The largest, most affluent city in Switzerland, Zurich has long ranked among the world's best cities in terms of quality of life. It takes just a day or two of walking the pedestrian-only shopping districts, relaxing at the sidewalk cafes, or getting safely around town on the ubiquitous trams to feel quite at home.
On the surface, Switzerland is quite neatly divided, almost balkanized, into its German, French and Italian pieces. The marriage has it's squabbles, but the Confederation, officially dating from August 1, 1291, endures, and has kept Switzerland in it's mountainous redoubt, out of much of the warfare that has ravaged Europe since then. English, as a second language, is spoken by almost everyone.
Much of the city’s relaxed spirit focuses on the water. Zurich is situated on a lake entirely surrounded by lush parks. Fresh, clear water flows into the lake from glaciers in the Alps, which provide a picturesque backdrop to the city. Boats are plentiful. The Limmat, the river that flows from the lake through the historic city centre, is banked by pedestrian promenades with outdoor bars and cafés.
Zürich Airport is one of the busiest in the world. It’s located about 7 miles north of the city. Swiss International Airlines, the national airline, is exactly what you’d expect from its namesake: an efficient and comforting way to make your way across the ocean. Service is engaging and details are well managed. Tyler Brûlé, the gay founder of Wallpaper and Monocle magazines, oversaw the airline’s makeover a few years back
Getting to the center is easy with trains that take ten minutes to travel to Zurich main station, with departures every ten minutes during peak periods. This is the best link for anyone staying at the city center. Inter-city and regional trains connect to all main towns and cities in Switzerland. See SBB, or the airport link, for schedules and information on discount cards if you're planning to travel beyond Zurich. The Glattalbahn tram service (number 10) departs every 7-15 minutes for other surrounding areas, and there are also regional bus services.
ZVV operates the public transit system for Zurich with S-Bahn trains, buses, trams and boats to get you around; even a funicular and cable car. No city in the world, it's said, has as much access to near and frequent rides, wherever and whenever, as here in Zurich. There are many pass plans, from single to six day unlimited, or multiple journey tickets, or group fares, or after-9am rates - with various zone and class upgrades.
A 24-hour ZürichCARD costs 24 CHF, good for all modes (even a short cruise), and it includes free admission to most museums, discounts at local stores and city tours, plus some extras at many restaurants. For 48 CHF you get 72 hours of the same. Use of the nighttime network may require a an extra payment at a ticket machine. For details, Zuerich.com is easier to understand than the ZVV site.
Old Town. Much of Zurich's gay scene is in Altstadt, or Old Town, along and around the picture-postcard cobblestone streets and alleys around Niederdorf Strasse. Situated between Zurich University and the Limmat River, the area is full of cafes, bistros, restaurants, bookstores, and boutiques. It’s a short walk from the Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main train station. Besides being a transportation hub of trains, buses, and trams, this main station has an underground shopping center that's open on Sundays and holidays, when most other shops close.
Langstrasse. Many visitors may never get beyond old town, as there are so many things to see and do there, but a number of other gay businesses can be found around Langstrasse, a short distance from the tourist haunts. Great foreign cuisines and bargain shopping can be found hereabouts too.
What to do
Attractions include the Alter Botanischer Garten, the unique botanical gardens by the university district; the pedestrian-only Bahnoffstrasse, a shopper's heaven; and the Fraumünster Church, with its Chagall windows. See our Activities section for more.
Currency and Money
The Swiss Franc is the local currency for Switzerland (and neighboring Liechtenstein). Many businesses will also accept euros, but don’t count on it. Most US bank debit cards work in most ATMs here, but be sure to inform your bank of your travel plans before leaving home. If you can get a credit card with a chip and PIN number you'll be able to use your card more widely all over Europe - expecially with ticket machines.
Media and Resources
Many local gay magazines have folded recently, but websites such as Swissgay, Gay.ch, HAZ, and Queer.ch, can keep you up-to-date. The social network site gaYmeBoys.com is good for making friends before you arrive.
