Mountains, nothing but beautiful mountains. And in the middle, picturesque small towns, turquoise-blue lakes, and pure nature as far as our eyes could see. You already knew that we travel to Austria at least once a year. But this summer we were due to a gay-friendly Switzerland vacation, visiting the alpine country of Switzerland for the first time. As part of our Interrail trip from France to the Netherlands to Germany, we went to Bern, Zermatt, and Interlaken. Our expectations for LGBTQ+ and gay-friendly Switzerland, known for chocolate, watches, and mountains, were high – and were not to be disappointed. Together with Pink Alpine, the Swiss LGBTQ+ travel company, Couple of Men shows you some of the most beautiful LGBTQ+ friendly Swiss corners, in the country that just introduced marriage equality.
– paid collaboration with Pink Alpine & Switzerland Tourism –
How LGBTQ+ & gay-friendly is Switzerland?
Who would have thought? Yes, even though Switzerland only just introduced (July 1, 2022) “Equal Marriage – or Marriage for All”, it is considered as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries when it comes to the history of gay rights. An active homosexual civil rights movement developed as early as the mid-19th century. This development increased since the 1930s, leading to the widespread decriminalization of homosexual acts as early as 1942. Since 1993, the Swiss organization Pink Cross has been advocating for the rights and equality of gay and bisexual men in Switzerland and was substantially involved in the marriage equality movement.
CSD & Pride events in Switzerland
In addition to the annual Zurich Pride, the Swiss city of Lucerne organizes a Pride event in Central Switzerland since 2022. Furthermore, Western Switzerland also organizes a Pride, which takes place every year in a different city. Therefore, next year, the city of Geneva will be hosting Geneva Pride 2023. Will there also be a new edition of Pride in the Swiss capital Bern with the Euro Games 2023? In any case, the chances for a CSD in Bern 2023 are good!
We found some great deals with flights worldwide as well as in and around Europe via Amsterdam (and return) with gay-friendly KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. That includes direct connections either with KLM or their partner airlines Air France and DELTA. *subject to availability / last check: 2022
Bern: Part 1 of our Gay Switzerland Trip
We arrived in Switzerland and its capital Bern by train on a beautifully sunny summer day in July. After disembarking at the modern train station in the heart of the city, we were greeted by warm summer air and blue sky. At a slow and leisurely pace, we strolled with our suitcases along beautiful old town buildings and cobbled streets on our way to the hotel. The passing people of Bern created an atmosphere of exceptional coziness, which should accompany us on our gay Switzerland summer trip. At the northern end of the square “Waisenhausplatz”, where a market was just taking place, we took a right into the small street Zeughausgasse. After just a few steps, we reached our fine, cozy, and modern accommodation, the gay-friendly Hotel Kreuz.
Travel Planning: Hotel Kreuz Offers >
That’s why we love Bern – the Swiss capital
Already while crossing one of Bern’s railroad bridges on the train, we could see the turquoise-blue Aare River below us, winding in an S-shape around the sublime old town of Bern. Several bridges are crossing this river fed by the glacial waters of the Alps. And this is where Bernese residents leisurely float from one side of the city to the other. No, this is really no joke. Floating in the river is what Bernese people do in summer! Of course, we couldn’t miss trying and taking a refreshing plunge into the cooling water of the Aare. Below the bridge “Kornhausbrücke”, in a quiet spot, we were able to cool off and really arrive in Bern.
Our 9 best Instagram Hotspots in Bern
The next morning, a city tour to particularly Instagram-friendly locations in Bern was on the agenda. Our favorite photo spots included the Münzterrasse, the bear statue at Casinopark and the Zytglogge (time bell tower). But that’s not all. The fountain Zähringerbrunnen, the panoramic terrace behind the cathedral called Minster Terrace, and the view of the old town and the Aare from the Nydeggbrücke are just as pretty. Last but not least, we want to mention the Marzili outdoor pool and Bern’s Rose Garden.
