Geneva, Switzerland is often associated with international affairs or luxury goods– which is not a bad reputation at all. But there’s a lot more to this city. Despite its long history which goes back several thousands of years, Geneva is surprisingly young and modern.
It wasn’t until my second visit to this second most populous city in Switzerland, that I realized how much Geneva has going on and how it is a perfect city for a weekend visit.
WHERE TO STAY
In a city of many 5 star hotels, the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues stands out amongst the rest. Situated on the water, just across a foot bridge in the center of the city, the location alone is enough to make it an ideal homebase for any walking traveler. But it is the service and the history wows the most. You’ll be greeted by name just about every time you enter and surprise treats like heavenly macarons or handcrafted pastries are left in your room each night.
If the rooftop gym, hammam spa and breathtaking breakfast spreads aren’t enough, don’t miss Izumi, their Japanese Peruvian restaurant that occupies the top floor and the outdoor roofdeck, a rarity in this city.
Each morning, you’ll wake up to views of swans gliding along the lake and the sun peeking over snow-capped peaks. This is Geneva at its finest.
WHAT TO DO
Explore the majesty of the coastline by boat in a historical paddle steamship. La Savoie, one of beautiful Belle Epoque ships in CGN’s fleet, offers lunch and dinner cruises. Linger over a well crafted 3 course meal, complete with an accompanying full bar, as the Swiss coastline comes to you.
A speedy way to get a lay of the land is on a TaxiBike tour–and no, you do not have to pedal! Knowlegdeable tour guides take you on a route throughout the city, stopping at special sights and tailoring your tour to what you are most interested in. I learned a lot and saw areas of Geneva that I never would have found on my own. They also met us right in front of our hotel–how easy!
- Explore Carouge
A personal favorite, this charming village within the city is a perfect place to spend a leisurely few hours, popping in and out of boutique shops and sampling treats from the many patisseries.
If you plan your visit on a Saturday, you’ll be fortunate enough to run into the farmer’s market where beautiful fruits, flowers, cheese, and other locally crafted products are on offer.
To get an aerial perspective of Geneva, head over the French border to Mont Salève. Zip to the top of the mountain by tram in under 5 minutes. From 1100 meters up, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the city, the lake and surrounding mountains. A bonus is the delicious lunch that is served in the cozy restaurant inside.
WHERE TO EAT
A lively little brick house set in the middle of a park, the Cottage Cafe is an ideal spot for a breakfast, al fresco happy hour or a cozy dinner. I’ve been to this cafe twice years apart and loved it both times. The extensive menu has so many small plate options–you can try a little bit of a lot of these mediterranean inspired dishes. The cheese and the vegetable dishes stand out, as do the spritzes!
A classic French brasseries that feels like it hasn’t changed since it opened 150 years ago. Serving unpretentious French specialities and fresh seafood, this restaurant is popular among the locals as well as travelers.
It is always a special occasion when you step into the dimly lit Il Lago, at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. This elevated Italian imbues elegance in every bite–and every detail of the presentation. From the bread to the olive oil, the cocktails to the post-dessert handmade chocolates, clear your night so you can savor it all. Standouts include the truffle papparadelle and the filet mignon.
GETTING TO GENEVA
- By Air
Geneva Airport is high tech but small enough not to be overwhelming. Fly direct from major hubs in Europe or directly from Boston or New York City. From the airport, book a shuttle or take an Uber into the city center.
- By Train
The Swiss train system is very efficient and the train into the city center is an easy, pleasant journey, particularly if coming from the Lausanne route along the water.
- By Car
Driving in Switzerland is quite easy and very well marked. Be sure to follow the speeding limits carefully as their are automated speed checks and you might receive a speeding ticket in the mail after you return home without ever being stopped while there.
Since traffic and parking is an issue in the city center, it is recommended to go car less if possible. If not, you can drive to your hotel and park your car for your stay.
Opt instead to use the easy tram system, Uber, bikes or your own two feet for the easiest (and prettiest) way to get around.