Visit Zuürich is one of the best online tourist resources for getting around this city.
MySwitzerland.com has a gay pages section along with general information in this official Swiss Tourism website.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Zurich map & listings pages.
Hotel Adler (Rosengasse 10), a charming, comfortable medium-priced 3-star option on Hirschenplatz, free breakfast in their fine restaurant included with room. Each of 52 rooms has wall painting by artist Heinz Blum depicting an interesting corner of Zurich.
Hotel Alden (Splügenstrasse 2), smallest, most intimate 5-star-boutique hotel in Zurich, building under heritage protection, dates to 1895. Completely refurbished to restore original splendor, combines fin-de-siècle elegance with high-tech comforts in 22 rooms and suites.
The Park Hyatt Zurich (Beethoven-Strasse 21), surrounded by major financial houses around Paradeplatz Square, steps from fashionable boutiques of Bahnhofstrasse. 142 rooms and suites, spectacular views of Zurich, tech-smart facilities, 5-star pampering.
The Platzhirsch Hotel & Bar (Spitalgasse 3), opened recently on Hirschenplatz where the Lobby Bar was; stylishly modern, rooms ranging from superior to economy, and lounge bar with smoking area, WiFi and bar with terrace seating.
For those on a budget City Backpacker / Hotel Biber (Niederdorfstrasse 5) offer good Swiss traditions at great prices, at heart of Old Town. Dorm beds as low as CHF37 per night, single rooms from CHF77. Reserve in advance with credit card. Dorm rooms are mixed gender - showers are not.
ZicZac Rock Hotel (Marktgasse 17), gay-friendly hotel, all amenities, restaurant, bar, terrace seating (the fomer G-Colors location)
Zurich Overnight (CF Meyerstrasse 25), gay B&B for for a single man or male couple, big breakfast, gourmet meals, WiFi, clothing-optional pool and sauna, near lake and public transport.
Out in Old Town & Bellevue
Barfüsser (Spitalgasse 14, Hirschenplatz), outdoor seating for early, mixed crowd. One of Europe's oldest gay bars, once a monastery, hence the name and wandering (barefoot) monk sign. Redesigned, bright, modern bar, sushi restaurant, lounge with DJ. Gayest Friday and Saturday nights, a popular place to meet before the dance clubs.
Bistro Chez Marion (Mühlegasse 22), breakfast, salads, quiches, soups, crêpes, foie gras, steaks, classic "croques" sandwiches, cheeses and desserts.
Cafe Odeon (Limmatquai 2), chic young, artsy, gay and mixed crowd since 1911; sidewalk tables near river, elegant ambience of wrought metal, old wood, high ceilings and walls of mirrors. Beverages hot and cold, small plates, burgers, savory masterpieces, tiny sweet delights on silver desert trays. Gayest in late evenings.
Cranberry (Metzgergasse 3, alley off Limmatquai), stylish, classy bar/cocktail lounge, cheery staff converses in many languages. Urbane, cosmopolitan customers, young and old, are friendly/easily met. Upstairs comfy lounge sofas to sprawl or make out, pool tables. Warm evenings outdoor patio.
Dynasty Club (Zähringerstrasse 11), party bar has easy to meet guys at street level, and a quieter upstairs lounge.
Le Coquin (Kruggasse 4, Bellevue), at Hotel Villette just south of Old Town, gay-friendly bistro/cafe-bar and lounge, good weather outdoor seatings.
Paragonya Wellness (Mühlegasse 11), comfortable saunas, busy all day, every day, 11:30am to 11pm. Good-looking, friendly young men on the make, large lounge/ bar, bio-sauna with piped music and spectrum lighting. Also Jacuzzi, steamroom, whirlpool, cabins, dark room, intimate TV area, and labyrinth.
PlatZHirsch (Spitalgasse 3, Hirschenplatz), gay-friendly cafe-bar in hotel at the center of Old Town, smoking lounge, outdoor seatings, WiFi; former Lobby Bar location.
