Life, Travel

Our Magical Minimoon In Snowy Luzern

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We hunted for somewhere to go on our winter minimoon for hours. We looked at Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Finland. We wanted somewhere pretty with all the winter feels, but also to be close to a city. Enter Luzern (or Lucerne). As soon as I saw pictures of the medieval-looking city set on a lake, I was sold.

Looking for a Lucerne travel guide and some handy tips? You’ve come to the right place. Find out all about our trip of a lifetime below. 

The reality is exactly like the pictures. Bridges that look like they should be in a Game of Thrones scene with John Snow and Sansa Stark standing on them. Majestic buildings in the old town with intricate details and colourful alpine style houses. Oh, and cobbled streets of course. The Kapellbrücke bridge juts out diagonally across the lake, and boy is it a wonder to behold.

Walk along this beautiful bridge and take a peek at the artwork under the arches, whilst you gaze across the water at a city that looks like it’s been taken straight out a postcard.

When we arrived it was a gloriously sunny day, we even sat outside and enjoyed the warm rays on our skin. Then, two days later – it snowed. As if this city could get any more charming. Luzern in the snow is just an absolute dream.

If you’re thinking of visiting Luzern and want some handy tips and itinerary ideas, I’ve got your back. Read on to find out what we got up to and my personal recommendations.

Our Hotel

It was our minimoon, so we were super fussy about where we stayed. I wanted to stay somewhere plush with beautiful views, and The Hotel des Balances ticked all the boxes. We booked their ‘Romtanic Suite’ with an open whirlpool bath.

We walked into the room and I ran outside straight away to inspect the view – and boy, it didn’t disappoint. The perfect view of the river and Luzern’s famous bridge. It’s not often you get to appreciate a lake, the mountains and a medieval city all in one hotel room view.

I loved the gold touches around the room which contributed to the luxurious vibes. An enormous comfy bed with fluffy covers and magical lights on the ceiling. Personally, I usually judge the quality of a hotel room based on the bed. This bed was like a cozy cocoon that was so comfy it was impossible to get out of in the mornings.

And don’t even get me started on the whirlpool bath. There’s just something so appealing about an open bathroom, it makes the hotel room feel extra special. Oh, and there were also lights above the bath to complete the relaxing experience. I don’t think I’ll ever have a better bath.

The room also had a classical music CD and a stereo system so we could play soothing music in the background. I sat in the bath, turned on the bubbles, stared up at the lights and listened to the music as I sipped my Champagne. All in all a wonderful hotel room that was perfect for our romantic minimoon.

On our first night at the hotel, we indulged in a seven-course meal at the hotel, and it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. The dinner consisted of lobster, veal, pike, salmon, pasta and the most mouthwatering pudding I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. I will be writing a blog post about this meal so watch out for further details and some serious food envy.

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hotel des balances lucerne bar restuarant

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amazing open bath tub bathroom whirlpool lights above bath

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Hotel room hotel des balances switzerland

amazing puddings passionfruit and ginger

lobster salad

amazing cheese boards swiss cheese

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lucerne in the snow

Glacier Gardens

The Glacier Gardens are one of the most popular attractions in the city. You can go inside and wander amongst the remains of a glacier that used to cover Luzern. Peer down into the rocky depths and see how nature has carved a path into the stone. It helps remind you what a powerful force nature is and just how insignificant my life, with all my little worries is in comparison.

My hubby loved all the facts and stories inside the museum. My favourite part (because I’m clearly a child at heart) was the mirror maze. Literally so much fun it made us laugh so much trying to find out way around and nearly walking into the mirrors. My only wish is that it was a bit longer/bigger so we could spend more time being silly.

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Chocolate factory

We hopped on the train from Luzern to Root. It only took ten minutes and the chocolate factory is located literally just outside the train station. So it’s super easy to get to. If you don’t want to pay to go in the museum, you can just go to the cafe for a very indulgent hot chocolate and some sweet treats. If you go inside the museum, you get to see the factory workers making the chocolate and how the production line works.

