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Escape Routes: Lucerne

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A 45-minute drive from Zurich, Lucerne is one of those raved-about picture-postcard destinations. On approach, however, thanks to the busy one-way system and Sixties tower blocks that are intermingled with its gothic architecture, the city’s allure isn’t as immediate as you’d think. But once you’re out of the car and exploring on foot with a Cornetto and a camera, you’re soon swept away by its beauty and abundance of fresh air.

Set on the edge of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, it’s not dissimilar to Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District (except these surrounding peaks are snow-capped) in that it’s a gateway to an array of stunning scenery and cool day trips. The old town is packed with charming quaint bridges, old châteaux and cobbled streets (although expect to find H&Ms and a Kookaï among more authentic jewellers and chocolatiers), ensuring that the city retains its charm and romance. Stop off for a glass of Prosecco along the river and just take it all in.

To stay, Stylist headed to The Hotel – a compact boutique hotel on the corner of a quaint square just five minutes from the lakefront. Having just celebrated its tenth year, and with French architect Jean Nouvel as its designer, it uniquely boasts 30 film stills on its bedrooms’ ceilings and walls. Room 5003 – Stylist’s long and very dark boudoir (it takes a while to adapt to the light and we’re sure we lost our socks in there) came alive at night thanks to an ambiently lit full-ceiling print from the 1995 film Jenseits Der Wolken, which shows Sophie Marceau snuggling up to Peter Weller. Fans of minimalism will also love the industrial chrome fittings, dark leather recliners and remote control blackout blinds and do not disturb sign.

Why it’s hot

A little less obvious than Italian lakes Como or Garda, Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s natural jewels where you can snake along the lake, taking in both baroque architecture and stripped back lake houses from an open-top boat. For a full flavour of the region, Stylist took The Golden Round Trip (available from mid-May to October; pilatus.com) – a 90-minute boat trip across the lake to Alpnachstad (book first class and enjoy the views from the top sundeck and order cheese, olives and bread with a glass of Fendant). Then it’s a steep 30-minute trip up through meadows and rock faces on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the top of Pilatus Kulm – a set of 73 alpine summits where you can hike, stop for bratwurst and chips or buy souvenirs like Swiss cowbells on leather straps that still smell of their previous owner. Finally, make your way back to town via an aerial cable car and gondola where, en route, you can stop at an adventure park with zip lines and high wires or indulge in some summer tobogganing down the mountain.

Eating and drinking

For traditional, cosy surroundings and authentic local Swiss/German fare, we headed to the Burgerstube restaurant (part of the Wilden Mann hotel; wilden-mann.ch) for regional specialities like homemade meatloaf on green mash, local sliced veal with rosti and green beans wrapped in Parma ham and gazpacho with salmon carpaccio (warning: don’t order three courses as it’s very filling). For something a bit more finger-on-the-pulse, go for cocktails at KKL Seebar right on the lakeside or – for fusion food – head down the steps at The Hotel into its black and red basement restaurant Bam Bou (where breakfast is also served). One night, Stylist enjoyed creative takes on sushi, dim sum and other French-meets- Asian cuisine.

Photo opportunity

While Pilatus is Lucerne’s landmark mountain, Mount Titlis is the highest viewpoint in the region with a revolving cable car that takes you to the snow and ice of its glacier at the top. The contrast on a searing summer’s day is spectacular.

A double room at The Hotel is from £235*. For bookings please call 00 800-3746 8357 or visit designhotels.com

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