When you think of Switzerland, you probably think of romantic log cabins and ski slopes, mais non – Switzerland in the summertime is a whole other scene. Instead of ice boots and deerskin hats donning the heads of Geneva’s fashion set, come summertime, people are dressed to impress in chic resort wear as the temperature soars, and locals and visitors alike flock to the beaches (yes, beaches) and shady terraces around the lake.
As Switzerland’s second largest city, a substantial percentage of the city’s residents are non-Swiss, making Geneva a truly cosmopolitan summer destination. With glorious weather, crystal-clear bathing waters, and excellent restaurants, not to mention its many boutique hotels and copious shopping opportunities, this city has all the makings of a great vacation.
CF Top Tip: you can pick up a complimentary public transport pass – the Geneva Resort Pass – at any hotel reception upon arrival and explore the city for free.
THE PACKING EDIT
Arrive and get your bearings by enjoying a leisurely sunset stroll along the banks of Lake Geneva, and take (one of many) photographs of the impressive Jardin d’Anglais fountain – the icon of the city. The best spots for a photo are the Pont du Mont-Blanc Bridge over the Rhône, and the Promenade du Lac alongside the lake’s left bank.
Post photoshoot, check into Hotel Bristol, which is within walking distance of both the train station and the lake. A discreet bolthole, its eye-catching interiors will woo guests – the heavy mahogany panelling in the lobby, the classic 1920s lift, and romantic saloon bar beyond are rather wowing; the pièce de résistance though is a spiral staircase fringed with portraits of generations of the owners, the Du Boisrouvray family.
Every Saturday and Wednesday (and first Sunday of the month), the district of Plainpalais transforms into one of Switzerland’s biggest flea markets. It’s worth the tram ride to explore the myriad of stalls which sell everything from second-hand clothes, to jewellery, knick-knacks, and books. The rest of the week, the square transforms into a food market, with a range of fruit, vegetables, cheese, and spices on sale. When you’ve worn yourself out, head to the 30s-inspired café and ice-cream parlour, Remor, and watch the world go by from its outdoor terrace, cone in hand.
Depending on how much time you take to rummage, the impressive MAMCO art gallery, situated in a disused factory, is worth tagging onto your afternoon plans. It’s important to note that museums are closed on Monday, but museums in Geneva are free on the first Sunday of the month. Another gallery worth a look is the Bauer Foundation of Far Eastern Art, which can be found in the depths of the Old Town and is housed within a stunning 19th-century townhouse.
Meanwhile, watch lovers will want to make a beeline for Patek Philippe Museum. Spread over four floors, the swish museum has over 2,000 watches on display, dating back as far as 1540 – you can even gush over watches worn by Queen Victoria and the King of Siam.
All that exploring warrants some substantial Swiss sustenance. Stop off at La Potinière restaurant on the shores of Lake Geneva, an outdoorsy restaurant that’s popular with families and couples – as a solo traveller, I felt equally at home.
After a morning of sightseeing, give your feet a rest by spending the afternoon being chauffeured around by electric taxi. Book a trip with Taxi Bike to the city’s impressive vineyards. Although Swiss wine is not hugely known in the UK, winemakers like the Domaine Les Perrières vineyard in Satigny have been making wine here for decades and their expert guides offer vineyard tours and tastings which provide a solid introduction to the area’s offering.
After returning to your hotel and freshening up, catch one of the yellow taxi boats or ‘seagulls’ over to the Old Town for dinner. Brasserie Lipp, tucked behind the city’s main shopping drag, offers diners a taste of Paris. Enter into a delightful courtyard decorated with pretty fairy lights; knowledgable staff will be only pleased to talk you through the tempting menu.
With so many chocolate shops winking at you, you might get overwhelmed, so it is well worth booking in for a professional chocolate experience – even if you don’t have a sweet tooth. Starting at 10AM at a central spot, your informed guide from Local Flavours Tour will ensure a seamless exploration of the city’s most delicious spots. During your tour you will be guided through the riveting history of Genevan chocolate, with lots of anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Whilst suitable for all walking abilities, do wear comfy shoes as you’re out for approximately three hours. Visiting five special chocolatiers and plenty of other historical monuments, there’s a lot of proverbial ground to cover.
You probably won’t be ready for lunch at 1PM after the morning’s treats, so (as if you need an excuse) take an hour or two to hit the shops around the pretty pedestrianised Place du Bourg-de-Four. I stopped into La Muse and Jill Wolf Jewels.
When hunger strikes, try the locally recommended Osteria Della bottega. This Michelin-starred eatery offers homemade macaroni with clams, broad beans, and roasted cherry tomatoes and cod, celeriac, pears, and squash, amongst other savoury dishes. Follow your main with a tiramisu paired with a scoop of banana and hazelnut ice cream. Post-prandial, take a boat ride down the river to the man-made beach, Genève-Plage, which has an entrance fee. Next, head to neighbouring Tropical Corner to enjoy a paddleboarding session in the clear lake, or for those feeling less energetic Bain Bleu is a Turkish style spa, complete with six-step hammam. It also boasts a very cool rooftop pool, terrace, and lounge-café with an indirect view on Lake Geneva.
Wear some loose fitting clothes (the key is a stretch waistband) and plan for your last supper at the primely located Café Papon, a quaint, French-inspired bistro where the compact menu changes every six weeks or so. Post-dinner, head back to the hotel satiated and happy in the knowledge that you only have a seven-minute stroll to the train station in the morning.