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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Zurich article click DailyXtraTravel
Click on the link for a handy PDF version of our July 2008 Switzerland travel feature!
The largest, most affluent city in Switzerland, Zurich is a global financial center, and has long ranked among the world's best cities for quality of life. It takes just a day or two of walking the pedestrian shopping districts, relaxing at sidewalk cafes, or getting safely around town on the ubiquitous trams for visitors to feel quite at home.
Attractions include the unique botanical gardens by the university district; Bahnoffstrasse, a mostly car-free shopper's heaven; Fraumï¿½nster Church, with its Chagall windows; and the beach at Tiefenbrunnen (last stop on tram number 4) with a gay-popular side that hops from May through September.
Much of Zurich's gay scene is in the old town, along and around the picture-postcard cobblestone pedestrian streets and alleys around Niederdorf Strasse. Situated between Zurich University and the Limmat River, the area is full of cafes, bistros, restaurants of many cuisines, bookstores, and boutiques. It's just two tram stops (again, number 4) or a short walk from Hauptbahnhof. 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.
In this area, the gayest and most central hotel option is the Hotel Goldenes Schwert (Marktgasse 14) in a complex of nightclubs and accommodations. At this main building they offer 19 modern rooms with bath, and three suites. All have cable TV, wi-fi, phones, mini-bars, and a breakfast room-service option, too. Guests at the hotel get free entry to T&M Disco and Club Aaah! in this same building. A few streets down Niederdorf they have another 24-room guesthouse on Spitalgasse, overlooking all the sidewalk cafes and restaurants of Hirschenplatz. Privacy is assured as there's no receptionist here to judge the company you keep, once you're booked in at their main check-in desk.
Hotel Adler (Rosengasse 10) is another charming and comfortable medium-priced option here, with free breakfast in their fine restaurant included with the room price.
For more hotels see Zurich > accommodations.
Out in Old Town
On an alley just off Limmatquai, Cranberry (Metzgergasse 3) is a stylish and classy bar and cocktail lounge, staffed with a cheery crew who'll converse in many languages. The urbane, cosmopolitan customers here -- both young and old -- are equally open, friendly, and easily met. The upstairs lounge is handy and comfy for those wanting to sprawl or make out on the sofas, or to play pool. On warm evenings the guys also love to hang out at the outdoor patio seating area within sight of the river. Cranberry, in cooperation with nearby Pigalle (Marktgasse 14), will present one of the city's favorite and most diverse parties again this year: the eighth annual Zurich Oktoberfest on Pink Monday, October 13. Their website will have details and directions. Everything transpires under a great tent in the traditional Mï¿½nchener manner, with German beer and music, natï¿½rlich!
The Cranberry guys also own Rathaus Cafï¿½ (Limmatquai 61) at the base of the alleyway. Right on the banks of the Limmat River they have a huge outdoor seating area, and a mixed and trendy clientele. People-watching is the thing to do, and with recent riparian renovations it's now one of the most delightful places anywhere in Zurich to spend an afternoon for tasty lunches, afternoon tea, for evening happy-hour drinks or a late martini (right up until midnight). It's also a good spot for your morning coffee and the paper as they open at 7 a.m. weekdays.
G-Colors (Marktgasse 14) is the gay complex in the rainbow flag-bedecked building on Niederdorf, with three bars and hotel. The T&M Disco here features first-rate drag performances, cabaret shows, and has nightly DJs and dancing, too. It's a young and energetic, mostly male gay crowd here, but women are welcome. Weekends are busiest with a younger crowd on Fridays. They're packed on Saturdays and for Sunday B-Boy nights starting at 9:30 p.m., with no cover, drinks specials, and music leaning toward R&B, soul, and hip-hop. Upstairs, AAAH is a dance club that's open every night of the year until 4 a.m., with men-only dark rooms and cabins for an interlude of carnal relaxation between dances. When there's a cover you're good for both levels, and hotel guests staying at G-Hotel always enter without charge. Pigalle is their street-level pub -- small but lively, with early opening hours, a jukebox, and outdoor tables and chairs from which to watch the passers-by on Niederdorf.
A short away, at Hirschenplatz, Lobby Bar (Spitalgasse 3) is a classic bistro bar, with comfortable seating indoors, or at tables which spread out onto the plaza under the shade trees. It's at the very center of the district, and they attract an eclectic mix of gay and straight alike to watch the passing parade, meet friends, spend a pleasant afternoon, or to have the first drinks of the evening.
Barfï¿½sser (Spitalgasse 14), a cobblestone's throw away, also has outdoor seating and an early and mixed crowd. One of Europe's oldest gay bars, this was once a monastery, hence the name and their wandering (barefoot) monk sign. Now totally redesigned, this bright, modern bar has a delightful sushi restaurant at the entrance side and a lounge with a DJ at the back. It's gayest on Friday and Saturday nights when it's a favored place to meet before heading out to the night clubs. Fashion shows and special off-location parties are periodic features, but Robin and his staff always make visitors feel welcome. The restaurant uses only best quality organic and fresh ingredients; see the menu on their website.
