Light up Lucerne

LILU was the first Light Festival Lucerne. Michael Edwards visits one of Switzerland’s most stylish cities and predicts that LILU will grow and grow.

Lucerne lighting

Legend has it that the name Lucerne originated from an angel shining a light to show the people where to build their church. So, it is highly appropriate that Lucerne has taken the theme on. The inaugural Light Festival from 10th – 20th January 2019 was a brilliant, glowing and incandescent success.

The festival used 18 light installations to showcase the very best of the beautiful city of Lucerne. Many of the features were interactive. Standing in front of a camera you could have your face projected 16-fold onto the facade of the Town Hall. Frightening.

For the Festival, the grandiose arch, in front of the station, was lit with vivid purple light. If you have flown into Zürich airport and taken an hour train journey to Lucerne, you will pass through that arch. Look out for jilted lovers, ecstatic lovers, as it is Lucerne’s top meeting rendezvous for a date.

At the Music Pavilion spectators can shake a snow ball to shape the action within a giant snowdome: snowflakes fall on dancing snowmen, swans and skeletons. After that you stroll, alongside the lake, through an avenue of lit trees.

Genesis - Hofkirche

One of Lucerne’s most famous sights, the Lion Monument – commemorating the death of 800 Swiss mercenaries during the French Revolution – is transformed. After dark, projections of vividly coloured sea-creatures rise from the pool in front of the lion. Fossils show that this land was once a warm palm-fringed sea. Part of the thought-provoking installation, a deck-chair and parasol, encourages visitors to consider whether global warming will one day return a tropical shoreline to Lucerne.

Without doubt “Genesis”, an astonishing light show projected onto the ceiling of the Hofkirche, was the highlight of the 2019 festival. Eight projectors, shining 20,000 lumens of light, tell the story of the first three days of creation accompanied by a symphonic soundtrack from Mahler and Hayden. Projektil, a collection of artists from Zurich, are already making plans to tackle the next three days of creation for the 2020 Festival. This example of a new and rapidly developing art form brought a spirituality that left some of the audience in tears.


You don’t have to wait for dark to see Lucerne shine. Take a gourmet lunch cruise on Lake Lucerne, surrounded by spectacular snow-capped mountains, to appreciate the Luke’s unusual star-shaped formation. Locals claim that the water is so clean and clear that you could drink it.

In January, Lucerne’s attractions are relatively quiet. The Transport Museum is Switzerland’s most visited museum, so January is an excellent time to avoid the crowds. Strolling across Lucerne’s two remaining wooden pedestrian-only bridges you can stop to take in the art-work that has survived the ravages of fire and time.

At the Rosengart Gallery, you will have time and space to appreciate a vast private collection of works by Picasso, Klee, Monet, Renoir and others. By next year’s Light Festival, the KKL, Lucerne’s Culture and Congress Centre will be refurbished and fully open. Although the architect was persuaded not to build the KKL out into the lake, he insisted that the lake, with mini-canals, should be part of the building.

A Swisspass is a wise investment. Not only does it cover rail travel to Lucerne it includes cruises on Lake Lucerne, bus travel, cable cars up into the mountains and entrance to many museums too.

Hotel Schweizerhof

The Hotel Schweizerhof, elegantly gazing across the lake since 1845, provides its own light festival throughout the year. Reflections of coloured lights shimmer on the lake. As a place where history is made every room celebrates a guest who has stayed at the hotel or has a connection with it. Wagner completed his Tristan and Isolde opera in Room 7, though he was too consumed by creativity to remember to pay his bar bills at a local tavern.

And my room? I stayed in 142 with a mini-shrine to Kool and the Gang. As I entered my room I was greeted by a burst of “Celebrate Good times” – a very appropriate chorus for Lucerne’s Light Festival.


Swiss International Airlines   fly to Zurich from several British airports.

Learn more about the Swiss Pass at

The website provides plenty of information for planning a visit to Lucerne.

More information on the



Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 10:01 am Europe