24 hours in Geneva

Get to know this Swiss city in a day.

While many people think of Geneva as a place of politics (thanks to the UN being there) and science (CERN, the home of the Hadron Collider is just a 20 minute ride from the city centre) there's much more to this city.

Geneva is the perfect gateway to Europe, you can be in France in minutes and Italy in just hours, but don’t head off before you’ve explored all there is to offer here. From shopping to eating out to sightseeing, give yourself time to get to know the real Geneva.

6am: Start with a splash 

Nothing gets you ready for a day of exploring a new city like a swim at the baths.

Les Bains Des Paquis is a hip public bath right on the lake, and is open from 7am most months. Have a dip in the Lac with the locals here, and if you’re not up for that, during the colder months you can use the hammam instead or simply have a massage.

The view is spectacular and yes, there are people who swim every day, even when it’s snowing! You can grab breakfast and lunch here too, and sit and watch the city begin its day. During the summer there are concerts, even before work, and it’s a popular meeting spot all year round.

 

10am: Shopping up a storm

Head over to the opposite side of Lake Geneva – a small yellow ferry will have you there in minutes – and peruse the luxury shops on the Place Du Lac and surrounding streets, admiring the lake and its famous Jet D’eau on the way, of course.

Geneva is all about luxury watches and there are many places here to admire some very upmarket timepieces, and you could shop up a storm – though be warned, Geneva isn’t a budget-friendly city. High-end designer boutiques and some high street stores all cluster in this area. Try the Rue du Rhone and Rue de la Confederation - just be prepared to give the credit card a workout whatever you’re buying.

From here, you can also wander the streets of the old town – away from the water there are many old churches and winding streets to explore.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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12pm: Grab a bite

An early lunch at Globus is a delight. This uber-glam department store has a food hall like you’ve never seen, and you can get anything you want to eat here, including a truffle fondue you won’t regret.

Plus, there are great gifts to be bought – amazing chocolates and biscuits for starters. While you’re here you will want to look through the rest of the store – the wine department is also well worth a visit.

2pm: Get your activist on

Given that Geneva has the United Nations HQ right here, you really should do a tour. You may think it sounds a little boring, but it’s actually fascinating and inspiring as you learn about the history of the place and the work done here.

Enjoy the architecture and the gifts sent by different countries throughout time -- the building is filled with interesting artefacts and a rich history. It’s an hour out of your day and well worth the $12 francs it costs to get in. Outside, join the other tourists and get a photo at the Broken Chair, a statue given by Handicap International who commissioned Swiss sculptor Daniel Berset to create the sculpture to draw attention to the victims of landmines.

4pm: Explore some more

If you’re wanting something a little grittier from your Genevan adventure, wander through Les Grottes and Paquis areas. Both are close to the main train hub Cornavin, which means they’re easily accessible no matter where you’re staying.

Paquis includes the area where the high end hotels are situated on the left bank of the Lac, but also houses the red light district – prostitution is legal here and very visible. It’s also home to lots of cool bars and clubs, the Mambo is pretty famous as is Scandale, and a range of cuisines if you’re looking for something to eat.

Les Grottes is up the hill and behind the station and is far more gritty and well, grotty. This up and coming area is very boho - think squats, second hand shops and seedy bars here, a lively food market in the evenings (grab a cheese plate and some local – very good – Gamay and while away some time at a long table) and contemporary art exhibits.

 

6pm: Little Italy

Carouge is a part of Geneva that’s very different to the rest. It was built by the Savoys when it wasn’t even a part of Switzerland at all and its unique architecture is all about its Italianate heritage; a pattern of historical streets with warm and cosy cafes, bistros and antique shops. Just 10 minutes by tram and you really feel you’re in another city.

Cake shops and food markets are great here, and if you’re hungry, you can take your pick from many of the restaurants along the streets. For dinner, try the heavenly L’Olivier de Provence for something truly special, or choose a tapas bar like Le Cheval Blanc for a more casual, fun feed.

 

10pm Lap up some luxury

The ultimate luxury hotels are found along the left bank of Geneva’s lake. Among them, sits the wonderful Hotel D’Anglettere. It’s pricey but even if you stay just one night in the opulent surrounds, it’s worth the money.

Views of the Jet D’Eau and – on a clear day – Mont Blanc in the distance, are priceless, the rooms are large and luxe and celebs stay here on the regular so you never know who you may run into. If money is no object, a suite gives you a butler and a balcony overlooking the lake. Just make sure you spend enough time in the huge and oh-so-comfy bed.

 

 

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