The annual Limmatschwimmen takes place on Zurich's Limmat River each July.
When a city becomes synonymous with banks and luxury watches, it’s expected that things may cost a bit more than usual there. Just how much more is the shocker in Zurich, the lakefront capital of Switzerland, where a small bottle of water can run you over 5 bucks, and a Starbucks frappuccino about 10. It’s not a cheap place but you do get what you pay for, and “Swiss quality” is an enviable compliment. Small in size and population, the city has no trouble exuding a sense of tranquility, despite its industry and efficiency. With two rivers and a beach-laden lake dividing Zurich, it manages a vacation vibe difficult to maintain in other urban settings, and it shows in the cool calm and easy confidence of its people.
While Zurich boasts a handful of architecturally impressive buildings, quaint shopping streets, and other standard capital fare, it’s the heaps of nature surrounding and dividing the city that are its greatest asset. After boating and swimming in the center, take a small hike up the surrounding hills to discover wooded trails for hiking, biking and exploring, all with humbling views of the city. From above it’s impossible not to notice how remarkably green and blue Zurich is, and it’s immediately apparent where its people glean their easy, natural attitudes.
My host in Zurich was Romain, 37, whose wandering spirit has led him to live in several cities, but hasn’t managed to pull him away from this one yet. Here, he tells us where to dive in to find Zurich’s treasures, and reminds us not to forget our bathing suits!
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Zurich?
Romain: Five years. I came to live with my boyfriend, now my partner.
How long have you been out?
I was 21 when I came out to my sister. Then my mother found out from letters I had not properly hidden in my room! She didn’t react well, and she didn’t like my first boyfriend at all. It’s okay now, though — she fully accepts my sexuality and my partner.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?
It’s easy. It’s the first place I was able to be out at work, too. Zurich has the largest gay community in Switzerland, and there are gay bars and major gay events through the year, like the white party, the black party, and pride.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?
Lindenplatz because of the great view over the city center and because it's the historical birthplace. In the summer it's also just a nice place to hang out. And the national museum close to the main station — it’s very interactive and gives you all the information you need to understand Switzerland and its history.
Your favorite restaurant in Zurich?
Maison Manesse. It’s not typical Swiss food — its molecular gastronomy, so they invent meals out of unusual ingredients, and it always tastes good. They have a new menu each week. The staff is always recommending great wine pairings, and the atmosphere is very nice.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?
There’s a lake and a river you can swim (or float!) in, so you should pack your swimsuit! If you come in July, check out Limmatschwimmen, which is the official floating party on the Limmat River — everyone jumps in and goes down the river on matching floats. It’s a lot of fun!