Little, quaint and absolutely bewitching, having uncountable number of summer activities available all over the town’s territory and its neighborhood, eight winter sports and a cross-country skiing areas that pledge sportive diversity in the region (all of which are reached in between 20 and maximum 50 minutes), Stans is a perfect location for both active and more measured pastime and recreation.
Situated in the middle of Switzerland, boasting of having a central plaza of national significance, a unique marketplace, rich cultural life, living traditions, ornate historic buildings, historic funicular up to the Stanserhorn, renowned restaurants, museums showcasing traditions and history, freetime activity centres, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, situated at Lake Lucerne, and having been the place for some of the brightest and turning events in Swiss history still commemorating the past and its legends, this tiny town is well worth a visit, and better yet a prolonged stay, if you take into account all the attractions, some of which are completely unique, and possibilities it offers.
Are you wondering what are they? Haven’t heard of this town before? Read, be surprised and add one more spot to the list of “best to go places”!
Interesting things about Stans
Stans is the capital of the canton
Having a population (as of 31 December 2015) of 8,277 people, Stans is the capital of the canton of Nidwalden (Nidwald).
The official language of Stans is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect.
There are several Stans, which may be confused for one another
There’s a village in Austria named Stans, then Stans, a city in Switzerland, and one more ‘Stans’ – Stansstad, a municipality in the canton of Nidwalden, – that is located a few kilometers away from Stans. Who lacked imagination or thought this was funny to have almost identically named settlement so close to each other is a mystery, but this really confuses the hell out of tourists.
Stans is one of the oldest settlements in the entire Nidwalden valley
The first traces of human settlement date to the 2nd Century BC. During the Roman era there is little evidence of a settlement except for some Gallo-Roman Ustrinum or funeral pyres and the Latin root (stagnum meaning a pool or sump) of the name Stans.
Stans was already the capital of the same territorial section prior to joining the Swiss Confederation
Stans was first mentioned in 1124. By 1291, when Unterwalden joined Uri and Schwyz in what became the Swiss Confederation, Stans was already the capital of the section known as Unterwalden nid dem Kernwald which would become the half canton of Nidwalden later on.
The canton of Nidwalden initially was part of the canton of Unterwalden
Nidwalden is one of the two valleys, along with Obwalden, that make up Unterwalden. To begin with, Unterwalden never consisted of a single unified jurisdiction. Throughout its history, the political situation and the exact amount of independence has varied widely. Originally, it was comprised of such distinct communities as Obwalden, Nidwalden and the Abbey of Engelberg. However, they were united for the Federal Charter of 1291, which required representatives from each of the three “areas” come together. Between 1291 and 1309, after Unterwalden joined the nascent Swiss Confederation, Obwalden was known as Unterwalden ob dem Kernwald and Nidwalden was Unterwalden nit dem Kernwald. Unterwalden’s votes in the Tagsatzung were split between the two valleys. Thus, it disintegrated into Nidwalden and Obwalden.
A sacrifice from a soldier from Stans had become a turning point in achieving victory at the Battle of Sempach
In 1386, during the Battle of Sempach – fought on 9 July 1386, between Leopold III, Duke of Austria and the Old Swiss Confederacy that helped turn the loosely allied Swiss Confederation into a more unified nation and is seen as a turning point in the growth of Switzerland – a soldier from Stans, Arnold von Winkelried, is claimed to have thrown himself on the pikes of the Habsburg army which led the Swiss to victory. However, it is doubtful whether he existed or died in the battle as the first mention of his selfless act appears over 150 years after the battle and a man who may have been Arnold was party to a lawsuit in 1389. Regardless, the legend is firmly in place in Stans, with a monument and his house located in the town.
The town was destroyed in a fire, which influenced its following architecture
During the Middle Ages, Stans was protected with seven towers. However, the town never built a wall to connect the towers and encircle it.
Unfortunately, in 1713 two-thirds of the town was destroyed in a fire. Following the fire, new regulations kept the village square (Dorfplatz) open and clear of construction. The large, open square surrounded by baroque houses and the town council house (Rathaus) owe their appearance to the fire and subsequent reconstruction.
