerhofquai were built on landfills during the first

half of the 19th century. These were followed by the Nationalquai with the Casino. At the same

time the Hof Bridge and a continuation of the rampart walls with over 40 towers and portals were

demolished to open up the still-enclosed city. After 1875 the Musegg hill became built up. In the

middle of the 19th century 10,000 inhabitants lived on 57 hectares of land. By 1890 there were

over 20,000 living on three times that area. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War the

city counted 40,000 inhabitants.

Several large, lavish hotels had already been constructed before 1900, as well as other buildings

for tourist purposes. The era of steamboats on the lake began in 1836, and from 1859 onwards

Lucerne could be reached by railway. There was even a Swiss aeronautics base at Tribschen

before World War I.


The First World War and the Depression put Lucerne’s tourist industry back a number of years.

Nevertheless, the Art and Congress Centre designed by Armin Meili was opened in 1933 and in

1938 the first International Music Festival was held there.

The Second World War brought another difficult period and, after the war ended, recovery took

several years. American military personnel on vacation helped to get things started. In the fifties

and sixties lodging nights increased continuously from 700,000 to 850,000. In the seventies they

reached the million mark, and they surpassed it several times during the following decade.

Tourism is a very important industry for Lucerne and the surrounding region. According to the

«Condé Nast Traveler» survey in 1991, it is one of the top ten destinations in the world. In 2000

the value added amounted to CHF 715 million. The tourist industry employs about 9,400 people.

Within the city of Lucerne, it accounts for 8.7% of the gross domestic product.

The majority of visitors are group travellers, who stay an average of 1.7 days in Lucerne. Americans,

who account for 24% of all lodging nights, stay an average of 1.8 nights. Thanks to a clever

marketing concept, Lucerne’s tourist industry has achieved above-average growth, particularly in

the Asian market. With 20% of all lodging nights, Asia has become an important source of tourism.

However, Lucerne does not only attract foreign visitors. More and more Swiss people like to

take a short break here or plan business trips to centrally-located Lucerne. This leads to an impressive

22% of lodging nights.

Tourism, and therefore the number of overnight stays, is highly susceptible to economic crises

and geopolitical incidents. As a result, overnight stays may fluctuate within a range of somewhere

between 10% above and below one million. The Passion plays performed periodically in Oberammergau

in Bavaria, for example, offer a boost to this figure because the American guests include

a visit to Lucerne in the itinerary plans of their European trip.

Current statistical figures are published regularly by Lucerne Tourism Ltd. on the Internet:

( 050406 de.htm).

Lucerne - worth knowing

Portrait of Lucerne

Lucerne owes its fame to its uniquely picturesque location. Nestling amongst the foothills of the

Alps, the city lies at the end of a lake that has been eternalised by poets and composers. An incredible

panorama begins here which stretches from Mount Rigi to Mount Pilatus and depending

on weather, season or time of day sets dramatically different moods. Lucerne, with 60,000 inhabitants,

is the eighth largest city in Switzerland. If the agglomeration is added, the numbers treble.

Lucerne is the capital of Central Switzerland due to its size, central location and economic potential.

At the political level, Lucerne does not reserve any special right to govern because each of

the four forest cantons has always had its own seat of government.

Lucerne, the «City of Lights»

Lucerne is often referred to as the «City of Lights». The name goes back to a miracle of light said

to have happened here. According to an old legend, an angel showed Lucerne’s first settlers with

a light where to build a chapel in honour of St. Niklaus, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors.

City with a past

In the Middle Ages, Lucerne was a mere fishing village that people scornfully referred to as a

«little wooden stork’s nest». However, over the centuries it developed into a flourishing trade

centre and its location on the Gotthard transit route led to an international exchange of commerce

and culture.

From the very beginning, Church and State determined the lives of Lucerne’s citizens. Through

lucrative contracts for the supply of mercenaries, the patricians managed to fill the city’s treasury,

as well as their own coffers. The impressive Lion Monument is a tribute to the services rendered

by such mercenaries to a foreign power, commemorating their heroic but foolish defence of the

French King Louis XVI. As faithful followers of the Pope, Lucerne’s citizens have always stood up

for the Roman Catholic faith. They were leaders of the Catholic regions and granted hospitality to

the papal nuncio. The Jesuits helped to shape the city’s religious and political life from 1574 until

their defeat in the «Sonderbund» war of 1847. Amongst other things, we have them to thank for

the ornate Jesuit Church, the first sacred Baroque building in Switzerland.

