Switzerland is known for its crystal-clear lakes, fresh water, and beautiful mountains. My sister added the lake town of Lucerne to our itinerary so she could try Raclette, a melted cheese dish, and to take a boat/tram up Mount Pilatus and down via cable car. Though we got to do neither of those, we still had fun strolling through the beautiful Historic Town, snapping way too many photos of Chapel Bridge, and just relaxing in this beautiful city. Here’s a brief run-down of our short 1D1N stay in Lucerne, Switzerland.
A large, gorgeous lake flanked by mountains greeted us the moment we exited the train station. I was super happy to see signs in German, a language I was familiar with. Coming from Italy and knowing no Italian, this was a welcome change.
We rushed to the ticketing counter where they sold tickets for the boat-tram-cablecar ride up and down Mount Pilatus, and were both secretly relieved when they said we were too late. I was relieved because I wouldn’t have to brave the cold and heights; my sister because it would’ve cost an arm and leg.
So instead we wandered around Old Town, a picturesque little town that looks like it popped out of a fairytale. It comes complete with a stone tower in the middle of lake, and Chapel Bridge – a medieval, flowery bridge that leads to aforementioned fairytale land. Did you know it’s one of the oldest, covered wooden bridges in Europe?
Amidst a light drizzle, we strolled the riverside, passing charming (albeit overpriced) shops, including an ivy-lined Starbucks, burger joints, and a clever Irish pub whose sign cracked us up:
“HUSBAND DAY CARE CENTER. Is he getting under your feet? Need time to yourself? Want to go shopping? LEAVE HIM WITH US! You only pay for his beer.” – Ingenious bar
And yes, if you balked over Fish ‘n’ Chips costing 24.50 franc (which is 23.90 usd at time of writing), this is what Lucerne is: expensive. Lucerne is not for the budget traveler. It was lucky we only had 1 day here, or we wouldn’t have money for the rest of our trip!
We must’ve spent an hour deciding what to eat that wouldn’t break the bank. My sister really wanted Raclette, and we found the restaurant she’d read about. We took one look at the menu and she decided she didn’t want it that bad, because it cost 30 franc. (See bottom-right corner of menu.)
Personally, I would’ve felt out of place eating there anyway, because I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and with prices like that, I felt it was more appropriate to be in an evening gown with diamonds hanging around my neck. Neither of which I own.
We settled for a nice fruit-mousse cake slice at a cafe. We sat in the cafe area to eat, and a waitress walked up asking what we wanted to drink. We said we didn’t want anything. She gave us a weird look and walked away. Were we supposed to order a drink? Well, at least they didn’t kick us out like in Venice.
Our rumbling bellies finally got the better of our cheapskate-hearts, and we settled for 15 franc burgers at Jill’s Burger. We snagged a seat by the lake, because we were paying 15 francs per burger, dammit, so we were going to sit by the lake!
To our left we had a snazzy-looking Starbucks and a pretty shop fronted with vines. This was the first Starbucks we’d seen since starting out Europe tour – there is no Starbucks in Italy.
After our much-needed nourishment, we took a nice stroll along the lake, where we saw docked yachts, seagulls, ducks, and gorgeous mountains.
We enjoyed watching ducks skittle over the water in flocks, dipping into the water for the occasional treat with their feathery bums wagging in the air. Also, the lake water was so clear you could see right to the bottom.
It was cold and rainy, but my sister wanted to explore anyway because she’s the tough one in the family and she really loves lakes and mountains!
After strolling to the end of the path (plus the rain got way too heavy), we headed back to the train station, where we were glad to find a supermarket selling food that didn’t break the bank.
We were spoilt for choice at the supermarket. Pizzas, cheeses, chocolate – oh the CHOCOLATE. I couldn’t help filling a pick-and-mix bag of various chocolates, and a strawberry-infused white chocolate slab. Yeah, I’m one of those weirdos who prefer white chocolate over real chocolate.
That marked the end of our day in Lucerne. We walked back to our Airbnb to enjoy our spoils from the supermarket, and then readied ourselves for our train ride to Paris the next day.
A Cheapskate’s Guide to Lucerne
- Pick another place. Lucerne is not for those with slim wallets.
- Visit the supermarket before hunger strikes, so you don’t have to splurge at one of their overpriced restaurants.
- Airbnbs are probably your best bet for accommodation, but a tiny room can still end up costing 92 USD, like ours did.
- Pick another place. For fairytale experiences, I highly recommend Florence, Italy.
We enjoyed Lucerne. It was a nice, relaxing day in nature spent with my sister. Historic Town was definitely a highlight, with the beautiful Chapel Bridge extending over the lake.
However if it’s anything Lucerne has taught me, it’s that Switzerland is not for me. The exorbitant prices were hard to swallow, and it lacked culture-vulture experiences that I crave.
It is, however, wonderful if you enjoy mountains and lakes, or if your wallet is fat and happy.
What was your experience like in Lucerne? Any tips for a fellow cheapskate?
Update: My sister got to try Raclette at a Christmas Market in England, hooray! Also, we found Raclette in the supermarket for less than 10 francs. So you don’t exactly have to pay 30 francs to try it.
Update 2: I met a client at work who was born and raised in Lucerne! What are the chances of that? She recommended going up Mount Pilatus and also visiting the old bell towers. Maybe next time!
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Day 5/14. This post is part of a whirlwind 14-day trip in Western Europe with my sister prior to her exchange programme in Glasgow, Scotland. Thank you for a trip of a lifetime!! (And here’s to many more!!)