Lucerne : The Old Town
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The north bank of the Reuss is home to the Old Town’s compact cluster of medieval houses, with Mühlenplatz, Weinmarkt, Hirschenplatz and Kornmarkt forming an ensemble of cobbled, fountained squares ringed by colourful facades. Modern commerce is definitely the motive force of the place these days, and it takes some imagination to conjure up the Middle Ages amidst the welter of shoppers and high-street brand-names.

Kapellplatz, at the bridgehead of the Kapellbrücke, encircles the tiny eighteenth-century St-Peterskapelle, built over a predecessor dating from as early as 1178. Some 150m west is Kornmarkt, site of the medieval public marketplace. On one side, overlooking the riverside market area of Unter der Egg, is the huge Rathaus, completed in 1606 in Italian Renaissance style but crowned with an oddly incongruous Emmentaler-style roof. The market atmosphere survives today, with stalls selling vegetables, fish and flowers beneath the arcades along Unter der Egg doing a roaring trade every Tuesday and Saturday morning. Kornmarktgasse runs west to the atmospheric frescoed Weinmarkt, where Passion Plays were staged in the late Middle Ages.

Just off Kornmarkt, at Furrengasse 21, is Am Rhyn-Haus, an old restored building now housing the fascinating Picasso Museum (daily: April–Oct 10am–6pm; Nov–March 11am–1pm & 2–4pm; Fr.6; SMP). The whole collection was donated to the city by the Rosengart family, friends of the artist. The ground floor is given over to temporary exhibits, while the first upper floor displays a series of Picasso’s paintings, including the wonderful Femme et Chien Jouant (1953) and La Coiffure (1954), as well as drawings, ceramics, sketches and etchings, one of the most striking of which is the tender Portrait A.R. (Angela Rosengart). Upper floors hold the highlight of the museum, nearly two hundred intimate and often brilliant photographs of the artist’s private life taken by American photographer David Douglas Duncan from 1956 until Picasso’s death in 1973.

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