Geneva: Why It’s More Than Just Another Swiss City

united-nations-geneva

This is a guest post by Anna Timbrook. She was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on her travel blog with her husband.

When people think of Switzerland the first city that often comes to mind is Zurich.

I am not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because it is the finance capital of Switzerland. Or maybe it’s because so many scenes of spy movies are shot around there. But either way, Zurich is the place to be. Or is it?

In the south-western corner of Switzerland lies another gem of a city, one well worth putting on your Swiss or European itinerary: the Swiss-French city of Geneva!

The Location Is Second To None

shores-lake-geneva

Looks count. We all know that. And when you soak up the vistas from the shores of Lake Geneva, you will know what they built a city here.

Not only is this one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, it also has the Alps falling almost into the lake. So, you can wake up in Geneva in the morning, and be skiing or hiking within an hour or two at the very most.

And to top it all off, with any lake nearby, you are also going to get rivers. Geneva has the Rhone winding its way right through the center of town, and its smaller sister the Arve as well. Great places to have a picnic while exploring this amazing town.

Wine Is In Their Blood

The south of Switzerland gets inundated with sun which means many a wine grower has settled in this region. They have planted their vines along the shores and produce some of the best wines in Switzerland.

Afternoon drinks anyone? This is the place to do it! You can simply have a glass of wine on any terrace in Geneva, or make a day trip of it by visiting the nearby wineries. You can either take an organised tour or use public transport and walk from vineyard to vineyard, sampling their wares as you go.

Either way, I don’t recommend driving, as you will likely be too drunk to responsibly drive home. Oh, and the public transport in Switzerland is second to none, so you should take advantage of it.

The Old Town Is Stunning

old-town-geneva

Ok, so you are in Europe, and old towns are everywhere. But Geneva can certainly hold their own. Once you get out of the train station area, where you are likely to arrive, the architecture and ambience is as good as anywhere I have visited in Switzerland. And I have lived here for over 15 years!

The old town sprawls over a small hill just on the edge of the town center, meaning not only that you get a nice workout when exploring here, but amazing views as well. From the historic architecture of the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, to the pleasant squares like Bourg-de-Four where you can unwind with a coffee or wine and just take in the scene.

I also enjoy just getting myself lost in places like this, taking any street that intrigues me or offers a less-travelled way to my next destination. And in this old town you are spoiled for choice.

There’s Great Window Shopping Too

tag-heuer-store-geneva

Right below the old town is Geneva’s more modern shopping district complete with shops you probably can’t afford to buy from.

From the likes of Omega and TAG Heuer, with their expensive watches, to top-notch brands like Burberry, Longchamp and Davidoff. This is elite shopping at it’s finest.

But don’t be put off by the expensive brands, there are also some shops for normal people – like you and I. Brands like Mango, Zara, and C&A are scattered around the area. And you can even pop into the Victorinox shop to grab yourself a genuine, and affordable, Swiss Army knife while you are here!

It’s Home To Some Unique Attractions

united-nations-geneva

Although the Swiss like to be neutral when it comes to the military, they also like to host some of the world’s greatest organisations. There is the Olympic headquarters in Lausanne, also on Lake Geneva, and the UN in Geneva itself. You can take a tour and get a unique peak into this very powerful organisation, just remember to book before you go. You can’t just “walk in”.

Switzerland is also renowned for watches. But of course you knew that. Rolex, Omega, Cartier and even Swatch. But they also produce some very expensive and niche brands like Patek Philippe. Both their headquarters and museum is in Geneva, and certainly worth a visit if you have the time.

Their Swimming Pools Are All Natural

swimming-bath-lake-geneva

Summer in Geneva is a time you won’t regret visiting either. Not only can you spend the whole day outdoors enjoying the sights of this gorgeous city, you can also cool off at the drop of a hat.

In most cities that would mean heading to the local swimming pool and throwing yourself in a chlorine-drenched pool with hundreds of other people. Not in Geneva!

They have a lake, and they certainly take advantage of it. Just take a stroll along the shores of the lake and you will surely come across the lake baths – Place de jeux des Bains des Pâquis. Another great option is to swim in the Rhône river at Plage du Rhône. Just be aware that it is a river and not a pool, so it’s best if you are a strong swimmer.

Food, Glorious Food

Last but not least, you absolutely have to indulge in the local cuisine while in the French part of Switzerland.

As a bit of a chocoholic, I can wholeheartedly recommend sampling the chocolate in Geneva. From the more mass-produced, but still incredibly tasty Läderach or Sprüngli, to the local producers like Auer or Chocolats Rohr. You won’t be disappointed with any of them.

Next there are the Creperies, a French favorite, but something you won’t find in the non-French parts of Switzerland. You can try a Nutella-filled crepe or a savory one, it sweet is not your thing. And there are lots of them scattered around the city.

And finally, there is cheese. Everywhere in Switzerland actually. After all, the countryside is full of cows, right? But each region has their own specialty, and often you can just pop into the supermarket and buy it. They usually stock dozens of regional specialties, both soft and hard cheeses. So you can make your own picnic and head down to the Ile Rousseau, a beautiful little island in the center of the Rhone, right in the middle of Geneva.

What’s Not To Love?

From stunning scenery to unique attractions and history, Geneva is a city many will absolutely fall in love with.

Give yourself at least one full day, or two if you have time, and you will wonder why you only now discovered this amazing Swiss city!

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