The Swiss city of Geneva is known for being a ‘global city’. It is home to over twenty international organisations, including the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation. As of 2013, nearly half of the city’s residents are foreign nationals. Known as the ‘Peace City’, Geneva is an important diplomatic and financial centre and one of the most internationally influential cities in the world.
But in this globalised and ever-changing metropolis, is it ever possible to feel at home? To find out, we’ve compiled the perfect itinerary for a day out in Geneva. Follow our suggestions for a quintessentially Swiss experience in this city in the shadow of the Alps.
A Hearty Brunch
Begin the day with brunch at Chez la Voisine, offered every Saturday and Sunday. In this bright, airy, simply decorated cafe, you can choose from a selection of brunch platters, from the ‘Swiss brunch’ (featuring croissants and chocolate spread) to the ‘California Brunch’ (with avocado, grapefruit and granola). It’s a sumptuous spread, so you might want to split your order with another person!
The Jet d’Eau
After you’ve eaten, stroll down the Prom du Lac on the shores of Lake Geneva. You can’t fail to notice the jaw-dropping Jet d’Eau, an enormous fountain situated where the lake empties into the Rhone River. The water in the fountain is propelled to a height of 459 feet, and you might get soaked to the skin if the wind changes directions suddenly.
Visit the Flower Clock
As you continue down the Prom du Lac toward the centre of town, you’ll come to the Jardin Anglais, where you can wander the charming, winding paths. The park’s most popular attraction is L’horloge fleurie, or ‘the flower clock’. Switzerland has a long tradition of watch-making, and in this floral timepiece the Swiss have outdone themselves. Containing 6,500 flowers and plants, the Flower Clock displays the time according to satellite transmission – beautiful and accurate!
Take a Tour with Geneva Greeters
After you’ve warmed up a little bit, you might be ready for a tour of the city with Geneva Greeters. This group of 20 local residents offers tours around Geneva absolutely free! The Geneva Greeters are passionate about their city, and will take you off the beaten path to discover some real hidden gems. Your tour is personalised based on the kinds of sights you would like to see, and you will be matched with a tour guide whose interests are nearest to your own. The tours last two or three hours, and can be booked on their website.
Experience Traditional Bistro Ambience
By now perhaps you’ve walked off those croissants and you’re ready for a spot of lunch. Try out Bistrot au Jardin, a lovely, welcoming spot with a quiet atmosphere on the Rue de Grand-Pre. We love the lobster Caesar salad and the croûte au fromage, but don’t eat dessert just yet…
Indulge in some Swiss Chocolate
Okay, now it’s dessert time. Just a fifteen-minute walk from the Bistrot au Jardin you’ll find the Boutique Favarger, a Swiss chocolate company that’s been serving Geneva since 1826. Let your eyes wander over the heaps of truffles on display, the classic Geneva avelines, candied orange peel and pralines. You can even book a tour at the Favarger Chocolate Factory, about a thirty-minute drive from the boutique, where you can see how chocolate is transformed from bean to bar.
Visit John Calvin’s Church
After immersing yourself in one of Switzerland’s sweet specialties, cross the Rhone and stroll over to St. Pierre Cathedral, about a ten minute walk away. The Cathedral is over 850 years old and is best known as the church where John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, gave his inspiring sermons. The Cathedral still houses a wooden chair once used by Calvin. Don’t miss the spectacular view from the cathedral’s North Tower, accessed by 157 narrow and winding steps.
Get a History Lesson
While we’re on the subject of the Reformation, the famous Reformation Wall monument is only 500 metres from the Cathedral. Located on the grounds of the University of Geneva, the Reformation Wall is a 100-metre carved stretch of the old city walls of Geneva. The wall honours famous individuals, events and documents of the Protestant Reformation with statues and reliefs. Geneva was the centre of Calvinism during the Reformation, and you can find evidence of its religious importance all over the city.
Have a Drink… and a Bite
At this point you’re probably ready to rest your feet and have a drink. The Bistro de la Tour firmly believes that “life is too short to drink bad wine”, and admirably lives up to this conviction with an excellent and extensive wine list – and the great food to go with it! We love the rack of lamb with potatoes and aubergines, as well as the sea bream with artichokes. Did we mention wine?
How to Get to Geneva
A quick 90-minute flight can get you from London to Geneva International Airport. EasyJet offers direct flights from both London Gatwick and Luton from as little as £44! The airport is only 4 kilometres from the city centre, so there are ample transportation options. You can catch the InterCity train to Geneva-Cornavin station in city centre, about a 12 minute journey in rush hour. Alternatively, you can take the number 5 or 10 bus to the same station.
If you’re coming to Geneva in winter for some Alpine skiing, chances are you’re travelling with quite a bit of gear and equipment. Cut the hassle and arrange for a Shuttle Direct driver to collect you at the airport. We offer the best and most efficient ski transfers Geneva has to offer, so you can be gliding through fresh powder in no time!
It is possible to drive from London to Geneva, but there are several things you must keep in mind. First, you must remember to book your crossing through the Eurotunnel well ahead of time. Fares start at around £23 per car each way. Second, the journey is about eleven hours, so you may want to split the drive over two days. Reims and Dijon are both excellent places to spend the night. Lastly, since you will likely be driving through France (unless you wish to prolong your journey by taking the long way), you will have to have the following items in your vehicle or risk a fine: a breathalyser, reflective jacket, reflective safety triangle, and, if you have a British car, headlamp beam deflectors.
Where to Stay
Hotel St. Gervais – This hotel on the Rue des Corps-Saints is only a 5-minute walk from Gare de Cornavin Station and a stone’s throw from Lake Geneva. Even more tempting, it’s only 350 metres from the Boutique Favarger mentioned previously! The Hotel St. Gervais offers clean, comfortable rooms that are friendly to your travel budget. The hotel also provides you with a free travel card to use on buses and train for the entire duration of your stay in Geneva.
Floatinn Boat-BnB – If you’re looking for something a bit more unusual, why not stay in a floating bed and breakfast? The Floatinn Boat-BnB is anchored in Lake Geneva facing the spectacular Jet d’Eau. The six-room floating hotel has a sun terrace on its deck with outdoor seating and unbeatable views of the lake. Each room has a porthole and a private bathroom with free toiletries. This unique nautical hotel also has a bar, lounge, and, yes, even free Wi-Fi.
Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva – Craving the VIP treatment? Look no further than the Four Seasons. This elegant and warm hotel, housed in a historic 1834 building, features soaring ceilings and luxurious French decor designed by famous interior architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. Perched on the edge of Lake Geneva near the Pont du Mont- Blanc bridge, the Four Seasons provides excellent views of this beautiful city.