DAY 1: ZURICH 101
Right along the river, the most scenic place to start your day is the gay-friendly Rathaus Café (Limmatquai 61; +41-1-261-0770; 8-20 CHF), a chic coffee and light menu spot bordering Old Town, with an outdoor terrace in summer.
To explore the town start at the Glockengasse (off the Bahnhofstrasse) and just lose yourself in the maze of streets -- tiny, cobblestone, adorable, and quintessentially European. Do not miss St. Peterhofstatt. Look for the big church with the huge clock, visible from just about everywhere. The square out front is the epitome of old world charm -- crooked old homes, beautifully kept and perfectly proportioned.
Continue wandering and cross the river at the Quai Brücke, where you get the best view of town. Once on the other side of the river look for the lively Münstergasse filled with restaurants, amblers, and shops. You can take a walking tour of the area with Stattreisen Zurich (+41-1-364-1212; [email protected]), which incorporates gay history with Zurich history (starting in 15 B.C. when the entire town consisted of one lonely Roman tollhouse). You'll pass by many of the more than 1,000 fountains, ranging from cute and quaint to sleek and modern, (yes, you can drink from them) as you wander the medieval streets to the Grossmünster Cathedral, a 12th-century beauty. Meander on to the Fraumünster-Kirche with its spectacular windows done in 1917 by Marc Chagall.
Head back to Old Town and treat yourself to a sumptuous lunch at Restaurant Kronenhalle (Ramistrasse 4; +41-44-262-9900; 30-80 CHF), the most famous eatery in Switzerland. Dine on classic Swiss and Bavarian cuisine under wood-paneled walls dripping with original Chagalls, Picassos, Kandinskys and Mirós -- all of whom also frequented the place, as well as queer glitterati like Yves Saint-Laurent and Rudolf Nureyev. You may even spot European royalty at the table next to you, as we did on our last trip there (hint: she is princess of Monaco).
Either take a nap or check to see if the Thomas Mann Archives (Schonberggasse 15; +41-44-632-4045) are open near the university area above Old Town. These reconstructed offices of the gay German writer (Death in Venice) who lived near Zurich offer great views overlooking the city. Explore his personal desk, letters, books, and effects that include a gorgeous painting above his sofa of naked boys bathing.
A nice way to while away the evening before the clubs get going late, is to spend some time basking in the scene at the Café Odéon (Limmatquai 2; +41-1-251-1650; open from 7 a.m. every day, 12--32 CHF), a nearly century-old gay landmark that acts as backdrop to a crowd of "artists and revolutionaries" and thus the gay population. More a brasserie than restaurant, outside seating is fabulous for a drink and people watching and makes for much easier breathing since everyone inside seems to be working on at least three cigarettes each. Everyone from Mussolini and Mata Hari has sipped a drink here.
Then head to the city's mainstay happening club in Old Town, T&M (Marktgasse 14; +41-44-266-1818), to enjoy two levels of gay dancing and drinking for locals and tourists alike.