Legendary educator and philosopher Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi founded his first school in Stans
In 1798 Stans was stormed by French troops, following the decision of Nidwalden not to adopt the constitution of the Helvetic Republic. Children orphaned by this event were gathered by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi – a Swiss pedagogue and educational reformer thanks to whom, illiteracy in the18th-century Switzerland was overcome almost completely by 1830 and whose motto was “Learning by head, hand and heart” – for his first school. He converted the Convent of St. Klara (built in 1621-1625) into a school for the children. However, he only had the school until the following year when the French Army needed the building and the orphan’s school came to a sudden end.
How to get to Stans?
Since Switzerland has three major international airports: Geneva, Zurich and Basel, tourists have excellent opportunities to choose the airport, which suits their route and plans the best. If you’re heading straight to Stans, you should know that Zurich Airport is the closest one, being located 57 km away from Stans. Bern-Belp Airport situated 65,8 km away comes second and the third option that is relatively close is Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport with the distance of 95.4 km. Geneva airport is the furthest one more than 200 km away from the town. The journey from either airport by road takes from about less than an hour to 1 hour 30 minutes maximum, if you’re going by car.
What is really comfortable is that Geneva and Zurich airports have built-in railway stations, so you can hop on the necessary train without leaving the building of the airport and not having any delays.
If you can allow yourself some extra expenses, the airport in Buochs is only 3 km away from Stans, so make a quick transfer from one of the international airports and you’ll be in Stans in no time.
The railway, particularly SBB, is the most convenient and frequently chosen way of travelling in Switzerland. Stans is served by Stans station on the Luzern–Stans–Engelberg line.
Lucerne S-Bahn S4 service provides two trains per hour to and from Lucerne, and the hourly InterRegio service between Lucerne and Engelberg also stops in Stans. That makes an incredibly fast and comfortable trip with the bonus of enjoying the scenery you pass by, as the majority of trains are adapted for tourists having big panorama windows.
By car or by bus:
This is another wonderful opportunity to make even the time traveling to Stans useful and unforgettable. The Lucerne region, where this town lies, is incredibly beautiful and thankfully covered by top-condition roads and highways. So you can go by your own or rent one in one of the many rental offices (be sure to have your passport and driving license) and enjoy the views, ‘pit stops’ for coffee and taking photos amid surrounding nature. Stans, located in the heart of Central Switzerland, is on the A2 (Basel-Lucerne-Chiasso) motorway, so travelling by car or by bus is a wonderful option too.
How to get around?
The area of Stans is 11.08 km2 (4.28 sq mi). It is served by public transport as well as local trains. The whole area is easily coverable on foot. You may also catch a taxi or rent yourself a car, which very convenient specifically in Stans, since it has got ample parking space and is close to all the major attractions of the region, thus, you can make adjustments to your plans and hit the road any second that you want.
The railway station is a 2-minute walk from the center of Stans. The underground car park is open 24 hours and 365 days a year. The well-lit parking lot offers 340 parking spaces (including parking spaces for disabled and women’s parking).
Where to stay and grab a bite?
The place is tiny, but it has got several accommodation options that cover all the tourists’ needs. There are 2 hotels within the town and a few more on the outskirts. Plus you can rent an apartment, go to a resort or a spa complex or even rent a room offered by locals.
Hotel Engel is located on the main square in the commune of Stans. This option is one of the best in the city of Stans! Guests are satisfied with it more than the location of other options in the area. The rooms are furnished with modern furniture, decorated in a minimalist style. The hotel has a café-bar with a terrace and views of the square. Each room is equipped with free Wi-Fi, as well as a telephone, a flat-screen cable TV and a work desk. The spacious bathroom includes a hairdryer.
The hotel’s cozy lighted restaurant serves both innovative and traditional dishes. All rooms and hotel facilities are suitable for guests with reduced mobility.
The train and bus stations are just 100 meters away, and the Stanserhorn cable car is 200 meters away. On the hotel territory parking is provided with a limited number of seats (no advance booking is required).
Plus, a really useful perk is the currency exchange. Do you need money in local currency? There is an exchange office here. Although Switzerland is expensive compared to neighboring countries, this hotel provides excellent value for the Lucerne area.
