Thursday 16th January 2014
In some articles in BeerVisits I have occasionally mentioned the mythical "Most Beautiful Pub in the World" award. Well, the Rathaus Brauerei is a contender for the equally fictitious "Pub in the Most Beautiful Location" award. It is situated on the banks of the River Reuss just before it empties into Lake Luzern. It adjoins the Rathaus (Town Hall) from which it takes its name.
If you look at the photograph to the right the Brewery-Restaurant is the white-painted building in the middle and the Rathaus is the grey stone structure to its left. The tower in the background, known as the Zyt Turm, is the oldest part of the building as it was constructed in 1505 and even then was an upward extension of the previous town hall that was located in the Kornmarkt (Corn Market). Its clock was completed in 1535 and its face is said to be larger than that on the British Houses of Parliament. Interestingly the time displayed is one minute later than all the other public clocks in the city.
The construction of the present Rathaus was started in 1602 and it opened in 1606. The body of the building was built in Italian Renaissance style although the roof is pure Swiss. Right from the beginning there was a market held under the colonnaded arches overlooking the river. This continues to the present day on Tuesdays and Saturdays and the brewery pub opens earlier on these days to reflect this.
The photograph of the pub was taken from the world-famous Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) which takes its name from nearby St Peter's Chapel. This is a wooden covered structure that was built in 1333. It is a little shorter than when it was built because the stone embankments were built subsequently. There is a lovely view of it from the pub's terrace.
In the photograph taken from the pub's terrace, the Wasserturm (Water Tower) can be seen. This is about two thirds of the way across the bridge from the Altstadt (Old Town) side. However it is not a water storage facilities as gets it name simply because it is in the river. Its original purpose was for defence and there are other similar towers on dry land around the Altstadt.
It is the longest covered bridge in Europe. Surprisingly, the biggest event in its long history was on 18th August 1993 when it caught fire, supposedly from a thrown-away cigarette. Two-thirds of the bridge got badly damaged and this included nearly all of the paintings that adorned the sections of the roof between the uprights that supported it.
I remember walking across just looking up trying to interpret the many scenes depicted. They were some about the plague and there were also biblical scenes. Created in the 17th Century, 147 remained before the fire. Sadly, afterwards there were only 30 that could be restored. Nevertheless, from a distance the bridge looks exactly like it did before the fire.
Back to the Rathaus Brauerei I turned up just before midday after I had looked up their opening times; it was closed! There was a waitress outside waiting to go in to start work and she told me that they were not opening until 12.00 during January. This is not reflected on their web-site, so treat the opening times with some suspicion if you are visiting in that month.
Anyway, I was back at the just after noon and there were already two drinkers in the front bar. This is the pub part of the operation and is very pleasant and relaxed. Whilst it was quiet I took a walk to look at the restaurant. This I found behind the magnificently burnished copper brewery. The room is very atmospheric as it has a lovely vaulted ceiling, and is actually located in the Rathaus, as witnessed by a slight change of floor level whilst entering. Although located in an ancient building, the brewery-restaurant actually opened its doors on 14th March 1998.
Back in the bar I noticed that the beer was dispensed from copper holding tanks on the wall; I thought it quite unusual. The kitchen is to the right of the entrance and I observed the two chefs preparing food for the early diners, it looked good. There seems to be a heavy German influence in the menu.
Now to the beers; there was a choice of three. I had Rathaus Hell (Light) (4.5%) and thought it was very good with medium bitterness. Next there was Rathaus Dunkel (Dark) (4.5%) which I thought was in the Münchener style, and was a bit too sweet for my palate, yet well made. I skipped on the Weizenbier (5.2%). Regrettably the Weihnachtsbock (Christmas Bock beer, abv unknown) had run out, pity!
In conclusion this is good pub in a wonderful central location that shouldn't be missed if you are in this beautiful part of Switzerland.
Rathaus Brauerei Restaurant, Unter der Egg 2, Luzern. CH-6004. Tel: 041 (0) 41 410 5257
Open May-Mid October: Monday/Wednesday-Friday 09.00-24.00;
Tuesday/Saturday 08.00-24.00; Sunday/Holiday 09.00-23.00.
Open Mid October-April: Monday/Wednesday-Friday 11.30-24.00;
Tuesday/Saturday 08.00-24.00; Sunday/Holiday 11.30-23.00.
If visiting in the early part of the year it would be wise to phone to check actual opening times.
The Rathaus Brauerei is little more than five minutes from Luzern HB, the main station.
Descend from the concourse to the lower level, walk through the shopping arcade to Seebrücke, and go up the escalator. At this point it is possible to divert to cross via the historic Kapellbrücke, to be seen on the left, maybe to get a nice photograph of the pub and Rathaus. If you are thirstier, continue over the Seebrücke and turn left into Rathausquai which morphs into Unter der Egg where the pub is to be found.
Luzern HB has train connections all over Switzerland and the city itself has a good network of trolleybus lines.