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7 underrated destinations for a city visit

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As a Cabin Crew Member, it is my privilege to visit the world’s loveliest cities almost by the way. And although I can understand why New York, Hong Kong and Paris are right at the top of the list of the most popular city trips, there are also plenty of other gems on our route network that are less frequently visited by tourists. And yet it is often these very places that offer authenticity, a lively scene with culture creators, and unbeatable value for money as far as eating out is concerned. So here are seven ideas for your next city trip.

Athens

Only want to see the Acropolis? Well, of course, you can do that in passing or on a cruise. But the city has so much more to offer. Year-round sun, beaches almost around the corner, a lively bar and restaurant scene, and an old town that is visited by locals and tourists in equal measure. Food, wine and local products are of excellent quality and relatively inexpensive. And it’s no wonder, because young artists (of life) flock to the city and add to the vibrancy!

SWISS flies to Athens (ATH) several times a day from Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA).

Chicago

Anyone planning a short trip to the USA usually goes to NYC for the shopping, musicals and what is probably the world’s best-known skyline. But in my opinion, Chicago is smarter, prettier and better looked after. The windy city beside the horizonless lake scores for its abundant greenery, little city beach, art and jazz. The way the public areas are used is highly exemplary: the Millennium Park not only contains plants, but also offers contemporary art and frequent (free) concerts. Sculptures, including one by Picasso, are placed in dreary squares in the city. Plus the centre is clearly laid-out and easily manageable, and many of the attractions and activities are only a few blocks apart. In short: a wonderful city to just sit back and relax! Incidentally, the shopping in Chicago is also unbeatable.

SWISS flies to Chicago (ORD) up to twice daily from Zurich (ZRH).

Beijing

When it comes to travelling, China is definitely underrated. Sadly, its public image suffers because of the games played by the major powers and the censorship that rules the country. Furthermore, the fact that their behaviour is also not exactly on a par with European standards or expectations has also damaged the reputation of the Chinese as a whole. And yet Beijing is an interesting, versatile and exotic city! State-of-the-art design (the wonderful Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium) meets ancient architecture (temples and the Forbidden City). The Chinese love to have visitors from the West, and are grateful if they use Google Translate to translate basic sentences because only a few of them really understand and speak English.

A week in Beijing would be varied and unique: in addition to the city’s attractions, there’s also room for a day trip to the impressive Great Wall is a must, and the shopping (a visit to a tailor and the purchase of shimmering pearls on the Pearl Market opposite the Temple of Heaven). Don’t get too excited about the food, though: unfortunately, it isn’t quite of the standards that we are used to in Europe.

SWISS flies to Beijing (PEK) once a day from Zurich (ZRH).

Moscow

Of course, getting a visa is tedious, but it’s worth it just to see the Red Square! In contrast to the Old Town Square in Prague or other famous squares in Europe, despite the impressive buildings of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral, it’s not overrun with people so you can enjoy the city’s magic in peace. Moscow also offers lots of other attractions, pretty parks, and the Bolshoi Theatre, one of the best known opera and ballet companies in the world!

SWISS flies to Moscow (DME) twice day from Zurich (ZRH) and several times a week from Geneva (GVA).

Palermo

I love, love, love Italy! The food! The warmth of the people! The beauty of the landscape and the architecture! And although you’re only one of a hundred thousand tourists in many of the towns and cities, you’ll be received as a most welcome guest in Palermo. Plus the city is simply bursting with treasures. Centuries of invasion, culture and races merge in a charming whole more here than almost anywhere else. The Arabian influence is as marked as the Greek, and there are ancient Roman buildings just a few metres from the marks left by the bombs of WWII.

Still, you have to be realistic: it’s a long way from the wealth of the north, and the Mafia still rules. But the people treat this misery with humour and irony – Sicily is well-known for its excellent wines and basic for good cuisine. And this love of life, combined with the pretty cityscape and lovely sea, are pure inspiration!

SWISS flies to Palermo (PMO) once a day from Zurich (ZRH).

Singapore

Many people are familiar with this financial metropolis as somewhere to change flights en route to the New World and Australia, New Zealand or one of the numerous islands of the South Pacific. But it’s always worth more than a three-hour stopover. Singapore is a glittering metropolis and – along with Hong Kong and New York – probably the most cosmopolitan city on the planet. People from many different nations live here in peaceful harmony, filling the highly-polished city with life.

By day or night, a stroll through Singapore is an experience, and safer than anywhere else. The Botanic Garden and the Garden by the Bay are the city’s green havens and, along with the numerous rooftop bars and the modern architecture, excellent reasons for a visit to Singapore.

SWISS flies Singapore (SIN) once a day from Zurich (ZRH).

Zurich

The little Swiss town has a pretty old town, a wonderful lake and a lively bar and restaurant scene. As soon as the temperature starts to rise, people start to move outside: there’s swimming and lounging at midday, and plenty of winding-down at the end of the working day. Each of the quarters has its own charm, and exploring Zurich West is as much a part of the sightseeing programme as an evening on Langstrasse and a visit to the chic opera house.

With a wide range of boutiques, not only will luxury lovers appreciate a visit to Zurich, but so will anyone who likes to support lesser-known labels and local or sustainable brands. The museums also appeal for their diversity and carefully curated exhibitions. In short: a city that can easily hold its own against the world’s leading metropolises!

SWISS flies from its home base in Zurich (ZRH) to over 100 destinations. SWISS also flies to Zurich (ZRH) several times a day from Geneva (GVA).

Kristina Roder / @kristina_roder