Slap in the heart of Europe, this buzzy, internationally minded city is perfect for a weekend break. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Old Town treats
Away from the glitzy lakeshores lined with high-end hotels, Geneva’s soul is the Old Town, a warren of pedestrian streets clustered around St Pierre Cathedral. Shop in quirky boutiques, marvel at the mechanical art on display at the M.A.D Gallery (Rue Verdaine 11; www.madgallery.net) and stop for coffee in the district’s beating heart, the lively Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva’s oldest square.
Another area brimming with history is pretty Carouge. It’s only a short tram ride to get there, but its Sardinian-style architecture means it feels like a different country. Pick up artisan crafts, antiques and designer clothing in its independent boutiques before sitting down to a glass of Swiss wine at bar Qu’importe (Rue Ancienne 1; www.quimporte.ch) or a meal designed by local celebrity chef Philippe Chevrier at his bistro, Café des Négociants (Rue de la Filature 29; www.negociants.ch).
Geneva’s ultra-cool Bains district is a hub for emerging artists, whose work is exhibited at numerous galleries and museums including the fabulous modern art museum, Mamco (Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers; www.mamco.ch).
As well as art, there are hip bars, boutiques and cafés, such as Birdie coffee shop (Rue des Bains 40; birdiecoffee.com), which does a mean brunch. The Bains really comes into its own during the quarterly museums night, when all the galleries stay open late for an art-inspired street party.
Curled around the western end of Lac Léman and close to the Jura mountains, Geneva isn’t a place to stay indoors. Follow the locals to the lakeshores to stroll, sunbathe and swim at popular bathing spots such as Genève Plage or the Bains des Pâquis – a 1930s public bathing house with spa facilities and a funky terrace restaurant that’s great for people-spotting. You can even swim in winter, if you dare to brave the chilly water.
Just outside Geneva is its ‘local mountain’, the Salève. Take the short bus ride from the city centre to the bottom of the hill, then either hike up or ride the cable car to the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the urban sprawl below. On a clear day, you can even see
Mont Blanc. Cocktail crazy
Don’t believe the rumours that Geneva’s nightlife is boring – you just have to know where to look. This cocktail-crazy city has myriad places to sip a quality concoction. Two of the best are La Verre à Monique (Rue des Savoises 19; www.verreamonique.ch), a speakeasy-style boudoir, and L’Apothicaire Cocktail Club (Boulevard Georges Favon 16; www.apothicairecocktail.club). Or head to new hotspot Bleu Nuit (Rue du Vieux-Billard 4; www.bleunuit.ch) for an Early Grey Fizz at its secret bar, accessed through a fridge door.
Talking of secret, you don’t expect to find an oyster bar hidden out the back of a burger joint, but that’s where you’ll discover the wonderfully quirky Chez Henri (Rue Philippe-Plantamour 37; www.chezhenri.ch).