I took a fast-paced 8-day solo Couchsurfing trip through much of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to see the region’s historic cities, mountain views, and top-notch hiking without breaking the bank. Follow my blog in its entirety or click here for a travel guide to Switzerland.
The Best Train Ride
After enjoying a lovely final breakfast at my Interlaken hostel, I caught a bus to the main Interlaken train station and then a train to Lucerne, my destination for the day. This was by far the most scenic train ride of my trip – we first passed along beautiful and huge Lake Brienz and then through the lovely area of Mieringen before going steeply uphill past Lugern and Sarner Lakes with the landscape dotted with cute tiny towns and tons of natural beauty along the way.
After about an hour, giant Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) came into view and before long I was at the Lucerne train station. (Side note: Lucerne is the English translation of the city’s true name (Luzern) and I find it silly that we translate the names of other countries’ cities but for search engine purposes have to refer to it as Lucerne.) My Couchsurfing host was at work, so I used my first locker of the trip at the train station (7 franc) and then walked outside to find myself exactly in the center of the city. Gotta love conveniently located Swiss train stations!
Covered Bridges and Charm
From the second I laid eyes on it, I could tell that Lucerne was an incredibly charming city. It has a ton of well-preserved history, adorable landmarks, and a lovely location right next to a lake and mountains.
I began my Lucerne explorations by walking across Kapellbrucke, the oldest covered bridge in Europe and the oldest truss bridge in the world (it dates back to 1365). This remarkable bridge has incredible murals on the interior dating back to the 1600s which depict scenes from Lucerne’s religious history. They’re a bit faint and in need of restoration; sadly, two-thirds of them were actually destroyed in a fire in the 1990s.
Across the bridge, I was officially in Lucerne’s Old City, which is similar to other European cities with its narrow cobblestone streets and traditional buildings. It’s a quite small but very lovely area. I went to the rooftop of a department store called Manor which had great views of the River Reuss and the city. The food was fairly cheap but didn’t look that good, so I decided not to return for lunch.
I stepped into Kornschutte, Lucerne’s historic town hall and found a very random art exhibit of balloon creatures (?). It was a pretty nice building on the outside, but the interior decor wasn’t very distinct. I continued winding through the lovely cobblestone streets before eventually crossing back over to the other side in search of a waterfall called Nadelwehr.
I couldn’t find the waterfall quite yet, but I did cross back into the Old City on the Spreur Bridge (Spreuerbrucke), the city’s 2nd most famous covered bridge. Like Kapellbrucke, it has paintings created in the 1600s, but these are more gruesome and centered around the theme of death.
Old & New
I backtracked a tad and walked across a pedestrian bridge where I could see a view of tiny Nadelwehr. It’s not a waterfall as much as a tiny human-made rapid. Oh, well.
I walked through a small outdoor market with food and goods to the Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche), renowned as the most beautiful church in Lucerne. It was truly remarkable – the decor was incredibly ornate and the murals on the ceiling were stunning. It’s painted white, which distinguishes it from a lot of European churches and I think makes it even more lovely.
I had about an hour to kill before dropping off my things at my Couchsurfing host’s place on his lunch break, so I headed past the train station to see KKL, a new, very modern convention center of which Lucerne is very proud. It was pretty nice architeecture but I didn’t find anything that special. I continued to walk along the waterfront for a while, enjoying lovely views of Lake Lucerne and faraway mountains in Inseli Park.
I then ended up in an industrial business district and had to loop around for a while before returning to the train station, grabbing my luggage, and taking a quick walk to my conveniently located Couchsurfing host’s flat.
I was stunned by how gorgeous the place was! It’s a penthouse apartment with two large balconies, incredible views of Lucerne, Lake Lucerne, and the mountains, and super modern architecture with a spiral staircase and fine furniture. What a luxurious place to stay! My host was very kind and we hung out for a bit until he had to head back to work.
Tower to Tower
I walked back to the Old City (which was really close – I loved how compact Lucerne was). At the Hirschenplatz plaza, I found a pizza place that had large 7 franc slices so I grabbed that for lunch and then relaxed by a fountain to enjoy it.
Nourished, I walked to the end of the Old City and walked uphill to the Lucerne city wall, which is lined with several towers (some of which are open to the public). This incredible concrete wall with Spanish-style tiles dates back to 1386. I began at Zeitturm, the city’s oldest clock tower. It’s a gigantic and very elegant clock that you get to walk right next to! I climbed a few flights of stairs to the top where I was rewarded with a lovely view of Lucerne.
I walked halfway back down and then stepped outside to find myself on the wall. I walked west to Wachtturm, another tower which I climbed to the top of for another great view. The wall was closed beyond this point so I wasn’t able to go on to Leugislanturm or Mannliturm, two additional towers that I thought were open to the public – not sure if this was just a thing the day I went or not.
