Geneva might be known as the European headquarters for the United Nations and also where the Red Cross is based and a nucleus for diplomacy and banking, but there is much to offer those looking for a luxury city break.
Shopping is a key attraction in this picturesque city next to the expansive Lake Geneva, and luxury watches have shaped the city over centuries. You can see glorious antique watches dating back to the 16th century at the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva, whilst you can also take the very modern immersive route and build your Swiss watch at Initium, which can include an all-day workshop.
The gastronomic side of Geneva is equally important to the local economy. Luxury chocolate is synonymous with Geneva and there’s no better way to discover the finest delights enjoyed by locals than going on a chocolate flavours tour with Local Flavours tours. They run small group tours to artisanal chocolateries interspersed with fascinating local stories.
One of the key stories is that of Fête de l’Escalade, which celebrates the defeat of the last attempted takeover of the city more than 400 years ago. The celebration happens on December 11th or the closest weekend and includes eating a large chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables and candies.
There is also the choco pass which allows you to sample chocolate treats from all participating chocolatiers over 24 hours. This includes La Bonbonnière Chocolaterie et Chocolate Bar, which produces lusciously creamy hot chocolate drinks and also Stettler and Castrischer, who famously created pavé de Genève. This famous local treat is rumoured to be a personal favourite of the Japanese emperor, who has tonnes shipped to him by plane each year.
The great thing about visiting Geneva is you are 20-minutes away from the countryside where you can breathe the freshest of alpine air and indulge in some bespoke wine tasting.
Swiss wines are rarely exported abroad, so you should consider visiting family-run wineries like Domaine des Esserts and sample local specialities like Gamay and Chasselas wine. It’s been run in the same family for eight generations. Afterwards, you can dine out nearby, at Café de Peney, where you can order your favourite wine and try their local classics like terrine de canard à l’orange and quenelles de Poisson de mer.
In central Geneva, there is also Le Blanc Valet if you want to sample the region’s extensive wine offerings whilst trying out some local tapas-style dishes.
Switzerland has 122 Michelin-starred restaurants and Geneva has some exceptional ones like Il Lago at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Northern Italian fare isn’t always in abundance in Switzerland but at Il Lago, you’ll get some of the best in Europe such as the chef’s signature, spaghetti with tomato essence (tomato cooked three-ways) and the exquisitely presented, roasted scampi with assorted vegetables and sea asparagus and bisque. Chef Sena’s sharing concept has been gaining traction in the Michelin-starred world and increasingly more restaurants are offering this.
In the same hotel, there is the inventive Japanese-fusion Nikkei restaurant, Izumi on the rooftop. It is the only rooftop restaurant in Geneva offering a 360-degree view of the city and frequently has a waiting list of months for securing a table. Geneva is one of the most multicultural cities in Switzerland, so you will find cuisines from all over the world within easy reach.
Where to stay
The best place to stay is Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Apart from having those two outstanding restaurants, the hotel has enchanting views of the magical lake and the snow-capped Alps. You could potentially view the world-famous Jet d’Eau from the comfort of your balcony suite.
The hotel has been a landmark since 1834 being the first palace built in Switzerland. Politicians and celebrities have stayed in these relaxing Pierre-Yves Rochon–designed rooms and their rooftop heated swimming pool is the best way to enjoy a gentle workout in town.
In a nutshell
Geneva is a fantastic all-year-round destination, so make sure you check out the city next time you are thinking of a city escape.
For the most up-to-date information on travelling to Geneva, check out geneve.com