Lake Lucerne, Brunnen: Royal approval of the Area for the Swiss abroad

August 21, 2016 — No comments

Photos: Brunnen Tourism

Standing on the silky lawn of the elegant Area for the Swiss Abroad today, I understand what Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria, described when she visited Brunnen in the 19th century. My eyes are mesmerized by the color of the blue-green waves of the lake before they are pulled up into the hills to Switzerland’s birth place, the Rütli. The historic meadow of the Confederation oath is clearly visible from my vantage point, but my eyes are lifted higher yet to the crisp contour of the snow capped Uri mountain range against the blue sky.

Little wonder that aristocracy, politicians and the famous in the arts flocked to newly accessible Brunnen. Increasing steamship traffic, the construction of the spectacularly engineered Axenstrasse, and the opening of the Gotthard railway made the once sleepy fishing and farming town into a renown tourist resort. Hotels sprung up as the word spread of this spectacular spot at the confluence of Lake Lucerne and Lake Uri. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, King Alfonso XII from Spain, King Ludwig II of Bayern, Goethe, Hans Christian Anderson and Wagner all came to stay and draw inspiration from this powerful spot in central Switzerland. Winston Churchill spent his honeymoon at the Hotel Waldstätterhof in Brunnen.

Photos: Brunnen Tourism

Area for the Swiss Abroad

Fast-forward to 1991, when the Swiss Confederation celebrated its 700th anniversary. To mark this event, each of the 26 cantons gifted the Confederation a section of what came to be known as the Swiss path. One of Switzerland’s most popular hiking trails, the path begins at the Rütli. It extends eastward along the wild-romantic Lake Uri down to Flüelen. On the way, the hiker is rewarded with breathtaking views and many historical landmarks that bring past events to life. The hike can be interspersed with a ride on the famous Swiss yellow postbus or a smooth glide on an authentic steamship to the peaceful end point of the Swiss path: the Area for the Swiss Abroad in Brunnen.

Each of the cantons is represented with a section of the Swiss path in the order of its entry into the Confederation. The length depends on the number of inhabitants and symbolises the unity of the Confederation. The path starts with a 182-meter stretch representing the canton of Uri. The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden is the shortest section extending for 71 meters, while the canton of Zürich has the longest at six kilometers. Each and every Swiss citizen is symbolically represented by five millimeters on the path along the 34.85 total kilometers. The Area for the Swiss Abroad as the end point of the Swiss Path perfectly symbolises the sense of belonging that the Fifth Switzerland feels towards its homeland.

The creative impulse to include the Swiss living abroad as part of the Swiss Path can be attributed to the head of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. With the approval of its highest organ, the Council, the directorate worked purposefully and with clear vision. In January 1989, Walther Hofer, president of the newly-formed Foundation Board, was jubilant: “By joining forces, we made it happen!” Thanks to a global fundraising campaign among the Swiss living abroad, half of the purchase price was raised. The other half was covered by the Federal Government. This allowed the purchase of the 5,400-square-metre peninsula on the western end of the Brunnen promenade. As a result, the Swiss living abroad and those at home can share this spectacular piece of home. An impressive symbol of mutual unity – for the Swiss Abroad to their homeland, and for those living at home in a connection to those abroad.

On May 4th, 1991, the Area for the Swiss Abroad was officially handed over to the public. On National Day August 1, the entire Federal Council gathered at the park before attending the celebrations on the Rütli. The square was one of the main venues during the 1991 festivities, attracting numerous visitors from home and abroad. Large presentation boards named “An Encounter with the Fifth Switzerland” inform the public about the Swiss diaspora.

Photos: Brunnen Tourism

A feeling of connection in the heart of Switzerland

The Area for the Swiss Abroad is also the starting point for a hiking trail: the Waldstätterweg. This later developed trail is broken into seven stages and meanders through extraordinary landscapes and historical sites along the northern shore of Lake Lucerne, crossing the city of Lucerne, before heading back to the Rütli. Together, the Swiss Path and the Waldstätterweg form a perfect ring around the lakes. The location of the Area for the Swiss Abroad as the link in-between these hiking paths in the heart of Switzerland could not have been chosen more connectively, memorably or exquisitely.

Since its acquisition the square has been a popular destination for tourists and groups of all kinds. Several events are held each year such as village festivals, federal celebrations, open-air musicals, as the starting point for yacht races or for the Swiss Radio and Television live broadcast “SF bi de Lüt”. The Area for the Swiss Abroad in Brunnen is a magical place and together with the region offers many spectacular and engaging activities for all ages. It’s worth putting on your Switzerland travel list!

Have you experienced the astounding emerald green waters of these lakes in the heart of Switzerland? Share your experience and leave a comment below. 

About Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust


Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends.  More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »

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Additional Information

Area for the Swiss Abroad

Area of the Swiss Abroad. Photo: Axel B. Bott

Area of the Swiss Abroad

View of Rütli meadow from the Area for the Swiss Abroad Photo: Silvia Schoch

Area of the Swiss Abroad

Tellskapelle Photo: Brunnen Tourism

Place for the Swiss Abroad

Map of Swiss path and Waldstätter hiking path, with the Place for the Swiss Abroad linking the two. Photo: Brunnen Tourism


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