Geneva’s fairgrounds and exhibition centers are among it’s greatest attractions. A financial and business hub, this lakeside city rarely appears on the travel lists of holiday destinations. But if, between meetings, you manage to have a couple of hours for leisure, some of the following options could serve to reconcile you with the Swiss respectability.
A walking tour will help you discover Geneva`s highlights. Its spine is the Rhone River, which drains into Lake Geneva. You will not get lost if you take as reference points the Lake and Molard Square—which leads to the city center. Choose a hotel near the old town, and if your objective is to do some shopping walk to the Grand Rue.
Located opposite the Palace of Justice is the first shop built by the Geneva Company Caran d’Ache, specialized in painting materials. Guests are greeted with a burst of color in the form of pencils, oils, watercolors and pastels. In the Grand Rue, you will find Theodora, the old fine-perfumery boutique filled with bottles of Lorenzo Villoresi, the exclusive Frederic Malle or classics like Fragonard and Molinard. The firm also produces custom made fragrances.
At Tip’s you will encounter designer accessories for the kitchen and table; and at L’empreinte you can purchase large-format books on fashion, art, and architecture. But the biggest attractions of this famous street are the art galleries, with Jan Krugier—one of the best in the world—as a lure, an invitation to the fine arts.
From almost every corner of this clean, wealthy and elegant city, one can see Mont Blanc—Europe’s highest mountain with its peak at almost 16,000 feet. And, at ground level, the lake, 50 miles long and nine wide. You will need an hour to navigate it, and if you wish to do so, there are two companies— Swissboat and CGN —located next to the elegant Hotel Beau-Rivage offering mini-cruises. The sojourn includes a “shower” under the Jet d’Eau, an emblematic fountain that expels 132 gallons of water per second, at 200 mph, and up to 459 feet. During the outing, you will also see castles—like the one belonging to Baron Adolphe de Rothschild. Also, noble residences like Villa Elma, a gift from Napoleon I to Empress Josephine in 1811, which later became the property of the jeweler Pierre Cartier.
Geneva is home to some 200 international organizations, which are located around the Place des Nations. A visit to the Palais des Nations—the European headquarters of the UN as well as their central offices for human rights, humanitarian help, development, and technology–is another exciting option. Once there, you can decide whether you like—or not—the dome by the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló. Considered by some the Sistine Chapel of the 21st century, the dome is the main attraction at the Chamber of Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations.
Three museums meet the expectations of those interested in art and culture. The one dedicated to the watchmaking firm Patek Philippe, not only displays their watches, but also those from other brands. If you are not an expert on timepieces, it is best to request a guided tour. Also worth a visit is the Bodmer Foundation— where you can admire the first Gutenberg Bible— and the Barbier-Muller Ethnographic Museum.
Unique for its golden ornaments and red and blue floor, the Chapel of the Maccabees in Saint Pierre’s Cathedral is another must. Erected in 1405, it has been used as a funeral chapel and school. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, it was transformed into a warehouse and, in the late 17th century it became an auditorium. In the 19th century, it went back to being used for worship, and in 1878 it was fully restored. Finally, we recommend Carouge, a small village close to Geneva, which is a unique example of post-medieval urbanism in Europe. ■