Feast & Indulge in Bern
We would describe the atmosphere in Bern as decelerating and pleasant. We practically never encountered people in a hurry or rushing to the next appointment. Instead, chatting inhabitants on benches, families with strollers in the parks, and polite togetherness on the train or bus. Of course, the culinary moments with Raclette, fondue, spätzli and rösti were also part of our gay Switzerland summer vacation. A tip for lunch in Bern is the Altes Tramdepot brewery and restaurant, right next to the bear enclosure. For a coffee and cake in between, we can recommend the tiny little Brasserie Bärengraben right at the eastern beginning of the Nydeggbrücke.
Sunset over Bern with Raclette & Wheat Beer
After a day in the refreshing waters of the River Aare, we opted for dinner at the Restaurant Dampfzentrale overlooking the calmly flowing Aare. But for our second evening, we had arranged a sunset picnic set. With the Raclette equipment, Bernese wheat beer, and the typical Swiss Raclette ingredients of cheese, small boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and pickled mini onions, we climbed the hill to Bern’s Rose Garden. Once at the top, we secured a spot on the fortification wall. Now it was time to light the candles to melt the cheese. And then it was just a matter of enjoying the sunset over Bern surrounded by roses, locals, and some tourists taking pictures.
Reviews on TripAdvisor: Restaurant Dampfzentrale
Zermatt & Matterhorn: Part 2 of our Gay Switzerland Trip
And then it was time for our day trip to the most famous landmark in Switzerland. Therefore, we met Marcello Gariglio, our guide from Pink Alpine, punctually at 9 a.m. at the main station in Bern to travel first to Visp and then with the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn further to Zermatt. The latter offered us a fantastic view of the passing, rapidly changing nature with partly dizzyingly deep gorges, historic mountain villages, and snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps.
Our tip: The trip with the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn is included in the Swiss Travel Pass. If you are traveling with the 1st class Interrail ticket, you can also experience the view through the larger panoramic windows.
Once we arrived in car-free Zermatt, we didn’t have much time to board the waiting Gornergrat Bahn. Fortunately, this train goes up into the mountains every 24 minutes. Together with our Pink Alpine tour guide, we secured a seat by the window, which could also be opened. Yay! After all, we wanted to hold our noses (and especially our cameras) into the wind during the leisurely ride up into the mountains. After just a few minutes, Daan nudged me excitedly, “There it is, the Matterhorn. Wow!”
From the railroad station Rotenboden to the famous Riffel Lake
The ride on the electrically operated cogwheel railway was already a thrilling experience. Up to 20% incline and the view of Zermatt and the Matterhorn towering above everything was breathtakingly beautiful. It was good that we were able to secure a seat on the – in the direction of travel – right side. That would also be our tip for the approximate half-hour ride to our stop: the Rotenboden station. Plus, the weather really couldn’t have been better! Equipped with sturdy shoes, our camera, a lunch picnic package, and our rainbow flag, we followed Marcello Gariglio from Pink Alpine downhill from the station to Lake Riffelsee.
Who doesn’t know them, the numerous photos of the Matterhorn and how it is reflected in a small mountain lake? Yes, exactly, this lake is called Riffelsee. And no, we didn’t need an extra filter on our photos because the air here was crystal clear and only a handful of hikers could be found at the lake on this day in July. A fresh, albeit warm summer wind whistled around our ears, but that didn’t bother us, on the contrary. And there we were, just like that, sitting at Riffelsee at an altitude of 2,770 meters in the Swiss Alps, enjoying the cloudless view and reflection of the east face of the Matterhorn.
From Riffelsee to the mountains on foot
No hurry, no rush: not far from Riffelsee, we took a little more time and settled down on a large, flat rock for a picnic with a view of Gorner Glacier, Grenzgletscher, and Zwillinggletscher. Good to know: The Rotenboden station is not the last station of the Gornergratbahn. As the name suggests, that one is called Gornergrat. If you have a little more time than we did and would also like to try hiking back down to Zermatt, you can also descend as a hiker from Gornergrat via Riffelsee. The hiking trail leads past the Gagenhaupt – keep your eyes open because you might spot one of the climbing ibexes in the rock face – and on to the Riffelberg station or a bit further to Riffelalp station. Then you can simply take the train back to Zermatt from there.
