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If you’re looking to try a more intimate Pride, visit Zurich

Arriving at the 25 Hours Hotel – after just an hour-long plane ride and a short train – it’s hard not to be immediately impressed.

Designed by the acclaimed Alfredo Häberli; it’s colourful, modern and filled with attentive and kind staff ready to help your every need. If you do decide to come to Zurich for Pride – or at all – you need to be staying in this hotel, boasting a bar, sauna, gym, restaurant, lounge space – where bands and DJs sometimes perform – as well as the option to rent a BMW for free. Nope, we’re not kidding.

It just so happened that we DID go for Zurich Pride, though, and the hotel went the extra mile to make sure their LGBT visitors were made to feel especially welcome, with flyers printed with messages like “Come as you are”. Cheesy, yes but it’s Pride, people – go with it.

Zurich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world, as well as the wealthiest city in Europe, and it certainly shows. Not that everyone is throwing cash in the air, but more that everything just seems to run so damn smoothly – including the city’s Pride parade. Before the procession started, we got to meet partners of almost 60 years, and the first couple to have their registered partnership legally recognised in Zurich, Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp. They were members of Der Kreis – The Circle – a Swiss organisation in the 40s and 50s that published a gay magazine and provided support for gay men.

Following that inspirational meet, we arrived nice and early for the parade. We got to meet various leaders of Zurich’s LGBT community, as well as its members – head to toe gimp suits are welcome, in case anybody is wondering. A much welcomed surprise was all of the ambassadors that were in attendance, including from the UK, Israel, Spain, Italy and – more astonishingly – Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there’s absolutely no legal recognition of same-sex couples.

The American ambassador Suzi Levine then gave a rousing speech inspired by the 2015 theme, Equality Without Borders. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and there were thousands of us marching through the streets of Zurich, beaming with pride. No matter how many Pride parades you attend, there’s always something special about being among thousands of people like yourself and marching in a parade dedicated to your freedom to live and love.

After the parade was over and the local McDonald’s was raided, we went to the actual festival grounds where drink was drunk and loud lesbian rock bands were heard. Don’t worry, generic EDM swiftly followed, and all the young gays relaxed again. Famed German drag queen Gloria Viagra and former US-war-veteran-turned-model-turned-straight-but-not-narrow poster boy Alex Minsky – fully clothed, unfortunately – provided some motivational talk before our parade was rained on, literally, and very hard. It was a real damper on the mood – sorry, not sorry – and tragically forced an early wrap-up until things got going once more later that evening.

In terms of nightlife, there seemed to be a variety of straight, gay and – for lack of a better term – gay-friendly bars. And with everything from all night saunas to multi-levelled clubs, this little city sure gives you all the options. After exploring a couple of the local bars, we gained entry into the exclusive Plaza Klub, which was having its weekly old school hip-hop night. Side note: German rap is bizarre/hilarious. Prices were reasonable for such a place, but after realising how much weight our wallets were losing, we decided to check out the much cheaper official Pride afterparty at renowned gay club X-Tra.

This is when things started to look a little more like the Pride parties we were used to seeing. Not much clothing, tattoos, fast techno, sloppy kissing and the odd couple getting emotional was all clearly on display in this three storey monster club. The rest of the night is a blur, but we did eventually limp back to the comfort of our hotel.

In Zurich, everyone walks with a purpose, all just quietly minding their own business, while aggression seems to be a trait long-discarded. This attitude is perfect for exploring the town in the sun, but proved a little jarring at first when it came to the Pride celebrations. Being more accustomed to dozens of muscled dancing queens in G-strings leading marches, it came as a bit of a surprise to see so many families and teenagers about. It turned out that the family friendliness of the march was actually quite refreshing, and really did allow for an incredibly diverse group with highlights, including a five year old boy wearing a t-shirt with “I <3 MAMA + MAMI”, which melted even the coldest of hearts. An estimated 10,000 people attended Zurich Pride, which is pretty amazing considering the small size of the place, but still much smaller compared to the million-strong of London Pride. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to try a more intimate sort of Pride outside the big cities, then Zurich is the perfect alternative for a weekend away.

Zurich Pride Festival takes place from 10-12 June 2016, zhpf.ch. Flash Party 2016 takes place on 13 August, angels.ch. For more details visit zuerich.com/lgbt

Words Jonathan Walik

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