Lucerne, where Swiss tourism was born

By Wibke Carter • Photographs Courtesy Wibke Carter

“Visiting Lucerne is like going to Disneyland: You can’t imagine that it is real because it looks like a movie lot,” said Brad Thor, an American novelist, and really, he was not far off the mark. Take a crystal clear lake, snow-capped mountains and a medieval Old Town, then add the best of clocks, cheese and chocolate, and you have the picture-perfect Swiss town. For many travelers Lucerne is Switzerland.

The fascination with the charming town on the shores of Lake Lucerne is centuries old. The English painter William Turner made it famous with a series of watercolors in the 1830s and 1840s, and in 1863, nearby Rigi mountain was the highlight of the world’s first overseas package holiday. A Thomas Cook group tour to Switzerland included climbing to the summit to watch the sunrise.

Already popular with British travelers, Lucerne got a further boost when Queen Victoria, still mourning the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, and a small entourage headed to central Switzerland for a five-week getaway in 1868. Her grief was so deep that she had become ill suffering a sort of depression and on doctor’s orders she took a break from all royal duties.

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