The current political landscape may seem rather confusing. In the city there is a so-called «black»

majority, while in the rest of the canton, there is a «red» majority. In Lucerne, «reds» are not socialists,

but conservatives called Christians Democrats. The «blacks» are not conservatives, but

liberals. The unusual colours originated from a constitutional assembly in 1841, in which those

who voted for the constitution (conservatives) deposited their ballots in a red box and those

against (liberals), had to put theirs in a black box.

City of bridges and towers

The two medieval covered wooden bridges that connect the old and new parts of town are main

focal points of Lucerne. The Chapel Bridge spans the River Reuss near the end of the lake. It

was built shortly after the Water Tower (approx. 1300), to which it is connected. The sturdy octagonal

Water Tower, Lucerne’s landmark, has served several purposes during its history: archives,

a place to store captured loot, a treasury, a jail and a torture chamber. In 1408 the Mill

Bridge was built below the city mills as a connection between the two lower ends of town. The

name originates from the ruling that leaves and wheat chaff were only to be thrown into the river

from this bridge. The two bridges were not built with pedestrians in mind but as part of the city

fortifications. They closed the gap in the line of city walls over the water. In the 17th century both

bridges were adorned with triangular paintings, which were attached to the roof framework. The

Chapel Bridge paintings are scenes of Swiss and city history and from legends of the two city

patrons St. Leodegar and St. Mauritius. The Mill Bridge has a series of paintings on the theme of

the «Dance of Death». Up until the 19th century there was one more covered wooden bridge

which connected the cathedral area with the main city. This oldest and longest of the three footbridges

had to make way for the new Schweizerhofquai.

Another trademark of the «City of Lights» is the Musegg Wall that – apart from one tower – has

been preserved in its original state. It belongs to the medieval fortifications that were completed in

1408. Nowadays a walk along these walls is a popular attraction. The Schirmer, Zyt and Männli

Towers may be climbed, and from above there is a beautiful panoramic view over the city and

countryside. The oldest clock in town is mounted on the Zyt Tower and it can be seen from a

great distance. Lucerne’s respect for its past can be witnessed in this clock’s privilege to chime

one minute before all the others. Also typical of Lucerne is the way the Musegg Wall, the Town

Hall and the Water Tower are used and maintained. The majority of these premises are rented for

a modest fee to clubs and societies such as the Safran and Wey Guilds. These organizations, in

return, have maintained the towers voluntarily and with private means and annually hold open

house for the public.

City of art and culture

On the afternoon of 25 August 1938 Arturo Toscanini conducted Richard Wagner’s «Siegfried

Idyll» in the park at Tribschen before an audience of 1,200 people. The music and venue had

been specially chosen, because it was at his country house in Tribschen that Wagner enjoyed the

happiest and most fruitful period of his life. It was here that he composed «Siegfried Idyll» as a

serenade to his wife Cosima upon the birth of their son. Toscanini’s concert inaugurated the Lucerne

Festival (formerly known as the International Music Festival of Lucerne). Since then, every

year music lovers from all over the world are drawn to Lucerne. But Lucerne is also famed for its

three-discipline theatre, which produces sophisticated plays, operas and ballets on a shoe-string

budget. It is no coincidence that the Lucerne Theatre often serves as a springboard for talented

young artistes.

Lucerne also has a lively art scene. The art museum inside the Culture and Convention Center

Lucerne puts on temporary displays of the latest exhibits of modern painting and plastics. At the

same time it remains true to its principle of being a collection of modern Swiss art. Visitors who

prefer 19th century art will enjoy a visit to the Bourbaki Panorama. A huge round mural by

Edouard Castres shows the army of General Bourbaki crossing the border at Les Verrières during

the Franco-Prussian War. Visitors to the elegant old Am-Rhyn House near the Town Hall will find

an unexpected gem of contemporary art in the form of a collection of works from Picasso’s later

period. This was a generous gift to the city of Lucerne from Picasso’s friend, the art dealer Siegfried

Rosengart. In addition, since March 2002 the Rosengart Collection has displayed some 200

paintings and drawings by over twenty famous masters of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Apart from traditional art, there is also an interesting cabaret scene in Lucerne. One very popular

venue is the «Kleintheater» founded by the famous «Emil» (Steinberger). Another annual cultural

event is the carnival. The people of Lucerne have carnival in their blood. On Carnival Thursday,

carnival fever breaks out in full force, holding the city under its spell for a week, finally ending in

the early hours of Ash Wednesday. The «Guugenmusigen» (groups of costumed carnival musicians)

are a typical and important part of the traditional Lucerne carnival. On the last day of the

carnival they congregate for a fantastic monster concert and then parade through the old town.

Current detailed information about Lucerne (press releases, studies on tourism in Lucerne, statistical

data, etc.) is published by Lucerne Tourism ( on the Internet.




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