I think that taking a festive break in December is a great way to unwind, escape the stresses and gloomy weather back home and get in the mood for the holidays. Europe is rife with enchanting cities that come to life around this time of year, but there is one place which is a fantastic destination for any traveller looking for something a little bit different and off beat – Geneva.
This gorgeous Swiss city is famed for its epic lake and sublime natural surroundings, plus it has a sophisticated and elegant culture that is ideal for those who enjoy a little luxury with their travel. Geneva is also quick and easy to reach, making it ideal for a festive city break.
Sounds like your kind of trip? Make sure you don’t miss these wonderful Christmas highlights.
Looking for other cultural activities in Geneva? Check out this article.
1. The Escalade
This annual festival takes place in the city in December and is held in memory and celebration of Geneva’s defence during the attack of Duke Savoy’s army. It is held on the weekend closest to the 11th (the night of the 1602 attempted attack) and usually occurs at Park des Bastions, Place du Bourg-de-Four, and the square in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral (it is very hard to miss).
The celebrations involve children wearing costumes on the Friday and going door-to-door for treats (much like Halloween), plus families come together to smash a chocolate pot (referring to the famous story of a woman pouring hot soup on the heads of intruding soldiers as they climbed the city walls).
Saturday and Sunday celebrations see parades on the streets and an amazing ceremonial fire in front of St. Peter’s on Sunday evening. The festival is a great celebration of Geneva’s history and this makes it a fascinating opportunity to learn a thing or two as well.
2. Christmas Circus
Running from late November through to early January, the Christmas Circus (or Cirque de Noel) will take your breath away and is sure to get you in the mood for the holidays. Taking place at Plaine de Plainpalais, the impressive circus is bursting with fun and features talented acts from pole dancers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, clowns, magicians, trapeze acrobats and even highly trained cats!
A top tip is to book into one of their dîner spectacles – this incredible experience allows you to watch fire eaters and hula hoopers, all whilst indulging in a four-course dinner (which is even served by the performers!).
3. Christmas Swimming Cup
Taking place on the 18th of December, this is a must see event if you are in Geneva at this time. This is an annual winter swim in Lake Geneva on the quay of the Jardin Anglais, where anybody brave/foolish enough jumps into the extremely cold waters and takes part in an entertaining 125-metre race. At this time of year, the water temperature does not reach higher than around 4-5 degrees Celsius, so expect to see a wild, chaotic and hilarious race along the lake.
This fantastic event was first held in 1934 and has become a favourite with the locals due to the fun atmosphere it generates. There were 1,500 entrants in 2015, and it is open to everyone over 16.
4. Christmas Markets
There is a good chance that you will also be seeking more traditional Christmas entertainment. Geneva does not disappoint, as there are a handful of festive markets that bring the city to life with glorious lighting, costumes, music, street food, arts and crafts, decorations and plenty more.
I highly recommend Montreux’s market on the shores of Lake Geneva, which provides the perfect setting and plenty of winter delights to be found within. The market features 150 decorated and illuminated chalets along the edge of the lake, plus there are other nearby attractions to make an entire day of it.
How to Get to Geneva
You do not want to stray too far from home on your Xmas break, which is why this is a great choice. There are flights to Geneva (GVA) airport from most UK airports and regular flights are made by British Airways, easyJet, Swiss, Flybe and a handful of others. The duration will depend on which UK airport you are flying from, but flights will take between 1.5 hours and just over 2 hours.
The airport is just 11km away from the city centre, so you can simply jump in a private Shuttle Direct transfer and you will be at your hotel in 20 minutes without having to worry about public transportation. Before you know it, you will be out soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying everything this Swiss city has to offer.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Lido – On the budget end of the spectrum, Hotel Lido is well situated in the heart of the city and a 10-minute walk from the Old Town. Each room has an LCD TV, private bathroom and free Wi-Fi. A breakfast buffet is also available so you can kick-start your day before heading out to explore.
Hotel International & Terminus – This mid-range hotel is a 10-minute walk from the city centre and has impressive rooms with a minibar, flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi and private bathrooms. It also has its own restaurant, serving Swiss, Italian and international cuisine throughout the day.
Hotel de la Cigogne – An elegant luxury hotel found on Longemalle square by Old Town, this historic building has excellent rooms with period furniture, HD LED TVs and free Wi-Fi. The stylish restaurant serves gourmet cuisine, plus there is also a sophisticated bar for enjoying a late night beverage after a long day of exploring.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct is the number one choice for airport transfers in Europe. Our welcoming local drivers ensure for comfortable, affordable and reliable travel between airports, train stations, hotels, cruise ports and other destinations all around Europe.
Book your shared or private transfer with our easy to use online booking system and enjoy stress-free passage on your holiday.