Switzerland is home to numerous lakes and the high peaks of the snow-covered Alps. It is known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. It is famous for its secretive banking laws, Swiss watches, and chocolates. It borders Italy to its south, France to its west, Germany to its north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to its east. While the Alps cover most of Switzerland’s territory, its population of around eight million is concentrated in its two major cities: Zurich and Geneva. Although Switzerland offers sightseers picturesque landscapes, its lack of progress on LGBT issues cannot be overlooked, but with the help of LGBT groups and LGBT businesses, progress is being made, so a visit to Switzerland should not be passed up.
On the border with Italy, the Matterhorn is Switzerland’s iconic peak and is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. At the bottom of the mountain is the beautiful village of Zermatt. It offers top-tier restaurants and fine dining. It also has horse-drawn carriage rides because vehicles are banned in the village. The “Top of Europe,” is a famous observation terrace and scientific observatory that visitors flock to each year. It is located in Jungfraujoch, where the longest glacier in Europe begins. The area offers popular trails that take visitors through fields of flowers, alpine pastures, and woodlands. Between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken is a popular resort town and summer destination because of its small-town feel. Flower gardens, hotels, restaurants, and cafes surround the Höheweg, the main boulevard, where sightseers can also see breathtaking mountains in the background. Also famous is Lake Lugano. It is between Switzerland’s and Italian’s border where Switzerland residents speak Italian. In the towns around Lake Lugano the feel of Italy is everywhere, including in the historic architecture, the pizzerias, pasta shops, wine stores, and dessert cafes.
For a small city feel, Bern’s old world charm delivers. Because the Switzerland constitution does not name a capital, Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland. It has historic buildings, pedestrian-friendly roads, and great little shops. It is located next to the beautiful River Aare. Bern has many museums that art-lovers will appreciate, including the Zentrum Paul Klee, a museum dedicated to the artist Paul Klee and designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano; and the Bern Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum), which is the oldest art museum in Switzerland. Zurich is Switzerland’s largest and most popular city. There are more than 60 museums in Zurich and over 100 art galleries. A popular museum is the Kunsthaus Zurich that has an impressive collection of art from the Middle Ages. It also has several shops, but a word of caution: clothes are very expensive. (Unless there is some unique piece of clothing, avoid shopping in Zurich and try to find the item on-line.) Zurich’s major train station is the place that many start their European adventure because its railways connects to several major European cities.
Although same-sex marriage is not legal in Switzerland, there are anti-discrimination laws that cover employment, services, and sell of goods, and stepchild adoption by same-sex couples. Members of the LGBT community can serve openly in its military. There are several LGBT organizations in Switzerland. The Lesbenorganisation Schweiz, founded in 1989, promotes LGBT rights, more specific, lesbian rights (Los.ch/de/). It distributes a newsletter informing its readers of the current issues facing the Swiss LGBT community. Pink Cross, founded in 1993, is an LGBT rights organization that promotes LGBT rights (Pinkcross.ch). Two years ago, it conducted a poll where it found that 70 percent polled in Switzerland support same-sex marriage. There is also the Transgender Network Switzerland (TGNS), founded in 2010 (Tgns.ch/de). It is a popular organization that supports and promotes transgender rights.
Zurich is where many of the LGBT gay bars are located. The Cranberry Bar is a little gay bar tucked in the corner off a busy road. The bartenders speak English and are very friendly. Les Garcons is a gay bar that has a mixed crowd off different ages. On the weekends, it gets packed, on the weekdays, not so much. The Carrousel Bar is a gay bar that is a great place to meet new people. The Mini-Bar is a gay bar that locals frequent. It is a great place to meet locals to learn more about the area. Predigerhof is a gay bar that offers drag shows and great music. It is a fun environment that allows a lot of interactions with others. Switzerland may have some catch-up to do on the LGBT rights front, but it’s still a storied country to visit.
- David Placher is a writer, photographer, and world traveler. His passion for adventure and storytelling has taken him to several famous (and not so famous) cities, where he captures a glimpse of each city’s culture and history, with a focus on the LGBTQIA community. He is always searching for cheap fare flight tickets and inexpensive hotel bookings, so his stories sometimes include cost saving tips. When he is not traveling, he is drafting technology contracts for a living. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org