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Serene Waters: Lake Lucerne

Less like a lake and more like a Norwegian fjord, this body of water cuts through the Alpine foothills surrounding Lucerne in Switzerland. Contrary to expectations, it’s also quite Mediterranean in nature, with palm trees, almond trees and banana plants growing along its shores.

September 4, 2022

In spring, fruit and almond trees burst into bloom, their delicate pink and white blossoms exuding a beguiling fragrance. In summer, palm trees sway gently in the wind, while banana trees thrive even into autumn. This seemingly Mediterranean paradise is explained by the microclimate that can be found around Lake Lucerne in central Switzerland. With its four arms and a series of twists and bends, this unusually shaped lake is spread out over four Swiss cantons: Uri, Schwys, Unterwalden and Lucerne lie along its shores. 


The panorama of the fjord-like lake delights with majestic mountains and brilliant blue water. © Unsplash

Tourists have been coming here for centuries to cool off in the clear lagoons and relax on the waterfront. None other than Mark Twain contributed significantly to the region’s fame, especially overseas. Back in 1879, the American writer described a climb up Mount Rigi in the most dazzling colours and raved about the “miracle of a mountain railway” and views he described as “enticing as glimpses of dreamland.” In fact, Lake Lucerne is not only beautiful to look at, it also has a lot to offer in the way of activities and attractions. For instance, one of the largest steamship fleets in Europe operates on the lake, and apart from the Rigi, there are several other mountains nearby boasting exceptional views, such as the Pilatus, the Bürgenstock, the Grosser Mythen and the Stanserhorn. For the most part, their summits can be comfortably reached by mountain railway, but numerous hiking trails naturally lead to the top as well. Down by the lake, you can engage in a variety of water sports: canoeing, water skiing, stand-up paddling, sailing and surfing are just some of the activities that visitors enjoy here.


A steamboat is an excellent way to explore the area around Lake Lucerne. © Blagovesta Bakardjieva/

Divers can choose from among ten different sites and appreciate the clarity of the lake, which is of drinking water quality. For a more relaxing time, you can spread out your towel at one of the public bathing areas – the Lido bathing beach, Seebad Luzern and “Ufschötti” are all very popular. The Lido has the longest history of the bunch. With a playground, restaurant and swimming pool, it was a busy bathing hotspot even before it opened as a lido in 1929. For a change of scenery, pay a visit to one of the nearby towns: Vitznau, Küssnacht, Brunnen and Lucerne have charming restaurants and boutiques, museums and historic sights. In Brunnen, you can even follow in the footsteps of royalty – King Ludwig II of Bavaria was especially fond of this idyllic place.


Travelers enjoy late summer sunshine in abundance here. © SGV/Simon & Kim

Good to Know

  • The weekly market in Lucerne: every Tuesday and Saturday morning, local producers offer regional and handmade delicacies by the Reuss River.
  • You get the most beautiful view of Lucerne from the Museggmauer, the old city wall.
  • You can’t go to Switzerland and not buy chocolate. Many people think the Felchlin chocolate factory in Ibach makes the best.
  • At Gasthof Rössli, Michelin-starred chef Stefan Wiesner reveals how to refine bread using granite, among other fascinating things.

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Summer 2022.

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