Ever since my first visit to Switzerland last year, I’ve had a list of key cities I wanted to discover: Zurich (done), Lausanne (done) and Geneva. Of course, there are countless other areas in the country I have been to and others I still want to check out but I had to cover the majors. It’s probably also due to the fact that I am living in Hergiswil which is a pretty quiet town so I am craving a bit of action (goats and cows can only do so much for a girl). Nearby Lucerne has lots to offer of course but there is something so exciting about going a road trip especially when it involves my favourite travel buddy: my dad! He’s just the best. So easy going, patient, accommodating and fun to hang out with. We have traveled together a lot and these worldly escapades are some of my life’s most precious moments.
If like us you only have a short time to spend in Geneva (we were there for less than 48 hours), consider this your mini guide to know what to see and where to go. First, if you get there by train, when you exit the station you should head to the le C.A.R. bleu which is a mobile tourist information center. We’re old school like so we prefer a paper map (as opposed to being glued to my phone) and there are lots available there to grab. You can also have a chat with the clerk to find out any key information you might need.
The Jet d’Eau, Geneva’s landmark, shoots 140 meters into the sky. The best place to admire it is from les Bains des Pâquis (mentioned further below). Beware if you have your precious camera out as the mist from the fountain can reach you from VERY far away. The waterfront really is the first spot you should discover. You can walk along for hours, admiring different view points and enjoying totally different atmospheres depending on where you are around the lake. We started our tour at the end of our street (rue de la Navigation) and then walked towards the Pont de Mont-Blanc. Our surroundings got busier as we approached this popular tourist area. The next day, we went the opposite direction towards the Botanical gardens and it was a totally different experience. It was quiet, peaceful and the perfect setting to just take in the natural beauty around us.
No surprise here, the architecture in this city is gorgeous. Magnificent buildings surround you wherever you go. No matter where you are walking, pay attention as there are great historical masterpieces all around.
The Old Town (Vieille Ville) was probably our most favourite area after the waterfront. It’s filled with charming cafés, restaurants, galleries and historical sights including St. Peter’s Cathedral (which I forgot to take a photo of!). Old Town is 25 meters higher than the lake so expect a little climb but it’s totally worth it.
Where to stay
We spent our one night in Geneva at the Kipling, a cute boutique hotel located on rue de la Navigation, a 6 minute walk from the train station. The vibe of this hotel is old meets new meets India and the Orient. The staff was really friendly and the price was as well for a 3 1/2 star hotel. Of course, there are countless hotels to choose from so do your research to find one that suits your budget and has a practical location. In our case we wanted a quiet street and to be near the train station. The Kipling met both those criteria.
Where to eat/drink
We enjoyed an early supper at Arthur’s Rive Gauche which is located right on the Rhône. The view is stunning and I felt so lucky to be in this magical city, sipping on my wine as the sun started to set. If you plan on calling it an early night like we did and arrive before 7:00 pm, you can order from their Gourmet Snack menu that has great options. Dad had Arthur’s club sandwich and I went for the penne with tomatoes and fresh basil (delish!) which I paired with Brad and Angelina Jolie’s Miraval rosé (excellent).
Where to chill out
Bains des Pâquis provides a welcoming haven for sunlovers and those seeking rest. Located a few meters from the Jet d’Eau, it affords a breathtaking view of the lake and offers various activities such as a sauna, massages, swimming and even a restaurant (entry fee of 2 CHF).
Jardin Anglais is a park that is probably usually quite enjoyable and relaxing but when we visited it was occupied by fair rides and kiosks present in honour of the Fêtes de Genève. We still managed to squeeze in a shot by the fountain but we never even saw the famous Flower Clock!
Bastions Park at Place Neuve (situated below the old city walls) was much more peaceful. Full of bohos that looked like they were practicing for a special act (see video below) it had a fun atmosphere that made you feel like joining the circus. Jokes aside, it’s a nice park to walk through and admire the International Monument to the Reformation (also known as the Reformation Wall).
Where to get inspired
The Geneva Botanical gardens is a must visit if you are a nature and animal lover. It’s home to over 16,000 species of plants, trees and shrubs that bloom at different times of year to ensure a feast for the eyes no matter when you decide to stop by. My favourite part was of course the little “farm” area inhabited by deer, goats, flamingos and more. If you want to grab a bite to eat, they have a great outdoor restaurant which offers quality food and the most gorgeous setting.
Where to shop
Place du Molard is the popular shopping area in Geneva but be aware that there are a lot of mass market stores such as H&M and Mango (on rue du Marché) that aren’t exactly exclusive to Switzerland so I can’t say I was super excited about those. That said, there are also all the high end names like Chanel and Louis Vuitton close by but that isn’t really my cup of tea either. I prefer something in the middle. Something like The Kooples and Zadig & Voltaire which are both just are few steps away from the crowded tourist main shopping street and that is where I would suggest you exercise your credit card if that’s what floats your boat. I also discovered a lovely natural beauty shop that opened just a week earlier called Botanifique and was greated by the nicest woman named Barbaba who is from Canada! I tried out a few of their products (the Deep Essence Facial Serum & Dew Day Moisturizing Cream) and must say that I am really liking this brand. They are eco certified, paraben and petrolatum free, not tested on animals and are of the highest quality. This store is a must-see for any natural beauty lover (Quai des bergues 29, 1201 Geneva) .
Where to get your culture on
I have to admit that we ran out of time for this category but I do believe that Geneva’s museums are a must see. I’m still including a few of those that we admired from the outside and that I would love to visit if and when I return to Geneva. The museum of art and history looks absolutely beautiful and also has a pretty park right in front with a great lookout point.
We stopped by the Ariana museum fountain for a quick lounge in their much appreciated beach chairs (did I mention my feet were mush by this point). The museum is located near the Palais des Nations, the headquarters of the United Nations in Europe which we would have loved to visit but once again, ran out of time.
We loved every moment of our visit to Geneva. It was a packed trip with lots of walking so make sure you bring comfortable shoes if you want to fully enjoy your experience. Stay tuned for our next adventure which involves drinking rosé and wandering wine region Lavaux and Lausanne!
Image via Etsy