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Wild swimming, free theatre and clubbing: Why Zurich is the place to be in Pride Month and beyond

The Street Parade is a free techno music festival in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Street Parade is a free techno music festival in Zurich, Switzerland. Copyright Zurich Tourism
Copyright Zurich Tourism
By Rachael Davies
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Zurich’s blend of nature, culture and a welcoming community makes it ideal for a LGBTQ+ city break.

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LGBTQ+ city breaks in Europe tend to revolve around major queer culture hubs - Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and so on. 

On a recent weekend in Zurich, however, I discovered an understated yet thriving queer scene that deserves far more attention.

Here’s why you should add Switzerland’s biggest city to your LGBTQ+ travel list - in Pride Month and beyond.

Inclusivity is the name of the game

Celebrating 30 years of Pride in Zurich this year, the city’s queer scene is undoubtedly younger than some others in Europe - but that results in a welcoming, community-driven energy that makes you feel instantly at home. 

Walking around Zurich’s Pride Festival at Landiwiese last week, there were countless stands dedicated to wellness and charities, from free STI tests to information and resources for young LGBTQ+ families.

Pride Month might only be one weekend of the year but this ethos of community-driven work remains all year round. For anyone wanting a taste of this during their visit, the ‘Design For All?’ exhibit at Zurich’s Museum for Design is centred entirely around questioning how we can design things like buildings and furniture for everyone based on inclusive design principles - or if that’s even possible at all.

Zurich Altstadt is the city's historical heart.
Zurich Altstadt is the city's historical heart.Zurich Tourism

LGBTQ+-friendly bars can be found throughout the city but the majority are in the queer hub: the Niederdorf quarter. Start your night with the ever-friendly staff at Cranberry Bar, then work your way along the Limmat River and pick any fairy light-studded bar that takes your fancy.

The welcoming queer community in Zurich means that no further recommendations are really necessary. The best nights are spent walking where the night takes you. 

If you’re looking for dancing more than drinks, locals recommend following the music you like most, rather than any specific clubs. Most clubs have a revolving schedule of themed nights, like Plaza’s Glitter Gwitter on Saturdays, or a reliably talented line-up of DJs heading to Kaus.

The best things in Zurich are free

The same inclusive way of thinking is woven into the fabric of the city. Zurich might have a reputation for being expensive (and that’s not necessarily untrue when it comes to food and drink) but it pays off with the impressive quality of life. There are plenty of free activities to enjoy, with dozens of swimming areas dotted throughout the city’s many parks.

It’s impossible to resist the lure of the sparkling blue water of Lake Zurich, laid out with the backdrop of the snow-capped Swiss Alps behind. While there are more than 40 Badis (swimming baths) that you can pay for, most young Zurich locals prefer to take their dips for free by simply finding a spot along the river. 

Head to Landiwiese for a refreshing dip.
Head to Landiwiese for a refreshing dip.Rachael Davies

Some particular favourites include the centrally-located Renterwiese or take a 30-minute walk from the city centre to visit Landiwiese, the new location for Zurich’s Pride Festival that’s stunning to enjoy throughout the summer months as well. Its prime location further along the lake offers unimpeded views of the mountains. Walk across the footbridge to find yourself on a tiny island, surrounded completely with crisp water, ideal for cooling off on warm summer days.

Zurich also opens up plenty of culture entirely for free as well. Each year in June, you can enjoy a movie and the opera in live-streamed events outside the Opera House. Later in the summer in August, the world’s largest European electro festival takes to the streets - all for free.

Street Parade this year takes place on 10 August, with an LGBTQ+-friendly after-party, Flash Party, at Volkshaus Zürich. Tickets for this post-parade celebration start from 30 CHF (€31).

Zurich is an easy city to get lost in - in the best way possible

Swiss Travel System’s Zurich Card, priced at 29 CHF (€30) for 24 hours, includes all public transport. It might seem like a skippable purchase, seeing as the city is so walkable - especially when the sun is shining.

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However, skipping the Zurich Card also means skipping the most cost-effective way to enjoy Lake Zurich by boat. Your public transport pass gets you on board 90-minute cruises around the lake, connecting you to must-see attractions like the House of Lindt (with enough chocolate samples to satisfy any sweet tooth) and the green stretches of the outskirts of Zurich.

Pick a table by the rail on the top deck and order food and drinks to your table for a budget-friendly but suitably luxurious cruise on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Zurich.

Go for a relaxing cruise on Lake Zurich.
Go for a relaxing cruise on Lake Zurich.Zurich Tourism

It all comes together for the ideal LGBTQ+ city break

All of these ingredients blend together to make for a queer-friendly city break that balances rich culture with nature-fuelled relaxation. 

Zurich is easily accessible from across Europe by train or by plane thanks to easyJet, Ryanair, and Swiss International Air Lines - take advice from someone wishing they were still there and make your plans now.

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Zurich is a city where you can make what you want from it. Stay within the city centre for craft cocktails and river strolls, or venture along the lake for refreshing beers cooled on the waterfront. Better yet: make sure you do both.

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