Feeling ripped off and unhappy in Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Ah, yes, what pretty pictures. But Lucerne was like a vain woman – shallow, boring, self-important, and expensive. And if you look again it’s not really that pretty. It gets worse when the lights go off. Because nothing happens after dark in Lucerne. Then you realize you’ve spent all this time and money and basically got ripped off. That’s how we felt about Lucerne.

views over Lucerne, Switzerland

Sure, there’s a few nice views of the famous wooden bridge and the lake. There’s mountains in the distance. But after that there’s not much. Buildings and architecture are boring. Churches are boring (we’ve seen some nice churches on this trip – Lucerne’s are plain in comparison). The fort walls are not worth the 15 minute walk.

But what really angers me about Lucerne is the way they so unashameably rip off the tourist. Again, just like some beat down skank trying to squeeze its last bucks out of your pocket because she knows that her looks are fading and you won’t be back again. The ‘tourist stretch’ is on the lake side next to the chapel bridge – the restaurants there all screw you with their prices. 35 Swiss Francs for a plate of pasta? Come on. The thing is that everything in the old city closes down in the evening, by 8 pm there was nothing open except for those lake side restaurants. Except McDonalds. I havn’t eaten McDonalds in 5 years but we did in Lucerne. Screwed up my stomach and I was squeezing out some golden nuggets the next morning. That basically sums up what I thought of Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

chapel bridge, Lucerne, Switzerland

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Then there was our hotel, Hotel des Alpes. Mini bar: 4.20 SF for a small bottle of Sprite, 5.70 SF for a small bottle of Heineken. Everyone knows they’re going to pay more from a hotel mini bar, but 3 times the price? (we went to the market at the train station and picked up a Sprite for 1.30 SF).  On top of it all, our hotel was the unfriendliest of any hotel on our travels. They wouldn’t even look up when we passed reception. A couple of old ladies at reception were so dour and mean-looking I was afraid to walk by without a cross in my hand and garlic around my neck.

Lonely Planet recommends Lucerne. Trip Advisor named it one of the 100 Best destinations in the world in 2008. I just don’t get it…

Statue outside the train station – you know what he’s saying right? (“wait, don’t leave without me…”)

train station, Lucerne, Switzerland

 

RelatedHighlights of a trip around Europe

 

Are we the only people not to have enjoyed Lucerne? If you loved it tell me why – I’m always open to differing opinions!

 

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Comments

  1. It was also an awful day we spent in Lucerne; raining, and expensive restaurant.
    Oscar recently posted…The best Spanish beaches for surfingMy Profile

  2. If you find 700 year old buildings boring, you definetely should visit disney land instead.

    • Hark, I think I smell a snarky comment! Never been to Disneyland but have seen lots of old buildings. But not all old stuff is interesting – that’s why they call them ‘ruins’ and tear them down for something better. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hey there

    I live in Lucerne and I get what you are writing. The City is small and there is, compared to much bigger cities, not much to look at. Yes the old part of the town gets quiet after the shops close, and yes there are some restaurants which are particularly expensive (bit just to let you know, Switzerland is expensive as a whole). Oh and yes, some members of staff are unfriendly (but again, Switzerland is not really famous for its friendliness).

    However, and here it comes, it is a very nice place to live! And if you are willing to go where most tourists don’t, the city is not boring at all. If you just walked a little further behind mac donald’s for example (where the new part of the town begins) there would have been plenty of good (and affordable) restaurants and nice bars to hang out. I get the impression that you expected Lucerne to be another Paris, London or another City full of busy people and massive things to look at. Maybe the timing was not that great either. From May to September for instance, the city is much more alive with a lot of music festivals, street concerts, openair bars and the lake to swim in and not just to look at. Nice boating trips to beautiful places along the border of the lake and a lot of outdoor activities right at your doorstep. You can walk to every part of the town within several minutes which is nice as well. It is all there, you just have to open your eyes and walk past the tourist hotspots.

    But yeah, it must be boring to visit Lucerne during February with expectations to visit another Rome or whatnot.

    Sincerely,
    a citizen of Lucerne.

