I’VE NEVER HAD a queer friend say to me, “Let’s go to Zurich!” Most of my travel buddies pitch Paris, London, or Amsterdam, while the more sexually adventurous of the bunch propose Berlin. (There ceases to be a limit on how many times Michael can get fisted at Berghain.)
When Switzerland Tourism invited me and four other queer journalists on a press trip to show us just how gay Switzerland can be, I doubted the country famed for its neutrality could rival any of my favorite travel spots when it came to queer culture, including my favorite aspect of queer culture: butt sex. After all, the country only legalized same-sex marriage in 2022, making them one of the last countries in Western Europe to do so.
Nevertheless, I decided to attend. It’s a free trip, so why not? But I made a little game out of it. I privately challenged the country to prove how gay it was, so I decided to rate each destination on a scale of zero to five gay stars, giving points for anything I determined to be ostensibly gay.
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So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Day 1: Lausanne
I spent my first two days in Lausanne, home of the International Olympic Committee, but more importantly for the purposes of my scientific study, the “Oh My Gay” party, MAD nightclub, and Pink Beach Sauna.
On Sunday evenings, the MOXY Lausanne City hotel hosts the “Oh My Gay” party with top 40 remixes and drag queens. It was a cute little space with most of the guys being friendly and dancing. However, the hot gay boys there acted as coldly as the hot gay boys in Hell’s Kitchen and West Hollywood. And if that doesn’t mean Switzerland has gay rights, I don’t know want does. The evening gained a whole star when four drag queens lip-synced to Lady Marmalade. (Such a classic.) After our brief stint at the MOXY, we headed to MAD Club, a massive nightclub with a gay party on Sundays.
At MAD Club, I met a Portuguese man who spoke French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Now I only speak English, Hebrew, and a little bit of Spanish (I am on day 422 of Duolingo learning Spanish and only know phrases like, “Grandpa needs the new blue shoes.”) So I spoke to him in Spanish, often interjecting, “I need green books for my teacher,” but that was apparently enough because he ended up in my bed, and we had sex all night. Gay rights!
I give this evening 4 out of 5 gay stars.
Day 2: Lausanne
I woke up violently hungover at the five-star Lausanne Palace. It’s one of those places where you feel guilty walking through the lobby hungover because everything is so beautiful. (Minus one star; making a queer man feel guilty on vacation is homophobic.)
By the evening, I was ready to hit the town again. Instead of going to Pink Beach Sauna—which a few local guys on Grindr recommended—I went to a place called New-Relax Sauna because it was by the hotel. Translated into English, their website reads, “The New-Relax is a libertine sauna for men, women, couples, heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, bi …” THIS IS FAKE NEWS. It is 100% straight, and they have female sex workers (sex work is legal in Switzerland) walking around, attempting to find willing clients. Definitely don’t go there if you’re gay. Go to Pink Beach Sauna. Listen to the locals!
1 out of 5 gay stars.
Day 3: Bern
We took the train to Bern and only stayed there for a few hours, but we did go to an exhibit titled Queer — Diversity is in Our Nature at the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum). It’s a shame the exhibit is closing in March 2023 because it was phenomenal. It shows how common gay and bisexual sexual behaviors happen in the animal kingdom. It also shows how many living beings change their sex and can reproduce without a male.
The museum curator leading the tour made it clear that these animals aren’t trans, gay, or bisexual themselves. That’s because labels have to do with how you identify and not your sexual behavior. A penguin, for example, doesn’t go around calling himself “gay” to all the other penguins—at least, we don’t think so. He just has sex with other male penguins. Thus he’s engaging in homosexual behavior, not a gay icon, no matter what I or others may tell you.
This was gearing up to be a five-star day, but since the museum said it’s not accurate to call penguins gay, I had to deduct a star. (And I absolutely will still continue to call them gay.)
Here’s the introductory video played at the exhibit:
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4 out of 5 gay stars.