The Church and The Lion
I retraced my steps and walked back down the wall past Zeitturm to Pulverturm, my final tower of the day. More stairs, more views, yada yada 😅 I walked back onto the street below the wall and soon passed a Catholic church (Chriskatholisches Pfarramt). I never say no to European churches so I stepped inside and enjoyed the elegant decor. I was thrilled to have it all to myself, which was the case on many churches on my trip – to my delight! I think June is a wonderful month to visit Europe – most Europeans take their vacations in August and the weather is just as good as the later summer months.
I walked past the Bourbaki Panorama, a large indoor mural which I decided not to enter due to the steep entry fee. Next, I made it to the Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal), which totally exceeded my expectations. It’s a large statue of lion etched into a wall perched beyond a pleasant pond. The park facing it is very peaceful and it was a great spot to relax for a few minutes. I even found a password-free wifi from a nearby restaurant that I was able to use there 😄
The Lovely Lake
Next, I walked up the seemingly main street of Lucerne in search of a nice lake over the hill I’d read about. This took me out of the Old City and more into a local, non-touristy neighborhood which I loved. I passed a park where I was able to enjoy a hella fancy public restroom (yet another way the U.S. needs to step up its game)
I winded through some neighborhood streets, enjoying the cute homes along the way, before I finally found a path to the lake, Rotsee. When I reached my first view of the lake, I noticed an awesome, quite tall slide beside me that led down into a children’s playground. There were some kids hovering around the top for a while, but I really wanted to try this slide so I patiently waited for them to get out of my way. I slid down to the lakeside in style and quickly left the playground and began walking along the lake, hoping parents wouldn’t think that I was a creeper.
Rotsee is a long, thin lake with green hills on the opposite side. It’s a super quiet spot which is remarkable since it’s so close to the hustle and bustle of the Old City. I walked on a lakeside path for few minutes before looping back up to the main street, passing a kindergarten (one of the few German words we use in the U.S.) and an aesthetically pleasing tall building called Der MaiHof which is apparently a performance venue.
Church, Chocolate, Apple
I walked downhill back into the Old City and made my way to St. Leodegar Church, which I thought was the least remarkable church I’d seen that day 😭. Next, I walked along the water and stopped in a chocolate shop. They sadly didn’t give free samples, but I bought a piece for 2 franc and mmm soo good.
I passed a fancy waterfront hotel (Grand Hotel National Lucerne) and being a fan of hotel lobbies had to step inside. It was elegant but not especially unique. I was however thrilled to see a bowl of complimentary apples and was happy to enjoy some healthy food for a change.
Back in the center of the Old City, I found a place I’d been looking for all day: St. Peter’s Chapel. It was really small and unremarkable lol – definitely go to the Jesuit Church across the river over this one. I then passed an ice cream place where I indulged in a hazelnut cone – mmm!
I crossed back over the river and stopped in the Hotel Lucerne – which actually had two bars I wanted to see. The first one – Roadhouse – has free popcorn. I didn’t like drinking and felt bad taking popcorn and leaving so I actually restrained myself for once haha. I then took the elevator to the top floor to The Lounge Urban Bar, the hotel’s rooftop bar in perhaps the best location in the city. When I got off the elevator, I was in a construction zone – apparently, the bar was undergoing a deep renovation. I tried to walk around a bit and see the views, but then a construction worker told me to leave lol.
Back downstairs, I wanted to use the bathroom so I tried to follow a guest who was using his key to access it. His key didn’t work so I went to the Starbucks next door and asked them for the bathroom code. This super exclusive bathroom was a quite nice one – worth it!
I walked a few blocks in search of a 2nd rooftop bar I wanted to check out. I stopped in a barber shop to ask directions, which were given me to German so not the slightest bit helpful lol. I eventually found the Hotel Astoria and took the elevator to Penthouse, its rooftop bar. This bar was actually open and had wonderful views of the river, lake, and Old City. I just wandered around, pretended to look at the pricey menu, and then left – my usual rooftop bar M.O. lol.
An Evening In
My Couchsurfing host offered to make an authentic Swiss meal for dinner – we went to a grocery store next door to buy supplies and then made the delicious meal – rosti. This was another iconic Swiss dish I’d been wanting to try and his rendition was delicious so I was very pleased.
We sat on the balcony, watched the sunset drop over the mountains, spied on shorter apartment buildings’ balconies, and chatted for a while after dinner. I had no desire to go out since I was in the most gorgeous penthouse venue in Lucerne 😍
It was another early night since I was tired and off to my 2nd country of the trip – Liechtenstein – the next day!
Click here to go on to my Swiss Bliss Day 6 blog as I see basically the entire country of Liechtenstein and enjoy the most scenic hike of my life or click here to read my Switzerland blog from the beginning.