Hotel Stans-Süd provides guests with comfortable and affordable accommodation too. Even if you arrive after 21:00, check-in will be done through an automatic check-in machine, so you won’t have to wait long after a tiring journey.
The soundproofed rooms are simply, but nicely decorated. A hearty breakfast buffet is served in the mornings. Some guests even say that the croissants served at breakfast are the best in the world.
Aside from tasty bakery, guests enjoy free Wi-Fi access, as well as discounts on use of the wellness and fitness center, located across the street from the Stans Süd.
Near the hotel there is a gas station with a car wash and a shop. The distance to the city of Lucerne is only 12 km, and to Lake Lucerne – 2.5 km. Free private parking is available on site at Stans-Süd. You can also use the garage for an additional fee.
You can eat at the hotel restaurants or enjoy a meal out in the town, since there are lots of very nice places to grab a quick bite or have a delicious gourmand meal, like at Rosenburg Höfli, which offers high cuisine.
Migros Restaurant, Bahnhof Chalet, Three Monkeys and Restaurant Hirschen are perfect, if you want to have a tasty and nutritious dinner at a reasonable price.
Besides, there are establishments offering European, traditional Swiss cuisine as well as Italian, Tai, Asian and Mediterranean ones. Take a look at Brasserie le Mirage, Drehrestaurant Rondorama, Cubasia and Gasthaus Allmendhuisli.
Shopping in Stans
About 50 specialty stores are gathered in the association of the Stanser Dorfläden. In the village center you can find specialty shops at almost every corner. Come in and have a look around! If you are looking for personal advice, the staff will be at your disposal. Look for the Trouvaillen: There is the typical Stanser cobblestone (“Bsetzi“) in delicious chocolate or the best soft cheese from all Northern Europe known as “Stanserfladen”.
The souvenirs from Lucerne can be found in Stans as well, but at a more reasonable price. Besides you can buy knives, watches, chocolate, jewelry and sporting and hiking gear.
Cheeses are the specialty of the region. So don’t pass up the opportunity to taste and buy some of the kinds that are produced here. In May Stanser Alps Cheese Market is organized on the village square. There you will be able to witness real Nidwaldner culinary culture and, of course, try and buy finest Alpine cheeses. Be sure to try Stanser Fladä – a soft cheese speciality packed in a wooden box and served with a spoon.
Besides, Wiänachts Märcht – a very atmospheric Christmas market with over 100 stalls is held each December.
Useful tips for those heading to Stans
If CabriO Stanserhorn is on your list of things to do, keep in mind that Swiss Travel Pass gives you a combined offer: journey using public transport and leisure offer (also for existing tickets) to free ride on CabriO Stanserhorn. Holders of a Swiss Travel Pass benefit from full coverage for excursions on Rigi, Schynige Platte and Pilatus as well. Plus many more mountain railways offer up to 50% discount.
Be sure to carefully plan your tour. That will ensure that you also derive the maximum pleasure and enjoyment from it. Take the time to contact the local information center and enquire about route and weather conditions before setting off. Your intended trail may be fully or partially closed, depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
What is the weather like in Stans?
Commonly to this region, the weather is quite wet and not overly inviting in summer. Stans has an average of 137.7 days of rain per year and on average receives 1,224 mm (48.2 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is August, while the month with the most days of precipitation is June, with an average of 14.2, but with only 156 mm (6.1 in) of precipitation. The driest month of the year is January.
Still, that has never stopped thousands of tourists from coming here in summer, and if you have stocked up on all the necessary things, like warm clothes, raincoats and boots, along with patience and an umbrella, nothing is going to spoil your vacation.
Be extra careful to pick the footwear that is waterproof and not slippery. And, of course, a camera and some wipes for it, in case of rain.
What to see and do in Stans?
There are quite a few wonderful and interesting places to see in Stans, besides it is the perfect departure point for all kinds of excursions around Lake Lucerne and surrounding mountains. And whether by bike or on foot there’s plenty to see and do. Nidwalden is known for its umpteen mountain cable railways that head for some of the surrounding summits. These railways range from time-honored to top-modern cable cars, with airy Cabriolet-feeling guaranteed in the world’s first topless double-decker cable car that takes you up to the region’s hometown Stanserhorn Mountain.
