For my second day in Switzerland, we took a day trip from Zurich to the city of Lucern, only about an hour by train from Zurich Central Station (HB). The tickets were about $27 each way, no train transfers necessary, and be arrived before we knew it!
With no real plan, we wandered around the lake city, looking in the windows of chocolate shops, and walked along the Reuss River. There were several incredibly scenic bridges spanning the river, including Lucern’s famous Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke. We made our way to the Jesuitenkirche, a large baroque church that looks much more impressive inside than its unassuming outside. The high ceilings and walls have a pink, white, and powder yellow color pallet with intricate moulding, and the altar is ornately decorated in stunning red marble and gold. A kind elderly lady starting talking to us, telling us a bit about the history of the church and discussing some of the Christmas traditions that they hold there.
We exited the church and crossed the Reussbrücke, with ironwork railing and string lights up ahead. From the bridge we could see a beautiful view of Chapel Bridge, the Alps, and Jesuitenkirche, and the gold lights shimmering on the river provided great contrast to the darkening blue waters.
On the other side of the bridge, we came upon a small Christmas Market at Weinmarkt. I got a Tisane herbal tea, and we strolled along the tents, peeking at the local handcrafts. We stopped for a bit at the medieval looking fountain in the middle of the square, now decorated with two small Christmas trees on one side.
Now dark outside, we continued strolling the streets, looking at the displays of the closed shops in Lucerne Old Town. We didn’t go far before hearing a strange banging noise, almost like construction. We followed the noise to find a parade of people dressed in white sweaters with red bandanas and giant bells connected to thick leather belts around their waists. With every step, they would toss the bell up and down in unison. They were followed by two people carrying poles with lit-up, colorful stars, as well as a man dressed up like a saint with a big beard, a man with black robes and a big wicker basket on his back filled with peanuts, and two men in black robes with their faces painted in black and bundles of sticks in hang. The man with the basket would hand peanuts to children as he passed, while the men with face paint would mark a black streak on some of their faces. We found out this parade was a celebration on St. Nicholas, and the men in robes represented good and bad children!
We followed the parade to Hotel Schweizerhof, where the group stopped, made a big circle, and banged their bells in unison, increasing the speed of the clanging until it reached a climax and they shouted in glee. We hung out with the parade party at standing tables outside the hotel. They were really nice, and told us about some things we could see during our last hours in Lucerne. There were wicker baskets on each table with peanuts, small chocolates, and tangerines. We also enjoyed Glühwein Weiss, a delicious white mulled wine, a winter classic in this area.
After chatting for a while, we headed off to continue exploring the city. We bought some chocolate at a Swiss Chocolatier and found one other Christmas Market where we enjoyed some Bratwurst with bread and ketchup. To finish our trip we crossed the symbol of the city, Chapel Bridge, a big covered wooden bridge with a thick tower in the middle of the river. We were happy we got to do a day trip to explore a little bit more of Switzerland.