There are also free samples including chocolate pennies and a chocolate fountain where you can pour chocolate sauce onto rice crispies, cornflakes, hazelnuts and cocoa nibs. YUMMMM. For a little bit extra, you can make your own chocolate bar and decorate it with tons of drool-worthy toppings.

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Cheese

As you wander round the city you will see lots of places advertising cheese fondue, it’s their speciality. But it’s very expensive, so if you’re going to pay for the pleasure of dipping bread and potatoes in gooey hot cheese, you may as well go to the best place in town. And where better to ask about the best fondue restaurant than an independent cheese shop?!

We’d had these amazing cheese tarts that were only around £2 from a cheese shop we passed. It’s called Chas Barmettler and it’s not a chain or anything, certainly worth visiting if you want to buy some cheese or get cheese fondue ingredients. The cheese shop was opened in 1972 by a couple who had a passion for cheese and tradition.

They told us that the best place to have cheese fondue is Schiff-Restaurant Wilhelm Tell. The restaurant is on a boat so it’s worth going for that experience alone. The quality of the cheese and ingredients far exceeded the fondue we’d had on our first day.

We went for a leek, bacon and garlic combo and if I’m completely honest, I’m still dreaming about it now. And I’m not usually a white wine drinker, but it goes so well with the cheese and the white wine at this restaurant was superb.

Our first fondue was along the river not too far from our hotel. We were greeted with beautiful sunshine when we arrived in Lucerne, it was even warm enough to sit outside and enjoy an indulgent fondue. A fab way to start our holiday and we were yet to discover even better cheese. And yeah, I’m salivating as I write this.

We were also recommended by the tourist office to go to the cheese factory in Engelberg, but don’t bother going just for that as it’s not really a factory tour, more of a shop and cafe. Although it might have been out of season which is why they weren’t doing any demos.

If you’re after a decent cheese board, order one at the Hotel des Balances. We had one as part of our meal and the cheese literally melted in my mouth, every single type of cheese was exceptional.

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The Christmas markets

We’ve been to quite a few Christmas markets in Europe, including Cologne, Salzburg and Nuremberg. We know a good market when we see one. Although the markets in Luzern don’t have as many amazing stalls and features, what they lack in numbers they make up for in atmosphere.

On one day we passed a little market with people playing trumpets and I’ve never felt so Christmassy in my entire life, it put the biggest smile on my face. It was lovely to join in with all the locals and embrace the festive spirit. There are lots of stalls where you can get mulled wine and cider, plus waffles and international cuisine. I wouldn’t visit Luzern purely for the Christmas markets but they are lovely to enjoy whilst you’re there.

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Mountain explorations

The most well-known mountain to go up from Luzern is Mount Pilatus, but the train ride up the mountain was closed during the Xmas period, so this wasn’t an option for us. Instead we ended up going to Mount Rigi, but unfortunately on the day we went it was snowing and very foggy, so despite going up very high we didn’t get any mountain views. We enjoyed the boat trip that takes you to the town below the mountain as you can see more of the scenery around the lake. 

It’s quite expensive to get up to the top of the mountain so I wouldn’t pay to do it unless you plan on doing some winter sports. You can rent a sleigh or go skiing. We didn’t have proper winter gear and it was far too cold and blustery at the top. Instead we decided to go part way down the mount to the Mineralbad Spa at Rigi Kaltbad.

It’s quite a nice spa but certainly not the best I’ve ever been to. There’s a sauna, relaxation pool, indoor and outdoor pool. The best part about the spa is the outdoor pool which overlooks the mountains. Although we couldn’t see the view it was a wonderful experience swimming outside whilst it was snowing. We even jumped out the pool and dived into the snow in our swimwear, before swiftly jumping back into the warmth of the water.

After a disappointing trip to Mount Rigi, we knew we were going to have to pay to go up a different mountain on another day. So we waited for the weather to clear and booked a trip to Mount Titlis via the tourist office. You can get a train from Luzern directly to Engelberg, the town near Titlis and there’s a free shuttle bus from the train station to the mountain. 

