6 Ways To Walk in the Footsteps of William Turner in Lucerne

© Jeannie Phan / Culture Trip

The Kunstmuseum Luzern is celebrating its 200th anniversary by hosting an incredible exhibition of the works by the famed British painter. Here’s how to experience the town from his perspective.

The artist William Turner was so enamoured with Lucerne in Switzerland that he visited the town around six times between 1802 and 1844. His sketches and paintings perfectly portray the ethereal beauty of the lake and mountains that surround it, and to this day it is easy to see the scenes that inspired the artist. The snowy peaks, the pastel-coloured houses and the calm waters of the lake are all timeless reminders of what kept Turner coming back to Lucerne. Walk in his footsteps with this guide to your visit.

Admire Turner’s work at Kunstmuseum Luzern

Museum, Architectural Landmark
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Switzerland Cities
The Turner exhibition was curated by the Kunstmuseum’s director Fanni Fetzer and co-curator Beat Wismer | © Lucerne Tourism / André Meier

With its stark lines and location right on the waterfront, the imposing KKL Luzern building is hard to miss. This modern steel and glass construction, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, is Lucerne’s cultural hub and also home to the Kunstmuseum Luzern, which will host the temporary William Turner exhibit, entitled Turner: The Sea and the Alps, from July to October 2019. The museum’s permanent collection is also worth a visit, and the bar and restaurant are both ideal if you’re seeking a place to enjoy some of the city’s best culinary delights with an unbeatable view. If music is your thing, check out who is playing in the concert hall – you might be in for a treat.

Lunch with a view at the Restaurant Schwanen

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Switzerland Cities
Restaurant Schwanen is a great spot for a coffee break | © Lucerne Tourism / André Meier

Once called The Schwan Inn, Restaurant Schwanen (Café de Ville) used to offer board and rooms, and it’s here that Turner stayed during several trips to Lucerne. A quick look out the window will tell you why the artist picked it as his base: the views over Mount Rigi are picture-perfect and it’s likely that many of his paintings were drawn right on the river bank outside the inn. Today the restaurant serves traditional European fare, making it a wonderful spot at any time of the day.

Take a day trip to Mount Rigi

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Views across Mount Rigi
Enjoy spectacular views from the summit of Mount Rigi | © Lucerne Tourism / Beat Brechbuehl

Many of Turner’s paintings feature views of Mount Rigi, one of the mountains surrounding Lucerne. A day trip to the Rigi summit is essential if you want to take in some breathtaking views of the Alps and the lakes around them. And from downtown Lucerne, you can take a steamer boat to Vitznau, then hop aboard the cog railway that slowly climbs to the peak. The journey is relaxing and the panoramas at the top are themselves a work of art; it doesn’t come as a surprise that Turner felt inspired when he visited.

Catch the panoramic views from the Rigi-Kulm Hotel

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Sunset over Rigi
Rigi Kulm Hotel opened in 1816 and is Switzerland’s first mountain inn | © Lucerne Tourism / Emanuel Ammon

At the summit station of Mount Rigi’s cog railway, the Rigi-Kulm Hotel is ideal for a drink or a bite to eat while enjoying the fresh mountain air and the incredible views from the panoramic terrace. You can either indulge in a luxury à la carte lunch or, if you prefer, you can grab something quick but equally delicious at the self service: either way you won’t be disappointed as both offer Swiss classics such as bratwurst and rösti.

Discover sports, arts and more at Pilatus

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Ship on Lake Lucerne with the Pilatus in the background
Mount Pilatus flanks Lake Lucerne | © Lucerne Tourism / Jan Geerk
Mount Pilatus is even closer to Lucerne than Mount Rigi and can be reached by cogwheel train from Alpnachstad or cable car from Kriens. The mountain is a local favourite, and worth a trip for the vast range of activities on offer. You can hike, climb or mountain bike, or if you prefer something less adventurous, you can attend concerts, like the open air Pilatus on the Rocks festival, participate in astronomy workshops or go on a safari to spot ibex – wild mountain goats. Or, simply enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner with a stunning view of the lake and the city below.

Old Town Lucerne

Historical Landmark
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Cross the historic Kapellbrücke, for views over Lucerne’s Old Town | © Lucerne Tourism / Beat Brechbuehl

Lucerne’s city centre hasn’t changed much since Turner’s time and is a great place for a stroll. Crossing the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), one of Lucerne’s wooden covered bridges, is the best way to reach the old town. Once on the other side, stop for a beer at the Rathaus brewery right on the quay before getting lost in the maze of streets and alleys of the old town. You’ll discover several beautifully painted houses, especially in Sternenplatz, as you make your way towards St Leodegar church, a monumental masterpiece of the German late-Renaissance period. Back on the South side of the river, the Jesuit Church is worth a visit too. It was the first large Baroque church built north of the Alps and is as impressive inside as it is out. End your walking tour of the sights at the nearby Hotel Wilden Mann. Open for more than 500 years as a bar, then a tavern, it’s now a hotel and restaurant rooted in tradition but with a keen eye for details and innovation.

Looking for another place to stay in Lucerne?

Hotel Anker Luzern

Boutique Hotel
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Guest room at Hotel Anker Luzern
Technicolour cushions add character to the Hotel Anker bedrooms | Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

The perfect blend of vintage and contemporary design, Hotel Anker is centrally located, making it an ideal base for discovering Lucerne. Bright, colourful accents add a unique character to each of the rooms. The bar and restaurant are equally pleasing in design, and the convivial atmosphere makes the social spaces the perfect place to relax after a long day exploring the city.

Inspired to plan a memorable trip to Switzerland? Discover the best of Lucerne this summer.

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