Lucerne, Switzerland

Photo: Matheus Swanson via flickr

The wish list for your Swiss winter getaway is pretty straightforward. You want a lakeside location with the Alps towering in the background. You want a classic hotel with a great restaurant and even better views. You want cheese and chocolate shops within walking distance and ski slopes that aren’t much farther away. Plus you want crisp mountain air and enough sunshine that you’ll have to start peeling off layers by the middle of the afternoon.

Lucerne has it all. Well, almost all. Even Mother Nature can’t guarantee the sunshine. But the rest of your demands—for scenery, accommodations, and food—are completely taken care of in Central Switzerland. A new stopover program on Swiss just sweetens the deal even more.

This is the heartland of Switzerland. Lake Lucerne, a cobalt freshwater lake, is filled by the Reuss river and snow melting from the surrounding mountains. Those mountains rise steeply from the shoreline around the country’s fourth-largest lake. Its namesake town straddles the Reuss on the lake’s northwest corner. Lucerne became one of the first cities to join the Swiss Confederacy in the 14th century. Its medieval Altstadt (Old Town) is still filled with cobblestone streets, frescoed timber houses, slender spires, and bubbling fountains. Old city walls and watchtowers stand guard in the hills. Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), a covered wooden footbridge, offered protection along the water. While Löwendenkmal (the Lion Monument) commemorates the Swiss lives lost during the French Revolution. Charming Lucerne looks like it was plucked straight out of a storybook.

Photo: Art Deco Hotel Montana

Lucerne is a quick, 45-minute train ride from Zürich (one hour if you travel directly from the airport). Its main train station sits right along the water. The Lucerne Culture & Congress Centre (one of Europe’s premier concert halls), the Rosengart Collection (a Picasso-focused art museum), and Altstadt are all within walking distance. So is the world’s shortest funicular, which climbs up to Art Deco Hotel Montana in just 60 seconds.

Art Deco Hotel Montana will soon celebrate its 110th birthday. So it’s definitely not new. But it has been perfected—and, don’t worry, renovated—over the years. Wood paneling, original woodwork, period lighting, and well-upholstered seating fill the communal areas. Huge windows, to both soak in the sunlight and show off the magnificent views, line the walls facing the lake. They extend into the elegant Scala Restaurant, the jazz-filled Louis Bar, and the cozy Hemingway Rum Lounge.

Then there are the rooms. Each one features checkerboard floors, bold prints, and modern amenities (Suitepads filled with reading material and Bose sound systems). Some have clawfoot tubs, too. None of them will matter if you have a lake-facing room with a balcony, though. The temperature won’t either when you fling open the glass doors. Between the clean air, the warm sun, and the breathtaking view, a quick Swiss stopover suddenly doesn’t seem long enough.

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