Pink Alpine: Outdoor sports in style
That’s the slogan with which the Swiss tour operator, owned and run by gay men, presents itself. Already since 2012 Pink Alpine organizes and conducts group tours for gays, bisexual men, and their friends. In the process, the Swiss company has become a leading tour operator for gay men’s travel in German-speaking countries. Starting October 2022, Pink Alpine will offer an additional product for all LGBTIQ+ travelers who want to comfortably explore the most beautiful corners of Switzerland. More to come soon!
Interlaken: Part 3 of our Gay Switzerland Trip
But Bern and Zermatt were not our last stops on our gay summer trip through Switzerland. At this time, our last stop was the city of Interlaken. Often referred to as the adventure capital of Europe, this Swiss town is known by active summer vacationers and mountain lovers alike for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities. Daan in particular was excited about our day in the air and in/on the turquoise waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Our accommodation in Interlaken was the extremely gay-friendly Hotel Carlton-Europe. The hotel staff welcomed us with a rich breakfast, a natural swimming pond, and a spacious room with a balcony.
Travel Planning: Hotel Carlton-Europe Angebote >
Uphill ascent with the Harderbahn to the Harder Kulm
Immediately after our arrival in Interlaken, the last chapter of our gay summer adventure trip to Switzerland began. Namely, with the ten-minute ascent in the over 100-year-old funicular Harderbahn up to the Top of Interlaken, called Harder Kulm. Repeatedly, we looked at each other in love with the view of the deep blue Lake Thun, and the turquoise Lake Brienz. With every meter uphill, the view became more beautiful, and we got increasingly excited at the same time. The new panorama cars kept their promise. And, even though we were unable to get a seat right at the front window, we enjoyed the view from the back of the cable car. At the top, we were only a short walk high above the city away from the Panorama Restaurant, located at 1,322 meters above sea level.
Two-lake bridge on Interlaken’s local mountain Harder
But before we started our lunch, it was time for a selfie and a quick video on the glass observation deck. The view … what an outstanding view. This – or something like it – must have been how Rose and Jack felt on the Titanic, we thought to ourselves as we stood arm in arm on the small top of the Two Lakes Footbridge platform with the wind rushing through our hair. “Don’t say anything. Just listen to the wind and enjoy views over the majestic mountain ranges. Look at the two lakes, and the lush green alpine meadows,” whispered Daan. But of course, we were not the only ones who had come to Harder Kulm for this moment.
Hiking & Lunch on the Harder Kulm
We didn’t have time for a longer hike, yet we were drawn into the forest for a brisk stroll through the mountain’s natural habitat. Thereafter, hungry, we approached the Panorama Restaurant and got a table with an unobstructed panoramic view over Interlaken. A plate of pasta for Daan, a fresh portion of Rösti with mashed apples for Karl, and two chilled Radler (beer with lemonade) later, we were enjoying the view of the imposing peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. And while doing so, we watch the colorful paragliders passing by. “Wouldn’t that be something for us?” asked Karl with a grin on his lips.
Paragliding over Lake Thun and Interlaken
No sooner said than done. Fortunately, there were still two free places for a tandem flight with Paragliding Interlaken the next day. After our skydive jump over the Namibian desert, Karl in particular felt a little queasy. But there was no reason for that. From the store in Interlaken, to the bus ride up the mountain, to the take-off, the flight, and the landing, everything went smoothly and with good communication. The team was top-notch and gave us an exceptional experience. Thanks to a mild lift wind, we soared to fantastic heights above the mountains around Harder Kulm. The view was spectacular, and so was the footage from the GoPro of the paragliders we were flying with. You can watch our video here on Instagram >
Travel Planning: Paragliding Adventure in Interlaken – Offers >
Tips for a paragliding adventure in Interlaken: You can wear goggles (they even offer protection from the wind), a wind jacket is provided, photo and video recordings are made by the pilot (extra charge), flight duration approx. 20 minutes (depending on wind and weather).
