Gay Vacations in Zurich, Switzerland

Cathedral at night in Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich, Switzerland (Donovan Reese/Photodisc/Getty)

Zurich Highlights

  • Pack your swimsuit in summer. Lake Zurich is usually warm enough to swim in during July and August. Head to the gay-friendly Tiefenbrunnen Beach, which has a bistro, restaurant, sunning, and cruising.
  • Watch the street addresses. The lowest numbers of addresses begin in the city center and work their way out from there. Don't blame the city planners: It has been like that in Zurich since the Middle Ages.
  • Stick to one nightclub. Zurich's entry fees into clubs are steep and don't include drinks, so it's best to find one club you like and hang out there.


Unfairly seen as an uptight banker's city, Zurich is actually one of the most exciting cities in the region. Proudly calling itself "The Little Big City," Zurich is known for its kicking techno-music scene and world-famous DJs. It has always been an innovative place: The Dadaist movement was founded here in 1916, and the city has had residents such as Einstein, Lenin, Jung, Joyce, and Mann. Even Tina Turner now calls Zurich home!

Despite the fact that it's a gleaming modern city, Zurich still retains the air of a village stuck in time. The center of Zurich is situated on the banks of the Limmat River, and the whole place can be explored easily on foot. The east bank (known for being sunnier) has medieval cobblestone streets that twist past cafes and trendy art galleries. This Old Town, or Altstadt, is home to lively gay bars. The west bank is more commercial—with the city's stock exchange (the world's fourth largest) and modern shopping centers—but still full of historic buildings and churches. The west side also is home to the Fraumuster church, with stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall, and the circular Jules Vernes Panorama Bar—located in an antique brick tower—the perfect place for a coffee over incredible views of the lake.

The LGBT infrastructure of Zurich is happening enough that gays from southern Germany flock to the city's scene. There are leather bars, LGBT hotels, and about half a dozen swanky queer saunas, complete with restaurants and bars inside. Zurich also has three annual queer events: the Pink Apple gay and lesbian film festival in May, the Christopher Street Day (gay pride) in June, and the Street Parade in August. Christopher Street Day happens during the traditional time Swiss take their vacations, so it feels like the gays own the place. Even more popular is the Street Parade, when techno music fills the street. In true Swiss style, the huge party emphasizes peace and harmony and inclusion, and even grandmothers and clergy come out for the fun. With that attitude, it's no surprise that Switzerland recognizes civil unions.

Published: 15 Aug 2008 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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