The lakeside resort of Lucerne is as picturesque a setting as you’ll find for a football match – even for Switzerland. The home of flagship club FC Luzern, the new-build swissporarena, may not be lakeside but is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and stands beside a classic old Swiss chalet restaurant.
A city bus takes you there from Lucerne’s busy station in less than ten minutes, to the site of the old Stadion Allmend that served the club from 1934.
Overlooked for the 1954 World Cup and Euro 2008, Lucerne has recently been used a handful of times by the Swiss national football team. Railway hub Lucerne is set in the heart of Switzerland, a short train hop from Zurich, Berne and Basel, convenient for all.
Founded at the Restaurant Seidenhof in 1901, FC Luzern have neither city rivals nor a cupboard groaning with silverware. Due for another European campaign in 2014-15, FCL have rarely progressed more than a round since1960.
The club’s short period of glory came in the late 1980s and early 1990s under coach Friedel Rausch. A solitary title win in 1989 was followed by the cup win of 1992.
A top-flight proposition since 2006, FCL have lost three cup finals in recent years and, in Swiss terms, attract healthy crowds. Local rivalry, though, has been lacking since neighbours SC Kriens dipped down to the fourth flight. Were they to return, their Kleinfeld Stadium stands just by the southern fringe of Lucerne, and the area of Allmend where the swissporeana now stands.
Buses comprise Lucerne’s public transport. A single ticket is SF3.20, a day pass SF6.40. The swissporarena is in the same zone 101 as Lucerne station. There’s an S-Bahn regional train network that also serves the stadium. A single ticket is SF3, day pass SF6.
A valid match ticket allows free use of the bus or S-Bahn to and from the stadium for up to three hours before and after the game.
Ernst Hess taxis (+41 41 310 10 10) are based near the swissporeana.
The only hotel near the stadium is the Spatz, recently renovated and with its own restaurant. Prices are about 20% higher in high season, between April and October inclusive.
Overlooking the lake and the famous Chapel Bridge, the Hôtel des Alpes is classier (and pricier) than its three-star status might indicate. Alongside, the Hotel Pickwick is attached to the expat-friendly chain pub of the same name, with simpler, cheaper rooms, all with waterfront views and most with balconies.
Perhaps because of its location in the middle of Switzerland, possibly because of its particularly favourable tax rates, but whatever the reason, this city with one Swiss title to its name is full of football bars. Eichhof is the local beer.
Pick of the bunch, for atmosphere, management and sheer fun, is Legends Luzern. Run by the indefatigable Billy, Legends is a little spot tucked away close to the lake, with a penchant for Newcastle United and the Beatles. The pub women’s rugby team also gets a decorative look-in.
The nearby Anfield Pub (Seehofstraße 7) is a somewhat predictably themed sports bar, busy for big matches, unpromising otherwise.
The Lucerne branch of the Swiss Mr Pickwick Pub chain sticks to the standard, popular formula of its counterparts (TV football, Guinness, pub grub, mounted scarves) but here also offers an unsurpassable view of the lake and Chapel Bridge from its terrace. It also offers rooms upstairs.
On the opposite bank, the Irish-run Shamrock Irish Pub provides a more sedate experience, with a raised terrace set in the Old Town.
Finally, if you’ve had enough of sports bars by rote, Lake Lucerne is lined with plenty of boat restaurants for a beer with a view – at a price.