Pride month: A guide to Pride celebrations across Switzerland
Pride month is here again, and like last year there are many vibrant events taking place all around the country - everything from street parades to fantastic parties. Here are some of the best ways to celebrate Pride month in Switzerland.
Pride month in Switzerland
Typically held in June, Pride month is a designated month of celebration and commemoration for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people (LGBTQIA+). The tradition began after the Stonewall riots, which were a series of spontaneous gay liberation protests that took place in the June of 1969.
The riots were a response to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street, New York City, which turned violent. Within a few days, tensions between police and the gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into protests calling for civil rights for gay men and lesbians. Activists began demanding the right to live openly and without fear of being arrested.
The year after the riots, the first Pride marches were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Gradually, gay rights organisations were established across the US and the world, and nowadays Pride events are held annually in June to commemorate the watershed moment the was the Stonewall riots.
LGBTQ+ Pride events across Switzerland
The movement pushing for LGBTQ+ rights has been present in Switzerland since at least the 19th century, but the first Pride event wasn't held in the alpine nation until June 1978. Pride is usually known as "Christopher Street Day" or CSD in Germany and Switzerland, after the street where the Stonewall Inn was located.
CSD Pride rallies took place every year between 1979 and 1982, until the outbreak of the AIDs crisis caused an upswing in the stigmatisation of LGBTQ+ people. Many Pride events were postponed or cancelled in the mid-1980s. By the 1990s, however, Pride events began to be seen in an increasingly positive light by the general public, and received positive coverage in the Swiss media.
As Pride events became increasingly important festivals and tourist attractions for cities, increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ communities and putting their issues on the agenda, they have helped score major wins. Same-sex couples have been able to officially register partnerships in Switzerland since 2007, until same-sex marriage was finally made legal in July 2022.
Pride calendar 2023
As in other parts of the world, a number of Pride events are held annually in Switzerland. Here are the dates of the major Pride events in 2023:
- Geneva Pride – June 6-10
- Zurich Pride – June 16-17
- Bern Pride – July 26-29
- Lucerne Pride – August 21-27
Pride month events across Switzerland
Pride events and celebrations are held across Switzerland in both major Swiss cities and in some smaller towns as well. Here are some of the biggest celebrations you should know about.
Geneva Pride began in 2019, and has been a huge success ever since. Geneva Pride begins with a focus on debate, staging a number of events designed to spark conversations and discussions, before culminating in the famous parade on the final day. The emphasis of Geneva Pride is to observe the culture and celebrations of queer people while denouncing the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people face to this day.
There is strong involvement from many groups in the city of Geneva, as the event calls for the combatting of all forms of discrimination. The Pride Parade is open to all with free admission, and there are a plethora of food stands, refreshments, and spots for dancing along the route.
The Zurich Pride Festival is one of the largest in all of Switzerland, attracting thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters each year by offering a fun and colourful celebration around the Kasernenareal festival site, which is very convenient to reach via public transportation.
The festival is free to attend and offers a wide range of activities and performances by national and international artists, along with food and market stalls covering a range of tastes. Zurich Pride does more than a massive parade and party though; the programme also features insightful discussions, diverse art exhibitions, pop bingo with drag queens, queer choir groups, book readings, after-parties, and much more.
Bern Pride carries the colourful party into July. Pride has been actively celebrated in Bern for the past six years, and continues to gain popularity. The event in the de-facto capital of Switzerland includes a demonstration that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and it is free to attend for all.
As ever, Bern Pride features performances from musicians and drag queens that highlight the importance of queer culture. Another interesting aspect of Bern Pride is the EuroGames, which is one of the largest queer sports events in Europe. Finally, the PrideRun takes you on a scenic route through the old city.
Lucerne Pride usually takes place in August. This is one of the newer Pride events in Switzerland, having only started in 2022, but Lucerne Pride has already established itself as a marvellous event for all.
As well as the regular parties and parades, Lucerne Pride places particular emphasis on familiarising people with the social and political concerns of LGBTQ+ people, through a mix of forums and events that promote discussions about LGBTQ+ rights, perspectives, and culture.
Alongside this, Lucerne Pride features all the other Pride pizzazz you'd expect, including singing, dancing and drag shows. There is also a junior programme that is perfect for families with kids. Conjointly, Lucerne Pride holds a demonstration and rally for the rights and concerns of LGBTQ+ people, which includes a sensational after-party.
Non-Pride-specific LGBTQ+ events in Switzerland
If you’re unable to make any of the Pride Month events or want to celebrate all year round, here are some of the LGBTQ+ events that happen at other times in the year:
Pink Apple is a very popular spring film festival in Zurich that focuses on queer movies. The festival allows the public to watch short and feature-length films that cover a variety of themes and genres. The film programme is supplemented with concerts, exhibitions, talks, and award presentations.
Tanzleila is Zurich’s oldest party which has been run by women for women only, since 1987. They host parties throughout the year and aim to create a safe environment for women while keeping an enticing club atmosphere. The parties play music of all genres and eras, but the DJs are always open to requests! A portion of the proceeds go towards supporting women’s projects and organisations.
Boyahkasha is one of the most popular series of gay parties in Zurich. The label hosts events in a variety of different clubs with an emphasis on queer culture. They have a wild birthday party on Easter Sunday, as well as special events on Pentecost and Christmas. They even bring in star guests such as Conchita Wurst and winners from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Heaven is one of the most popular gay clubs in the heart of Zurich, and they often showcase well-known DJs, drag queens, and soon-to-be-famous talent. They also have events like Night Pride which combines the concepts of Pride and raving. Since 2013, Heaven has established itself as a meeting place and safe environment for LGBTQ+ people who like to party.
Kweer organises and hosts some of the most influential queer parties and events in Switzerland. They highlight creating a safe environment to experience queer joy with impressive events such as the Queer Ball, which is a Drag Ball inspired Queer Dance Party. They often curate sensual events for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, while emphasising safety.
There are loads of ways to celebrate Pride and experience queer joy as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in Switzerland, but these are some of the best ways to get started this Pride month. Happy Pride!