Zurich, Lucerne: A Tale of Two Cities

Zurich's vibrant Illuminarium show. Matthew Ball Photos.
Zurich’s vibrant Illuminarium show. Matthew Ball Photos.

Exploring Switzerland’s Neighboring but Different Metropolises

By Kaelie Piscitello

Zurich's skyline
Zurich’s skyline. Kaelie Piscitello Photos

The Zurich airport had already wowed me because it seemed so high-tech compared to other airports I’ve visited. The escalators only moved once someone went to use them and the bathrooms were spotless.

However, this was just a small preview of what the rest of Switzerland would be like.

My boyfriend and I took the train from the airport to Zurich’s city center, and the station was a gorgeous introduction. As someone who studied abroad in Europe, I’ve seen many European stations, but Zurich’s particularly stuck out.

It was so ornate that you could have told me it was a museum, and I would have believed it.

As I soon learned, most of Zurich’s older buildings are well-preserved because World War II did not destroy the country like the rest of Europe.

Zurich: A Classy City

A cake shop in Zurich
A cake shop in Zurich

Wandering around Zurich’s city center told me that everyone in Zurich has tons of money. No one was wearing particularly fancy clothes, they actually dressed like me.

However, the quality and shine of everyone’s garments were clear, and it was obvious that they were made of high-end materials.

The reason for the quality of clothes became more apparent as I explored the city a bit more.

Most of the stores around Zurich are fancy couture brands. I’ve never seen so many Coco Chanel stores in my entire life. Right away, I knew I’d stumbled upon a high-end, classy business city.

Pots of Hot Chocolate and Fondue

Zurich's Illuminarium
Zurich’s Illuminarium

I knew I wanted to experience two things in Switzerland: the chocolate and the cheese. So, I quickly found the solution for my chocolate cravings—cake stores!

The Swiss cake stores had delicious pastries that I could try, along with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. St. Jakob Confiserie served me the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. The red pastry I tried was tasty, but the cocoa was made from real melted chocolate, and I was instantly impressed by its rich flavor.

I decided the best way to satisfy my need for cheese was through an experience. My boyfriend and I were traveling during the holiday season, and I booked the Fondue Chalet at the Zurich Illuminarium for my boyfriend’s Christmas gift.

The Illuminarium show was geared more toward children, but the light effects were impressive to watch, and the music sounded lively and clever.

The Fondue Chalet’s fondue had a thick and creamy consistency, and I knew I had made the right choice in cuisine. We rarely get fondue in the United States, so it was the perfect treat.

Lake Zurich's sassy swans.
Lake Zurich’s sassy swans.

Of course, what is the point of going to Switzerland if you aren’t going to enjoy the Alps? My boyfriend and I took the obligatory trip to Lake Zurich and enjoyed watching people feed its local swans in front of the tall snow-capped mountain peaks.

Zurich’s Natural Beauty

My boyfriend and I also walked through the city’s neighboring Sihlwald Forest. The forest trails were a short walk from my hotel, Dieci Allo Zoo, and a cable car ride away from the city center. My boyfriend and I took the cable car for fun, and it gave us a great view of the city’s skyline.

Though Zurich was beautiful, my boyfriend and I quickly ran out of things to do, so we decided to take a short train ride to its neighboring city, Lucerne. If I thought Zurich was a pretty place, but it was nothing compared to Lucerne. Lucerne has superb architecture and its scenery far exceeded my expectations.

Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne, Switzerland

Lovely Lucerne

Unlike Zurich, which felt like a place of esteemed business, Lucerne seemed like a town someone could call home. Though their prices were just as high as Zurich’s, the shops had more character to their style, and the culture felt more accessible.

Lucerne's Jesuit Church
Lucerne’s Jesuit Church

My boyfriend and I wanted to see the view from the Museggmauer, Lucerne’s old city walls; however, they were closed for the winter. Despite this, we could climb up to them before and see a breathtaking view of the Alps from the entrance.

The Museggmauer is not the only place to see the mountains. My boyfriend and I walked around Lake Lucerne, and the park gave me a different view of them because they reflected in the water.

I can never get enough of the Alps, and Lucerne had the perfect amount of opportunities for me to take them in in all their glory.

Lucerne’s Stunning Churches

When wandering around the city, my boyfriend and I stumbled into two beautiful churches right next to each other that I couldn’t find detailed tourist descriptions of anywhere on Google.

The Franciscan Church we visited boasted a stunning altar and elaborate side chambers dedicated to a saint.

One of the sections was home to the skeleton of a martyr, but it was impossible to figure out which one because there was no information about it online or in the historical booklet about the church in front of the building. I guess it will forever be a mystery.

Franciscan Church

The skeleton martyr in Lucerne's Franciscan Church
The skeleton martyr in Lucerne’s Franciscan Church

The Franciscan Church was so interesting that we felt obligated to wander into the one next door called the Jesuit Church. This was a smart decision because it was even prettier than the last! It had a plain white base, but all the painted decorations had soft pink and gold hues. I couldn’t help but feel that it resembled a little girl’s idea of a princess’s castle instead of a church, and it was enchanting.

Because these churches are used by the public, entry was free, and we could explore as much of them as we wanted. The lack of cost was a wonderful treat because many famous European churches charge visitors’ fees.

Lunch in Lucerne

For lunch in Lucerne, my boyfriend and I decided to try the restaurant in Hotel Bündnerland for some traditional Swiss cuisine. We decided to try Bundner Fladen, a flatbread with cheese and scallions. It was yummy and another excellent opportunity to eat Swiss Cheese.

Traditional Swiss food at Bündnerland
Traditional Swiss food at Bündnerland

We also tried the delicious capuns, or potato dumplings wrapped in Swiss chard and topped with cured pork.

Though I had a tasty lunch, my appetite was only filled when I had one more soupy mug of hot chocolate.

Switzerland: Keeping it Classy Since 1948

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