Saturday, September 19, 2015

Look See Eat's Guide to Switzerland: A weekend in Geneva!

Glorious Geneva. Despite its (relatively) miniscule size, it's one of the most well-known cities in Europe - and possibly the most famous one in Switzerland. How miniscule? It's got a population of just 197,000 - contrast that with the 7 million of UK and 3½ million of Berlin!

Geneva's the headquarters of a host of International Organisations and a plethora of private banks, so chances are you're visiting the city for work, or business, rather than for leisure. If you are, have got the weekend off and are wondering what to see and do, we've totally got you covered. Presenting the Look See Eat Guide to a Weekend in Geneva!

Start off the morning with a coffee and a croissant or a pain au chocolat, and take a stroll around the lac Léman. The city's most iconic landmark is the Jet d'Eau: A huge jet shooting water over 450 feet in the air. The current jet was installed in 1951 and is turned on from sunrise to sunset, except when the wind's too strong.

Geneva Jet d'Eau
Jet d'Eau from the Right Bank (West of the Lake)

If the weather's warm enough, consider buying a gelato cone from one of the many shops on the lake banks and meander through the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) to the L'horloge Fleurie (Flower clock). This 5m-diameter clock was created in 1955 as a "symbol of the city's watchmakers and dedication to nature."

Geneva Jardin Anglais
One of the many sculptures in the Jardin Anglais

Geneva L'horloge Fleurie
L'horloge Fleurie (the Flower Clock)

The sightseeing continues with a detour to the Vieille Ville (Geneva Old Town) - a delightful maze of cobblestone'd paths perfect for wandering, people watching and admiring Swiss architecture. Turn off your phones, put away your maps, and just explore for a while.

Geneva Vielle Ville Old Town
Vieille Ville (Geneva Old Town)

Depending on how long you wandered, you might have time to squeeze in some shopping (window or otherwise) on Rue de Rive / Rue du Marche - Geneva's main shopping boulevard - before lunch. At the very least stop by Auer Chocolatier and pick up a box of their divine Amandes Princesses chocolate-coated almonds.

Geneva Shopping Street

Time now to grab some lunch! Geneva is an expensive city. The second most expensive in the world, in fact (according to UBS), so eating out can be rather alarming to the wallet. Food's generally decent, though, so pick a cafe or restaurant around the area that tickles your fancy.

If you'd like some recommendations, you probably can't go wrong with Café du Centre or Brasserie Lipp. Both are within walking distance.

Geneva Café du Centre Brasserie Lipp
Jamon Iberico at Brasserie Lipp, Lobster Risotto at Café du Centre

With stomachs replenished, let's put our free Geneva public transport cards to use by hopping on an electric tram or bus. Destination: The Patek Philippe Museum (CHF 10 entrance fee), which is a breathtaking homage to hundreds of years of Swiss watch-making tradition. Keep an eye on the clock: We need to wrap up our horology gawking by around 3pm.

Geneva Patek Philippe Museum
Patek Philippe Museum. Sorry no photos allowed inside!

Our final destination of the day is a 30-40 minute tram ride away: The United Nations Office at Geneva. Technically this isn't a tourist attraction per se; UNOG is an actual office of the UN, with all sorts of United Nations activities going on. They do provide guided tours for CHF 12, which are amazing as you'll get to walk around the premises admiring the various meeting halls, with your guide giving expert commentary. Generally the last tour of the day departs at 4pm, but do check the website for more up to date information.

United Nations Office at Geneva
Not quite the UN HQ, but good enough for a visit!

United Nations Office at Geneva
Touring the many conference halls in the premises

By the time you're done with the tour pretty much everything else will be closed (or closing soon), so there's not much else to do than to head back to the city to have some dinner. Some reasonably-priced options: Chez Ma Cousine (Roast chicken with gravy; pretty good, if a tad salty) or The Hamburger Foundation (Burgers and young, attractive, english-speaking waiters). Or if you're hankering for something more 'Swiss,' the fondue and raclette at Auberge de Savièse are solid choices that won't break the bank.

Geneva The Hamburger Foundation Auberge de Savièse
Meat platter at Auberge de Savièse, Burger at The Hamburger Foundation

It's back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation after a long day out on your feet. Get an early rest as tomorrow you'll need to be up and early: We're heading out of the city and across the border to France to visit Chamonix and the majestic Mont Blanc mountain - the highest peak in the European Alps. Stay tuned for the full post coming up soon, but in the meantime if you've got any questions do feel free to ask in the comments below!

Geneva Chamonix Mont Blanc
Coming Soon: Chamonix and the Mont Blanc mountains!


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