Lucerne is one of central Switzerland's most charming medieval cities, located about 35 mi/55 km southwest of Zurich. The Old Town has many interesting sites, which you can easily see on foot. If time permits, go high up in the hills on the other side of the lake (opposite Lucerne) to Burgenstock, an old-world-style resort area with charming hotels and outstanding views of the lake and environs.
Nightlife in Lucerne generally falls into two categories: High-end hotel bars for the well-heeled crowd or cozy pubs for the jeans and T-shirt crew. Nearly all of the hotels lining Lake Lucerne offer aperitifs with knockout views. The restaurants along the Reuss River cater to a more casual crowd.
At nightclubs in the newer part of town surrounding the train station travelers can enjoy a more stereotypical nightlife experience, complete with velvet ropes, bouncers and DJs. But unlike in Paris or Berlin, nightclubs rarely stay open later than 3 am. Travelers tend to go to Lucerne for outdoor, daytime activities, not for the club scene.
Like nearly everything in Switzerland, dining can be a shockingly expensive experience, but Lucerne's wide variety of cuisines sets the city apart from its big city neighbors, Zurich and Geneva. The near-constant stream of international travelers has helped Lucerne evolve from a meat-and-potatoes only town: You will find Japanese, Indian and Thai alongside the expected Italian, French and German restaurants.
Nearly all traditional Swiss dishes are heavy and warm—meant to be served on frosty winter nights. These dishes often include a melted cheese component (such as fondue or raclette), sausage (wurst) or veal liver (kalbslaber) and potato hash browns (rosti). Pastries and kirsch (cherry-flavored clear brandy) are often an after-dinner treat.
Since 98% of Swiss wines are not exported, visiting Switzerland is one of the only ways to try locally produced wines. The three most common wine grapes are pinot noir, Chasselas (white) and gamay (red). Try a vin des glaciers, a sherry-style wine popular locally.
As opposed to the rest of Switzerland, Lucerne restaurants tend to stay open on Sunday, then close on Monday.
Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of dinner for one, not including drinks or tip: $ = less than 20 CHF; $$ = 20 CHF-40 CHF; $$$ = 41 CHF-70 CHF; $$$$ = more than 70 CHF.
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