Geneva is a city precision-built for business connections
Geneva is a brisk, flashy, business-like city, equally concerned with the pulse of commerce as it is the serious business of world peace. The pace of life and cost of living here can make it a slightly daunting place to touch down in for a quick business trip, so our quick primer should help you set your Tag Heuer and get your bearings.
Being home to the UN, Red Cross, dozens of banks and countless NGOs, Geneva is both a major international diplomatic hub and a busy financial centre. As a result the business culture is quite conservative and hierarchical, so punctuality, smart dress, politeness and formality are all expected.
When handling introductions, it’s best to use titles instead of first names and introduce your manager to your client first. Meetings tend to be brisk, to the point affairs. English is widely spoken in meetings, though a quick greeting in French (Swiss French deviates little from the mother tongue) wouldn’t go amiss.
The five-star Le Richemond, one of the city’s grand dames of the Belle Epoque era, has recently been refurbed, with lake views and one of the world’s most extravagant suites at an eye-watering $17,500 a night.
The Swissotel Metropole has signature rooms with neat features like an ironing on arrival service and whizzy room-high mirrors, which double up as huge TVs you can connect to your I-pad.
In a city not known for its affordable hotels, Design Hotel F 6 is a smart budget option, with free Wi-Fi, meeting spaces and in-room Nespresso coffee machines.
Restaurants to Impress
There is no shortage of top tables in Geneva to wow clients. L’Adresse is a stylish bistro-cum-fashion-boutique, up a red staircase in a former artist’s studio in the Eaux-Vives district.
Rasoi by Vineet in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is an interesting proposition, being Europe’s only Michelin-starred Indian restaurant.
If you’re forking out yourself, then Café du Rond Point is a stalwart budget bet serving reliable brasserie fare. With its corner terrace it also makes for a fine meeting point and people watching space in the heart of the city.
Food & Drink
The Geneva region is renowned for its pastry produce. Some tempting morsels you may want to try include Gâteau du Vully, a sweet, yeasty dough and Malakoffs, a type of deep fried cheese doughnut of Crimean origin.
Swiss white wine is excellent but rarely exported, so take the chance to stow a few bottles of Chasselas Mondeuse from Lake Geneva vineyards into your case.
FloorTwo at the Grand Kempinski Hotel has a panoramic terrace where you can gaze out at the Jet d’Eau while sipping a signature cognac and Cointreau cocktail.
For a more intimate, bohemian vibe, head to Café Marius on Place des Augustines, a cosy Art Deco wine bar oozing Left Bank charm. If you’re hitting the tiles in a group, then Café Cuba on Place du Cirque is a lively Latin outpost that does a mean mojito.
London City runs 19 flights a week to Geneva, with four daily flights on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The majority of the best business hotels are within a few hundred metres to the right of the main train station, Gare de Cornavin
Public transport in Geneva runs like clockwork, as you’d expect, taking in buses, trams, trains and even yellow taxi-boats that traverse the lake. You’ll get a free Transport Pass courtesy of your hotel, plus an 80-minute pass at the airport when you arrive.
The train from the airport takes just 6 minutes to reach the downtown area. The business district is on the River Droite (Right Bank) 2 kilometres north of the station, while the Left Bank is home to an elegant Old Town and University.
Once you’ve finished your business, take a tour of the Palais des Nations. The United Nations’ European HQ and cradle of diplomacy houses 2,000 artworks, including Miquel Barcelo’s incredible ceiling fresco.
You’d be hard-pressed to miss the Jet D’Eau, the lakefront water fountain that shoots a jet 140 metres into the air, while Geneva’s answer to Greenwich Village, the market town of Carouge is worth the tram ride, packed with leafy squares of Sardinian architecture, galleries, craft workshops and boutiques.
For more, see our guide for how to spend 24 hours in Geneva.
Business need to know
Being a major conference centre, Geneva attracts all manner of events, from the International Motor Show in March to CERN’s open days in May and Europe’s biggest sailing regatta in June.
The Swiss have a reputation for being early adopters of new technology, so IT companies are thriving here. Other growth areas include health and pharmaceuticals, while the more traditional industry of watch production is booming again, thanks to fresh demand from Asia.
Watch your hands! The Swiss are less demonstrative than their European neighbours, so don’t go overboard using your hands in meetings. Whatever you do, don’t point at your head as this can be interpreted as an insult.
Learn more about Geneva on the tourist board’s website.