It’s hard to pin down the kind of place Geneva is. A city of luxury? Certainly, some of the world’s most luxurious brands have a presence on its streets. A city of watches? Oh yes, it’s nothing less than the international home of haute horology. A city of science? Definitely – the most serious of nuclear research can be found at CERN. Then of course there are the countless NGOs (the UN, WHO, WTO just to name a few) with their headquarters in Geneva.
For a city so small, it’s certainly a city of the world. Let’s not forget, though, that it’s also a city full of life.
Situated at the base of the Salève, Geneva is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, offering boundless sporting opportunities all year round. Mountain sports aside, there are also plenty of water sports to be enjoyed on Lake Geneva including lake swimming and kitesurfing.
If shopping is as active as you want to get then there are plenty of choices in that department. Most of Geneva’s offerings are centred around Rue du Rhône and Rue du Marché where you will find the likes of Victorinox, Davidoff and, of course, Genevese watches. Café du Centre is an ideal stop for a post-shopping seafood lunch.
Culture, too, has its place in the city. The Grand Théâtre de Genève hosts operas, ballets and theatre while its huge exhibition space, Palexpo, is the ultimate concert venue. The philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was born in the city while one of his most prominent contemporaries, Voltaire, also found home here.
Lord Byron had a lake-view house that lay adjacent to Mary Shelley’s home – the one where she wrote Frankenstein in fact.
It’s easy to see why these intellectuals were so inspired by Geneva when you stay at one of the waterfront hotels like Le Richmond and Hotel de la Paix, where you’ll be privy to the city’s postcard-perfect views. Of course, it’s even better to be out on the lake for a gourmet cruise where you can get up close with the jet d’eau (pictured above).
Don’t forget to wander around the old town, where you’ll find traces of Geneva’s rich history, from the Reformation to American Civil War Treaties. Or the city’s art district, where you will discover warehouse galleries and the Patek Philippe museum. And do take the tram to Carouge to embrace its bohemian refuge from the commercial Geneva with food markets, restaurants, bars and artisan shops.
With so many things to discover, it’s best to engage a guide; it’s surprisingly easy to miss the world’s longest bench and all of the city’s other hidden gems.