Langstrasse – Has Zurich’s Red Light District Been Replaced?

Words and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini


Langstrasse is German for “Long Street” and that it is.

Of course, yours truly, hoofed it.

Every metropolis has its dark underbelly, and Langstrasse is, or at least was, Zurich’s. Once known as the red light district, travel sites now hail it as a Swiss Brooklyn. Supposedly it has been fairly well cleansed of the rampant drug use and, ahem, red lights of its past and now it is a diversely populated, hip neighborhood known for its shopping and nightlife.

Switzerland is often considered one of the safest places in our chaotic world, and beyond my ingrained alertness, I felt at ease. Langstrasse was not much different; it had all the edge of today’s East Village in Manhattan except the women of the night were easier to identify.

Heading down there in the evening from the Zürich transit hub, the first few blocks appeared to be a quiet middle class neighborhood, but one would discover there was more life deeper into the district. Absorbing all the warmth of the short summer like the rest of the town, I joined everyone who was crowded into the sidewalk seating at a trendier spot, DIE Bar, for a drink from the ink covered wait staff.

I ended the night hanging out the windows at Bagatelle. The dimly lit and eccentrically decorated bar felt like the kind of place you would be cool to know about. When I walked up, there was a lady of the night a few steps in front of a small crowd of young patrons on its porch. I purchased drinks at the bar where cash was nonchalantly stacked next to the computer. From my perch on the windowsill, I watched the revelers stretch off into the night.