But cable cars aren’t the only highlights of this town and it neighborhood. Let’s figure out what else one can experience in Stans!
Have a ride on one of the oldest mountain railways in Switzerland!
The local mountain, the Stanserhorn (1,898 m (6,227 ft)) is also a tourist resort. It is accessible via one of the oldest mountain railways in Switzerland, the Stanserhornbahn (1893), and by cable car.
The Stanserhornbahn was originally built as a rack and pinion railway, with three separate sections. In 1970 the upper section was destroyed by a fire following a lightning strike. In 1975 the destroyed upper section and the middle section were replaced by an aerial cable car.
Enjoy the feeling of wind in your hair on the open top deck of CabriO!
The most important thing that sets aside from others is the only cabrio cable car cabin in the world. Starting at the intermediate station, the aerial cableway with its open roof deck is one of the main attractions. It is a truly amazing feeling to stand up there on the roof of the double-deck panorama cabin and experience up close the passage between the supporting masts, just enjoying the headwind and the magnificent view – without any cables overhead. But the main thing is to go there in good weather, unless you want to take a shower and freeze up on the way, plus the showering would be the only reward, since the stunning view will be definitely obscured.
Ascent the summit of the Stanserhorn and enjoy a fantastic panorama!
Those, who travel a lot in Switzerland and saw many places, say that aside from their favorite Pilatus, Stanserhorn definitely comes a very close second. It’s not as well-known as Pilatus and Titlis, but it has incredibly beautiful view of the mountains, lakes, there is the possibility of walking and seeing the panorama from different directions! After all, from the peak of the Stanserhorn, on a clear day the view stretches nearly 100 km (62 mi) and includes 10 Swiss lakes and the Black Forest of Germany. If you want to wander a little bit around, there is a short hiking trail around the peak of the Stanserhorn. You also will be able to meet rangers on your way, who are always happy to assist with identifying flowers and mountains.
Take a walk amid the scenic location of the Stanserhorn!
The walk starts at the viewing terrace of the mountain station and rotating restaurant. After a gentle climb up to the summit, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panorama: in fine weather, the majestic peaks look close enough to touch and you will be able to see 10 different lakes! The view is absolutely magical! The walk is approximately 30 minutes long, if you don’t count lingering to take a photo here and there, and not difficult. Just keep in mind that it’s always very windy there. Plus, the descent leads past a marmot sanctuary where you can observe these cute little creatures in their natural habitat.
Feed and try to play with the Alpine marmots, while you are hiking!
The alpine marmot is a species of marmot found in mountainous areas of central and southern Europe and a small population of Marmots is kept near the trail atop the Stansehorn.
An adult alpine marmot may stand at 18 cm (7.1 in) at the shoulder. They reach between 42 and 54 cm (17 and 21 in) in length, not including the tail, which measures from13 to 16 cm (5.1 to 6.3 in) on average. The alpine marmot is sometimes considered the largest squirrel species. Unfortunately, Alpine marmots used to be widely hunted due to the belief that their fat would ease rheumatism when rubbed on the skin and also for eating. Hunting of the alpine marmot still occurs for sport as well as its fat nowadays.
They are definitely not as fast as their traditional red relatives due to their body size, but cute and curious. So why not feed it and this way let it come closer? Alpine marmots eat plants such as grasses and herbs, as well as insects, spiders and worms. It highly unlikely that you’ll be digging out worms or catching insects to treat this fluffy mammal, but you can buy a small pack of grain, which is one of marmots’ favourites as well.
No jokes, these animals are just SO cute and fluffy, you won’t be able to resist an urge to cuddle one to your chest, that is, if you will manage to wake it up and lure it closer in the first place. And beware of the claws too, or you’ll go straight down to see a doctor, while resembling a Bengal tiger.
Have a dinner yourself at a revolving restaurant Rondorama!
