GETTING THERE: Summer airfares from Washington to Zurich are in the $1,000 range ($1,230 nonstop). In September, Swiss has New York-to-Zurich flights for $670, with restrictions. United flies nonstop from Dulles for $765, and Austrian Airlines flies from Dulles via Vienna for $755 from Sept. 10 through October.
WHERE TO STAY: My base was the Hotel Baur au Lac (Talstrasse 1, 011-41-1-220-5020, www.bauraulac.ch), a 160-year-old family-owned property whose spacious guest rooms are have a mix of traditional furnishings and modern technology. Some offer views of the Lake Zurich. Rooms on the weekend run $440 a night, double occupancy, with breakfast included. Weekday rates are $566, without breakfast.
The Hotel du Theatre (Seilergraben 69, 011-41-1-267- 2670, www.hotel-du-theatre.ch) has a vibrant, youthful feel, with trendy furnishings in the lobby and guest rooms. Doubles start at $153 a night. For fewer frills, the Comfort Inn Royal (Leonhardstr. 6, 011-41-44- 266-5959, www.comfortinn.ch) is centrally located, well-managed and clean. The rooms have nifty blond furniture and comfortable beds. Doubles, including a buffet breakfast, go for $173 a night.
WHERE TO EAT: For a novel dining experience, Blindekuh (Muehlebackstr. 148, 011-41-44- 421-5050, www.blindekuh.ch), where guests eat in the dark, can't be exceeded. Be forewarned: The eyes never adjust to lack of light. The food is an unadventurous but tasty mix of salads, soups, fish and meat dishes. Dinner for two comes to around $100. Reserve well in advance.
Kronenhalle (Raemistrasse 4, 011-41-44-251-0256, www.kronenhalle.com) features smoked pork with lentils, calves' liver, dumplings and other traditional Swiss dishes. The original paintings by Miro and other masters make it a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Dinner, with a couple glasses of wine, costs around $100 for two.
WHAT TO DO:
* The next Opera Ball is March 11, 2006. Contact the Opera House (011-41-44268-6400, www.opernhaus.ch) later this year for ticket prices.
* The Kunsthaus (Heimplatz 1, 011-41-44-253-8484, www.kunsthaus.ch) is the city's main modern art museum. Free admission to regular exhibits with a Zurich card; otherwise, admission is from $8. Due to renovations, the exhibition rooms -- except the Giacometti wing -- are closed until December.
* Bucherer (Bahnhofstr. 50, 011-41-44-211-2635, www.bucherer.com) is the place for watches and jewlery. For knives and other Swiss-made crafts and clothing, try Schweitzer Heimatwerk (Rudolf Brun-Bruecke, 011-41-44-217- 8317, www.heimatwerk.ch).
* The Fraumuenster Church (Stadhausquai), decorated with Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti stained-glass windows, is in the city center, a couple of blocks from Bahnhofstrasse. Free.
INFORMATION: The Zurich Card, which offers access to museums and unlimited rides on public transport, is sold at the tourism office in the main train station; prices vary. Switzerland Tourism, 877-794- 8037, www.myswitzerland.com, or see Zurich Tourism's Web site at www.zuerich.com.
-- Gary Lee