This is a guest post from Joy Foster, a mom and active contributor to Living in Luzern, an online guide with excellent insider information on what is going on in Luzern throughout the year.
Luzern (not Lausanne!) can be found at the heart of central Switzerland. Only an hour by train from Zurich and an hour and a half from Basel, Luzern is easier to get to than most people think. Having lived in Luzern for a number of years, I’ve tried almost everything with kids. Here are some of the highlights you might want to plan into your trip.
You can’t come to Switzerland and not visit the mountains. There are two peaks very close to Luzern: Rigi and Pilatus. They are both an exciting adventure for kids as well as a breathtaking view for parents.
To get to Rigi, take a boat from Luzern to Vitznau (directly across from the train station, Bahnhof Luzern). When you arrive in Vitznau, you will then board a train that takes you directly up the mountain. With older children, you might event consider hiking a portion of the trip in the summer. In the wintertime, you can sled and ski here — just be warned, this is not a sled run for the faint of heart!
Reaching Pilatus entails taking a train to Stansstad and then a funicular up to the top. Like Rigi, Pilatus promises stunning views and the kids will enjoy the steepest railway in the world (a 48-degree angle!). Typically, in the summer, you’ll catch alphorn players and yodelers at the top of the mountain. Pilatus is not as enjoyable as Rigi in the winter, so if you are planning a winter trip, it makes the decision as to which mountain to visit much easier.
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If you happen to be in Luzern on a rainy day, you will not be bored. There are several museums that are interesting to families, most notably the Glacier Garden Museum and the Verkhershaus. The Glacier Garden Museum, built around the glacier path that was left in Luzern thousands of years ago, can be found right by the famous Crying Lion Monument. The museum has several features, including a very tricky mirror room called the Mirror Maze.
Kids who are into all things transport won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the world’s largest transportation museum, the Verkhershaus. There are entire buildings dedicated to the development of trains, planes and automobiles. For the very little ones, there is even a lovely miniature train that does two loops on a track for a small fee. It’s easy to spend the entire day here; a cafeteria is in prime position for a coffee or lunch break.
While kids might not appreciate the significance and beauty of the Old Town, they’ll enjoy crossing the main wooden bridge in Luzern, called the Kappelbrucke (Chapel Bridge). Not only is the bridge fun to walk across, it’s iconic Luzern. Grab a scoop of the city’s best ice cream from Dieci while you are in the vicinity.
Need a child-friendly place for lunch? Look no farther than Opus. While service might be slow, they do have a good children’s menu.
Maison Gout, which offers a nice selection of cupcakes, fruit tea, retro ice cream, lattes and cappuccinos, is a bit of a local secret. For families with younger children, there is a perfect (if not busy) park for kids to play in across the street. At Christmastime, there is even a candlemaking house set up next to the playground.
If it is chocolate you are after, pop into Aeschbach Chocolatier. Only an 11-minute train ride from Luzern, it is a fun adventure for chocolate-lovers. Children will enjoy watching how the confection is made, while adults can enjoy a lovely coffee. Come at Easter or Christmas and you might even get to make your own chocolate bunny or Santa.
There is a lovely promenade along the lake in Luzern. If you walk far enough, you’ll pass the transport museum and then bump right into the Lido. My children fondly call this the “beach.” Boasting the largest playground in Luzern as well as the largest stretch of sand, the Lido includes a swimming pool and volleyball courts. On a hot summer day, this is the perfect place to be — not only do you have an incredible view of the lake, but you get a fantastic view of Pilatus as well. Rent pedal boats if you long to get out on the water.
You’ll need about three days in Luzern in order to really enjoy the city. Suggested travel months are April to September for spring/summer-type weather. Of course, if you are up for a winter adventure, then I would suggest December to see the amazing Christmas decorations, or the end of February/early March to enjoy spring skiing (try to avoid Carnival, though!).
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