After many recommendations, we finally made it to Glasi Hergiswil, a glass blowing factory near Luzern that has been in existence since about 1750 and we love it. You can learn the history of glass making in Switzerland, observe glass being made in the factory, blow your own glass, wander through a glass labyrinth, play in the hands-on glass exhibit, roll glass marbles down an enormous marble run, play outside in the playground, and buy glass souvenirs at the gift shop. There is a small fee for the museum tour and glass labyrinth, but the other attractions are free. We all had a great time and have even more fun the next time with friends. It’s good for either a rainy or sunny day; though many of the exhibits are inside, but the outside playground is fun and has a great view for the parents.
|Address:||Seestrasse 12, 6052 Hergiswil CH|
|Car:||~45 mins from Zurich|
|Train:||~1hr20 from Zurich|
|Open:||Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm, Sat 9-4pm. Closed Sundays.|
|Price (2016):||Museum: Adult CHF 7, children under 10 free with adult
Glass Labyrinth: CHF 5
Playground and Glass Shop: free
|Services:||cafe, picnic area, big playground, stroller accessible|
By car: Drive past Luzern toward Interlaken. Take the Hergiswil exit and follow signs to Glasi Hergiswil: Seestrasse 12, 6052 Hergiswil, Switzerland. There are a few metered parking lots next the factory.
By public transit: It’s also easy to reach by train, a little over an hour with one stop in Luzern. The Hergiswil train station is a short walk from the factory. You can also take a boat from Luzern if you fancy.
The factory is right next to the lake and nestled up against mountains, a very lovely setting. The Glasi Hergiswil complex is comprised of several buildings, one for the museum and factory, one for glass exhibitions and glass labyrinth, and another for the glass shop.
Glass Museum Tour
You can start your visit anywhere, but the obvious first stop is the glass museum tour. Besides the labyrinth, this is the only part of your visit you have to pay for. The museum costs 7CHF, kids under 10 free. You can request the tour in English. Take note that the bathrooms and lockers are right below the museum entrance. There are a few stairs up to the museum, but otherwise everything is stroller accessible.
The “museum” is a series of rooms with dioramas and multimedia presentations, covering the history of glass and the Glasi Hergiswil factory. It was pretty interesting but not absolutely required to enjoy your visit.
Some of the rooms were quite dark and my 4YO got a little scared. But it only lasts about 20 mins or so, not too long. Once you are in, you can’t easily get out because you are moving from room to room on an automated program. So I recommend having little ones visit the toilet before the tour.
The museum tour ends at the factory floor where you can watch glass being made. Inside, there are about 10 people working at blowing glass. The building has an upper tier for visitors, and there are chairs and stools available so you can really settle in and watch the process from above.
They take a few breaks during the day, as shown in the sign above. But the factory is free to visit and you can come as go as you please. So you can always visit other areas and come back. Also, you can skip the tour and go directly to the glass factory viewing platform, which is free to visit. But I think the museum tour is a nice introduction to your visit. I probably wouldn’t do the tour a second time, although I’d certainly go back to visit the other free exhibits and playground.
At the factory, you can pay 15CHF to blow your own glass ball (I think the minimum age is 4 years old, but I could be wrong) and another 5CHF to take home a video of the experience. My boys were begging to do it, but I thought it was a bit pricey. It only takes a minute or so to blow the ball and the helper has complete control of the spinning. Also, on the website I read this:
“An important point – it’s a bit of a toss-up how long your souvenir will last. As the ball has not been allowed to cool slowly in the cooling furnace (a process normally lasting hours), the glass has inner stress. It may shatter on the day after your visit, or in a year’s time. But then again, it could last a lifetime.”
Next to the factory floor, there are two rooms with lots of beautiful glass pieces to admire. At first my boys weren’t too interested, but I started pointing out little glass animals and talking about how different glass containers might be used and suddenly their imagination took over. I was surprised how much my boys enjoyed this part.
In the building across from the factory, there is a big glass “exhibition” including musical instruments made out of glass and lots hands-on displays explaining technical and seemingly magical attributes of glass. The kids loved playing music on various glass objects. There was a fake glass oven where you child can stir fake liquid glass.
Here’s a demonstration of how strong glass can be, including a cracked windshield glass. There are a few stations where you can see how glass can alter perception.
There are funny mirrors and other glass objects that change your appearance. Lots of laughs here.
There is a fancy glass shop with beautiful objects and high prices adjacent to the glass exhibition. But across the main street, there is another shop selling their “seconds,” with more attractive prices (though still high, we are still in Switzerland). You can buy the marbles here as well as a large array of decorative and functional glass items. Schweizer Heimatwerk shops also sell items from Glasi Hergiswil.
Our favorite part was the glass labyrinth. It costs 5CHF, kids under 10 free, what a great deal! It’s a semi-dark room filled with glass walls and mirrors, making it quite difficult to figure out which direction to walk. You have to wear the provided slippers and white gloves to keep the glass clean. You are cautioned to walk very slowly and keep your hands in front of you at all times to prevent you from slamming into a glass wall. While we were in the maze, several people ran into the walls and fell over. My 8YO got too confident after a couple minutes and ran around a corner before I could stop him and smacked his face straight into a glass wall. He got a bit of a bloody nose, but recovered quickly and we continued to enjoy the maze. It gets dark at times and there is music and lighting effects that might scare really little ones.
Giant Marble Run & Playground
Outside, there is an enormous marble run, aka Kugelbahn. There is a little marble vending machine next to the kugelbahn which sells 10 marbles for 5CHF. Or you can go to the “seconds” glass shop across the main street and let your kids pick our their own marbles (50 rappen a piece), which was much more fun (pic below).
There can be a lot of kids waiting for marbles to exit the kugelbahn so I was worried my kids wouldn’t get their own marbles back. I waited below to catch the marble in case another kid wanted to nab it. But it turned out not to be a problem and we easily retrieved our own marbles.
There are also some old fashioned marble games on the ground around the kugelbahn, like the triangle one shown above. The instructions are only in German, but each game is pretty similar, involving rolling your marble to various targets to get points.
This pic shows the inner workings of the kugelbahn, which has many glass elements. So the marble makes lots of fun noises as it rolls down the course. Sometimes, but not often, marbles fall off the course into the water below and they cannot be retrieved. So be warned.
There is a very nice sand pit next to the kugelbahn and some grass to run around on. There were a lot of sand toys, but I don’t know if Glasi provides them or if people bring their own.
This dragon (mascot of Pilatus) watches over the playground.
Along the lake next to the cafe, there are a few water “toys”. This one lets you program the fountain to spray in different configurations.
This machine lets you alter the water spray using a long metal stick. Very popular!
Outside there is a cafe next to the lake. I didn’t eat there, but it certainly was a nice setting. There are also plenty of places to sit and picnic, either in the park by the sand pit or along the lake wall.