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Zurich: Could this ‘dull’ Swiss city become Europe’s queer capital?

Simon Calder’s Travel

What is the recipe for a good LGBT+-friendly city break in the summer? The ingredients surely include a thriving club scene, seasonal cocktails and a welcoming community. Bake that together with a city that seamlessly blends impressive nature and metropolitan amenities and you’ve got yourself a weekend away in Zurich – the city that should be on every queer traveller’s list.

“Whatever you want from Zurich, you can find it,” I’m told by a local while enjoying a free livestream of Bizet’s opera, Carmen, on a lake-front square in the Swiss city. “It’s all right there.”

The sweeping statement is accompanied by an equally sweeping gesture, a hand waving seemingly at the entire city. But what is this man referring to with this all-encompassing motion? After a few days in Zurich, that one smooth gesture seems to round up everything from wild swimming and boat trips to a pulsing dance scene and riverfront cocktails that all come together to make for an LGBT+ holiday destination that often gets overlooked – if considered at all.

Streets are filled during summer parades and parties
Streets are filled during summer parades and parties (Getty Images)

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While more commonly touted queer hubs like Berlin, Amsterdam or Brighton might get more attention as LGBT+ friendly destinations. Zurich has a deep queer culture. It was the birthplace of Der Kreis (The Circle), an underground network and social club for gay men in the 1940s when homosexuality was still criminalised.

And today, the riverfront Niederdorf quarter is home to dozens of queer bars along the Limmat river. Start your time at Cranberry Bar, home to charming staff and inventive cocktails behind a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ front door on Metzgergasse, while cafe-bar GLEIS will see you through day to night with an impressive array of spritzes designed to be enjoyed in a Swiss summer.

What truly makes Zurich special, however, is the unusual blend of natural beauty and a thriving cultural city centre. It’s impossible to resist the gravitational pull of Lake Zurich. The blue water beckons when glimpsed down narrow streets and the crystal-clear depths are the ideal way to while away a few hours on a sunny summer’s day. There are around 40 outdoor pools – known as badis – scattered throughout the city between May and October.

Cooling off in the Limmat
Cooling off in the Limmat (Getty Images)

Luckily, that’s not the…

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