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Tour Lucerne, Alps without lifting a ski

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Lake Lucerne in Switzerland rarely freezes over, allowing cruises to run throughout the year. Two-hour lunch cruises are offered but locals also commute by ferry. The Unterwalden ferry on Lake Lucerne in June.

LUCERNE, Switzerland >> Lake Lucerne winds through the Alps with a series of bends, S-curving around towering mountains like slalom skiers carving into snow thousands of feet above. But even though skiing gets all the glory in wintertime Switzerland, a ferry ride on the lake can also be a welcome diversion for a traveler with a few hours to spare.

Just an hour’s train ride south of Zurich, the compact city of Lucerne has preserved its medieval treasures of cobblestone squares, time-worn shops and frescoed houses. Lucerne turned up on Travel + Leisure’s list of best 50 places in the world to travel in 2017.

Pressed for time, you could walk from the train station through the old town, over the old wooden Chapel Bridge and back to the ferry dock in 15 minutes.

Two-hour lunch cruises run daily throughout the year and go for just over $50 per person for three courses, not including the ticket price of the ferry, about $28.

Dining is not required, though, and in fact, many Swiss who live around the lake use the ferries to commute.

In winter, fog often descends on the lake and its surroundings, draping the valley in a spooky but romantic atmosphere. On clear days you’ll see the mountains rise from the crystal water with a flash of lush green at their forested base. You might even catch sight of a rainbow. Above the tree line, the mountains turn nearly black, cutting a menacing image that softens at the snowy peaks.

Regardless of whether you use the ferry for dining or a destination, the spectacular views of the surrounding Alps are always included.

For more information, visit lake lucerne.ch/en.

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