Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, the number one European city for quality of living and consistently ranking in the top three cities in the world for the same. It is also the wealthiest city in Europe.
Its stunning location at the lower northern end of Lake Zurich (Zürichsee) offers an immediate backdrop of beautiful wooded hills and is framed by the dramatic beauty of the snow-capped Alps, just 30 kilometres to the south.
Zurich’s other highlights include the river Limmat which flows from the lake through the city centre. Its natural surroundings, preserved historic buildings and efficient transportation system make for a great year-round holiday destination.
Zurich has also a very tolerant attitude and and welcomes everyone from diverse communities. There is a well-established gay scene and the city is regarded as the dance party capital of central Europe.
Switzerland has an excellent human rights records and there is a high tolerance of the LGBT community. Zurich and Geneva have vibrant and well developed gay and lesbian cultures, together with smaller scenes in the other main cities of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Lausanne and St Gallen.
Switzerland has held an annual Coming Out Day since the mid-1990s, with the aim of encouraging the young LGBT community to develop a positive identity.
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised nationwide in 1942. Government discrimination based on sexual orientation was constitutionally prohibited in 1999. Registered partnerships have been recognized since January 2007.
LGBT people may adopt children singly and legal provision for same-sex couples to adopt is currently being debated in the Swiss parliament.
The gay scene of Zurich is concentrated in and around the Altstadt, with most of the bars and gay venues located in District 1 and District 4 (Langstrasse).
As well as the mix of Gay Bars, Gay Dance Clubs and Gay Saunas and Gay Cruise Clubs you would expect to find in such a major European city, perhaps more unexpected is the scale of the international dance party scene here, serving both straight and gay clubbers from a European wide catchment area. This makes for an intriguing contrast to the tradition and conservatism which is the general reputation of most Swiss cities.
The city plays host to a year round array of major gay dance parties and after-parties (on average at least one major event a month), attracting many international DJ’s as well as gay visitors to the city from near and far.
Zurich Pride Festival takes place every June, with four days of special events and parties, as well as the Parade itself.
Both Zurich airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country. Getting to and from the airport is straightforward, with a well-connected network of trains, trams, municipal buses, inter-city coach transport, taxis and good parking.
Swiss CFF rail company trains go to the airport, with all trains running via the Hauptbahnhof (Zurich’s main train station), and from there to the rest of Switzerland and Europe. Trains and trams to Zurich city centre cost CHF 6.60 while taxis cost in the region of CHF 60-70.
There are frequent municipal bus connections from the airport to the city centre, and to surrounding suburbs and other towns in the region.
The best option is to put your faith in Zurich’s public transport system, the VBZ. It covers the whole city, is efficient, reliable and cost effective, rather than relying on taxis which are expensive.
A one-day pass on Zurich’s public transport system, starts from CHF 5.40 and gives you unlimited access to boats, trams, buses and cable cars and even the Funicular.
Consider purchasing a Zurich card if you are visiting museums and other attractions as it also gives you free access to all public transport in the region.
For a list of recommended hotels near the Old Town gay scene and Langstrasse, visit our Gay Zurich Hotels page.
Zurich is one of the major cultural capitals of Europe, with world-class museums and galleries. The city has both an opera house and a concert hall, the Tonhalle, with regular concerts and productions. Here is a snapshot of some further tourist sites worth visiting:
Altstadt – the old city centre and home to most of Zurich’s gay scene. The area is in general really charming and well worth spending time exploring, and a great way to sample Zurich’s large and varied bar and restaurant scene.
Lindenhof – A hill and section of old Zurich, the Lindenhof is the historic home of a Roman castle and fortress. This vehicle-free zone provides beautiful panoramas of Zurich.
Lake Promenade – Lake Zürich is the stunning backdrop to the city and well worth visiting for views back over the city and towards the Alps, with green wooded hills all around.
Bahnhofstrasse – one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, for all the actual or just window-shopping you could wish for.
Kunsthaus – Since opening in 1910, Kunsthaus Zürich has become a major art museum for Switzerland and all of Europe. The historic building is as impressive as its art collection, which includes an impressive collection of contemporary work.
Fraumünster – The Fraumünster dominates the Zurich skyline with its graceful and slender blue spire. The abbey of the same name dates back to the year 853, and the church contains some impressive stained glass designs by Marc Chagall.
Zurich Zoo – Since 1929, the Zurich Zoologischer Garten has been a leader in conservation and is a top rated zoo. There are over 2,000 inhabitants and more than 250 species to meet here. Situated in a nice hillside location away from the city centre.
Grossmünster – Dating from 1100, this Romanesque cathedral is one of the most impressive churches in Zurich. It played a major role in the Protestant Reformation. A climb up the tower rewards with great views over the city.
Landesmuseum – effectively the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, with one of Europe’s finest collections of art and culture.
Rietberg Museum – one of the best European museums devoted solely to non-European art. Situated in Lindenhofplatz, the hill overlooking the city.
UBS Polybahn– Polybahn is a (very short) funicular railway. It will take you up to Polyterrasse for another lovely view over the city.
Day trips – Take a day trip out of the city. The Alps are only 30 km to the south of the city, and the Swiss countryside all around is beautiful to visit at any time of the year.
Switzerland is within the Schengen visa area. If travelling from outside Europe, you should check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
The Swiss currency is the Swiss Frank (CHF). Prices in Switzerland are generally far higher than in other parts of Europe.
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