The settlement of the Entlebuch was overseen by monasteries. During the settlement of Entlebuch, villages were founded in addition to farmsteads; impressive churches and monasteries were constructed, workshops were established and dwellings were built. The historic village centres from this period are still largely preserved: Heiligkreuz, Escholzmatt and Marbach are even listed in the «Federal Inventory of Heritage Sites of National Importance».
One of the main cultural monuments of the region is surely the pilgrimage church of Heiligkreuz, built in 1480 and founded by a pair of brothers from the Order of Cistercians who settled in the remote village of Heiligkreuz above Entlebuch. After the brothers left the area, Heiligkreuz developed into a pilgrimage site (the chapel holds an important relic of a crucifix which, according to legend, was carried to the region by an ox). Guests can enjoy wonderful views from Heiligkreuz, recharge their energies at the mighty trees of power and unwind on the Seelensteg boardwalk in the nearby forest.
It is not only language that distinguishes the people of Entlebuch from the residents of neighbouring regions: they also live differently. In Escholzmatt, an historic circular trail through the village is signposted from the church. Many of the houses in the historic heart of the village feature traditional wooden shingle facades, many of which were fashioned from regional wood by shingle maker Bruno Fallegger of Josef Bucher AG in Escholzmatt. The facades are highly functional and durable thanks to the «pine cone effect»: the shingle surface remains closed in rainy weather, then bulges to allow ventilation in dry conditions.
The architecture of Entlebuch farms developed in response to functional conditions (small and poor farms), thereby creating a distinctive regional type known as the Entlebucherhaus. This is typified by the subdivision of parallel gables into residential building and stable, with the upper floor accommodating a haystack. The Entlebucherhaus differs from Bernese farmhouses in its colourful shutters, smaller canopies, lack of arbours and characteristic wooden shingle facades. Few examples remain of this construction style, which is typical of the region; these are therefore worthy of protection.
Anyone walking in the higher elevations of Entlebuch will soon notice that many buildings on the pastures are occupied in summer as animals graze the meadows. The traditional alpine structures feature a pyramid roof. In most cases, other wooden buildings nearby will include a cheese store and a shed. Traditionally, cattle are driven up to the pastures in mid-June. The cows spend the entire summer on the pasture, grazing on fresh alpine herbs, before being driven back down into the valley late in September. To mark the occasion, the cattle are adorned with flowers and carry large bells known as ‘Trycheln’. The Schüpfheim cattle drive into the valley has become an annual folk festival celebrated by thousands of visitors.