Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Audrey, who lives in the well-beloved Swiss lakeside town of Lucerne.
Without further ado, then…
First, tell us about you.
My name is Audrey and I’m in my early 30s. I moved to Lucerne seven years ago and work in Zug in a trading company. I have a pretty stressful job, so I really enjoy being outdoors on the weekends.
If someone is visiting Lucerne for the first time, what do you recommend they do and see?
There are four must-sees in Luzern for me: First, the Lion Monument, which is such a beautiful sculpture. Second, the romantic Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke in German) and old town (where you can admire the fine, artistic work on the building walls). Third, the city walls, where you can climb a tower for a view of the KKL (an art and cultural center), the lake, and the old town.
And fourth, Mount Pilatus. It can be a lovely place, particularly in fall and winter, with views of the clouds below and blue sky and sun above. In summer, it is a great adventure to combine a mountaintop walk with a boat ride. In spring or summer, I recommend hiking 2/3 of the way up from Kriens (bus 1 from the main station) and taking a gondola to the top (kulm). Then hike halfway down and jump on the steepest train in the world to Alpnachstadt, where you can catch a boat back to Lucerne (if you are lucky, a steam one!).
For more experienced travelers, what are some of your favorite hidden gems in Lucerne?
If you are into culture and history, go on a scavenger hunt called Fox Trail, which takes you through the town and will teach you about Lucerne’s history. You can book your hunt at foxtrail.ch.
In the summertime, after a long day of exploring, a great place to relax is the Sunset Bar (at Seeburgstrasse 53-61 by the lake).
When skies are clear, I love to walk or run around Rotsee pond. If you like nature, it’s a nice place for a walk or run (of about five miles)—and you won’t find any other tourists there.
What neighborhoods do you recommend staying in for those who want to get a real taste of the town?
The old town is cute, but hotels there can be very expensive and rooms can be small. Würzenbach is a nice area close to the lake and very green. And I would avoid Baselstrasse, which is usually in the shade and doesn’t look so welcoming.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
I recommend Zürich, where there is a nice trail to follow through different neighborhoods from the train station to the lake. One special place that I love there is the Cakefriends coffee shop at Torgasse 3.
I also like Bern—our capitol city—which is only an hour away. It has an interesting town center and a bear park.
Finally, I recommend a train journey to Schaffhausen to see the Rhine Falls.
Let’s talk about walking…what nearby hiking trails or natural areas would you recommend?
Mount Pilatus is a challenging but rewarding hike. Start from Kriens and head down to Alpnachstadt. Mount Rigi is also great…and you can even combine a hike on Rigi with a dip in the pool at the thermal baths. And Melchsee Frutt is another great area to hike around.
What local dishes and drinks should people try in Lucerne?
In the summer, have a schoggibrötli (chocolate chip bread roll) from Bachmann. [Editor’s note: I love these!]
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants in your city?
Taube (at Burgerstrasse 3) is the place to go for delicious local Lucerne dishes. Shamrock (at Wagenbachgasse 3) is a nice Irish pub. Gourmindia (at Baselstrasse 31) is a fabulous Indian restaurant. Dean and David (at Morgartenstrasse 4) is great for fresh salads, smoothies, juices, and curries. It’s also very affordable for Switzerland.
Luz (at Landungsbrücke 1) is a tiny coffee place overlooking the lake with fabulous, delicious snacks. And Filou & Bengel (at Morgartenstrasse 7) has lovely cupcakes and a delicious vanilla latte macchiato.
Do you have any tips for saving money while traveling here? Any favorite budget-friendly restaurants, bars, or things to see?
Go to the tourism office for a booklet of discounts for different activities. And for accommodation, check out the youth hostel in town; it is affordable and located near the Rotsee pond.
Is there anything tourists do that locals find rude or strange? What can we do to better fit in with the culture?
Respect the rules. Don’t jaywalk. Don’t spit on the streets or throw trash on the floor. Don’t put your luggage on the seats on trains or buses.
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
This can be tricky in Switzerland, as Swiss people need time to let you in. So, unless you have years to spend here, your best bet is to go to the Irish pub and meet some expats. Ask for Mike (the owner).
Where are the best places to get a memorable photograph of your city/town/area?
My top picks are: 1) on the promenade along the lake with the mountains in the background; 2) from the city walls overlooking the town; 3) from the Suite Bar (at Pilatusstrasse 1) at night when the town is all lit up and dynamic looking.