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Drag Queen Milky Diamond’s Guide to Zurich

Queen of the scene Milky Diamond gives us the inside scoop on Zurich’s drag world, historic LGBTQ+ venues, and the city’s most scenic spots.

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Hi, I'm Helen!

South Londoner on the loose in Switzerland, with a cat and baby in tow. Trained teacher, student, and travel writer, with a passion for drama, drag, and adventure.

Photo Credit: @glossygritty

LGBTQ+ tourism in Europe often focuses on Malta, London, and Copenhagen—so you may be surprised to know that Zurich is actually the home of Europe’s first ever gay magazine and its subsequent society, Der Kreis. By the late 40s, Zurich had become the destination for Europe’s LGBTQ+ community, thanks to its relatively liberal laws and world-famous balls, with the Friday night Lufthansa flight from Berlin to Zurich nicknamed the “Queen Hansa Express.” By the 60s, however, restrictive policies and public disapproval pushed much of Zurich’s LGBTQ+ culture underground, though today the city can be seen to be enjoying its second coming as a must-visit European destination for LGBTQ+ folks.

And who would know the city’s LGBTQ+ scene better than resident drag queen Milky Diamond, who 10 years ago swapped her “very boring and very countryside” hometown for the bright lights of Switzerland’s biggest city? Over the last decade she’s built an impressive empire as a host, performer, producer, and director, fast becoming one of the most recognizable queer icons in Switzerland. Here, she gives us the scoop on all things LGBTQ+-friendly Zurich.

Portrait of drag queen Milky Diamond
Milky Diamond, queen of the scene, in all her glory.Bildquelle: Tatjana Rüegsegger

How and where to experience Zurich’s drag scene

Milky is queen in residence at two iconic Zurich institutions, the one-of-a-kind Samigo Amusement, open year-round with dinner shows throughout winter, and weekly club night Heldenbar. “Samigo Amusement is best known for its 4-course meals and outrageous shows, often featuring yours truly,” says Milky. “For something more laid-back, Heldenbar draws a more alternative crowd with electronic music and cheap drinks, making it a great place to meet all sorts of queer people.”

Milky’s other top pick has to be Petra's Tip Top Bar, “a great place for tourists because it specializes in schlager music and features legendary performances by bar owner and legendary queen Petra. Even for me as a Swiss person, it’s such a different vibe, it feels like you’re not in Zurich anymore. Petra is a beautiful soul and the bar sells great drinks too!”

People dance at Samigo Amusement, Zurich, a popular drag bar and nightlife venue.
Partiers enjoy the vibes at Samigo Amusement.Bildquelle: Samigo Amusement

More LGTBQ+ nightlife and events in Zurich

From the feminist Streikhaus to classic gay bar Heaven, there are options across the city to suit all manner of LGBTQ+ visitors. Milky’s other top picks include Cranberry Bar for cocktails; Daniel H. Bar for chilled vibes; or any of the parties organized by the Zurich-based Kweer Collective, including the Kweer Ball and daytime Tea Dance.

Then there’s the women-only disco Tanzleila which takes place around four times a year, as well as a range of events managed by youth organization Milchjugend, including the annual lila. queer festival—a must visit if you’re in town over September.

If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ history in Zurich, head to Kweer Cafe & Bar. “In 2022, Kweer Cafe & Bar opened in the former premises of Barfüsser, one of the oldest gay bars in Europe. It was here that Der Kreis held many of their famous balls and the venue remained a communal safe space for a long time. The new bar is committed to continuing the tradition for today’s queer community, through weekly drag shows, quizzes, karaoke, and more.” Visitors should look out for the plaques commemorating Zurich’s LGBTQ+ history on the Spitalgasse entrance to Kweer.

Drag queens perform at Kweer Cafe & Bar, Zurich, Switzerland
Kweer Cafe & Bar is another iconic LGBTQ+ Zurich nightlife destination.Bildquelle: Kweer Cafe & Bar

Pride in Zurich

By far the biggest LGBTQ+ event in Zurich is the annual Pride Festival every June. Milky explains: “Pride is really big here. For Zurich you’d think it might be small, but it’s very big. On the Friday we usually do Drag Fest Switzerland, featuring 25 different acts from all over Switzerland, including kings, queens, and [non-binary] quings. Then on the Saturday we march through Zurich, fighting for equality, with talks by politicians and activists, then of course there’s a big party afterwards.”

If you’re visiting alone, Milky has advice for you too. “Just go. Walk, talk to everyone, it’s such a friendly atmosphere. Just go! You can get tips from locals on where to head or check the program in advance to see what events interest you. But the best way to experience Zurich’s queer scene is Pride.”

People celebrate Pride in Zurich, Switzerland
Pride is a lively affair in Zurich.Bildquelle: StephanF / Shutterstock

Milky’s Zurich must-do's

What to see and do

Besides its thriving LGBTQ+ culture, Milky considers Zurich the ideal destination because “you can see a lot of Switzerland just in Zurich, you don’t need to travel far to get a broader picture. If you only do one thing while you’re here, get a coffee on Bellevue Square and enjoy the view of the lake, or take a walk around it. Whatever the season, the lake is a must-see. The gardens around Museum Rietberg are especially good for picnics, while Zurich Zoo is great for day trips.”

Leafy foliage at Zurich Zoo
The lush vegetation at Zurich Zoo, an ideal destination for Zurich visitors.Bildquelle: KILO LUX / Shutterstock

What to eat

If you only have time for one meal in Zurich? “Fondue. It’s supposed to be a winter dish, but I like it in the summer too. I mean, it’s great! Just look out for restaurants that are full and try to get a spot in there.” And in terms of getting around, Milky has one final tidbit of advice. “For around nine bucks a day, you can travel everywhere via bus or tram with a Zurich Card. Though recently I missed the tram and had to walk, and wow—there was so much I hadn’t seen in a while! So I would recommend going by foot until you’re tired, actually.”

Related: The Fon-Do’s and Don’ts of Eating Fondue in Switzerland

Where to stay

Zurich’s LGBTQ+ scene thrives across the city, from the traditionally LGBTQ+ Niederdorf neighborhood to the up-and-coming Industriequartier and ever-popular Aussersihl, home to the iconic party street Langstrasse. “I especially recommend the 25hours Hotel near Langstrasse,” says Milky. “It’s beautiful and very queer friendly.”

Find more things to do in Zurich

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