When most Americans think of Switzerland, the first image is an alpine one. Pristine snow-topped mountains and jaw-droppingly gorgeous valleys with wee quaint villages peppering the valley floor. This is fair, but only part of the picture.
Zürich, for one, has much to offer the intrepid LA cultural traveler.
Firstly, this is Switzerland, not only one of the cleanest and most beautiful countries on the planet, but culturally rich. Languages spoken here include French, German, Italian and Romansh. And English is spoken in bigger cities as ubiquitously as skiers flock to the Alps.
This summer, with the record heat in LA certain to drive us to cooler climates, Zürich would be ideal. Mid-August temps, for example, won’t get any hotter than about the 80s. From now til about July you might even enjoy lovely 70-degree days. Note, this is Fahrenheit; when you get to Europe you best be thinking in Celsius terms. (1 degree of Celsius equals 33.9 degrees Fahrenheit.)
So grab the rolling duffle bag, your walking shoes, binoculars and passport and get ready to experience this place. Following are some highlights:
- Grossmünster Abbey (built 1100 – 1225) and the statue of emperor Charlemagne (742-814), who is said to have founded an even earlier church here.
- Fraumünster Abbey (13th to 15th century), with lovely stained glass windows painted by Chagall (1887-1985)!
- The Town hall, or “Townhall” (built 1694-98), in the late Renaissance/early Baroque style
- Guildhalls – such as the Zunfthaus zur Waag, open since around 1303.
- Museums abound. For an interesting day visit the Museum of Medical History. For modern art take a whirl around the Centre Le Corbusier (Heidi Weber Museum). Considered a Gesamtkunstwerk, meaning “a total work of art,” the building is part of the artistic experience here, melding Le Corbusier’s architecture, sculptures, paintings, furniture designs and his writings.
You’ll want to stay somewhere where you’re most apt to soak in the experience of where you are. Some possibilities:
- The Ambassador Swiss Quality Hotel offers easy proximity to nightlife and tourist attractions while also retaining an old European feel. Located in Riesbach, District 8. Close to popular Seefeld. It’s just a short train ride away from the airport, probably less than 25 minutes.
- Savoy Baur En Ville, in Paradeplatz City, is also a five-star wonder, and you’ll likely get lost amidst the glass chandeliers and mirrors and gold finery. Don’t be too alarmed, though. You may think you’re getting used to being pampered, but before too long you’ll be waking up in your much more average bed in a room that does not smell of orchids and perfection. Fraumunster and Bahnhofstrasse are only a jaunt away, as is University of Zürich.
- Leoneck Hotel, while three stars, is suitable for anyone looking to just kick back, relax, soak up some artsy ambiance and enjoy some fine coffee in the garden. Kids can play with blocks on a huge “block” of Swiss cheese, just in case you’ve forgotten where you are. Located in Leonhardstrasse 1, Hochschulen.
Flights from LA to Zurich, if you book today and travel Aug. 1-10, will run you about $1840 per person; you can shave off some of the cost, though, if you fly into London and then take a low-cost European carrier. Flights to London run about $1500 RT.
While abroad, make sure to pencil in a long trip on the train. Touring the Alps, especially, is a must-see for anyone’s summer bucket list.