    • Thank you for your very nicely written comment. Actually we were there in the month of May (I only got to writing the post in February). We had no misconceptions about Lucerne itself, we knew beforehand that it was a small city – which was actually the attraction; we prefer towns/small cities to larger cities. We just weren’t impressed though by the highlights of the city or the vibe. But your points are well taken: we wanted to go up Mount Pilatus but didn’t (weather wasn’t clear on our 2nd day) and didn’t take a lake cruise (for the same reasons). Maybe we would have had a much more preferable impression of Lucerne had we done those activities. But I understand what you say about it being a great place to live – I can see that it would be (it’s funny how some places are great to visit but you would never want to live there, whereas some are great to live in but don’t have the wow factor for visitors). Thanks for your comments, I hope they provide insights for future travelers to Lucerne.

    • Hey,I am from Asia and I have been to Lucerne twice last month and I really love there a lot and want to live there.
      the view is so amazing and feel like in heaven!
      We keep asking the same question” why arent we born in Lucerne?”
      I admit the price index is very expensive , but the cheese is little cheaper than here.XD

  4. oh well you need to understand that these are typical swiss prices! for the locals those prices you mentioned are quite normal, maybe some kind of expensive but thay dont consider these prices a ripp off! If their salaries are about 6k CHF per month (on average) its quite normal things cost so much!

    • Hi Yannis – sure, I understand that, worked with a Swiss company for many years so I know the cost of living very well. It’s the main reason we were passing through Switzerland in the first place (see here). But there’s ‘Swiss prices’ then there’s ‘Swiss Tourist Prices’ – I’m sure any Swiss would hesitate paying 35 Swiss Francs for a plate of pasta no matter what he was making. And sure, there’s always a markup when you pay for stuff out of your hotel fridge – but like I say, 3 times the price for a small can of pop??!
      But I appreciate your comment and the perspective. Look at it the other way around; I guess it’s these prices that result in salaries of 6k CHF per month! 🙂

  5. It is very informative post for me because I fly to Switzerland in three weeks.
    And I don’t trust the recommendations of Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor a long time.
    Victor Tribunsky recently posted…Unique Abandoned Russian Сhurch in YaropolecMy Profile

    • Thanks Victor – let me know if you end up going to Lucerne. Interested in knowing what others think of it.

  6. Point taken and I will never go there. Glad to know I am not the only one who has problems after eating a Mac though
    Michael recently posted…5 Tourist Attractions in Preveza, GreeceMy Profile

  7. Sounds like place for great-grandparents to live. Shops close at 8pm? Yikes.
    Devlin recently posted…The Great Central Mexican Road TripMy Profile

  8. Spent two days in Lucerne with my family.We saw some nice things like the lake but the cost for food and other things were so expensive that for sure I will never return.Would you believe that I bought a large bottle of Evian water and it cost 4.50 Swiss franc whereas I bought the same size bottle in Colamar,France for 0.70 Euro what a ripoff

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Agree! I wonder what that would cost in the outskirts of the city where there are no tourists? Just like at the train station, I’m sure would be much cheaper…
      Thanks for your feedback, glad to know some agree 🙂

  9. Dee (Dee's Butterfly Garden) says:

    Oh, you make me laugh!! The statue saying, don’t leave without me, that was so funny!! I think if I was going to travel here I’d rather explore the mountain areas. The prices in this city are absolutely ridiculous and a blatant rip off. On top of that they aren’t even nice to tourists who are spending all of that money! I’ve discovered the blog and all of these new articles to read. I’m temporarily travelling vicariously through yo and Spanky for now/ And I signed up for the newsletter, I’m happy. 🙂

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Aww, you’re the sweetest Dee! I guess maybe we’d be bitter and mean too if we had to pay the prices they pay 🙂

  10. In Lucern now, and it’s not been all that fun or interesting. I just saw your post and thought, that is very close to my experience. I’m from San Francisco and have been in many places with great old architecture and history which I can appreciate , but here like you stated it’s a nice post card worth a short stay, but not longer. I cant wait to round up the sheep and get the flock out. There are some nice people here but others in the service industry are jerks. The nicest local I meet was not even a person, it was a rottweiler. We “ate” at one of the water front bars last night and it was a complete rip-off, to boot the waiter was a read DICK. I mean c’mon man you are waiter, don’t be a dick to your customer. I’m glad I came to see, but will not be back.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Don’t you love it when people serving you act like snooty assholes? If you don’t want to be in the service industry get an education so you don’t have to deal with people.
      Thanks for confirming everything I feel about Lucerne 🙂

    • True!
      The waiters in restaurants there are terrible! Never seem somewhere else before.

