Well-known as a convenient starting point for holidays in Switzerland, particularly in the winter ski season, Geneva is a place which has a lot to offer in its own right as well. From excellent shopping to beautiful lakeside eateries, there is more than enough to keep you occupied for a weekend break here.
Those who think of Switzerland as a winter destination, with its extensive winter sports and beautiful snow-covered landscape, are missing out. In the summer, the country and its most famous lake city come alive in the warm sunshine with outdoor markets to explore, restaurant terraces with lake views to enjoy, and, not to mention, the possibility of simply strolling around this beautiful city in the warm summer sunshine.
Still not convinced that Geneva is anything more than a starting point? Here’s a potential itinerary for a weekend summer getaway to help you visualise your lakeside break.
If you think of the Swiss city as a modern industrialised place built on new technology with modern architecture, then the first place to go is the Old Town. Having been the site of a settlement since as far back as the Roman times, Geneva’s rich history is drawn on the streets of the Old Town on the lake’s southern bank.
There’s a lot to see here so you might want to start early. For a real sense of the history of this part of the Old Town, a great place to see first is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre Genève.
First created in the fourth century and then rebuilt in 12th Century in the neo-classical style, the Cathedral features spectacular, towering pillars quite unlike most European churches.
The history of the cathedral is a fascinating one as it became the centre for protestant preaching in the 16th Century, with the influential French-Swiss reformer John Calvin preaching here regularly. In fact, you can still see Calvin’s austere chair, preserved in the cathedral, to this day.
Take the stairs up to the north tower and from the cathedral’s vantage point you can see almost all of the city and its beautiful lake. Then (if you can face more stairs), step down into the building’s vaults and discover the largest archaeological site north of the Alps with its ancient treasures, some of which date back to Roman times.
Place de Bourg-de-Four
Having spent the morning in the Cathedral you’ll deserve a good, long lunch. The best place to eat in the Old Town is the famous Place de Bourg-de-Four, a pretty medieval square full of restaurants and shops. The outdoor terraces of many of the cafés here make it the ideal place to get to know – or at least see – the people of Geneva as they meander past. A great place for sitting back and doing a bit of people-watching.
A Stroll Down The Promenade
After lunch, stroll through the Old Town towards the Promenade de la Treille, a beautiful boulevard of trees along a scenic promenade. Back in the 16th Century this was an important military look out, but it was transformed into a social space for walking and meeting in the 18th Century, enabling the public to enjoy the vantage point and its views. It is also the site of the world’s longest wooden bench at 120 metres.
Dine in Historic Settings
A short walk from the promenade is the historic Café Papon. Part of Geneva’s culinary history since 1808, the Café is set in a beautiful building with impressive vaulted ceilings in the city’s Old Town, creating a fantastic ambience in this bustling eatery.
After all the sightseeing you did yesterday, get your second day off to a more leisurely start by exploring the lakeside by boat.
Take a lake cruise from the city harbour and explore the views from the water. An hour-long cruise takes in sights of Mont Blanc, the UN building, the Pierres du Niton (rocks left in the Rhône at the time of the last ice age) and the nature reserve at Pointe à la Bise.
Lunch at Au Phil du Temps
After your cruise, head to the Pont de la Machine, the building which used to house a water pump for feeding the city’s fountains. Today, the beautiful 19th Century building is home to a contemporary art gallery, a Swatch museum and the excellent Au Phil du Temps restaurant.
The exhibitions at the Cité du Temps rotate, but this is usually a great place to spend the afternoon so check out what’s on and amble around this beautiful old building.
Islands in the Rhône
The largest of the Rhône islands is a great place for strolling around the shops and, when you tire of that, there is the Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile just waiting to feed and entertain you. The building used to be the site for a wholesale market, but today it has been converted into a bustling restaurant with beautiful river views.
The outdoor terrace here is often crowded, with loads going on including music and dancing events. This really is a great place to rub shoulders with the inhabitants of this beautiful, fascinating city before you get back on your plane the next day and head home.
How to Get to Geneva
As a gateway to the Alps, Geneva is, of course, very accessible with a range of flights regularly touching down here from the UK. British Airways, Jet2 and easyJet all offer regular flights to the city.
Arrive in the city in comfort by booking a Shuttle Direct airport transfer online before you set off. That way you can start your 48-hours in Geneva in the comfort of an executive car which will meet you at the airport and deliver you directly to your accommodation in the city.
Where to Stay
Hôtel Métropole Genève – Stay practically on the shores of the lake itself at the stylish Hôtel Métropole Genève. Just a 9 minutes’ walk from the lake, on the edge of the Old Town, this hotel mixes luxury and style to create an authentic Swiss experience.
Hotel Churchill – Get even closer to the water in the Hotel Churchill. A modern building set in one of the city’s main shopping areas just minutes from the lake, this hotel offers a convenient location for those on a city break.
Hotel de la Paix Geneva – For the ultimate luxury and stunning lakeside views, why not spend your weekend in Geneva at the Hotel de la Paix Geneva. This five-star hotel beside the lake has its own restaurant offering French cuisine and is just a short walk from the Old Town.
About Shuttle Direct:
The leading provider of private and shuttle transfers in Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct offers you the most comfortable and convenient way to get from the airport to your accommodation so that your holiday can begin as soon as you touch down. Book a private executive car online before you set off and your driver will be waiting to meet you when you land.