I was fortunate to be in Geneva for a weekend in the early portion of summer. The weather forecast wasn’t great, overcast and heavy rain. But, the sun stayed out, not too much cloud hung around, and the rains kept to a bare minimal. Perfect weather to work the pavements and wander around the city on foot. I thought I’d use this post as a perfect avenue for me to recollect my enjoyable holiday and share a couple of interesting spots and sights. These certainly aren’t the popular tourist attractions, although there might be an obligatory Jet d’Eau picture. I find it much more satisfying wandering amongst the locals, shopping at the small markets for fresh produce, and taking in atmosphere of the residential zones. However, if you don’t have the luxury of time, here are my recommendations for a couple of 10-30min stopovers around the city which you could easily cover in a day.
I like to start my day of exploration easy, go easy on the heels. If you are staying over at a hotel, remember to ask for the tourist pass which entitles you to free public transport. Geneva is very well connected by buses and trams, so moving about with bags and children isn’t overly cumbersome an experience. So how about starting out with a relaxing stroll around the Parc de la Grange? This park is further away from the Jet d’Eau corner of Lake Geneva, and can be accessed by bus. Maison Favre does stand out as the only building of note on these grounds, check out the goldness on the window grills. When the grass is at its greeniest, the view is lovely gazing out towards Lake Geneva. You might feel like slumping onto the soft grass for a snooze, as I surely did, but time is of the essence so head towards the rose garden.
While it doesn’t boast the largest grounds, nor the largest collection of roses in Europe, there is certainly enough fantastical colours of the variety of roses planted into these grounds. Lots of bees buzzing around on this summer day tells of the overall health of this garden. We are now right at an entrance of the park, which is where you’d want to catch the bus towards the jet d’eau.
So I’m skipping the Jet d’Eau and heading straight for the flower clock, or l’horloge fleurie. This is more of a strategic stop as this is located at a perfect spot to photograph the jet d’eau, and there are a couple of statues and sculptures in the resident park. It’s also not too far from the main train station if you’re travelling in that way. On a perfect day, this is such a picturesque spot, and I saw quite a few couples getting their wedding snaps taken here. There is also a little tourist train ride which will bring you around the lake towards the Parc de la Grange and back for a small fee.
Now, head south-west past one of the main shopping strips, Rue de Rhone, where you can browse Mont Blanc, Bucherer, Chanel, Hermes and Cartier. No worries if you miss any of these boutiques because these are like 7-11s in Geneva, you’ll find another one just around the corner. Make your way towards Rue de la Confederation, near the junction with Rue de Marche. Here, I’d recommend stopping for lunch at Brasserie Lipp. Its St-Germain outpost isn’t the flashiest joint in Paris, but the Geneva establishment is quite spot on with its seafood, meats and desserts. It might be a little tricky to locate, being tucked at the back of a partially raised mall, but it’s well worth the effort. Go early or late to avoid the crowds.
Wow! Breathe slowly, catch your breath! After all that, you’re definitely going to need to walk it off! And I’ve got the perfect route. From Brasserie Lipp, head up Rue Bemont and on to Rue de la Tertasse until you find yourself diagonally across from Parc des Bastions. You’ll know you’re there when you spot the big roundabout with the statue of General Henri Dufour.
The Parc des Bastions is the resident park of the University of Geneva, and who wouldn’t want to study on these peaceful grounds. Around us are the bible college, the philosophy department, and the music colleges.
At the entrance of the park, there are several green slumber chairs but it would dangerous to lie on them even for a little while. I’d advocate using your noodle and having a game of street chess. Don’t wander off too far because the hill which you’re going to climb is just around the corner. Yes, it’s a hill, and I apologise in advance for the absence of any public transport to the next stop. Head up Rampe de la Trielle and along Rue Henri-Fazy to St Pierre’s Cathedral.
Jeremie has been offering warm welcome to all visitors, and he’ll point you towards the depths of the cathedral to view the archaeological dig. Here, you can gain a historical perspective of Geneva back to the 4th century from the Celt period up till the middle ages. The digs uncovered a trove of Allobroge and Roman, evidence of activities of the previous churches on this site prior to the building of this cathedral between 1160-1252.
From here, walk past the city cannons to Rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville, past the corner bistro and onto Rue de la Fontaine. You can’t miss the colourful palette of Boutique Caran d’Arche.
Growing up, throughout primary school, Caran d’Arche colour pencils were the ultimate colour pencils to own. The richness and quality is unsurpassed, not to mention the innovation of incorporating water colours into these pencils. It is hard to pull the trigger on a full box of colours, they are just so pricey! But every serious artist would have at some point in their trials utilised Caran d’Arche tools.
Continuing on the colourful theme, which culture immediately springs to mind? Nothing trumps the pageantry, colourful outlandishness of Bollywood, so yes have Indian food in Geneva!! But of course I won’t be leading you to the cheap takeaway at the train station. We’re headed to the Rasoi by Vineet at the Mandarin Oriental, a one Michelin-starred restaurant. Walk down Place du Bourg-de-four back towards the Eastern end of Parc des Bastions onto Rue de la Croix-Rouge where you can catch the 12 or 18 trams to the Geneve Bel-Air stop. From there, it’s a short walk across the Rue des Moulins bridge to Mandarin Oriental.
Originally started in London (Rasoi Vineet Bhatia is on Lincoln St, Chelsea), Vineet is proudly the world’s only Michelin-starred Indian cuisine since 2006. It is the evolution of Indian cooking, retaining the most prominent elements of Indian dishes and garnished by modern techniques. Vineet has branched out to Geneva with its sister restaurant offering tastes of the continent to the continent (hope you got this twist).
The ambience is casual and comfortable, lunch time lighting is perfect since the restaurant looks out onto the quay and le Rhone. Their set menus are very well priced at 65chf for lunch and 75chf for dinner. The flavours here are very smart, clean and pure, nothing that would overwhelm your tastebuds. I really like the portion sizes and plating which is kept simple and clean. Very interesting modern interpretations of traditional Indian dishes, certainly an eye-opening experience.
Lamb Seekh Kabab crusted with pepper, with Mango Gazpocho, Spinach and Sesame salad, Chilli Cheese toast.
Mushroom flavoured Tandoori Chicken Breast, ‘garam masala’ chicken jus, truffle foam, wild mushroom and sundried tomato khichdi.
Domaine Dardagny Garanoir 2013, nicely weighted in-between a strong pinot noir and grenache.
Right, so knock back that last coffee and congratulate yourself for a long day in Geneva well-spent. I’m very confident that you would be very satisfied with the food. A little more walking than some might anticipate, but do ask around for possible tram options. I hope this blitz of Geneva will be helpful for those looking for a quick turnaround here. Safe travels!