When the Paris France Temple opened in late May, it not only marked six operating temples in the nations of Western Europe, it also presented a new opportunity to explore for travelers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — four temples in four countries in 14 hours.
Aaron Thorup, Deseret News
With the geographic compactness of Western Europe, temples in The Hague, Netherlands, Frankfurt, Germany, Bern, Switzerland, and Paris can all be done in a drive that totals less than 1,000 miles — or slightly more than a drive from Salt Lake to Las Vegas and back. Driving straight through, it could be done in just over 14 hours, but travelers will likely want to stop and enjoy not only the temples and grounds, but the amazing cities surrounding them.
Best of all, those leaving from Salt Lake City International Airport can fly direct to and from Amsterdam and Paris, with both flights clocking in at 11 hours or less.
The four temples can be done in any order, but here’s an itinerary that starts in the Netherlands and ends up in France.
The Hague Netherlands Temple
Delta’s direct flights to Amsterdam typically leave Salt Lake in the afternoon and arrive 10 hours later at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where it’s the next morning due to the time change. After landing, consider catching up on jet lag by booking a quick stay at the Yotel located right in the airport. Yotels are located in major airports and offer a compact, private space — about seven square meters for a single occupancy — where weary travelers can catch a nap and a shower and emerge refreshed to continue their journey.
Top attractions in Amsterdam include the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and West Church, or Westerkerk, one of the first churches constructed specifically as a Protestant church after the Reformation. Other popular pastimes include booking a boat ride on the canals or riding bikes over the many bridges in the city.
The Hague Temple is a 45-minute drive south of Amsterdam. Opened in 2002, this temple of polished granite is rare in that it sits below sea level and has a parking garage underground. This being the Netherlands, they’ve also got parking for bikes. The temple is located in an area called Zoetermeer, which translates as “Sweet Lake.” Because land in the Netherlands is at a premium, the grounds barely go beyond the 14,477-square-foot building.
In The Hague, the Mauritshuis Museum features paintings from the Dutch “Golden Age,” Madurodam is a popular park with miniature replicas of Dutch landmarks and towns, and Panorama Mesdag offers a 360-degree view of the ocean in the form of a 19th-century painting by Hendrik Willem Mesdag that is 14 meters tall and measures 120 meters in circumference.
Frankfurt Germany Temple
The drive from The Hague Temple to Frankfurt takes just over four hours. The Frankfurt Germany Temple, dedicated in 1987, sits just north of the city and is easy to spot because it sits on elevated land near a highway and is made of white granite imported from Vermont. The temple is one of several buildings sitting on park-like grounds.
The city of Frankfurt is often referred to as “Main-hatten” because of its skyline full of high-rises lining the Main River as it runs through the city. The area is a great jumping off point for heading into castle country in the Rheingau, venturing into Bavaria or even tracing the trail of sites related to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Note that the Frankfurt Temple is currently undergoing renovations. Re-opening is scheduled for early to mid 2018, but no official dates have been announced (see lds.org/temples). The Freiberg Germany Temple is open in eastern Germany, but would add about three hours to the drive.
Bern Switzerland Temple
From Frankfurt to Bern is a four-hour drive south along the French-German border before entering into Switzerland. The Bern Switzerland Temple, dedicated by President David O. McKay in 1955, is notable because it has several “firsts”: First temple in Europe; first temple where English was not the predominant language; and the first temple to use film presentation of the endowment ceremony (see mormontemples.org). Young Gordon B. Hinckley, who later was president of the LDS Church, was placed in charge of creating those first films, and he would later rededicate the temple in 1992.
Highlights in Bern include walking around the Alstadt or “Old Town” along the Aare River looking at structures such as the “Zytglogge,” a medieval clock tower dating to the 13th century. Other notable places to visit are Zentrum Paul Klee, a museum holding hundreds of pieces by the renowned artist, and the Federal Palace, where national legislative bodies meet.
Paris France Temple
The drive from Bern to Paris takes just under six hours. The recently dedicated Paris France Temple is one of four temples with no towers or spires (others are the Cardston Alberta, Laie Hawaii and Mesa Arizona temples) and joins five others without a gold-plated Angel Moroni statue (including Hamilton New Zealand, Oakland California, St. George Utah, Logan Utah and Manti Utah temples). The temple is surrounded by landscaped gardens on a plot of just over two acres southwest of the central part of the city that also includes a visitors center and family history center.
Where to visit while in Paris? The list is endless, but note that the Palace of Versailles is 1½ miles from the temple and less than a 10-minute drive. In terms of other notable landmarks in the City of Light, Notre Dame from the temple is a 30-minute drive, while going “Tower to Temple” — Eiffel Tower that is — takes 22 minutes, traffic permitting.
When it comes time to leave, Charles de Gaulle Airport is a 30-mile drive from the temple over to the northwest side of the city. Delta’s direct flights from Paris to Salt Lake City typically leave France in the late morning and arrive in Utah in the afternoon.
Europe’s unique geography lets travelers experience a variety of cultures, arts, foods and customs in a small area. With the opening of the Paris France Temple, LDS travelers can now see how their religion fits into the landscape and culture of four different countries in a well-balanced trip.
Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio podcast. Twitter: TravelBrigade