Predigerhof (Mühlegasse 15), long-time neighborhood gay bar and bistro, open every day all year, until 2am, free WiFi internet access, food and drinks, at corner with Zähringerstrasse.
Rathaus Café (Limmatquai 61) within sight of Cranberry, on Limmat banks, huge outdoor seating area, mixed and trendy clientele. People-watching during afternoon lunch or tea; happy-hour drinks to late martinis (until midnight). Also morning coffee and the paper, opening weekdays at 7am.
Tip Top Bar (Seilergraben 13), aka Petra's, mostly older male crowd, welcoming local "schlager" party bar with Swiss and German music at the top of the hill.
For two dozen more restaurant and cafe suggestions see our map & listings pages.
Beyond Old Town
Daniel H (Müllerstrasse 51) gay-friendly restaurant and bar, good simple food, traditional Swiss recipes, patio seating.
Gay Aqua (Hertistrasse 24), in Wallisellen, on the northeast outskirts, small gay men's sauna with bar, sling & cross, videos, dark room, massage. Off our map.
Les Garçons (Kernstrasse 60), classy retro-style gay bar on two levels, 20s/30s mixed crowd, Friday and Saturday DJs.
Magnusbar (Magnusstrasse 29), men-only bar, dark room, naked and jackoff parties, special fetish events -- open Thursday through Sunday.
Männerzone (Kernstrasse 57), leather/fetish store and Friday/Saturday night cruise bar for men-only, next to Reno's Relax.
Moustache Relax Club (Badenerstrasse 156), small sauna with bar, steam, Finnish and bio-saunas, dark room, private cabins; open until 7am next day on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rage (Wagistrasse 13), Wednesday through Sunday nights about 3 kilometers out Badenerstrasse, large cruise zone, dark rooms and maze, internet access. Regular schedule of leather/ rubber/ uniform fetish events and naked parties -- open Saturdays until 5am. They also have a dance floor for ongoing parties.
Near Langstrasse, Reno's Relax Club Sauna (Kernstrasse 57) has fantasy dark room, lounge, TV rooms, all the steamy amenities, full-body massages, mask parties -- Friday and Saturday overnight hours (until 7am).
The gay Zurich circuit dance scene changes constantly, moving around to various venues. Check local press and flyers for what's on when you arrive.
Angels produces the annual White (May 8-10, 2015) and Black (November 6-8, 2015) circuit parties at Club X-Tra (Limmatstrasse 118); also Flash Party :: Street Parade (August 29, 2015) at Club X-Tra.
Behave (anything but straight) at Frieda's Büxe (Spitalgasse 5), lively gay/straight-friendly Tech-House, Deep-House and Electro now and then Friday dance parties; until May, returns in August after summer break.
Heaven (Spitalgasse 5), new Friday/Saturday gay dance club off Hirschenplatz in Old Town. Special events, international guest DJs
Heldenbar at Provitreff (Sihlquai 240), mid-week queer, non-profit, live music space, party nights, hang-out for mixed group of gay/les/bi/hetero, mostly young people. Find it upriver from Hauptbahnhof.
Stairs Club (Baslerstrasse 50), gay/mixed Friday-Sunday weekend lounge and dance club above Letzipark; late night House to HipHop parties.
X-Tra (Limmatstrasse 118), three dance floor party venue, home of the X Sonntag Tanz Bar, Sunday nights. Terrace, no cover.
For more dance parties see our events page.
Erotik Factory (Badenerstrasse 254), gay and straight video/DVD sales and rentals, basement level of private gay video cabins.
An Old Town store of gay interest, Macho City Shop (Häringstrasse 16), porn emporium has DVDs, magazines, books and toys.
Männerzone (Kernstrasse 57) combination leather and fetish store; plus Friday and Saturday night industrial-ambiance bar for men-only.
Ministry of Kink (Engelstrasse 62), "the gay lifestyle company" has clothing, leather, rubber, army gear, toys, and DVDs for all interests. Also a wide variety of piercing jewelry, books, and magazines.