My Summer Adventures in the Great Swiss Cities

While most tourists in Switzerland head for the Alps, this year, I enjoyed touring the great Swiss cities: Zürich, Luzern, Bern, and Lausanne.

zurich cityscape

Perched on a rampart over Zürich, a couple of locals take a sun break.

After a long day of guidebook research, I decided to cap my day with a simple aimless stroll around Luzern. I had been wondering just how much people appreciated the tedious attention to detail we put into our guidebooks. And, as if sent by some angel, I met Don from San Francisco. He told me his wife gives him about a month a year for a personal adventure and for the last decade he’s enjoyed annual month-long trips through Europe completely immersed in Rick Steves guidebooks. He knew our work intimately and as we shared a delightful stroll together under the beloved covered wooden bridges of the city, he told me of his happy travels. I went home inspired and energized.

Rick Steves with reader

Luzern has a unique sight called the Depot History Museum. It’s filled with historic artifacts, like this chillingly modern and efficient guillotine. The collection is housed in one of Luzern’s oldest surviving buildings, which was long used to store military weapons and uniforms. Their collection is too big to display traditionally, so they’ve come up with an innovative and fun concept: throw all of their archived stuff together and display it on three crowded floors. You’ll wander through shelves of old weapons, stained-glass windows, sculptures, and old-fashioned tourism posters. Each shelf (sometimes each item) is labeled with a barcode — use your scanner (included with entry) on whichever one you’re interested in. You can then read about its history in English on your handheld screen. It works great. You can bet I scanned this.

Rick Steves with guillotine

This guillotine last decapitated a Swiss criminal in 1940.

Back in my hotel room, I filled the sink with what was one fine beard. Thanks for all the encouragement (both to keep it and to cut it). Your comments were a joy to read. I’ve grown lots of beards over the years, and this was the first time it actually felt like me. But my marketing team blew the whistle on my fun and the beard had to go.

Rick Steves clean shaven

Every few days I need to just stop, stay in my room all day, and input all the notes I’ve picked up in my research. When it’s rainy, my room is comfy, and I have a quiet and relaxing view like this (Luzern), it’s actually an enjoyable day. And it really feels good to have the notes thoughtfully incorporated into the next edition of my Switzerland guidebook.


I hit Bern during its annual three-day Buskers Festival. If you like street music, it’s worth planning for. The downside — crazy music until the wee hours outside my window. When confronted by a festival outside your window, rather than gripe about the noise, sometimes you have to just stay up past your bedtime and enjoy it.


Hey! Stop looking!

Rick Steves at urinal

(Stay tuned for more from Zürich and Lausanne.)