Geneva is nestled like a diamond in the heart of Europe, its famous lake shimmering and glinting in the sunshine to catch the eye of every visitor. The world’s tallest water fountain, the Jet d’Eau, can be seen from almost any part of the city and provides you with a constant reference point if you should become disoriented whilst exploring the many streets full of boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. But getting lost can be a great way to discover a new destination and Geneva is a wonderful place to get lost in, although to be honest, with free public transport you needn’t take a wrong turning unless you really want to!
As you stroll around Geneva’s Old Town along the traditional cobbled streets you cannot fail to notice the spire of St. Peter’s Cathedral almost following you at every turn. Take the time to head in and see for yourself this architectural delight before making your way down the Maison Tavel, Geneva’s oldest building.
If retail therapy rather than architecture is more your thing then you must make plans to visit the exclusive Rue du Rhone and Rue de Rive for a little extravagant window shopping. You may notice that many of the items in the window displays will not have price tags and the old saying, ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ definitely rings true here. For bargains the Plainpalais flea-market on Wednesday and Sunday is the hot-spot for curios, antiques and designer label vintage clothing…but be prepared to haggle for the best deals.
Being at the foot of the Alps you can enjoy a day trip to see the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc. It is just an hour away by car or train through scenic countryside that winds its way up to the famous resort of Chamonix. Take the cable car up to the top and enjoy an exquisite vista of the snow-covered Alps whilst enjoying your coffee on the sun terrace. You can, of course, stay closer to Geneva and enjoy the cable-car ride up to the top of Saleve, Geneva’s own mountain, which offers the most amazing views of the city, lake and surrounding mountains.
For many people, Geneva is just a day trip or a quick overnight stop before traveling on to their destination. This is a shame because the city has so much to offer and cannot be fully appreciated in such a short time, but if you have limited time options then here are the top ten things to see and do in Geneva.
1. Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau
Geneva’s most famous landmark pushes 500 liters of water per second to make its water jet reach heights of 140 meters.
2. Old Town and St Peter’s Cathedral
Climb up to the top of the tower using the 157 steps (I counted!) to gain a perspective of the city like no other.
3. Place des Nations
Facing the Palace de Nations watch the water jets rise up at irregular intervals across the patio of granite slabs. In the center stands the iconic ‘Broken Chair’ which stands symbolically in the protest against landmine use around the world.
A wonderful throwback to the district’s Southern Mediterranean history. With shaded terraces against the sunlight, you can explore shops, street cafes and bars for a distinct atmosphere to the rest of Geneva. Come back at night and join the trendy, rich and beautiful in this marvelous area of the city.
5. CERN’s Globe of Science & Innovation
40 meters in diameter and 27 meters high makes this a very distinctive landmark which at night gives off a golden glow. Step inside for the free tour and experience the real Big Bang Theory in the ‘Universe of Particles’ exhibition.
6. The Alpine Garden
Relax in the beautiful gardens surrounded by the many plant varieties that blossom and bloom all year round.
7. Patek Philippe Museum
See Geneva’s fine heritage of exquisite watch-making in one of the world’s finest watchmakers museum dedicated to the art.
8. The Reformation Wall
John Calvin, John Knox, Theodore Beza and William Farel look down from the wall at the center of the Parc des Bastions. These four men were at the very heart of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century.
9. Quartier des Bains
This district is crammed full of art galleries, exhibitions and bohemian bars and cafes. Definitely worth a visit.
10. Rooftop 42
This is a bar that offers some of the best views across Lake Geneva and the harbor. Go celebrity spotting of an evening and soak up the trendy atmosphere of this roof-top bar.
An experienced freelance writer who has produced articles that have appeared in both traditional print publications as well as found across many websites in a huge variety of genres and specialist niches. He is also the author of a gritty and thrilling series of crime novels featuring DCI Peter Carter of the Homicide & Serious Crime Unit of the London Metropolitan Police.