Light fantastic Lucerne ... bright idea any time

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Lustrous Lilu drew us to Switzerland's central compact city like moths around a flame.

But January's brief beacon that is 11-night Light Festival Lucerne simply illuminates dazzling destination that radiates all year round, fitting for location reputedly founded by lantern-bearing angel.

Famed for well preserved medieval architecture - boasting 14-century Museggmauer rampart wall and Kapellbrücke covered bridge, linking Aldstadt to Reuss River's right bank - this brilliant base promises tourism future as bright as its historic heritage is abundant.

So attractive is the canton - among 26 consisting country's confederation - this Brit, barreling toward Brexit babel back home, hoped for Swiss diplomatic immunity to become apprentice chocolatier, operating under assumed name Toby Lerone.

Where to go: Cold onset of new year was warmed by inaugural incandescent luminescent fest, guaranteed for future winters. Animaux de Légends to Shake It, guiding light international artists' installations splash nocturnal skies, shining example being Genesis, Hofkirche converted into spectacular sound and vision concept, trippier (apparently!) than prog rock on LSD, giving energised visitors more "get up and glow" than '70s Ready Brek.

Lovers of "Dirty Thursday" and "Fat Monday" - who isn't? - can still make merry this year by joining folklore figures Fritschi, wife Fritschene and child Fritschikind among crazed carnival-goers. The annual 15th century tradition comes to vibrant life from 5am on February Thursday before Ash Wednesday, parades aplenty peopled by improv brass bands, mingling with masked monsters, crowds celebrating uncharacteristic loss of control in satirical style.

Navigation Company cruises can only be improved by accompaniment of cultured cuisine, SGV vessels offering floating fantasy that stimulates all senses. Fine fare is perfect companion as passengers, overshadowed by snow-topped peaks, feast their eyes on dramatic fjords and idyllic coves in waters, clear as crystal glasses drained of bespoke beer. Sunset sees romance rule the waves while antique paddle steamer offers flavour of voyages past. Vitznau cog railway to elevated Rigi, even Mediterranean flair of Ticino - coupled with Gotthard Panorama Express train connection - is within reach. Water way to explore!

Lucerne Tourism is one-stop shop for culture vultures, drawn to Rosengart Collection of Impressionism and Classic Modernism masters including Pablo Picasso, after flying in via Zurich from Blighty. Needle Dam, Spreuer Bridge, Lion Monument, Town Hall, Culture and Convention Centre, Ritterscher Palace, Hof, Franciscan and Jesuit churches number among assorted architectural highlights while looming above is nearby record-breaking Stoosbahn, out of this world funicular, planet's steepest.

And, never mind Charlie, Max and the Chocolate Factory is true fairy story, 21st century tale of beloved boy, born with additional chromosome, extra special to his family. So much so, König confectionary empire - complete with Dahl-esque river - has been built in his honour. And name. A decade on, natural ingredients, secret recipes and passion to create sweet savoury-tinged treats "that delight palate and heart" keeps dream alive, our hero's faves being Raspberry Branchli Sachet, Duchées with Fruits of Forest & Rose, Gugelhöpfli with Walnuts and Madagascar.

Where to stay: What's in a name? The Bard may not have stayed at Schweizerhof but Mark Twain has. As did fellow literati luminary Leo Tolstoy, from Russia with love for window view that "at the first moment literally dazzled and overwhelmed by the beauty of the sheet of water, of the mountains, and of the sky". Galaxy of similar celebrity stars from actors to emperors have, spanning 170-plus years, graced 5* award-winning accommodation, ensuring lake-view remains shore-fire success, welcoming Restaurant Galerie still serving "crumb cake" whose recipe was concocted amid World War One austerity. I shared a room with Hollywood Walk of Fame multi-platinum album selling serial Grammy Award winner. it's what's Natalie Cole would have wanted.

Sister Swiss mount was scene of '69 “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” villain's lair but Bond baddie Blofeld would be just at home in 3* superior Hotel Pilatus Kulm. This historic lodge, teetering 2,132 metres above sea level, only accessible by Fräkmüntegg gondola and Dragon Ride aerial cableway combo, has also scaled height of atmospheric excellence since its 1890 construction and 2010 complete renovation. Rooms come complete with breath-taking - literally for we asthmatics, allergic to altitude - panoramic vistas. Elegant restaurant puts icing on upland experience cake while labyrinthine caves network appeals to alpine adventurer in all us 007 wannabes.

Where to dine: Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Zur Werkstatt we go, contemporary concept restaurant that works well as way more than your average eatery. Brunch to lunch, chef's table to cookery class, there's menu options as plentiful as contents of dining table "toolbox," overflowing with flavoursome salad dressing and bread, all created on-site at modern mecca for gastronomes where second helpings are actively encouraged.

Hotel Wilden Mann, once overnight home for Italian screen siren Sophia Loren, boasts "bella" Burgerstube, recently celebrating 500th anniversary. Offering rustic history, richer than any Rösti or Raclette, those fond of fondue will not be disappointed by multifarious flavoured menu, mixing national classics with local speciality chögelipastetli, alongside experimental creations including poached scallops in elderberry sauce or mixed spring salad with dandelion, red radish and sugar peas served with rhubarb-yogurt dressing. Twinned with acclaimed sister site Sauvage, this neo-Gothic stylised parlour - all inky wood scrolls and bull's eye panes - is awash with ambient atmosphere, efficacious as nearby brewed Seeburghof Grappa.

Suisse tapas suggests culinary contradiction, actually amounting to success on a plate at Bolero, Bundesplatz base alike for refined ladies and packs of ravenous gents. devouring signature speciality Wunsch Paella, individually tailored to guests' tastes. All main dishes are accompanied by Pinchos Buffet, appetising even to this salad-swerver of 60 summers. "Personal and uncomplicated hospitality" remains management's mission statement, "hasta pronto" regulars leaving suitably feted and sated.

So, glancing back fondly at City of Lights' illuminated mirror of tranquil lake and ascending alps, I found myself singing - with apologies to country king Kenny Rogers, nay rest of humanity - "I chose a fine time to leave you, Lucerne".

Way to go: Swiss International Air Lines SWISS offers more than 170 weekly flights from Manchester, London City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Dublin to Zurich, Geneva or Sion. One way fares start from £67 including all taxes, fees and surcharges, one hold and hand luggage, snack and refreshments included in Classic fare. SWISS also transport first set of ski or snowboard equipment and boots free in addition to standard free baggage allowance, subject to availability. For more information visit or call 03456010956. Swiss Travel System provides dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for foreign visitors. Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout rail, bus and boat network, also covering scenic routes, local trams and buses in 90 towns and cities. Also included is Swiss Museum Pass, allowing free entrance to 500 exhibitions. Prices from £171 second class. For ultimate Swiss rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 10020030 or visit For Switzerland Tourism information visit, call Switzerland Travel Centre on freephone 00800 10020030, email or, for packages, trains and air tickets.