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Grand Cafe Odeon, Zurich

The Grand Cafe Odeon, Zurich

Today we travel to Zurich, Switzerland, to the famous Grand Café Odeon, which opened in 1911. The Odeon is located on Limmatquai, just across the street from the northern end of Lake Zurich. Einstein frequented the café during his years at the nearby Federal Institute of Technology. Apparently he did not just take coffee breaks here, he gave lectures to his small class in the café!

Could you hang with the other intellectual luminaries that found refuge here during World War One? Perhaps you may have wanted to discuss dialectics with Lenin, Trotsky or other exiled Bolsheviks during the second decade of the 20th century. We personally wonder whether these communist revolutionaries appreciated the café for being one of the first to offer that most bourgeois of drinks by the glass, champagne.

It might have been more fun to hobnob with Hermann Hesse and James Joyce, both of whom are said to have written a good part of their most famous novels Ulysses and Steppenwolf, in the café. If music is more to your taste, you could have talked to Toscanini or had a palaver with Puccini, both of whom would visit while in Zurich. 

If all this makes too much sense you might have enjoyed a dialogue with a Dadaist. It was either here, according to legend, that Dadaism was named, as a reaction to senseless horror of the Great War, by the artistic and poetic refugees that made Switzerland their home.

The café today remains one of Zurich’s “must visit” establishments, and though it is a bit smaller than when it started, it retains an old world feel. Best of all you can still get champagne by the glass.


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