It’s no surprise that the World Travel Awards frequently name Geneva as Europe’s leading city break destination. The majestic, multi-facetted Swiss city, which wraps around the western end of sparkling Lake Geneva (or Lake Léman as it is known to its French neighbours), offers numerous attractions. Geneva is home to 200 international organisations, such as the United Nations (open to visitors for daily guided tours), 36 museums, around 50 art galleries, as well as an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Whether you’re in the city for business or pleasure, there are plenty of things to do in Geneva
It’s no surprise that the World Travel Awards frequently name Geneva as Europe’s leading city break destination. The majestic, multi-facetted Swiss city, which wraps around the western end of sparkling Lake Geneva (or Lake Léman as it is known to its French neighbours), offers numerous attractions. Geneva is home to 200 international organisations, such as the United Nations (open to visitors for daily guided tours), 36 museums, around 50 art galleries, as well as an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Whether you’re in the city for business or pleasure, there are plenty of things to do in Geneva.
In summer, life centres around the waterside, with paddle-boarding, swimming, picnicking and lakeside walks high up on the agendas of most residents and visitors. In winter, the city is popular for its proximity to ski resorts such as Chamonix, Avoriaz and Megeve. A helicopter transfer Geneva-Megeve transports you over the awe-inspiring Mont Blanc to the upscale fairytale French resort in just 20 minutes. For cross-country skiing (or in summer, hiking, mountain-biking and paragliding), a five-minute cable car ride will take you from Geneva to the top of the Saleve mountain. I
If you’re staying in the city centre or just passing through on your way to the mountains, you should take a stroll by the lakeside, in one of the beautiful parks or in the Old Town.
Along the lakeside, enjoy the stunning panoramas and walk along a jetty for a close-up of Geneva’s most famous landmark, the Jet d’Eau. The spectacular fountain, set against the backdrop of the Mont Blanc spouts 140 metres into the sky and is particularly spectacular in the evening, when it is lit up. While you’re by the lakeside, you’ll see yellow boats crossing the water. Known as mouettes, these shuttle-boats are part of Geneva’s public transport system and are well worth jumping aboard to explore the different neighbourhoods they link.
For lunch, dinner or just a drink, go to the Bains des Paquis (Quai du Mont Blanc 30). This much-loved open-air swimming spot dates back to the 1930s. In winter, fondue evenings are popular but before you indulge in the famous interactive cheese dish, enjoy a sauna, hamman or Turkish bath. The bravest visitors jump into the lake afterwards, even in the middle of winter.
Many funky boutiques are scattered across the city and you’ll find plenty of well-known retailers, particularly in the Eaux-Vives district. But if luxury shopping is on your list of things to do, Geneva’s bustling Rue du Rhône is the place you should head to. Here, you’ll find a concentration of boutiques bearing names such as Louis Vuitton, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Chanel. If buying high-end watches, jewellery and fashion is beyond your budget, you can at least admire the window displays as you walk along the bank of the River Rhone.
Geneva’s Old Town, with its winding cobbled streets, is located twenty-five metres above the lakeside. Among the many sights here are the 12th century St Pierre Cathedral and 14th century Maison Tavel, Geneva’s oldest standing private residence, which displays artefacts from everyday life in the city’s past.
Explore the characterful streets and discover the art galleries and antique shops. The Old Town also offers plenty of options for lunch or dinner. The Michelin-starred La Bottega (Rue de la Corraterie 21) serves inspired Italian cuisine made with fresh, organic ingredients. For a less expensive option, head to the Demi-Lune (Rue Etienne Dumont 3), where you can choose from a varied menu that ranges from Moroccan tagines to burgers and tapas. This friendly, laid-back eatery is open for lunch, dinner, cocktails and Sunday brunch.
The Bain Bleu Hamman and Spa (Port noir, 1223 Cologny) is one of the most relaxing attractions Geneva has to offer and transports you into another world. Immerse yourself in the hot tubs and whirlpools, let yourself be massaged by the jets, lie back and enjoy the bubble loungers as you admire the stylish contemporary decor with an oriental twist. On the rooftop, a 250m2 pool allows you to relax in water heated to 35 degrees as you gaze across the lake and mountains.
There is so much more to do in Geneva, from admiring modern and contemporary art at the MAMCO to understanding the world’s cultures at the award-winning Museum of Ethnography. Stroll around the botanical gardens or take a guided tour around the international district that hosts the UN’s European headquarters and many other organisations. If you’re only spending 48 hours in this lovely city, it’s very likely that you’ll want to return to see more of it.
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