This revolving restaurant was built at the peak of the Stanserhorn in 2001. Friday nights there mean candle-lit dinners 1000 meters above Lake Lucerne. At first you’ll have a ride with the nostalgic funicular from Stans to the Kälti mid-station, then you will continue by modern aerial cable car to the Stanserhorn mountain station, 1900 m a.s.l., where a delectable dinner will be awaiting you, revealing vistas of ten Swiss lakes and 100 kilometers of the Alpine chain. This unusual restaurant stands on a rotating platform, which makes a full turn in 43 minutes and gives an opportunity to contemplate the neighborhood during lunch. Be sure to take a typical Swiss dish “alpen magroni” – alpine pasta with a flavored apple sauce and cheese. It’s very tasty! Keep in mind that reservations are mandatory, and be sure to book in advance, as this place is very popular.
See and have a coffee at Dorfplatz and admire unusual architecture!
Following the fire in 1713, the village square (Dorfplatz) was fully rebuilt, to its current unified appearance, in 1715 according to a plan by Josef Aebi and Ludwig Gassmann. The square now houses the Winkelried fountain and the sculpture Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden). The Winkelried monument was carved from Carrarain marble in Rome and then shipped by boat, rail and horse team to Stans in 1865. The monument is in a Gothic Revival style and was carved by Ferdinand Schlöth. Death and the Maiden was done by Rudolf Brem.
Admire the Parish church of St. Peter und Paul!
The Parish church of St. Peter und Paul was built from 1641 until 1647 by the architect Jakob Berger. The church was constructed in an early-Baroque style, while the bell tower is an older Romanesque structure. The three nave Basilica was built south of the earlier church, though the older bell tower dates from this previous church. The interior is decorated in white, gold and black. The simple interior ornamentation comes from Lombardy while there altar figures were done by Georg Allhelg. Next to the church is a two story chapel and ossuary for the nearby Capucin monastery.
Visit the Museum für Kultur und Brauchtum at Winkelriedhaus!
A portion of the Winkelriedhaus (Winkelried House) was once home to the Winkelried family, though Arnold von Winkelried (if he existed) did not live in it. The oldest part of the structure dates from the middle of the 15th Century. The early house was an unusually tall and large half timbered (German: fachwerk, Alemannic German: Riegelbau) building, which was known throughout much of central Switzerland. However, it was not owned by the Winkelrieds for very long; in 1541 the Lussy family purchased the house. Under Melchior Lussy the Gothic building was renovated over a period of 50 years into a much larger, Renaissance mansion. In 1766 the Landammann (Chief Magistrate) Jost Remigi Trachsler bought the house. During much of the second half of the 18th Century he had the Winkelriedhaus renovated and added a number of rococo frescos on the walls of the house. In 1815, the Kayser family bought the house, which they held until 1974 when it was given to the canton. It was restored from 1983 until 1991 and since then has been the home of the Museum für Kultur und Brauchtum.
Take a look at a beautiful ornate altar and mystical painting on it at the Convent of St. Klara!
The Convent of St. Klara was founded by Katharina and Maria Gut in 1618. The buildings were built from 1621-25. In 1799 Heinrich Pestalozzi established his orphanage and school in the convent buildings. The convent church (built in 1723) is a simple structure with an ornate altar by Johann Ritz and a mystical altar painting by Johannes Brandenburg. The church was renovated in 1980. From the convent cemetery a path leads to the nearby Capucin monastery, so you can go on to climb the hill, which in addition is a nice observation point.
Ascent the hill with the Capucin monastery!
The Capucin monastery was established in Stans in 1583 by Melchior Lussy, who had been sent to the Council of Trent. Initially there was resistance to the poverty, simple habits and beards of this order of Counter-Reformation monks. In 1777 the monks opened a Latin school, which was suppressed from 1798 until 1803 under the Helvetic Republic. The Kollegium of St. Fidelis was built by the monks in 1895 and purchased by the canton in 1988. The monastery church was built in 1683 and renovated in 1980. In 1956 a memorial tablet to Melchoir Lussy was placed near the gate of the monastery.
Visit the museum Salzmagazin!
The Salzmagazin (literary meaning Salt storage house) was originally built to store grain and salt for the community in 1700. It has had many other uses since then including; a theater, a secondary school and finally a museum. The coat of arms of the builder and Landammann Nicolaus Keiser as well as two lions with the Nidwalden shield and two-header eagle are visible on the north gable.
Enjoy the exhibits at some other museums!
For example, Museum FreyNäpflin is famous works of art from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. And Nidwaldner Museum with the Fürigen fortress that stems back to the 2nd World War has some really interesting history exhibitions, concerning the life of the canton.
