One of the first cities of the Swiss Confederacy, Lucerne is now the biggest business and cultural hub in central Switzerland. Although not as big as Zurich or Geneva, it’s a very popular destination, for tourists, businessmen and expats alike. Moving – or just travelling – to Lucerne will be easier if you prepare beforehand though.
Travelling to Lucerne – how to get there?
Lucerne is located in the heart of Switzerland. The local railway station connects it with all major cities of Switzerland. For international journeys, you will usually need a transfer in one of Switzerland’s main hubs: Zurich, Basel or Geneva. If you’re planning to travel to Lucerne by plane, the nearest airport is the Zurich Kloten. From there, you can get to Lucerne by car in less than an hour. You can also travel in a direct train, in about 75 minutes. The ticket from the airport costs 15 CHF. Lucerne is also easily accessible by car. The city is located right by the A2 (Germany/France-Basel-Lugano-Italy) and the A4 (Germany-Schaffhausen-Lucerne) highways. The location of Lucerne lets you get there from every country surrounding Switzerland in less than three hours.
Swiss power sockets and adapters
Arriving in Switzerland, you have to remember that – though divided by language – the Swiss have a single, unique power socket standard. The sockets are three-holed and hexagonal in shape. The Swiss socket is compatible with the standard Europlug, but for appliances with European Type E or Type F plugs you will need an adapter. The standard voltage in Switzerland is 230V, with a 50Hz frequency. If you’re coming from the US, Canada or South America, you should check the label on your appliance. If it does not accept the usual European voltage and frequency, you will also need a voltage converter.
Opening hours and leisure in Lucerne
Generally, shops in Lucerne operate Monday to Friday between 8:30 AM and 6:30 PM. Thursdays and Fridays, are the “late-night” shopping days, with opening hours extended to 9 PM, but not all shops participate. On Saturdays, the opening hours are shorter, usually 9 AM to 4 PM. On Sundays and public holidays all shops are closed. All these regulations do not apply to gas stations and businesses inside train stations. In Lucerne you can therefore go to one of the two supermarkets located in the Bahnhof building.
Remember that the Swiss are ultra-serious about their time off and some of the old buildings are terrible at noise reduction. Doing anything deemed too loud by your neighbors after 10 PM or on Sunday can result not only in anonymous, sternly-worded letters. The lunchtime between noon and 1 PM is considered a “rest time” too. Repeated offences might result in a police visit and – in the worst case scenario – even a fine. Known noise disturbances that might you get in trouble are: hammering, using power tools, doing laundry and even mowing your lawn.
Travelling to Lucerne: parking
Just like in other Swiss cities, understanding the parking regulations can prove difficult. If you are travelling to Lucerne for a short stay, you can buy a day pass (20 CHF/day), that allows unlimited parking in the designated spots of the blue zone. You can also use one of the many multi-level garages (3-6 CHF/hour). If you work or have a permanent address in Lucerne, you can apply for a parking permit (60 CHF/month or 600 CHF/year).
Parking discs in Lucerne
If you don’t have a resident card, things can get pretty tricky. Monday-Saturday, you can park in the Blue Zone for free, for a limited time, but you need a parking disc. You can get one on a gas station, in the tourist info office or in a bank. When you park, you have to set the time indicator to the next full half-hour mark after your arrival. Example: if you park at 15:01, you set the timer to 15:30 and you can stay until 16:30. Between 11:00 and 13:29 you still set the mark to the next half-hour, but – as it’s lunch break – you can stay until 14:30. From 18:00 to 9:00 and on Sundays, Blue Zone parking is free.
Getting around Lucerne by public transport
To avoid all these issues, you might consider leaving the car and start exploring the city on foot or using the local public transport. The system in Lucerne is well-developed and quite simple to understand. Lucerne city Zone 10 includes the city proper and the neighboring municipalities. A short journey, up to 6 stops and half an hour, will cost CHF 2.50. A single, 1-hour ticket costs 4.10 CHF, and a day pass – 8.20 CHF. If you are staying in a hotel, you should receive a Visitor Card that gives you a free pass on the public transport and many discounts for a maximum of two weeks.
The öV-TICKET (Apple, Android) is the official app of Luzern’s public transport operator. With the app you can plan journeys, check the timetables on nearby stops and purchase tickets. It also automatically picks the most favorable tariff for your journey.
Renting an apartment in Lucerne
If you’re moving to Switzerland from abroad, you might encounter a couple of challenges. The rents are lower than in the nearby cantons of Zug and Zurich, but the market is a lot smaller. It’s also quite difficult to find a property in Lucerne proper. Many people looking for a place to live have to pick something in the suburbs, as there are very few apartments available in city center.
If you find an apartment you like, you still have to go through the application process. The landlords usually hand out application forms and require some documents, e.g. a copy of your salary statement and an extract from the debt collection register. Have them ready before you start looking for a place to rent. Many also ask for references and they might even contact your employer!
VISIONAPARTMENTS in Lucerne
VISIONAPARTMENTS, the Swiss market leader in the serviced apartments sector, offers rooms and studios at Neustadtstrasse 16, about 10 minutes walking from Lucerne main train station. A room starts at 1’090 Swiss francs per month, and a studio with a fully-equipped kitchenette starts at 1’390 Swiss francs per month. The minimum rent period is 2 days, and you can leave the temporary home whenever you like – without cleaning it or searching for a new tenant. This solution is particularly suitable for expats, people relocating from abroad or for a comfortable stay while searching for a long-term home.