Luzern's lakefront serenity has transcended the ages with its seductive, stylish pull.
In a city of bridges, there's no mistaking what a scene-stealer Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrucke, is.
What you may not know is that the landmark was previously connected with another bridge, the Hof Bridge, which traipsed all the way to the glorious Hofkirche, feted for its vaulting twin towers.
Yet in 1834, the Hof Bridge was dismantled to make way for the sweep of luxury hotels edging the lake.
Powerfully emblematic of Luzern, it was a masterly stroke of good fortune that the redundant Hof Bridge had been kept in safe storage.
After a devastating fire ripped through the Chapel Bridge in 1993, the old Hof provided a handy outlet for spare parts, rapidly deployed to resurrect the pre-eminent landmark.
Originally forming part of the medieval town's fortifications, 85 of the 110 paintings adorning the bridge were destroyed by the fire although a few burnt panels are still on display as a memorial, along with the panels which survived intact.
Also in the old town, cast your gaze across the crenellated old city walls, crowned with nine towers, which have been keeping watch for 700 years.
They've also been keeping time. The oldest of Luzern's clocks, built in the Zyt tower in 1535, chimes hourly, exactly one minute before all the other city clocks, in honour of its heritage as a timekeeper for merchant ships.
Explore the walls for spectacular panoramas over the rooftops. Dive into the old town, a resolutely preserved honeycomb of old burghers' houses and tiny squares with tinkling fountains. Some of the timber-framed buildings flanking the cobbled streets are brightly painted in frescoes, denoting their back story and injecting the area with a rich storybook ambience.
I love the picturesque Weinmarkt, central to medieval cultural life and lavish religious pageants. Strolling over to the Lowenplatz area, don't miss the immense Bourbaki Panorama, the world's largest circular painting, completed in 1881. It's the length of a rugby field and depicts in hyper-realism the retreat of the French Eastern Army into Switzerland in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War.
Tourists also swarm on the show-stopper in sandstone, the Lion Monument.
The heart-tugging monument commemorates the death of the Swiss Guards who were killed while trying to protect King Louis XVI during the French Revolution in 1792. Mark Twain wrote that the monument is "the saddest piece of rock in the world".
In a city endowed with pocket-sized museums and galleries, I delighted in delving into the Museum of History. Amid its trove of exhibits, the original Luzern Lion rests here. While being transported across the Alps from Italy, the sculpture was cracked.
A taste of 19th-century grandeur
Luzern is a balcony town and I was peering out on the elemental vista from one of those trail-blazing luxury hotels, wrapped along the lakefront, where the Hof Bridge once stood.
Constructed in the 19th century to cater to the wealthy wanderers on a Grand Tour, these grand dames underscore Luzern's enduring allure.
I stayed at the pioneering hotel, Schweizerhof, which boldly led the way down luxury lane, opening its doors in 1845.
Every room has recently been refreshed and the hotel took the opportunity to share, honour and celebrate some of its legendary guests in the resulting room design elements — or "thumbprints" as they are called.
Memorabilia, quotes and writings have been thoughtfully injected into every individually designed room.
Whether you're in-residence or not, dining at Galerie is quite the destination for the classical chateaubriand (thick cut of tenderloin steak), one of the fancy creations the guest chefs showcase, and for the sublime showcase of seasonal, regional dishes.
Offering impeccable service, whip-smart attention to detail, seriously stylish décor and memorable accommodations, immerse yourself in the vibrant soul of Luzern at Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern, a proud member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary with a range of celebratory specials.
iPrefer members receive free internet, room upgrade, priority early check-in, late check-out, and points for free nights at this hotel.
¦For the very best deals and seasonal specials, check out the iPrefer app, which includes member rates and rewards, or book direct at www.preferredhotels.com
Plotting a dream trip to Switzerland? The official tourism website is a trusty one-stop-shop. myswitzerland.com
Travelling Switzerland by train is an unforgettably photogenic experience. Purchase a pass to suit your needs, in advance from Rail Europe, the experts in great rail travel. raileurope.co.nz
Fly to Zurich with Cathay Pacific who operate ultra-contemporary A350-900s, the newest aircraft in the world, from both Auckland and Christchurch. The cabin air quality is decidedly better — I experienced minimal jet-lag. cathaypacific.com