Take part in the festivals and cultural life of Stans!
There are lots of various events organized in Stans. This land is very rich in cultural traditions. First goes the Stanser Fasnacht carnival – the “fifth season” in Stans – which includes an attractive entertainment program for young and old. It takes place in February.
If you like music, you may enjoy Stanser Music Days Music – a festival with up to 30,000 visitors, which is held after Easter.
Stanser Summer – colourful cultural program takes place on the village square in July. Laugh till your jaws hurt during Stans laughs –a humour Festival occurring in September.
Älpler Chilbi – colour-packed festive Alpine gathering with procession and good old Älpler sayings goes on in October. And Stans is known for some fun and very unusual processions, such as St. Nicholas procession taking place every year on December 5, when Santa Claus is paraded through the village and accompanied by his helpers, servants, swede and torch bearers and hordes of bell ringers known as Trychlers.
Have a ride on one of the summer toboggan runs!
A wonderful activity for both children and adults! Speed, adrenaline, lots of fun and impressions are guaranteed. It’s an excellent alternative for winter tobogganing, if you’re having a vacation in summer. These runs are accessible by cable cars. There are 3 major ones: Wirzweli (above Dallenwil), Brunni (above Engelberg) and Fräkmüntegg at the Pilatus (above Kriens). Don’t hesitate, just hop in and whoosh down!
Have a nice workout or do some sports and recreation activities at Sports & Recreation Center Rex Stans!
Billiards, bowling, tennis, squash, badminton, darts and so much more are available at this center. This is an excellent spot for hanging out, if the weather is bad, or just to play games and have some fun.
Plunge into the beauty of local nature during a boat ride aboard a historic steamboat on Lake Lucerne!
Set aside some time to admire the beauty of the Vierwaldstättersee. Stans is located on its shore, so why not experience the ultimate grandeur of the nature of the Lake Lucerne region at its greatest up-close. Taking a boat trip on board of a historic steamboat will undoubtedly bring you lots of unforgettable impressions and memories.
The sight is simply bewitching! Crystal clear blue, almost turquoise waters reflecting the sky and the mountains it is surrounded by, scenic hills and valleys with little houses and small quaint towns create a completely surreal atmosphere, especially in the evening.
Visit the most beautiful city in Switzerland – Lucerne and all its attractions!
Last, but not least, since Stans is some dozen kilometers from Lucerne, it would be a crime not to drop there for a while. However, Lucerne is Lucerne – the most visited and beautiful city in Switzerland, so rich in various gorgeous and interesting places, you’ll be stuck in there for more than “a while”, that’s for sure.
Nestled at the foot of the majestic Swiss Alps and on the shores of crystal blue Lake Lucerne, entwined by an equally blue ribbon of the river Reuss, this beautifully idyllic place, full of intricately decorated houses with centuries-old ornaments, towers and spires, which are proudly rising in the blue skies similarly to neighbouring mounts Pilatus and Rigi, without a doubt justifies the claim of being the most beautiful city in Switzerland. Each year millions upon millions of tourists flock to Lucerne, lured by its airy beauty and irresistible charm.
Starting from ancient architecture of ornate gingerbread-like houses and wooden covered bridges to the Swiss Museum of Transport , which is one of the most interesting in the world and the largest comprehensive museum in Europe exhibiting all forms of transport, starting from locomotives, automobiles, motorcycles, ships and ending by aircraft and space shuttles, and the Lion of Lucerne, a sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion that had struck the American writer Mark Twain so much, that he named it “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”, carved in the rock, by a Dutch sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1821, commemorating the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792, Lucerne has innumerable attractions it seems.
One thing is for certain: either you take a head spinning ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel railroad or leisurely admire snow-white swans, swimming in the blue lake of Lucerne, while strolling over a world-famous ancient wooden bridge, or simply take in the genuine beauty of nature that is vividly displayed there, you will find time spent in Lucerne an absolutely unforgettable experience!
Thankfully, the distance between Lucerne and Stans is so small that going hither and thither won’t be a problem. Just set aside some quality time for this touristic mecca, especially if you’re going there in summer or in spring.