Recipe for a gorgeous Swiss city: take a cobalt lake ringed by mountains of myth, add a medieval old town and sprinkle with covered bridges, sunny plazas, candy coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Lucerne is bright, beautiful and has been little Miss Popular since the 19th century.
Don’t miss the old town with medieval ramparts and towers, 15th-century buildings with painted facades, and its famous bridges, Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge; 1333), famously destroyed in part by a spectacular 1993 fire and subsequently rebuilt (fire damage is still obvious on the 17th-century pictorial panels under the roof), and the Spreuerbrücke (Spreuer Bridge) with darker but better-preserved Dance of Death panels.
Lucerne’s blockbuster cultural attractionis the Sammlung Rosengart (Tel 041 220 16 60; http://www.rosengart.ch/welcome.php5; Pilatusstrasse 10; adult/student Sfr18/16;h10am-6pm Apr-Oct, 11am-5pm Nov-Mar), studded with masterpieces by Cézanne, Klee, Kandinsky, Miró, Matisse and Monet. Some 200 photographs capturing the last years of Picasso’s life complement the main collection.
Lucerne’s boisterous six-day Fasnacht party kicks off on ‘Dirty Thursday’ with the emergence of the character ‘Fritschi’ from the town hall and moves through raucous celebrations climaxing on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). June’s Jodler Fest Luzern (www.jodlerfestluzern.ch) is a classic Alpine shindig comprising 12,000 yodellers, alphorn players and flag throwers.
Self-caterers head to Hertensteinstrasse where cheap eats are plentiful. With its stainless-steel bar, sturdy wooden tables and chalkboard menus, Jazzkantine (Tel 041 410 73 73; Grabenstrasse 8; mains Sfr15-22) is an arty haunt. Go for tasty bruschette or more ambitious dishes like penne vodka. Saturday-night gigs follow week-night jazz workshops. As well as a cracking sense of humour, Schützengarten (Tel 041 240 01 10; Bruchstrasse 20; mains Sfr18.50-45) has smiley service, woodpanelled surrounds, appetising vegetarian and vegan dishes and organic wine. Sit on the vine-strewn terrace in summer.