Lucerne must be experienced on a Saturday in summertime. The strollers walk along the shores of Lake Lucerne in their elegant dresses. The traders present fresh fruit, cheese, flowers and fish at the stalls on Bahnhofstrasse and the tourists can’t get enough of the historical architecture of the wooden Chapel Bridge. The city is full of joie de vivre and positive energy without going crazy. And it has every reason to be. Where else can you browse through exclusive boutiques, cruise through a fjord-like landscape on a sailing ship, go on mountain tours or feast and spend the night in an exclusive residence on the same day? Welcome to Lucerne, welcome to the magnificent Grand Hotel National, a place too good to be true.
Situated directly on the Nationalquai, opposite the historic Old Town and the Pilatus mountain, the historic property breathes 150 years of history in and out. I sit with the event manager of the house, Tim Fuchs, on the lakeside terrace, sipping my aperol and listening intently to the stories and special features of this house. Despite its imposing architecture, reminiscent of a 17th century French castle, the Grand Hotel National has just 41 rooms. But they have a lot to offer.
I reside in the Empire Junior Suite, which offers a direct view of Lake Lucerne and the chestnut-lined promenade along the shore. What a sublime feeling to pull the curtains aside and enjoy the view over the lake and mountain landscape. A few ships are already on their way, a rowing figure eight is pumping for early morning exercise and the breakfast buffet is prepared in the Restaurant National in discreet Swiss style. In total, the 38 square metres offer every comfort one could wish for during a stay in Lucerne. There is a comfortable double bed, a sofa, a desk for bloggers like me and a luxurious bathroom with tub, double washbasin and shower. But when the weather is fine, the balcony is clearly the place to be.
„I hope you brought your appetite“ Tim Fuchs asks me and smiles at the same time, because he has prepared a surprise for me at the Restaurant National. Although the evening menu has all kinds of Swiss specialities on offer, a five-course dinner menu awaits me that is second to none and explains the large number of regular guests who check in here at the National every summer. There is short-roasted tuna in a sesame coat, granita of white peach, fillet of beef Rossini and for the finale an orange tarte in short pastry with meringue topping. Wines from the region are served with it, which round off the menu perfectly and make this day a part of my personal history book. One last drink in the stylish National Bar, which still exudes the charm of the turn of the century, and I sink with bliss into the warm light of the full moon, which is now reflected cloudlessly in the waters of Lake Lucerne.
„The largest pool is right on our own doorstep and at least in summer it’s a wonderful refreshment,“ explains Tim Fuchs, referring of course to Lake Lucerne, which is blessed with many bathing bays and fresh mountain water. But the guests of the Grand Hotel National can fall back on a novelty in Lucerne. After all, the hotel has the city’s only indoor pool, which is used heavily, especially in winter. If you don’t want to take a dip, you can also relax and enjoy a massage or two.
For me, the programme today is something like the Lucerne Triathlon, which covers the disciplines of city walking, boat trips and mountain climbing. The historic Old Town with its fortress walls, towers and piers can be explored in 90 minutes. My highlight, apart from the classic Chapel Bridge, is certainly the Lion Monument, where a dying lion commemorates the heroic death of the fallen Swiss Guardsmen in 1792. The lion was carved into the rock and measures about 60 square metres. A beautiful park has been created around it and a small lake separates the visitor from the graceful monument, which the American writer Mark Twain once described as the saddest piece of stone in the world.
After so much melancholy I get on the boat and for 30 minutes I let the wind whistle around my nose to enjoy the villas and vineyards on the lakeside. A few sailing boats whip along beside us and try their hand at a small regatta. After landing, the Bürgenstock cable car is already waiting for me, which overcomes the 440-meter difference in altitude in a good 6 minutes and drops me off at the Bürgenstock mountain platform, from where you can enjoy a gigantic view over the veins of Lake Lucerne. But that’s not all, as from here, the spectacular rock path begins, which was only opened a month ago, as it was impassable in the meantime due to rock falls and landslides. The path plays with the abyss over its full length and surprises again and again with magnificent views down until it suddenly comes to an abrupt end in front of an elevator. The Hammetschwand Panorama Lift takes guests to the viewing terrace of the Bürgenstock in just 1 minute, making it the highest freestanding outdoor lift in Europe.
The sun blinks shyly through the heavy curtains of my suite and tries to gently prepare me for the day ahead. Still a bit tired I push the fabric aside and look at a picture book panorama. Snow-covered peaks, lush green meadows, a lake on which a few boats are rocking up and down. I see a place that is too beautiful to be true.
This article was written at the invitation of the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne and the excellent organization of Tim Fuchs. Many thanks for an unforgettable weekend.
Here you’ll find my article about the legendary Gstaad Palace.