Sailing boat on Lake Geneva

One city, five ways: Geneva

While famed as a diplomatic and business hub and for its calming Alpine scenery, Geneva also offers much more. It’s home to artisans with exacting standards who craft everything from luxe timepieces to next-level chocolate, but also to innovative chefs serving up fusion fare. And that’s before you even come to its world-class museums and galleries. Whatever your tastes, here are some suggestions for making the most of any downtime in Geneva

Stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Geneva

The family traveller

There’s much to recommend taking to Lake Geneva by boat. Afterwards, visit a lakeside beach – best for younger children is Baby Plage next to pretty La Grange Park – or take a dip in Geneva-Plage’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. Teenagers might like the chance to learn to stand-up paddleboard, wakeboard or perfect their diving techniques from the high boards. Sporting activities aside, you can earn some serious parenting points by taking the smallest people in your life to Geneva’s famed toy paradise, Franz Carl Weber.

Shops line Rue du Rhone, Geneva

The luxe lover

For a small city, Geneva truly punches above its weight when it comes to shopping. Rue du Rhone – just a short walk across the river from Mandarin Oriental, Geneva – should be the first port of call for those with a penchant for luxury (you’ll find the big-hitters such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel and Christian Louboutin here). For more offbeat purchases, search for vintage treasures at Plainpalais flea market or hunt for rare editions at Marché de la Fusterie’s Tuesday and Friday book market. The cradle of watchmaking, the city’s shops read like a roll-call of master horologists, from Rolex to Vacheron Constantin. The Patek Philippe Museum covers off watchmaking through the ages and has a collection of extraordinary timepieces. As for the famed Swiss chocolate: taste as you walk on a tour with in-the-know experts Local Flavours or buy handmade pralines at the legendary Du Rhône.

Fish dishes at Yakumanka at Mandarin Oriental, Geveva

The gourmand

Geneva is Switzerland’s gourmet capital, with scores of restaurants distinguished by the prestigious Gault Millau and Michelin guides. To find the most exciting food, eschew formal fine dining and opt for something more contemporary. At Michelin-starred Le Flacon in Carouge, chef Yoann Caloué serves up dishes almost too theatrically perfect to eat (almost). Meanwhile, the ceviche and pisco sours at fresh arrival Yakumanka are a must-try. It’s a much-buzzed about, multi-tasking restaurant and bar from super-chef Gastón Acurio, and can be found within Mandarin Oriental, Geneva. If that’s piqued your interest in Peru, try Geneva’s take on Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian) at Alma.

Bright artworks on display at Skopia

The art lover

It’s easy and rewarding to gallery-hop between the small contemporary art and photography spaces in Geneva’s arts district of Quartier de Bains: try Skopia, which began life promoting Swiss talent in the 1990s but now has an international remit, or the CPG (Centre de la Photographie Genève). On a larger scale is the city’s most high profile art space, a former factory turned art temple, Mamco, the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum. And while Art Basel is Switzerland’s best known art fair, it’s not the only one: Artgenève art fair takes place at the Palexpo exhibition centre each year.

Visitors stroll by Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons

The wellness seeker

Geneva’s a wonderful place for a wellness hit. Savour the lake panoramas alongside the locals at the Bains des Paquis and alternate refreshing alfresco dips with relaxing sauna time. Afterwards, enjoy a moment of calm in the pretty Jardin d’Anglais, a manicured garden which has sat at the water’s edge since 1854. Round off the day with a relaxing body exfoliation, massage and wrap at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva’s La Suite Beauté.

Mandarin Oriental Geneva
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A child plays in a water fountain in Geneva

The best of Geneva for families

Chocolate-making and toy-train building are part of daily life and there are a variety of pretty public spaces to run wild in. No wonder families with young children love Switzerland’s second city