Geneva travel guide: things to do for a city break, hotels, gastronomy
Jet d’Eau and Lake Geneva
You cannot miss Geneva’s most famous site. The Jet d’Eau projects water from the lake 140 meters in the air, higher than the Statue of Liberty, and dominates the views. A ride on the lake is a must, whether it’s a full cruise on a luxury steamer or a quick crossing on one of the yellow ‘gull’ waterbuses.
We enjoyed both and became adept at crossing the lake by boat to avoid walking in the very atypical sweltering July heat. A walk along the shores of the lake, with a stop at one of the many bars and cafes, is also a good way to pass some time and soak up the town.
Take a bike taxi ride
To experience the grounds, we took a bicycle taxi tour, passing renowned sights such as the Flower Clock, made up of 12,000 flowers and Swiss precision engineering next to the charming Jardin des Anglais at the edge of the lake. The taxi-vélo also stopped at the Reformers’ Wall in the Parc des Bastions under the high fortified walls of the Old City. John Calvin and other fathers of the Protestant Reformation still cast a stone’s eye and influence on this city of tradition and modernity. We drove to Carouge, a Mediterranean-influenced suburb with a lively bohemian vibe.
Visit the old town
The pedicab can’t climb the steep climb, but it’s well worth the short hike to the medieval old town leading to St. Peter’s Cathedral where Calvin preached. We climbed the tower through old roof beams for probably the best views over the city and Lake Geneva to the mountains beyond. The charming surrounding streets are full of shops, bars and restaurants that invite exploration.
Geneva offers world-class shopping opportunities as well as offers for more modest budgets. At the edge of the lake, rue du Rhône and the surrounding streets, elite brands such as Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Hermès, Tiffany, Patek Philippe, Breitling and Cartier, (to name but a few), are jostle side by side and compete for the attention of well-heeled customers. But beware shoppers: Sunday is still a day off in Geneva and most shops will be closed. You will need to do your shopping before the stores close on Saturday.
Get a Geneva Resort Pass
Keen to promote the city as a summer destination, Geneva Tourism has created a Geneva Resort Pass for July and August which offers visitors free and unlimited public transport and free entry or discounts to dozens of attractions and experiences for one, two or three days. Fancy paragliding? Chocolate tasting? Watchmaking? Museums? A walking tour? An e-bike wine tasting tour? These are just a few of the options available.
Museums, galleries and other attractions
For those wishing to explore more of the city’s history and culture, the United Nations, CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, the Red Cross Museum, the Patek Philippe Museum (clocks, watches and more again), the Museum of Ethnography and MAMCO (contemporary art), and the Botanical Gardens are all popular and open throughout the summer season. Unfortunately, we found so many things to do during our short stay in Geneva that we left with a distinct feeling that we’ll just have to go back and see them another time.
Get on your bike and taste some wine
Eager to get into the countryside and sample some local wines, we joined an e-bike wine tasting tour from a short tram ride from the city center. The e-bike made the hills easy and will reward cyclists with beautiful scenery and a quick training in Geneva viticulture from one of the small local producers whose produce goes mainly to local restaurants and private buyers straight from the cellars. We also had the perfect encapsulation of this city of tradition and modernity as we passed the CERN nuclear research laboratory on one side of the ride and a small plantation of old vines sprawling on the other.