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DAY 2: ALL KINDS OF ANIMALS
Spend the morning in impressive Zurich Zoo (Zurichbergstrasse 221; +41-44-254-2533) in the wooded hills behind the Old Town, before the crowds come later in the afternoon. Book in advance for the one-of-a-kind homosexuality in animals tour for an up close and personal look at the queer flamingos, penguins, and other nonconforming inhabitants. It's one of the only zoos in the world that offer such a tour.
One of the hipper places in town to have lunch is the La Salle Restaurant (Schiffbaustrasse; +41-1-258 70 71; 22--37 CHF) -- all raw cement with one big Murano chandelier. It's housed in the original battered shell of a red brick factory built during the 19th century to manufacture boats. Full of groovy kids and culture vultures, it appropriately serves an electric menu that can include Indian-style entrec?te of lamb with raita; grilled filet of salmon with artichokes, tomatoes, and herbs; or a vegetarian version of tortilla with guacamole and sour cream.
If the weather is nice (more often than you'd expect), head directly to the gayest swimming area, the Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen (Bellerivestrasse 200; +41-44-422-3200), with sprawling lakeside lawns, swimming swans, and men-only nude sunbathing decks lining a two-story structure. (Gay-themed outdoor parties happen here on certain summer nights.)
Have dinner at Restaurant Reithalle (Gessnerallee 8; +41-44-212-0766; 15-35 CHF), a popular and huge local eatery and bar housed under the timbered ceiling of a former military riding school and stables, serving up vegetarian and Swiss specialties. The nearby old industrial zone of Zurich West area is becoming hip and gentrified and is now an up-and-coming gay nightlife area, with large but friendly clubs like Labor-Bar (Schiffbaustrasse 3; +41-44-272-4402) packing in the party creatures and their admirers.
DAY 3: A CLASSY FINISH
Grab a coffee and a croissant at one of the sidewalk cafes in the Old Town and watch the passersby, then cross the bridge to spend the morning at the Swiss National Museum (Museumstrasse 2; +41-44-218-6511), across from the main train station. It's an epic complex that covers everything Swiss from caveman to present day, including arts, textiles, artifacts, and some gorgeously recreated rooms from homes of different historical periods.
Once wealthy from the silk trade, Zurich is now home to out designer Andy Stutz's stunning store Fabric Frontline (Ankerstrasse 118; +41-44-241-6445) where many of Europe's famous opera singers get decked out. Dine in the artful ambience of his Restaurant Seidenspinner (+41-44-241-0700; 20-45 CHF) next door, with ceilings and walls made of swirled broken mirrors, and a lovely garden in the back.
In the evening, check out the rich cultural offerings of Zurich, a major arts center for this region of Europe. The Opernhaus (Falkenstrasse 1; +41-1-268-6400), besides being a spectacular turn-of-the-last-century space, provides an opportunity for non-German speakers to attend theater in Zurich. At the other end of the spectrum is the avant-garde Rote Fabrik or Red Brick Factory (Seestrasse 395; +41-1-481-9143) cultural center. Catering to the truly bohemian crowd, everything from readings and concerts to circus acts can be found at this state-sponsored venue. A bar with food and open-air concerts in the summer along with its location on the lake make it worth a visit.
Falling somewhere between the Opera and Red Brick is Schiffbau (Schiffbaustrasse 4; +41-1-258-7070), a new arts complex (theaters, a jazz club, and a restaurant) built in an old industrial space in the Zurich West district. It is one of Zurich's main cultural centers and has a lot to offer even non-German speakers: innovative and interactive theater, music, and that groovy restaurant, La Salle.