What comes to most people’s minds when thinking about Zurich is money, finance, and banks. It is true, Switzerland’s largest city is also the wealthiest in Europe and among the most livable ones in the world, but it has so much more to offer than its reputation as a global center for banking. Zurich has a rich history dating back to pre-medieval times, stunning views across the alps, and a thriving gay scene.
Whilst there are three official languages in Switzerland (Italian, French, and German), Zurich lies in the German-speaking part of the country. The Swiss-German dialect is quite hard to understand for German speakers, so don’t get your hopes up if you were looking forward to using your GCSE knowledge of the language! Luckily the Swiss know English very well.
Zurich is a versatile travel destination that offers exciting activities for history nerds, culinary explorers, and party animals alike. Switzerland is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to LGBT rights, therefore it feels very safe and welcoming when visiting as a gay traveler.
Altstadt, or Old Town, is the old city center and home to most of Zurich’s gay scene. Stroll along the bustling Bahnhofstrasse, where locals and tourists mingle in luxurious boutiques, galleries and cafes. Some of the city’s best bars and traditional Swiss restaurants are amidst the cobbled streets in the heart of Zurich.
The Fraumünster church is an impressive example of gothic architecture in the center of Altstadt, dating back to 853. Its most stunning treasures are the stained glass windows by Alberto Giacometti and Marc Chagall, two of the most influential and important artists of the 20th century. Just a short walk away is the Romanesque-style Grossmünster church, which is said to be built on the graves of Zurich’s patron saints Felix and Regula.
Lindenhof comprises a hill and section in the center of old Zurich and is the historic home of a Roman castle and fortress. Remains dating back to prehistoric, Roman and medieval times have been excavated here which makes this area a fantastic destination for history nerds. The top of the hill offers a beautiful panorama of the city and the mountains in the distance.
The gay nightlife in Zurich is centered around the Old Town (District 1) and the Langstrasse quarter (District 4). Heaven is the clubbing hotspot for Zurich’s LGBT crowd and their friends – drag shows, international DJs, and eclectic music until the early hours of the morning in the heart of the city. For relaxed cocktails visit the trendy Cranberry, and for some local drag swing by Petra’s Tip Top bar. Looking for some more action? Männerzone is a gay bar and cruising club with a fetish shop in the front.
This stunning lake is surrounded by green wooded hills and small picturesque villages all around, and of course the city of Zurich at its northern end. Lake Zurich is very clean and easily swimmable, with many access points and beaches along its shore. Another popular way to explore the lake is by boat – embark on a mini-cruise along the river Limmat into the lake and take in the scenic views of Switzerland’s natural beauty.
Zurich has some of the best museums in Europe. Kunsthaus is a major art museum for Switzerland and houses one of the most important contemporary art collections in the country.
The Swiss National Museum, Landesmuseum, has one of Europe’s finest collections of art and culture, with a focus on Swiss artists and history. The Rietberg Museum is devoted solely to non-European art, displaying traditional and contemporary arts and cultures of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.
For those interested in the financial aspect of the city, the Finance museum has interactive multimedia installations that explain the world of trading and banking as well as the history of legendary companies from modern times through the age of industrialization to the present day.
There are some beautiful thermal baths and spas around Zurich. The Hürlimannbad & Spa is housed in a former brewery, an archaic building with breathtaking architecture. Barrel-vaulted limestone structures on the inside, a rooftop pool with a view over the city, and traditional Irish-Roman spa rituals promise a relaxing and unique experience.
Switzerland’s culinary heritage is rich and famous. Swiss cheese (Emmental, actually), Lindt chocolate and muesli have become essentials in most households around the world.
A traditional swiss fondue dinner will make every cheese-lover’s dream come true; chunks of bread are dipped into a pot of hot molten cheeses and wine. This works with chocolate too.
Lactose intolerant? Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate museum, just a 20-minute train journey from the city center along Lake Zurich. They’ve got a huge chocolate fountain, exhibits on production, and workshops with chocolatiers.
Whether winter or summer, in the snow or in the sun – there are plenty of gay festivities to join in throughout the year. Every January the gay ski week in Arosa attracts the European LGBT community for a week of fun in the snowy mountains. Arosa is an Alpine resort village, a 2-hour car ride from Zurich, and is one of the favourite winter pride destinations for gays and lesbians.
In the summer Zurich celebrates Pride in June, and is home to the world’s largest techno party in August. Street Parade is a demonstration of love, peace, freedom and tolerance, supported by international DJs and decorated trucks that attract over a million people each year.
In September the lila.queer festival offers a weekend of drag, concerts, DJ sets, and workshops for LGBT youths and all culture-vultures out there.
Published: 05-Nov-2021 by Sarah Langenmayr | Last Updated: 24-May-2022
On: Gay Zurich