Geneva airport is one of the busiest in Europe with a constant flow of European business travellers, seasonal skiers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. But many of the people who travel through the transport hub each year are so busy trying to get to their final destination that they miss the unique, quirky experience of the city itself.
Switzerland’s second most populated city may be famous as the headquarters for such illustrious international organisations as the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation, but it is the unique Swiss hospitality and sense of humour which makes the more curious visitors fall in love with the place.
Tourists may spend their time staring at the impressive 459-feet-tall water fountain or wandering around the 850-year-old cathedral. But those who prefer to step off the tourist trail will discover such left-field wonders as a museum dedicated to the ‘bizarre’ or to outlandish mechanical devices.
As a Swiss city in which almost half of its residents are not Swiss, Geneva has a uniquely welcoming, cosmopolitan atmosphere. It is a city which embraces the odd, quirky and indulgent, and places it right alongside the regimentally ordered Swissness of precise timepieces and clockwork mechanics.
Here is just a taste of some of the city’s more idiosyncratic cultural attractions.
While many tourists take time to visit the famous Patek Philippe Museum with its rather dry explanation of the history of Swiss watchmaking, the MAD Gallery takes an alternative approach to celebrating Swiss mechanics.
The gallery is run by watchmakers MB&F and was set up in 2011 to celebrate ‘mechanical art devices’. This broad remit means that you can find almost anything on display here, from music boxes and motorbikes to flying cars! The collection is a little bit bonkers, but for many that’s its appeal. It certainly shows a different side to Swiss engineering, with an excellent sense of humour and some fascinating futuristic finds.
Literally translated as the ‘gallery of the unusual’, the Galerie Insolite is found behind a charming shopfront in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town. As the name suggests, the gallery celebrates all things bizarre, with exhibitions covering everything from ‘alternative’ jewellery to experimental art, ceramics, photography, sculpture and glass works.
This gallery is well worth a visit if you want to avoid the crowds at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art but you want to see what’s happening in the Geneva art scene today.
Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière
If the Galerie Insolite has whet your appetite for the bizarre, then you will definitely want to check out the Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière, an exhibition space which specialises in Modern and surrealist art. With an amazing selection of paintings from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century surrealist masters – including the likes of Magritte, Dalí, Tanguy and Brauner – a visit here is a fascinating insight into this unusual school of art in which you can track its progression and development.
While tourist crowds swarm to the famous Maison Tavel to see how Geneva looked two hundred years ago, you can avoid the crowds and step further back in time by visiting the nearby Barbier-Mueller Museum of works from the ancient world. A captivating collection of antiquities from around the world allows visitors to compare art, fabrics, sculptures and utensils, created by different ancient civilisations at the same time.
To celebrate the museum’s 40th anniversary, it is running a fantastic exhibition entitled ‘6000 years of Receptacles’. Dishes, boxes, vases and jugs from civilisations as far apart as Africa, the Americas, Oceania, Europe and Asia will be displayed alongside specially-commissioned contemporary works until the end of February 2018.
How to Get to Geneva
The flight to Geneva only takes around 90 minutes from most UK airports. Airlines such as easyJet, British Airways, Swiss and Lufthansa all offer regular departures.
Getting from Geneva Airport to the city centre couldn’t be easier with a shared group transfer by Shuttle Direct. You can book a Shuttle Direct transfer for an agreed price online before you leave home. The great thing about a shared transfer is that it gives you the opportunity to meet fellow travellers en route and pick up tips on places to go and things to see.
Where to Stay
Hotel St Gervais – For great basic hotel accommodation in the centre of town (just 350 yards from the train station and 13 minutes walk from the lake), Hotel St Gervais is a good choice. You may have to share a bathroom, but the hotel will give you free breakfast, Wi-Fi and a free travel pass for the duration of your stay.
Geneva Hostel – Set in a beautiful nineteenth-century building close to the shores of the lake, the contemporary Geneva Hostel provides private rooms with a communal living space and kitchen. There’s also a restaurant on site offering reasonably-priced Swiss cuisine. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property and a free travel card is also offered.
City Hostel Geneva – The shared dormitories or private rooms at the City Hostel Geneva are basic but put you right at the heart of the city, close to the train station and the lake. Bathrooms are shared but single and double rooms have their own washbasin, desk, table and wardrobe. The hostel will arrange a free travel pass for guests, as well as discounted entry into the Red Cross Museum.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the largest provider of airport transfers across Europe and northern Africa, servicing thousands of travellers each year. For great value options choose between a Low Cost coach service to a predetermined stop or a shared Shuttle Service direct to your accommodation. Both will offer you the chance to meet and swap tips with other travellers.