  11. I agree some staffs in Luzern are unfriendly.
    This is a strange city. The people there earning money from tourists like crazy, selling watches, swiss knives…At the same time they are unfriendly to their customers. I heard that some citizens even complain about too much tourists on the street that block traffic. If they want to earn money from tourists they need to provide sufficient facilities,such as effective traffic systems, not complain about too many tourists (customers). Or they can choose poverty and unemployment.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Heidi! Are you from Luzern? Yes, that’s what happens when people get too used to tourism – they’re happy to take the money but easy to complain how tourists ruin their city…you’re so right.

  12. Just came back from a Europe trip which included a 3 day stay in Lucrene. It’s a nice city, especially the lake, and it makes a convenient base for the snow capped mountains. However, there are much better places in Europe if you are on limited time.

  13. Just spent the day in Lucerne. We are spending 2 weeks in Freiburg Germany as a base and day-tripping around. Lucerne is truly a picturesque city. It was a beautiful sunny day, so the views were great and full of nice photo ops. I totally agree though on the prices and general lack of friendliness of the people working in the shops and restaurants. I wouldn’t go back, but I’m glad I went, simply for the views. For the value though, there are so many other places to go in southern Germany.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Erik. Agree, Switzerland pricey and people not the friendliest – we’re actually huge fans of Germany as well so agree with your last point 😉

  14. Not in lucerne but in France at lac leman. To get there we had a 5 minute trip through switserland for which they charged us 40 euro for a sticker on the car. Seriously, 5 minutes. There is a waterpark, nothing special, for which they charge almost 200 euro’s. Thats for 2 adults and 2 kids. Still, here in the french part, 5 euro’s for an orangina or a coke.

    For what i ask myself. Yeah they have some mountains. And a freaking lake. Big deal, not nearly as nice as the italian grand lakes where you pay 100 euro’s for a fancy fish/seafood dish for 4.

    I totaly agree on your lucerne concerns. The rest of Swiss and the french part arround lac leman is the same. Pay a lot, get a little. We are here now, but no way that they will see me back. Screw them and their pink cows. Boring bunch of mountain hillbillys with attitudes that would fit kings. Now take my euro’s and go and clean my room. Over rated and there are much nicer countries just arround the corner.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Ha! I’m sorry I had to laugh reading this because I feel your frustration. You just want to take the wife and kids somewhere nice on vacation and you feel like you get fucked over at every turn. 5 Euros for an Orangina!? Wow. We’ve had a few trips like this and it just makes you so angry because you think of how hard you had to work to make that money and then you see it pour out of your pocket like a leaky faucet. I’m sorry about your holiday.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Ziplining in Omis, CroatiaMy Profile

  15. I have been feeling to share my part of experience of visiting Switzerland during last year April. We are a couple visited the picturesque Swiss. But yeah for sure it came with a heavy price tag. Basically we were on a trip to Europe. Spent typically 1 – 1.5 weeks per country in Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Among-st all, no doubt swiss was expensive by far. For a very stupid 12 sq. mt. sized hotel room with 2 star badge the price comes hefty 120 – 150 Euros. And moreover you cannot check-in before 2 PM in most of the swiss hotels. Why because; the swiss does not have much of population who can do all these room cleaning work before guest arrives. Cost of a 250ml bottle of plain drinking water cost about 6 swiss francs in these so called scenic trains. Its pure rip off. You can see the same kind of beauty, mountain, valleys, do ice skating, summit to a top of ice mountain, do sky diving, eat as much chocolates for a fraction of price in other countries. For a matter of fact I personally liked Belgian chocolate over these Sh*t Sprungli / Lindt and price is a definitely way below swiss exorbitant price. Its a very honest suggestion to all my friends reading out this: please do not visit Switzerland if you are not that wealthy. do not get carried out by these promos, movie scenes, dialogues and their tourism board. But if you got enough money and do not know where to spend, go to Vegas, Macau for that matter. You can njoy more than this Fuck*ng Shitzeland. Really its not Switzerland, its Shitzerland

  16. AMarie says:

    Glad I found this. I’m doing a bareboat charter in Split for a week, then thought I’d wrap up the with a little culture so I’m spending a few days in Zurich, ballet and opera, etc. EVERYONE keeps telling me I MUST go to Lucerne, but I’m looking at it and I just don’t see a single interesting thing! I’ll have just gotten off a boat going to tiny islands- a crowded lake and maybe a ferry ride sound like complete hell after that.

