THERE’S a whole lot of chocolate in Zurich.

There’s the Lindt chocolate factory, there’s gooey ganaches and sticky caramels at the city’s iconic Sprungli chocolate shops, and there’s chocolate box views of the icy Swiss Alps towering above the glassy waters of Lake Zurich.

But as seductive as the wafts of warm liquid cocoa are, LGBTI visitors have often forsaken a city known more for its banks than its bars.

However, a spotlight has recently been shone on Switzerland’s largest city through acclaimed film The Circle.

A tale of repression and romance, The Circle focuses on the relationship between a closeted schoolteacher and his drag performer lover from their first meeting in an underground Zurich club in the 1940s to the present day.

The gay scene is now far from underground and together with the city’s beguiling warren of old streets, a clutch of world-class museums and art galleries and a sophisticated bar and dining scene, Zurich is busy spruiking its wares as an LGBTI European stopover.

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Start your visit at the Limmat River, which charts a course between historic neighbourhoods of brown shuttered pastel fronted houses, and hop on the Polybahn funicular railway for a higher view.

From the hillside above, a multitude of churches and their toothpick-like steeples can be seen reaching for the skies as if to pierce the low hanging clouds tumbling off the snow-peppered mountains.

If you visit just one of those churches make it the 13th century Fraumunster — one of the biggest and the most fabulous. Not that you know its fabulousness from its exterior, which exudes a certain saintly dourness. However, step through the doors and it’s a different story as a series of vibrant primary-coloured stained glass windows by French modernist painter Marc Chagall — a riot of 1970s chic — soar 10m above the pews.

Then head up Bahnhofstrasse — Zurich’s premier shopping strip — for Zeughauskeller, one of the city’s old armouries from a time when Switzerland was less standoffish in battle.

Built in 1487, the building has been repurposed as a restaurant and with its soaring ceilings and dark wooden columns Zeughauskeller feels almost as solid as the hearty bratwurst and rosti main dishes offered on the menu.

All, of course, served with a side of chilled beer.

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A tram ride away is the National Museum where dusty display cases are banished in favour of an entertaining trip through Swiss history encompassing everything from neutrality to William Tell and his famous apple and arrow.

You can even rifle through safety deposit boxes from a genuine Swiss bank.

Next stop: Zurich West, once the city’s industrial quarter now a hipster haven of boutiques and bars.

The neighbourhood is the closest Zurich gets to having an alternative, slightly seedy side and on nearby Langstrasse a hub of gay hotspots cluster.

Duck into Les Garcons, a 1930s-themed bar popular with a younger clientele that packs them in on the weekend.

If you want your gay with less grit, lose yourself in the winding back alleys and hidden piazzas of the Altstadt, or old town.

Wander towards the lights of the river and it won’t take long before you find yourself in Cranberry, one of the original and most stylish of Zurich’s gay venues. Indulge in cocktails and people watch a preppy and professional parade of locals and visitors.

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As befits an international city, Zurich has accommodation from international hotels to B&Bs. 

One the most exciting is the Kameha Grand Zurich that opened last month. The innovative interior is the work of award-winning Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, who the New York Times heralds as the “Lady Gaga of design”.

The best time to visit — if don’t mind leaving your skis at home — is June when upwards of 30,000 people descend for Zurich Pride.

Held for three days, there are a plethora of parties, concerts and festivals all with the central message of ensuring Zurich is remembered less for the repression of past days and more for the romance — and chocolate — of modern times.

For details and to start planning your trip to Zurich, visit www.zuerich.com or www.myswitzerland.com

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