For most of us Switzerland’s financial capital may not conjure images of hedonism and wild gay abandon, but that doesn’t mean that Zurich falls short when it comes to sampling the high-life. Standards of living here are consistently ranked as being some, if not the highest in the world and those seeking a sophisticated destination where the finest things in life come as standard will certainly not be disappointed.
Gay life thrives here, but any visitor would be missing out if they didn’t explore a little further afield to sample some of the delights that the surrounding stunning Alpine environment has to offer. Breath-taking scenery, sumptuous cuisine and a multitude of outdoor activities for all abilities are on offer just outside one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. See our Alpine Summer blog here.
The modern face of Switzerland’s largest city is one of a cosmopolitan and international metropolis which is entirely comfortable with its status as a playground to the world’s elite and also the undisputed gay capital of Switzerland. Stylish without being pretentious, Zurich’s cafe and bar culture is thriving and proportionally this city has more clubs than any other European city and knows just how to show visitors a great time.
Those looking for gay life will certainly not be disappointed, the main gay area with the largest concentration of LGBT venues is located in the old part of town, between the grand main station and the river bank. Zurich though, is also no stranger at hosting large scale gay events with the Warmer Mai www.warmermai.ch arts and culture festival and the Pink Apple film festival www.pinkapple.ch taking place here annually during the early summer months annually.
Zurich was also host to Europride in 2009 – which shone an international spotlight on Zurich’s annual pride festivities which continue to grow each year, and in 2013 will take place from 1- 9 Jun. Pride now includes a programme of culture, sport, parties, debates, exhibitions and workshops and attracts LGBT visitors from across Europe and the world.
Full details of this year’s event are available on the Zurich Pride website http://zurichpridefestival.ch
2013 also sees the return of the much anticipated ZüriFäscht or Zurich-Fest, which takes place every three years and brings together hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and beside the lake in Zurich from 5-7 July.
This is the biggest popular festival in Switzerland, and comprises numerous open-air stages with performances of all kinds and culminates with two spectacular firework displays taking place on the Saturday and the Sunday evenings. More details are available on the Zurich Tourism website. www.zuerich.com
Hit the beach
If all of this gets a little too hot to handle then you could cool down at the (gay!) beach – yes, you read correctly. Switzerland might be landlocked in the centre of Europe, but swimming here in the summer in the crystal clear rivers and lakes is an essential experience – especially when it’s surrounded by the local gay boys and girls.
For clothing optional bathing head for the peaceful island of Werdinsel in the middle of the river. To get there, take the tram to Tüffenwies which is just a 1min walk from the island. Bathing here is free and there are also changing rooms, showers toilets, and a lovely little snack-bar. For a more urbane, lake-side dip head for Tiefenbrunnen Beach.
While in Zurich don’t miss…
Zurich is a shopper’s paradise, elegant shopping and boutiques along Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse sell top end designer labels and Switzerland’s famous jewellers and watchmakers so make sure you are packing plenty of plastic. For those on a budget the area of Limmat on the opposite side of the river is less expensive but has just as good a selection of shops, bars and restaurants on offer.
The Kunsthaus Museum of Fine Arts houses one of Europe’s most extensive collections from 15th century religious iconography to the more modern art works of Dali, Arp, Hockney, Rodin, Cezanne, Monet, Gaugin, Munch and Picasso. The excellent reputation of this museum extends well beyond Switzerland, temporary exhibitions originating here have moved on to much larger art galleries world-wide including London’s Tate Modern.
The newly developed centre (‘Zürich West‘) around Escher-Wyss Platz has become the in area with Zurich locals and the hip young crowd. This former industrial zone has been transformed into a hip urban hotspot full of bars, restaurants, unique independent shopping, galleries and clubs and gives an insight into what’s really happening in the city in the new millennium.
Fraumünster Church was founded as early as 853 and overlooks the central old town square of Münsterhof and the thin blue spire is the most recognisable of all Zurich’s churches. The ornate interior of the church attracts many visitors but most people come here to see the five stained glass windows designed by the 83-year-old Marc Chagall, one of the pioneers of modernism in 1970.
The Swiss National Museum is housed in an exquisite building by architect Gustav Gull in the style of a French Renaissance Chateau which is worth the visit on its own. The museum contains artefacts from the Stone Age, through the Middle Ages including its impressive armoury to modern times and is the most important record of its kind in the country.
Take the Polybahn and Rigiblick funicular trains to get above the city streets for fantastic views and some excellent photo opportunities. The recently renovated Polybahn takes visitors to the Polyterasse viewpoint while the ride to on the Ridiblick will reward you with a classic view of Lake Zurich and the majestic Alps beyond.
Zurich’s Museum of Design is a design masterpiece itself, built by the Swiss architects Adolf Steger and Karl Egender it is a breathtaking example of modern architecture. Three permanent collections and numerous temporary exhibitions span a century of work from the world’s finest industrial designers, photographers, graphic artists and architects.
Narrow lanes and cobbled streets characterise the Niederdorf area of Zurich’s Old Town where small plazas are lined with cafes and restaurants. An assorted mix of shops selling fashion, antiques and food and beverages fills the area and during the evenings the nightlife of this district draws in crowds of locals and visitors.
The Centre Le Corbusier is the last work of renowned Swiss architect who pioneered modernism and who also laid the foundation for the Bauhaus movement. Located in Zurichhorn Park the centre houses the largest collection of Le Corbusier’s work including architecture, paintings, furniture, sculpture and writings, all in one contemporary and striking building.
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