One of Kenny’s former clients was in Geneva, Switzerland, and his work required him to spend several months living and working there. Fortunately, it gave me the perfect excuse to come visit and explore the city. Nestled between the banks of its namesake lake and the Alps, Geneva showcases the confluence of old Europe, modern sensibilities, and the opulent wealth for which Swiss banks are known.
Geneva is bisected by the River Rhone leading to Lake Geneva and its life very much revolves around the water. One of Geneva’s most iconic landmarks is the Jet d’Eau, a giant fountain in the marina that shoots water straight into the air up to 460 feet. Both sides of the river and lake are lined with parks, restaurants, and trails so that you can take in the outdoors year-round. Even when the weather is cold, a walk along the Quai du Mont Blanc on the north side or Promenade du Lac on the south side provides gorgeous vistas.
The old city lies on the south side of the lake and river and the highlight of the area is St. Peter’s Cathedral. Originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries, it towers above Geneva and offers stunning views from the towers, overlooking the rest of the old city and out onto the lake.
Exploring Geneva is easy, with a convenient network of trams that criss cross the city and surrounding areas. We particularly enjoyed wandering through Parc des Bastions, with its wide tree-lined avenues. We stopped for a pint and a game of oversized checkers.
Parc des Bastions also houses the enormous International Monument to the Reformation (also known as the Reformation Wall). It includes statues of ten leaders of the Protestant Reformation, including John Calvin and Oliver Cromwell.
Just across from Parc des Bastions, you can find the Grand Théâtre de Genève, a gorgeous opera house, where we took in a performance of Verdi’s Nabucco.
But more than anything else we saw or did in Geneva, we most enjoyed collecting some fresh meats, cheeses, and bread (and maybe a little bubbly) for a picnic on the banks of Lake Geneva.
Unlike many of the more fast-paced cities you can visit, Geneva is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and it was fantastic to enjoy old world European charm while taking in the natural beauty that the lake, river, and mountains provide.
For a peaceful lunch, we enjoyed walking across the bridge to Île Rousseau. Resting in the center of the Rhone, just south of Lake Geneva, it is a small island connected by pedestrian bridges to either side of Geneva. It houses a small café run by the nearby Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, offering sandwiches, light meals, beer, and wine. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite and sit outside to enjoy the scenic view of the Jet d’Eau.
Of course, no trip to Switzerland would be complete without sampling (or scarfing) the chocolate for which they are so well known. Our favorite shop, by far, is Läderach. They have a remarkable variety of chocolates, from white chocolate raspberry to the more traditional and ubiquitous hazelnut milk chocolate. They make them into sheets the size of file folders and stack them in the window, tempting you to test the depths of your gluttony. We managed to avoid the impulse to eat everything in stock, and they kindly offer smaller boxes with more reasonably portioned samples of each different chocolate on offer.
The city can be rather expensive, but there are plenty of affordable options abound if you look for them (e.g., making a picnic lunch to enjoy on the lakeside rather than splurging at an expensive restaurant). Another word of warning: nearly everything shuts down on Sundays. Locals enjoy the day with their families, so you’ll see plenty of people out and about on the promenades, and even most restaurants are closed. Look for signs that say they are open “7/7,” meaning “seven out of seven days.”
Geneva is a terrific destination to explore a city with beautiful architecture, landscapes, and extraordinary charm. It moves at a much more relaxed pace than many other European cities, but that only adds to its allure.
Do you have advice or a recommendation for this destination? Please feel free to post the details in the comments section below!