Travel Guide to Geneva, the Chic Swiss City
Last summer I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days exploring the Swiss city of Geneva. It was my first time to the city, and to the country of Switzerland, and nothing could prepare me for its undeniable beauty (and its extortionate prices!). My visit to Geneva came at the start and end of my trip to the ski resort of Nendaz, where I spent a week enjoying summer in the Alps for the first time in my life. Just a short flight from London (1h 40m), Geneva plays host to the United Nations HQ and is the perfect place for a short weekend city break no matter what time of year. Surrounded by stunning countryside and boasting an enormous, clear blue lake with the famous Jet D’Eau water fountain at its heart, Geneva is truly captivating. The cobbled streets of the old town provide history and culture, contrasting perfectly with the snazzy sidewalks of the new town, with its designer shopping quarter reflecting the city’s wealth. I only had 1 night/2 days to explore this pretty place, but here’s what I got up to during my time there…
Marvel at the Jet D’Eau & wander round Lake Geneva
The focal point of the entire city and probably its most famous attraction, Lake Geneva and it’s wonderful Jet D’Eau are an absolute must-see when in the Swiss capital. You can’t really miss them to be honest, and you wouldn’t want to either as they are stunning! The blue water shimmers in the bright sunshine whilst the Jet D’Eau, an enormous fountain that shoots water 100ft high into the air, dominates the city skyline, with surrounding mountains in the background. You can take a boat across the river to see the rest of the city from the water, or just simply walk around the lake and admire it from every angle whilst staying nice and dry. I walked round the lake a couple of times during my short stay in Geneva and loved nothing more than parking myself on a bench, devouring some gelato and staring into the deep blue water watching the world go by. Look out for the swans though – they are EVERYWHERE!
Take a stroll around the Old Town
I’m a sucker for an Old Town, and I wasn’t sure where Geneva’s was during my first couple of hours as I wandered around aimlessly on my own whilst waiting for the other girls on my blogger trip to arrive. However, after consulting my map and tearing myself away from the Lake for a few minutes, I realised that the Old Town lay just behind the busy district quarter and could see the spire of St Pierre’s Cathedral peeping from behind the tall buildings. The Old Town is quite small, but really cute with cobbled streets, tiny buildings and traditional shops and restaurants. Just as you’d expect, there was a wonderful cathedral right at its beating heart, and St Pierre’s was a really beautiful church with a tall, striking spire. The Old Town is also home to the longest wooden bench in the world, The Marronnier de la Treille, and was built in 1767. At 413ft long, the bench snakes around Geneva’s promenade and is tucked behind the city hall, overlooking the pretty La Treille Park. Despite having almost every aspect of an Old Town, this area didn’t actually have a central market square from which everything centred around, and I kind of missed that element when comparing Geneva to other European cities. It is split right in half from the New Town to the Old Town though, so I guess the split kind of centres everything, I just missed having a market square to wander round!
Wander through Jardin Anglais
One of the most popular areas of Geneva is without doubt the beautiful Jardin Anglais. Best enjoyed in summer, the gardens are a colourful spectacle which come alive in the sunshine and create picture perfect photo opportunities at every turn. The famous ‘clock face’ is built into the floral displays and is the busiest place for a quick selfie, although you may have to battle your way through the crowds first! You can take a train through the gardens for a relaxing ride around the park, or why not hop on a boat at the edge of the pier and take a trip over the lake? There are small shops, café’s and ice cream vans at every turn offering plenty of food and drink if you fancy a picnic, but you’re still just a stones throw from the Old Town with its winding cobbled streets if you’re wanting to eat a little more substantially.
Shop til you drop in the business quarter
For a city with so much history, it may surprise you to see a vast row of ultra-modern office buildings and high end stores and eateries right in the middle of the city. Located just behind Lake Geneva, and with St Stephen’s Cathedral and the Old Town in the distance, the business quarter screams luxury and adds a new dimension to Geneva. Women totter around in high heels, guys stride confidently in their suits, and there are children being pushed in designer prams everywhere you look! Geneva is well known for its jewellery and watch-making, and this plays a huge part in the retail market here. I don’t tend to shop or spend much time in business quarters when I’m on a city break, mainly because I can’t think of anything worse than going clothes shopping when I’m abroad, but this place has a different feel to it and I was weirdly drawn to its luxurious centre. Whilst you wouldn’t catch me in Prada, I did find myself wandering around for an hour admiring all the glamorous locals and people watching to the max whilst I was stuffing my face with gelato and trying to look posh! When in Geneva…
Where to eat/drink
I had such a short amount of time in Geneva that I didn’t really get chance to sample the Swiss cuisine or try out any of the local restaurants. As I spent the night in a hostel with my blogger friends, and it was chucking it down with rain, we actually decided to get food from the supermarket for a quick meal and had a movie night in the hostel common room, chatting with fellow travellers and soaking up the bacpacker vibes before we were treated to 5* luxury in our ski chalet over in Nendaz! We passed a number of fancy restaurants by the lake and in the old town though, and they did look amazing! There were some on the waterfront with gorgeous views, and some tucked away down side streets in the old town, and they all looked super cute but quite expensive. As we were staying close to the train station, there wasn’t a large selection of restaurants within close walking distance and we didn’t want to go far as it was raining so much. If I had more time though, and wasn’t on as much of a budget, I definitely would have wandered down to the lake to check out some of the eateries that were on offer. I know cheese fondue is huge in Switzerland (we had it loads in Nendaz!) so I would highly recommend treating yourself to this delicious dish whilst you’re in Geneva!
Where to stay
As we were only there for one night at the start of our blogger trip, we didn’t want to pay a lot of money and were on a limited budget. Everything in Geneva is damn right expensive, but when we found a hostel for £30pp we jumped for joy and booked it as quickly as we possibly could! We stayed in City Hostel Geneva which was in a great location, not far from the train station and within walking distance to all the major attractions in the city. Unfortunately it was really hot that night and the air con wasn’t great, but it was only for one night and we survived! The proximity to the train station really helped though and I would definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for somewhere cheap to stay in a city which is super expensive. Otherwise, have a look at some of the independent/chain hotels located near the train station, they all looked very fancy and expensive, but if you can afford to splash the cash then there’s no better place to do it than Geneva!
As you can see, my time in Geneva was short and sweet but super fun, and it made for a lovely start and finish to my week long trip in Nendaz. Although one of the most expensive cities I have EVER visited, Geneva is one of those places with serious wow factor, and you actually don’t mind paying over the odds to just enjoy being in the Swiss city. Summer was a great time to visit and made the gorgeous lake look even more blue and sparkly, but I can imagine in winter the place feels super festive and looks amazing too. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be sure to have a magical stay in wonderful Geneva. Have you ever been before? Let me know what you thought of it, and if it was worth the money!
Love Jess x