Discover the stunning architecture, diverse restaurants and crystal clear water in this charming Swiss city.
When browsing Expedia from your bedroom, it can be easy to overlook a vacation in a city like Geneva. There is no Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge or Leaning Tower of Pisa to slap on postcards.
In fact, the tallest thing in Geneva isn’t a tower at all, but a 459-foot-high jet of water that bursts out of the middle of Lake Geneva at the city’s center. But that’s also precisely what makes Geneva so special. Unsoiled by mass tourism, Geneva keeps its cool for travelers with a wonderful climate, stylish architecture, and gorgeous parks. For those in-the-know, a long weekend in Geneva is just what the doctor ordered. For the well-to-do, the city is full of high profile options from shopping for the finest timepieces anywhere in the world to walking the storied streets that were once home to the likes of Byron, Shelley, and Rousseau. Here’s how to build the perfect weekend in one of Europe’s most underrated cities.
Where To Stay
Right along the bank of Lake Geneva sits Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, one of the most regal hotels in the city. The hotel has everything that one could want from a luxury, European getaway: a hamam in the spa, a city-wide view from the roof, ample-sized suites, and more. Because of the hotel’s history before Four Seasons came around in the early 2000’s to continue the legacy, some of the best rooms are still on the lower floors. Rest assured though, anyone looking for that perfect photo to Instagram of the cityscape can get it while eating at the rooftop restaurant, Izumi.
Where To Eat
The most important thing to do when eating in Geneva is to keep an open mind. Just because you’re situated in the middle of the mountains, within eyesight of France, Geneva is home to plenty of cultural crossovers. This Nikkei restaurant atop the Hotel des Bergues is the perfect spot for Japanese flair combined with luxurious craftsmanship. While it’s perfect for a warmer weather, the rooftop also closes itself off in glass come winter for a top shelf bar and cocktail program.
For proper local fare, check out this hilltop café and restaurant in one of the city’s most beautiful parks. Perche, one of the local fish found in the lake, are cooked to perfection at this fine dining establishment. Take a seat on the balcony and eat al fresco with a glass of wine.
For all the Swiss culture has to offer travelers in Geneva, France is still within earshot. (Lyon is just under a two-hour drive away.) That means that so many of the tricks and skills of French cooking are still deeply rooted in the city’s restaurant scene. This French locale is the perfect place for anyone needing their fixe of rich, bountiful dishes.
Where To Drink
Don’t you dare sleep on Swiss wine while in Geneva. As the third largest winemaker in Switzerland, and the close proximity to France’s own wine region, much of the product coming our of Geneva’s vineyards on the outskirts of the city are as good as the finest French additions, just bottled in much smaller quantities, making them far rarer to get back in the US. This domaine boasts several awards for a variety of its wines, and has an incredibly friendly staff ready to walk any guest through their offerings.
For the younger set looking for a night out in Geneva, Thursday is one of the most popular nights to hit the town. When looking for a watering hole to find younger crowds looking to have fun and enjoy a few drinks, Maison Balkii gets a great crowd of locals. As the night goes on, stick around for when the late night, downstairs venue opens up for dancing as a DJ plays music.
Yes, actual water fountains. While the water in Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain seems overrun with algae, the water in Geneva running through beautiful, centuries old fountains spouts potable water that’s free to anyone. Instead of filling up your Nalgene or Swell with one of those push-the-button things like in New York, fill-up in style with a beautifully sculpted, massive fountain that dates back to the protestant reformation!
Where To Go And What To Do
If you know anything already about Geneva, it’s probably the watches. If you’ve never cracked open the back of any watch, from Timex to Patek Philippe models, there’s an entire ecosystem operating perfectly in sync back there. Initium is an experience like no other that offers a professional watchmaker to walk guests through the process of building their own watch. Visitors will learn about mechanical movements, put gears in place, and operate the crown, all by disassembling and reassembling their own Swiss mechanical movements.
Now that the educational side of watchmaking has been comprehended, shop for some high caliber models at any of the local boutiques. Patek Phillippe, Rolex, and so many others are all based in Geneva already. Be sure to look in second hand and vintage watch boutiques to, where you never know what sort of vintage pieces pop-up.
Take the Water Taxi
Boats criss-cross Lake Geneva Constantly, drifting past the Jet D’Eau, a massive fountain in the center of the lake. It’s the perfect way to get that shot of the fountain, while cutting the time off one’s commute.
Lounge at the Bains de Pâquis
Visitors can spend the day lounging on the pebble beaches of Bains de Pâquis for free, save for the summer, when admission is just two Swiss Francs. The rocky beach leads in to crystal-clear water. There’s great activities for kids like a rock wall and diving board to leap off of, and a café to get a drink and bite to eat in between swimming.
Photography by: Courtesy of Geneva Tourism