Kayaking on and swimming in Lake Brienz
The view of the two Swiss lakes made us curious. Moreover, the weather was super summery, with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. And so, the next day was all about the refreshing water from the eternal ice of the glaciers. The evening before, after our adventure in lofty heights, we walked hand in hand from the Hotel Carlton-Europe along the Aare to Lake Brienz. Our goal was the small, rocky bathing area between the Seeclub Interlaken and the small Baggerseeli, to dive into the clear, turquoise blue water, just after such an adventurously active, hot summer day in Interlaken. Afterward, we had a delicious dinner at our hotel. We can only recommend the Swiss cheese fondue and a refreshing Hefeweizen to go with it!
Just a few minutes walk further along the lake is the Strandbad Bönigen, the headquarters of the Hightide Kayak School. Already early in the morning, we had planned to explore Lake Brienz by kayak, even before the valley awoke to life. Thus, together with our guide, we set out to paddle along the lake shore from Interlaken Bönigen, with a stop at the ruins of Ringgenberg Castle. The two hours flew by. But just before returning to the lido, we experienced quite a special moment in the middle of the lake. For several minutes, we lingered here in complete silence, surrounded by the uniquely beautiful mountain landscape of the Bernese Oberland. Nothing else. Wonderful.
Travel Planning: Kayak-Adventure in Interlaken – Offers >
Tips for a kayak adventure in Interlaken: Lockers can be used free of charge at the public beach. Waterproof bags for valuables are provided free of charge. Please remember to bring a water bottle and sufficient waterproof sunscreen and swimwear for a dip in the water.
Gay Switzerland Trip for dinner by ship to Thun
In the late afternoon, another trip on the water was on the agenda. From the Interlaken West ferry terminal, the evening ferry of the BLS (short for Bernese Alpine Railway Company Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon) departs for the two-hour crossing from Interlaken to Thun. We had a table reservation in 1st class, including a late lunch from the menu. And as we cruised from one picturesque Swiss town to the next, we indulged in a delightful 3-course meal. Just before entering the harbor in the center of Thun, we stood on the upper deck at the railing for a while, watching the huge Swiss flag at the end of the ship waving in the wind. And the glittering sunlight on Lake Thun against the majestic mountain panorama.
Travel Planning: Boat trip from Interlaken to Thun – Offers >
Arrived in Thun – it was really super hot outside -, we strolled along the lakeside path in the southern direction for a visit to Schadaupark including Schlosshotel Schadau for dinner. Fortunately, we had packed our swimming trunks because, of course, we’d planned a refreshing plunge into Lake Thun before dinner. And while the sun slowly disappeared behind the mountains and the peaks on the east side of Lake Thun shone in golden hues, we sat on the terrace and treated ourselves to an excellent dinner with a view. The perfect end to an all-around fantastic gay summer trip through Switzerland.
Uf widerluege, Adiö und Machs guet!
The Swiss tour operator Pink Alpine is expanding its portfolio of trips and is opening up its services to all LGBTIQ+ travelers from around the world. Its newest Swiss adventure, a ten-day trip around the “Best of Switzerland- from City to Summit” brings queer travelers to the most beautiful corners of the Alpine country, partially accompanied by an expert local guide.
Now it’s time for your Gay Switzerland Summer Trip
The time in Switzerland flew by. Traveling safely, well planned, and close to nature exemplifies a Swiss vacation. Our experiences were unexceptionally positive: holding hands in public (even at night), sharing a kiss, or asking for a double bed when checking in at the hotel – we encountered no difficulties and were able to enjoy our gay summer trip to Switzerland to the fullest.
Please understand our Switzerland tips as suggestions and inspiration, with no guarantee that it will be the same when you travel to Bern, Zermatt, or Interlaken. We have, of course, researched carefully and all experiences and opinions in this article are honest and authentic. Of course, this also applies to our photos and videos, which are meant to support our experiences.
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We would like to thank Pink Alpine, Switzerland Tourism, Made in Bern, Tourism Interlaken, and Interrail for the invitation, the support, and the opportunity to experience Switzerland in such a free and authentic way.
Do you want to know and see more of us gay couple travel bloggers? Stay tuned and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram! See you around in Switzerland, the Alps, and on one of our next gay pride trips worldwide!
Karl & Daan.