Swiss cities

My wife, JoAnn, and I wanted to go to Switzerland to celebrate our 10th anniversary, so I said, “Okay, probably in the spring.” While surfing the net for fares, however, I found a round-trip nonstop Miami-Zürich flight on Swiss International on March 15, ’06, for $485 round trip. That was less than $1,000 for both of us, so I grabbed it. We spent 12 days there.

As for hotels, we wanted to spoil ourselves, so in ZÜRICH we picked the Zum Storchen (Weinplatz 2, CH-8001, Zürich;, first mentioned in the city’s tax rolls in 1367 and located in Old Town with its quaint shops, boutiques and restaurants. It intrigued us to think of staying in a hotel whose roots go back more than 600 years, and our choice proved to be excellent.

The service was impeccable, and the room was large and tastefully decorated. The rate for a double was CHF510 (about $395). There are weekend discounts, which seem to be offered at most of the city’s hotels.

Zum Storchen (The Stork) is only a few blocks from Zurich’s best-known shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, which, while it has all of the world’s best-known shops, lacks the cachet of Old Town.

We were particularly impressed with the Kunsthaus, or Fine Arts Museum (entry, CHF17, or $13), with its many paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Rembrandt, Chagall, Monet and many others. When we saw a shop with the wording “absinthe made here,” it transported our thoughts back to New Orleans.

We should have listened to Rick Steves and other ITN subscribers who recommended we use the ZürichCard. We picked up a car at the Zürich Airport, drove it into the city and left it parked at the hotel. We paid for two days’ car rental plus $25 a night to park and didn’t use the car. We should have taken the train into the city, grabbed a cab and then returned to the airport to pick up the car. It would have saved us time and over $150.

We highly recommend a restaurant, Zunfthaus zum Ruden, just across the river from Zum Storchen. We had the best roesti potatoes (similar to our hash browns) I’ve ever tasted. The champagne risotto with shrimp and black Périgord truffles was delicious. JoAnn had the sautéed goose liver escallops with potato and apple puree.

Our dinner for two came to CHF75 ($58). We didn’t have wine because we had bought a delightful Swiss Riesling and had some in our room prior to dining. When we asked the owner of the wine store why we don’t see much Swiss wine in the U.S., he said, “Because we drink most of it here.”

Also in Old Town is the house where Lenin lived from 1916 to 1917 and the Richard Wagner house.
From Zürich we drove to LUCERNE (spelled Luzern in German). The lakeside view from our hotel, the Palace Luzern (, was magnificent. Service was impeccable and our large room, delightful (CHF610, or $469, a night). It justifiably calls itself a Grand Hotel.

Though Switzerland in March is chilly (about 45°F when we were there), the weather was beautiful and invigorating — a nice change from our hot Florida summers. Having no rain was a welcome plus.

The Palace Luzern is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and just completed a $20 million renovation, including a new state-of-the-art spa. The hotel restaurant is justifiably one of the best in the city. JoAnn and I each had a delicious fish creation plus dessert and wine, and the total of $150 for our dinners was well worth the price.

By the lake outside the Palace is a promenade popular with visitors and locals alike. It leads into Old Town and the famous wooden bridge, which was destroyed by fire in 1992 but faithfully restored.
In Old Town, we really enjoyed the Picasso Museum ($5 per person) with its three floors of paintings, photos and other artwork. As in Zürich, it was fun to poke around the quaint shops in Lucerne. The exhibition at the Kunsthaus, at about $12 per person, was disappointing, but we were told that the exhibits change often.

From Lucerne we drove to INTERLAKEN and stayed at another Grand Hotel, the stately Victoria-Jungfrau (e-mail The rate for a double was CHF640, about $492. Two of the public rooms have much the appearance of some in Versailles outside of Paris — simply beautiful. There is a state-of-the-art spa here too. The gourmet restaurant was closed the night we were there, but we thoroughly enjoyed our pasta dinner at La Pastateca — about $35 for two, with beer.

Our next stop was Bern, with a detour to GRINDELWALD, about a half hour from Interlaken. Grindelwald’s scenery is magnificent. It’s a skier’s paradise. We spent a couple of hours entranced by it before driving to BERN, about an hour and a half away. There is a BernCard, with more or less the same benefits as a ZürichCard. Don’t miss the Albert Einstein House ($5 per person), which offers a film presentation and many pictures and stories of his life.

Another highlight of Bern, which was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1983, is the bear pits (Bern is German for “bear”). Many visitors buy food and throw it to the bears, and it’s quite a show. There is also a free 3D show in English every hour.

We stayed at the Goldener Schlussel (Rathausgasse 72, CH-3011 Bern, Switzerland; e-mail, where the rate was CHF158 ($122) a night. It’s in a great location, only a hundred yards from the famous Clock Tower. Parking cost $28 a night.

The Kunsthaus, at about $8 per person, had some nice exhibits but nothing like in Zürich. While we didn’t have time, Bern is really promoting the Zentrum Paul Klee, which houses works by Switzerland’s best-known artist.
From Bern it was less than a 2-hour drive to SCHAFFHAUSEN, close to the German-Swiss border. The highlight was a stop at the Rheinfall, where admission to the viewing bridge costs $0.75.

In Schaffhausen we stayed at the Kronenhof (Kirchhofplatz 7, Schaffhausen, Switzerland; e-mail, right in the middle of the picturesque medieval district. Service here was excellent, and our room was small but modern, at CHF170 ($131) a night. The restaurant was also very good. Dinner for two with wine cost about $80.

Before returning to the Zürich Airport, we took a detour to STEIN AM Rhein, another picturesque medieval town about a half hour from Schaffhausen. We thoroughly enjoyed walking the town for a couple of hours before driving to Hotel Allegra (Holbergstrasse 1, Kloten, Switzerland; phone 044-804 44 44) in Kloten, 10 minutes by hotel van from the airport. It’s a modern hotel apparently frequented quite a bit by business travelers. The rate was CHF120 ($92).

Incidentally, we were very impressed with Swiss International Air. The food was very good and the cabin staff helpful and cheery. Lou Gerig (couldn’t forget his name because it’s similar to the all-time baseball great Lou Gehrig) took time to tell travelers about Swiss wines.

Ft. Pierce, FL