Better known as a top business and financial destination, Geneva offers much more to the discerning tourist with its range of parks, world-class music venues and museums to explore, and a wealth of fine dining to choose from
Geneva is a city of misconceptions. A global financial centre with a population that is 40 per cent expatriate, Switzerland’s second largest city – after Zurich – isn’t all wealth management and wall-to-wall business attire. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover that les Genevoise are as serious about pleasure as they are about making money, and few locals would be surprised to learn that Geneva was recently voted ‘Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2014’ at the World Travel Awards.
Parc des Eaux-Vives
Nestled neatly between the tail end of Geneva’s lake-filled summer and the sacred ski season, October is a smart time to visit this 4,000-year-old European gem. Parc de la Grange – gifted to the city in 1918 by the Favre family and boasting one of the grandest rose gardens in Europe – and neighbouring Parc des Eaux-Vives are ideal spots for an Indian summer picnic or a gentle autumnal stroll, with commanding views of Lake Geneva and the UN campus on the opposite shore. Ambling back towards the city centre, no trip to Geneva is complete without a visit to the city’s most recognisable landmark, the Jet d’Eau, with its stream of water that shoots 140 metres high into the air.
This October, the L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande will play several dates at the majestic Victoria Hall, a venue renowned among musicians and music lovers for both its ornate beauty and spine-tingling acoustics. Located on the Rue du Général-Dufour, the building was built between 1891 and 1894 in honour of Britain’s Queen Victoria.
The Carouge district
With Geneva’s watch-making history, it’s worth dropping by the Patek Philippe Museum in Plainpalais to experience 175 years of iconic brand evolution. Or if you are in town on a Wednesday or Saturday, head to the Plaine de Plainpalais, home to the city’s largest flea market, where colourful vendors wait to hawk you their antique furniture and assorted trinkets. From here, it is a short ride on the number 12 tram to the ‘Greenwich Village’ of Geneva, Carouge.
The terrace of Café Calla, Mandarin Oriental, Geneva
Dating from 1786 and built by Sardinians along the River Arve, the district of Carouge is a refreshing escape from the bustle of Geneva’s more well-trodden streets. From the looming church spires to the peaceful piazzas and numerous quainter-than-quaint cafés and shops, the slow pace of life in Carouge makes you feel as if you have crossed the border into Italy. For a top-class fondue, try Au Vieux Carouge. Adored by all who set foot inside, booking a table is highly recommended. Try the moitié-moitié – half Gruyère and half Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese – or tomato fondue, and wash down with a glass of crisp Swiss chasselas. For luxury café-style dining, try Mandarin Oriental’s new Café Calla on the banks of the River Rhône, where chef Nasser Jeffane offers a healthy, mouth-watering blend of Swiss and French cuisine using locally sourced produce.
Other staples of this highly walkable city include a wander around the cobblestoned Old Town, with a peek inside St Pierre Cathedral, built between 1160 and 1252. Order another glass of chasselas or a chocolat chaud in Place du Bourg-de-Four, while watching life in one of Europe’s most civilised destinations unfold around you.
Shannon Kilgore is a freelance lifestyle journalist in Geneva