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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Zurich Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Zurich Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in breathtaking Zurich.


Centrally located (in Switzerland and in Europe) and easily accessible by air and land, Zurich is an ideal starting point for a Swiss trip. This national and financial capital, also known as "Downtown Switzerland," features shopping on an international scale, a world-class opera house, a large selection of dining options, and a multitude of gay meeting places -- all set against an almost fairytale backdrop of mountains, lakes, and medieval steeples. Although this is Switzerland's largest city, it feels quite small since much is concentrated within several blocks of the quaint and charming Old Town that straddles the Limmat River. Walking is best, with biking recommended for longer trips, such as the beach.

The people are quite handsome and well-groomed -- no one is unkempt, except the "neu" punkers -- so packing your sweatpants is only advisable if you're an extremely secure individual-thinker type. Lots of Americans on business are about -- mainly bankers, investors, and those who aid and abet such monetary mavens. And all the money floating around means good shopping. But if you live in or near a world city (where Swatch, Tiffany, and H&M are readily available), then skip the Bahnhofstrasse and look for interesting boutiques in the ever-so-cute smaller winding streets of the Old Town. Old Town is where most of the gay bars, lounges, and clubs are found, although east of the main train station on the other side of the river, Zurich West, is becoming a hot spot for larger clubs and venues, both gay and straight.

The city has a vibrant, round-the-clock gay and lesbian scene, as active and varied as anywhere else you can think of. Each year Zurich hosts a number of gay and gay-popular events, including a gay ski week (in nearby Arosa), a queer film festival, and the massive, polysexual Street-Parade, a citywide techno-rave party, rivaling Berlin's Love Parade in enthusiasm if not size.

STAY

Despite the tourist throngs and the noisy nightlife, staying amid the winding streets of Old Town is fun and convenient. However, the other side of the river is home to more stately and upscale properties within an easy walk to Old Town, and with better lake views.

Gay

If you want to stay where the action is -- and don't plan to sleep until 4:30 a.m. (or 2:30 a.m. during the week) -- the 22-unit Hotel Goldenes Schwert (Marktgasse 14; +41-44-250-7080; 130-235 CHF, suites: 250-378 CHF) is a rainbow flag-flying gay hotel included in a complex with gay bars and clubs. Centrally located, there are no less than three gay venues in the building downstairs. Look for their theme rooms like Tom of Finland or Saturday Night Fever, or check into an apartment-like suite for that "I live here" feel.

Luxury

Consisting of nearly 50 units in eight splendidly restored historic townhouses, the five-star Widder Hotel (Rennweg 7; +41-1-224-2526; 520-1,750 CHF) offers a pricier but more elegant downtown setting. The 42 rooms and seven suites were created out of eight historic townhouses (built between the 11th and 16th centuries), located in the quieter Augustiner quarter close to the Bahnhofstrasse. The restoration is pure late-20th century and the restaurants serve regional dishes. Live music plays nightly in the jazz bar.

Value

For the whimsical, the centrally located, clean, and comfortable -- yet inescapably Swiss/elfin/cow-themed -- Leoneck Hotel (Leonhardstrasse 1; +41-1-254-2222; 150-190 CHF) will satisfy. Don't miss the relaxed atmosphere of the Crazy Cow restaurant (www.crazycow.ch; 9-10 CHF) downstairs where traditional Swiss food is doled out in American portions. At the end of the day, rest in the efficient rooms (open since the 14th century, but most recently renovated in 1997).

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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