    I had to look up where you live though after the price complaint- I live in New York and those mini bar prices are basically the same as street vendor prices here- the mini bar prices are double THAT. But your wife is from New York! Question- does she agree the prices are high or mostly just laugh? 🙂

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      “bareboat charter” – sounds great! The weather has been a bit variable in Split but I hope you’ve enjoyed.
      I really don’t get the whole Lucerne thing. No idea. Maybe if you go up into the mountains (which we didn’t do)? But overall we found it overpriced, the people unfriendly, and we weren’t really wowed by much.
      Lissette says it’s about New York prices. So yes, quite expensive. I usually buy a magnet everywhere I go but I remember in Switzerland saying “screw it” – it just felt crazy paying $10-12 for a magnet.
      Overall we just didn’t find any value in Lucerne. Sometimes we’ll splurge…but for us it just wasn’t worth it there.

  17. John Daskivich says:

    I just finished reading Frank’s post and was very disturbed by what I read. I presently live in PA, but was born in Switzerland. I have never visited the majority of cantons in Switzerland, but will wholeheartedly agree with the absurdity of prices (can we really say the prices or scenery in London is that much better?) I will agree in some cases the word “rude” would be a drastic understatement of the demeanor of the staff (perhaps surly would be a better word). It is also true that if we were on a train visiting some of the sights, it would better off just bypassing the stop altogether.

    To be fair, we have met waiters & waitresses that were beyond exemplary, and we have seen sights that are spectacular. Lastly, it is a very rare instance where I will hear someone say “I’ve been to Switzerland; there’s nothing to see; don’t waste your time going!”

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for the comment John.
      This trip was quite a long time ago, I think it goes back to 2009. But yes, prices were absurd and we didn’t find the Swiss overall very charming. But while we weren’t impressed by Lucerne we loved our stay in Lauterbrunnen, in the Berner Oberland. Incredible scenery. You are very right, there is lots to see (and a lot of beauty) in Switzerland.
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  18. Crosses and garlic ….. I was doubled over! Laughter being one of my favorite pastimes …. I’m
    Glad I didn’t move there!

  19. Great feedback, seriously! So truthful. Am planning to visit relatives in Geneva in June 18. Am now in 2 minds about Lucerne since reviews in trip advisor confirm your experience especially regarding pricing. Maybe 1 day in Lucerne. Where all did u stay? Any recommendations? Did u stay in lauterbrunnen or murren? Stilthorn peak? So in hindsight will it be better if I visit Austria and go directly to Geneva? Please help & take me along too!!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Sunil!
      Thanks for the comments.
      I’m stretching my memory on this post because it was in 2009 that we were in Switzerland. We stayed in Lauterbrunnen (which I wrote about here) and it was absolutely gorgeous. We stayed in the hotel Staubach: their website here. Seems pricy but by Geneva/Lucerne standard actually cheap…and with incredible views. I would go back in a heartbeat.
      I’m a big fan of Germany and that’s always an alternative. Lindau, on Lake Constance, is beautiful. But there are endless possibilities in the region. All depends on the time of year and how you travel. We took the train from Venice to Geneva. And from Geneva we went to Lauterbrunnen which we loved, wish we had stayed longer (but be careful, even in May some routes were closed due to snow).
      As for the history I can totally sympathize. How many African dictators have diverted funds into Swiss bank accounts over the years? I know they made some changes to be more transparent but really not familiar with details…Unfortunately where there’s a will there’s a way, if it’s not Switzerland it’ll be the Channel Islands or any number of places in the Caribbean.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!
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  20. I like to add since u mentioned “feeling ripped off”, I stay in a rather poor country India where most of the wealth in disproportionately distributed and corruption accounts for single most reason of unimaginable depravity of its citizens. The chief reason is illicit accumulation of black Money in Swiss banks! Aha! Now I know why they rip! I simply do not understand how such a progressive society allows its govt to hush. Up illegally deposited money of crony capitalists of poor countries like India where people r dying in millions due to corrupt political parties. I mean it’s criminal to be complicit in allowing ppl to deposit money to evade tax in Swiss banks and proudly haves strict no tell policy! I feel sorry to say but this is not what the church bells tell. Just a thought but I had to say.

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