|Lucerne : Arrival, information and lake transport|
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Luzern’s giant train station – opened in 1991 to replace the grand nineteenth-century original which burned to the ground in 1971 – is on the south bank of the Reuss, exactly at the point where the lake narrows into the river. Broad Pilatusstrasse runs southwest from Bahnhofplatz into the main shopping and commercial districts of the modern city. From the busy bus stops outside the station, the main Seebrücke heads over the Reuss alongside the ancient Kapellbrücke, the latter marked by the distinctive stone Wasserturm (water tower). The pedestrian-only alleys of the Old Town occupy the northern bank, with the city walls ranged on the slopes above.
The city tourist office is 50m west of the station at Frankenstrasse 1 (May–Oct Mon–Fri 8.30am–6pm, Sat 9am–5pm, Sun 9am–1pm; Nov–April Mon–Fri 8.30am–noon & 2–6pm, Sat 9am–1pm; 041/410 71 71,www.luzern.org). With the vast quantity of tourists tramping through the city, staff are well used to answering questions, and have stacks of information on the city and surrounding countryside. Luzern’s guest card – which you must get stamped by your hotel – is especially good value, giving discounts on entry to most museums and 10–15 percent off car rental; it also allows you to purchase a Fr.8 three-day city bus pass (each journey normally costs Fr.1.70, although Swiss Pass holders travel free anyway). There’s also a local museum pass (Fr.25), which gives free entry to all the city’s attractions for a month. Luzern’s tour guides are exceptionally good, and the official two-hour city walking tour, departing from the tourist office, is well worth taking (April–Oct Mon–Sat 9.45am; Nov–March Wed & Sat 9.45am; Fr.16).
The tourist office also runs a host of guided excursions to points nearby. The most popular are the half-day tours to the top of the Pilatus overlooking the city, the Rigi a short way east and the Titlis to the south – all of these run daily year-round for around Fr.85. They can also sell you the regional travel pass for Central Switzerland, the Tellpass, although this is only really worthwhile if you’re planning a tour of the region – if you’ll just be in and around Luzern itself, the free guest card is more than adequate.
A major reason for coming to Luzern at all is to explore the stunning Vierwaldstättersee, or Lake Luzern, crossed year-round by the fine old boats of the Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (SGV; 041/367 67 67, www.lakelucerne.ch). All SGV boats – including their half-dozen paddle steamers (which incur no extra fare) – depart from the quay directly outside the station, and zigzag their way across the lake stopping at places on both shores: Weggis and Vitznau give access to Mount Rigi; Kehrsiten to Bürgenstock, and from there to the Hammetschwand summit; and Beckenried to Klewenalp. All of these have limited road and rail connections, but at the far, eastern end of the lake, Brunnen (close to Schwyz) and Flüelen (close to Altdorf) are both on the mainline route from Zürich to Ticino via the Gotthard Tunnel, and are less than an hour’s train journey from Luzern.
In summer (June–Sept), at least seven boats daily make the full run from Luzern to Flüelen, with several more serving Brunnen, Vitznau and other intermediate points. In autumn (Oct) and spring (April–May), service is only slightly curtailed in the evenings. Winter (Nov–March) sees two boats a day as far as Brunnen, with Sunday services only running on to Flüelen. With round-trip fares Luzern–Vitznau at Fr.28, Luzern–Brunnen at Fr.38 and Luzern–Flüelen at Fr.42, the Tagesbillett (Day Ticket; Fr.42), valid for unlimited journeys on the whole lake, is a good deal. SGV boats are free to Eurail and Swiss Pass holders, as well as on selected days to holders of the Tellpass, and half-price to InterRailers.
In addition, SGV runs a wealth of cruises and eat-aboard trips, including a three-hour sunset cruise (daily June–Sept) for Fr.20. The tourist office, and the SGV ticket office on the quayside, have full details.
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