Day 4: Zurich
In the most populated city in Switzerland, I went on a private tour with Visit Zurich, where I learned about the gay rights movement of Switzerland, which started a century ago with a group called the Swiss Friendship Association (Schweizer Freundschaftsverein). Gay members of the Swiss Friendship Association began organizing and fighting the government to remove legislation that made homosexual acts illegal. In 1929, the organization conducted a survey of 86 anonymous homosexuals (one of them was a lesbian woman) which detailed how challenging gay life was in Zurich with homosexuality being illegal. They showed the results of the survey to the government and, against all odds, actually changed the legislators’ minds, though it took some time. In 1942 Switzerland decriminalized homosexuality, making it one of the first countries in Europe to do so.
I then got to hear the story of Ernst Ostertag, a 93-year-old man who was a member of The Circle (Der Kreis), an international LGBTQ organization (and magazine) that surreptitiously thrived in Zurich during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. People from across the globe would travel to Zurich for The Circle’s annual galas. (There’s actually an entire movie about the organization and Ostertag’s life called The Circle, which you need to watch.)
After hearing Ostertag’s story, I felt exceptionally proud to be queer, so I hit up two gay saunas—Mustache Sauna and Gay Sauna Renox Relax—both within walking distance from one another. (I should clarify that the press team did not take me to any gay sauna. That was not on their itinerary, and I went there alone.)
Here’s what I will say: The gay saunas were really, really gay. I made a lot of friends. By “a lot,” I mean five guys blew me, and I fucked two. After cumming for a second time at Gay Sauna Renox Relax, I headed to the bar area and ordered a Swiss beer, Quollfrisch.
At the counter, I sat next to a 60-something-year-old Swiss guy. For about an hour, I chatted up a storm with him, asking about gay culture. “It’s great being gay here!” he said multiple times, his face beaming with pride each time he said it.
5 out of 5 mother-fucking gay stars.
Day 5 and 6: Arosa
We made it to the tail end of Gay Arosa Ski Week, a yearly event in Arosa where a bunch of queers from around the world congregate to ski and party. Surprising no one, it was extremely gay. I’m talking drag queens skiing down slopes gay. Arosa is undeniably one of the most stunning, gorgeous winter wonderlands in the world.
That first evening I was there, Arosa Gay Ski Week partnered with ADDICTED Fetish (NSFW) to throw a fetish party at the basement of Wandelbar. The beats were blaring. The boys were dressed up (or down, in their harnesses and jocks). I quickly locked eyes with a German man whose sexual bluntness somehow surpassed even mine. After cruising each other hard, we exchanged a few words and began making out. When I told him, “I wish there were a dark room here,” He replied, “There is.” He then took my hand and led me to one of the worst-smelling bathrooms I’ve ever been to. There, he blew me to completion.
Meeting this man made me question if I could be any gayer, and because of this, I have to do the thinkable: 6 out of 5 gay stars!
Day 7: Bad Ragaz
We spent our final day at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, a five-star hotel with seven restaurants totaling six Michelin stars and one green Michelin star (which has to do with sustainability).
This resort was all about the three Rs: relaxation, rejuvenation, and restoration—and guests really don’t leave the hotel. (There isn’t much else to do in Bad Ragaz). After my week, I desperately needed some of those Rs, so I wasn’t complaining.
0 out of 5 gay stars. (No shade; it just wasn’t gay.)
My final verdict: Overall, I give Switzerland a total of four out of five gay stars. (If only the museum curator let me call penguins gay, the country could have had a perfect score…)
I do want to mention one thing for LGBTQ travelers: There aren’t that many clubs that are gay 24/7; however, many clubs have one gay night a week. So if you’re planning your trip to Switzerland, keep that in mind. That said…the gay saunas are gay all day, every day. (Except for the New-Relax Sauna, which is not gay. Don’t be bamboozled!)
I’m going to miss Switzerland—well, mainly, I will miss the men I met in Switzerland and how gay it is. But I’ll also miss the food (which I didn’t even talk about—but delicious, obviously), hotels, museums, clubs, and sights. But I definitely plan on going back with my gay crew. And when Michael insists on going to Berlin, I’ll tell him there are plenty of places where he can have some fun in Switzerland, too.
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