Lucerne : The Verkehrshaus
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One of the main draws of Luzern is the Verkehrshaus, 2km east of the centre at Lidostrasse 5 (Transport Museum; daily: April–Oct 9am–6pm; Nov–March 10am–5pm; Fr.18, or various discounts available with rail passes or guest card; SMP; www.verkehrshaus.org); if you’re not taking the boat, hop on bus #6 or #8, or else it’s a pleasant fifteen-minute lakeside stroll. This vast complex is devoted to Swiss engineering skill and could keep you amused all day – you’ll need the site plan handed out at the ticket desk to navigate your way around. It’s divided into several large areas, taking in Road Transport, Rail Transport, Aviation and Astronautics, Cableways and Tourism, and so on. Everything is in English, and “hands-on” is a rule, not an exception. Kids will obviously be in seventh heaven.

Particular highlights include the train section, with dozens of giant locomotives on display (complete with evocative oily smell) and an exceptionally well presented walk-through account of the digging of the Gotthard tunnel, dramatized with slides and soundtrack. The airplane section has flight simulators, a mock-up of an airport control-tower and the Cosmorama, an interactive tour of the asteroid belt. The tourism bit has the endearingly dated Swissorama, a wraparound 360° movie of the delights of Switzerland circa 1977 projected onto the walls of a circular room. There’s also a huge section devoted to communications, an excellent Planetarium and a separate, giant building housing Switzerland’s only IMAX cinema (regular showings throughout the day for an extra Fr.14, or ask for the combination museum-plus-IMAX ticket at Fr.28).

In an entirely different vein altogether, a far-flung building on the edge of the site – overlooked by most visitors – houses a museum dedicated to the acclaimed twentieth-century Luzerner artist Hans Erni. Erni is barely known outside Switzerland, but has spent his long career producing art that is wonderfully warm and human, full of fluidity of figures and geometries that the museum blurb will try to convince you is linked in some spiritual way to the scientific prowess on display throughout the rest of the complex. Particularly outstanding are Erni’s lithographs, made as illustrations for limited-edition books.

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