The luxurious Paragonya Wellness (Mï¿½hlegasse 11) is not only one of the most comfortable saunas around, but it's busy all day, every day from the get-go at 11:30 a.m. until close at 11 p.m. They bring together a varied assortment of some of the most good-looking and friendly young men you'll find at any bathhouse anywhere. Their large lounge with bar leads to a bio-sauna with piped music and spectrum lighting, a jacuzzi, steamroom, and whirlpool. Upstairs there are cabins, a dark room, an intimate TV area, and a labyrinth.
Four bars that cater to a male clientele are clustered nearby: Predigerhof (Mï¿½hlegasse 15), at the corner of Zï¿½hringerstrasse; Dynasty (Zï¿½hringerstrasse 11); and the upstairs G-Lounge at the same address; plus Carrousel Bar (Zï¿½hringerstrasse 33). If you're looking to engage some "enterprising" young men for an evening, this is the likeliest area to find them. Tip Top Bar (Seilergraben 13), another local bar, and the Sauna Apollo (Seilergraben 41) are a bit further uphill, across from the hillside stone wall of the university district.
Two local stores here include Macho City Shop (Hï¿½ringstrasse 16), a porn emporium with daytime hours, and Basis Fashion (Niederdorfstrasse 56), a fashion boutique for young and style-conscious men. Restaurant Marion (Mï¿½hlegasse 22) is worth going just off the main drag of Niederdorf's many dining options to give a try.
Beyond Old Town
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 and beyond Langstrasse, a short distance from the tourist haunts. These neighborhoods are multi-ethnic and their stores, restaurants, and some bargain shopping can be found hereabouts.
Ministry of Kink (Engelstrasse 62) calls itself "the gay lifestyle company" with clothing, leather, rubber, army gear, toys, and DVDs for all interests. A wide variety of piercing jewelry, books, and magazines are also available here. Erotik Factory (Badenerstrasse 254) is a video/DVD sales and rental haven with a basement level of private video cabins. Mï¿½nnerzone (Kernstrasse 57) offers a combination of leather and fetish items and a Friday night place for men-only social gatherings.
Next door is Reno's Relax Club Sauna (Kernstrasse 57), with fantasy dark room, lounge and TV rooms, and all the steamy amenities. This is the only sauna in town with Friday and Saturday overnight hours (until 7 a.m.). Moustache Relax Club (Badenerstrasse 156) is another nearby sauna with bar, steam, Finnish and bio-saunas, dark room, and private cabins. Sauna Adonis (Mutschellenstrasse 17) is a bit further out from the center.
Rage (Wagistrasse 13), about three kilometers out Badenerstrasse, has a large cruising zone of dark rooms and a maze. Open from Wednesday through Sunday nights, they offer a regular schedule of leather / rubber / uniform fetish events and naked parties, and on Saturdays they're open until 5 a.m. Magnusbar (Magnusstrasse 29) is another men-only space with bar, dark room, naked and jackoff parties, and special fetish events -- open nightly except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Barrique (Marktgasse 17) wine bar and restaurant, Turbinenhalle Restaurant/Bar (Badenerstrasser 571) restaurant and bar, and the bar Pearl (Birmendorferstrasse 83) are some other gay-frequented venues. Sunset Thai (Birmensdorser Strasse 488) is another longtime local bar and restaurant at the outskirts of town.
The gay Zurich dance landscape, which suffered some setbacks last year, has regained much of its magic with the return of the famous Labyrinth dance event every Saturday night at Lotus Club (Pfingstweidstrasse 70). Also, a new every-Sunday club night, Sonntagsschule, has launched at Longstreet (Langstrasse 14). The long-popular men-only Shaft on first Saturdays (next one July 7) has moved to Pirate (Hohlstrasse 457); and Stairs Club took over hosting monthly Saturday parties (by former Lotus people) called Emottion, among their other events each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
Other area dance venues include: Labitzke (Ambulastrasse 40) and the next-door Loop 38 (Albulastrasse 38); Labor Bar (Schiffbaustrasse 3), with Sunday night Butterfly events; and JIM, a monthly dance party with a bit of glamour, the blessings of drag queens, and the sounds of house music. Hotel X-tra (Limmatstrasse 118) hosted this year's official CSD Saturday night bash, and Sprit Bar (Talaker 34) has resumed their summertime Sunday dance parties from 8 p.m.
Angels produces the annual White and Black circuit parties at Volkshaus (Stauffacherstrasse 60), and they'll do Folies au Lac, an open-air party at Badi Zurich (Tiefenbrunnen station), on the shores of Lake Zurich. Dates will be July 12, or 19, or 26 depending on weather conditions (see their website the previous Thursdays).
In 2009 Zurich will host Europride'09. They're getting ready for you now, so plan ahead and join in for Europe's biggest gay festival, with parades, parties, the "Pink Apple" film festival, conferences, workshops, and more -- all taking place May 2 to June 7 next year.
Local gay mags such as Kontakt Magazin, Akut, Queer Times, and Cruiser Magazine are everywhere, along with flyers for the many special events. These, along with websites Swissgay, gay, g26, HAZ, and Zuerigay.ch have all the listings you'll need to stay up-to-date.