I think it was about £90 each all in to get right to the top of the mountain, but Titlis offered better value for money. Because for that you get to go on the 360 gondola ride, the sky flyer, do the cliff walk at the top and also go doughnutting in the snow for free. There’s also an ice cave you can walk through. But it’s mostly worth purely for the jaw-dropping views.

You get to go above the clouds. It’s rather odd sitting at the top of a mountain looking down at a thick layer of cloud below you, it sort of felt like being on a plane. At 3000 metres high, you can see stunning views of the surrounding mountains. You can also do all sorts of winter sports here including skiing, snowboarding and ride snowmobiles.

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An encounter with some Highland Cows

Whilst walking along the city walls we passed a family and an English guy who lives in Luzern told us to walk behind the walls where you can see some animals. I think there’s a little farm you can visit in the summer. We stumbled upon some rather adorable highland cows and an alpaca. They kept us entertained for a little while.

I think they’re usually in the field behind the walls but they were being sheltered from the snow, which actually meant we could get closer to them. The baby cow seemed to want to give us lots of kisses, he particularly loved my Timberland boots!

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Snowy Luzern

Oh wow, when it snows in Luzern the city feels even more magical than it already is. It’s picture perfect and oh so breathtaking. It really felt special waking up one more and seeing a blanket of snow outside our hotel balcony. The bride looks gorgeous covered in white powder and somehow the city has more of a medieval vibe. If you can time you trip right so that it snows you’ll be in for a right treat.

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The best places for views over Luzern

If you’re after the best views in Luzern, there are several different places you can go. If you head to the city walls there are towers you can walk up (check when they are open though as they were closed when we went). On one side of the city wall you can take advantage of a fab photo op. There are sweeping views of the lake, mountain and city.

You can also see wonderful views from a viewing platform next to Hotel Guste. You can walk up there or get the cable car. Another place to get great views is from the tower in the Glacier Gardens but you will need to pay to go in.

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Walking around Lucerne

There are plenty of places to go walking in and around the city, including four or five hour hikes. As hiking novices we decided to go on a shorter more relaxed walk through the woods and up a small mountain. This walk is usually about an hour if you take the cable car down but it was closed so it took us a while longer to make our way down to the bottom, you then catch a bus back to Luzern. The woods were totally magical in the snow and it was fun walking through the thicker snow on the outskirts of the city. This walk starts from next to the Hotel Gutsch and meanders through the woodland.

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Cheap eats in Luzern

As you’re probably aware, Switzerland is not cheap. In fact, we were shocked just how expensive it really was. It was tough to eat out for less than £60 for both of us. So we did some research and found a couple of cheaper restaurants in Luzern.

There’s a burger joint (Jill’s Burger) which is good value if you fancy some proper hearty grub, and their homemade ice tea is really refreshing. Plus you can grab a table by the window with views of the river.

Another excellent option is Made in Sud, an Italian restaurant with great reviews. It doesn’t feel touristy at all and most of the locals seem to eat here. It’s very small but the atmosphere and service is fab. The Italian restaurant, Valentino near The Hotel des Balances is also pretty decent value. For a cheap lunch (they do a range of warming soups and the mac n cheese looked good) and a yummy hot chocolate try Cafeteria Emilio.

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Getting around the city

You certainly don’t need a car if you plan on staying in Luzern. You can easily walk around the entire city on foot. Plus, if you stay in any hotel in the city you get a free bus pass (which covers a fixed area) which means you get hop on and off easily. Getting the train from Zurich airport is also very straightforward. You just catch a direct train (there are some where you have to change once) to Luzern which takes around 45 minutes. There are also ferries which you can catch to get to specific spots around the lake.

Overall impressions

Would I go again? Possibly. But either to go for more outdoor adventures in the surrounding mountains or just to spend a couple of days in the city. The hotel really made our stay and it was great to enjoy staying in such a luxurious place.

Luzern will forever be in my memory as that special place where we spent time together as newlyweds. It’s very romantic and beautiful, so I’d definitely recommend it as a winter minimoon/honeymoon destination.

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lucerne at night lights

Lucerne river dam