For the Swiss, Zürich is the city par excellence of the country: important in terms of economy, media, entertainment, and culture, and practically bursting with international charisma spread over a mere 380,000 inhabitants. The best and cheapest way to get around this vibrant city is by public transportation -- purchase your ZürichCard here.

Physically, it's hard not to be charmed by the view with the lake, the hills, and the Alps. Enjoy it with a trip up to Zürichberg or on the other side to the Üetliberg, Zürich's panoramic points, which are both reachable within 20 minutes by public transport from Central Station. Or hail a boat trip on Lake Zürich itself. And then, dive into the city itself, which melds a big metropolis into a small area.

In the last 10 years, Zürich has shed its boring banker city image, replaced instead by a vibrant and trendy party scene (drawing over 800,000 revelers to the biggest techno event of the world, the annual Street Parade), including a huge range of museums, galleries, stages, cool shops from young local designers, and stylish restaurants that have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Zürich West stands as the latest hub and icon of the city's metamorphosis, with many new buildings and cultural options including theatres, cinemas, and concert halls, plus the inauguration of the city's first "skyscraper" (36 stories) in 2011. A happening!

But gay people have known the secrets of Zürich for a long time. Even though its gotten better in the countryside, many of the small-town men and women move here to have a better life. With an out lesbian mayor since 2009 (social democrat Corinne Mauch), "open and tolerant" is the name of the game. The scene centers mainly (but not only) at the eastern side of River Limmat, at the Niederdorf area, with the city's newer bars and restaurants and parties. But, as in other cosmopolitan cities, the biggest trend seems to be away from pure gay places and toward mixed ones. This is also the case in the matter of gay parties: They increasingly take place in "straight" or mixed locations, so that only two pure gay clubs still exist, while there were five in 2001. In their place has grown a welcome diversity, a fabulous non-ghettoized feeling in this rather little big city!

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