by Paul Rubio
– it’s a name that conjures up images of breathtaking snow-capped
mountains, pastoral landscapes, atmospheric train rides, and Roman
Polanski. From the towering Swiss Alps in the
south to the 1500 azure lakes drenching 6% of the land, Switzerland is a stunningly
beautiful place that never fails to impress.
The best-known city in Switzerland, Zurich, is situated in the German-speaking
part of the country. Zurich’s
polyglots prefer their native tongue, Swiss German, but easily
converse in English or the country’s other two official languages,
French and Italian.
has the feel and atmosphere of a German provincial town peppered
with both understated and overstated reminders of the banking
capital’s wealth. Streets teem with everything and anything
quintessentially Swiss – good chocolate, signature cheeses,
delicious boys, army knives, clocks, watches, and, of course, the
emblematic flag everywhere.
Like most major European cities, Zurich offers
several historic churches, world-class museums and pimped out
shopping, most notably the gothic twin towers of Grossmünster,
the enchanting Landesmuseum (or Swiss National Museum), and the
label whore quarter, Bahnhofstrasse. However, unlike its
Western Europe counterparts,
readily blends into the natural landscape, with picturesque
mountains, serene lakes, and an abundance of green at every turn.
The official “Top of Zurich”, Uetliberg, is more than every bottom’s
fantasy. Soaring 2000 feet over the city,
this revered mountaintop viewpoint reveals the most comprehensive
panoramas of the city. Likewise, gay pursuits are often linked to
the fruits of Mother Nature - like floating down the Limmat River in
the nude near Werdinesel or frolicking along the banks of Lake
Zurich at Badi Tiefenbrunnen.
Switzerland’s gay scene is
reasonably spread out across the country, but undoubtedly the center
of gay life remains in
Zurich. It hosts the highest number of gay
bars and parties, and generally has a more vibrant nightlife than
its Francophone neighbor, Geneva.
Zurich’s gay nightlife is centered around
Niederdorf, the charming old town of the city. The mainstay bar,
where you will surely end up at some point during your visit, is
just across from the city hall. Set out over two floors, it’s a
pint-sized modern bar packing crowds early evening, especially on
weekends. Nearby there’s also Lobby Bar (www.lobbybarbistro.ch)
and the country’s oldest gay bar circa 1956, Barfüsser (www.barfuesser.ch).
in the Langstrasse area hosts the hump day “hoedown” when the horny
He-wolf predictably comes out to play.
At the center of Neiderdorf is T&M (www.gaybar.ch),
the only exclusively gay dance club in
Zurich. T&M has a less than stellar
reputation amongst the locals, but it can be fun for tourists for a
silly night out. It has three floors, with a main dance area
blasting pop tunes and a smaller upstairs area focused on electronic
dance. The signature darkroom takes half of the top floor. Locals
venture to city outskirts for hardcore Saturday nights at Lotus
where highly sexually charged parties land heavy on both the
music and the party favors. Closer to town, Flexx Party @ Loop38
is a summer Saturday ritual while the seasonal outdoor cocktail
party at Sprit Bar on Sundays is the place to flaunt
resilience to a weekend hangover.
In actuality, the Swiss gay scene is more about
recurring parties and annual events than clubs and bars. July’s
annual open-air party at
Lake Zurich, Folies au Lac, is the
Swiss lakeside wet and wild equivalent to White Party’s Muscle Beach
or Gay Days’ Typhoon Lagoon event (July 24, 2010).
Zurich Street Parade draws nearly 1,000,000 party people for
16 hours of street-filled debauchery to the beats of house and
techno. The parade is not gay per se, but nearly
every queer within a 400-mile radius of Zurich arrives in pursuit of
unadulterated fun and promiscuous shenanigans. (www.streetparade.com;
August 14, 2010)
Nevertheless, it’s the summer party in the
western Switzerland city of Lausanne that earns the honor of
Europe’s ultimate gay event. Each year, on Swiss National Day,
August 1, the pristine city along Lake Geneva brings wet dreams to
life in arguably the hottest, most scandalous gay party in the
world. The oversized MAD club (www.mad.ch)
in this Swiss university town hosts the summer session of its
raucous jungle gay foam party, Jungle Mousse@ MAD Lausanne (www.gay-party.com/mousse).
The Jungle party rounds up young European glory from the Swiss,
French, and German countryside to celebrate the apex of summer in
minimal clothing (or nothing at all). The gorgeous Bel-Ami clones
swarm the enormous club, nearby sauna, and surrounding streets for a
night void of all inhibitions.
Contributors to this article include: fellow
journalist, Dave Keating, and Zurich residents, Philipp Reichmuth
and Pascal Tobler.