Geneva – loved for its watchmaking and chocolate; birthplace of the United Nations; and a global financial centre. But as Brummell discovered on an unusually balmy weekend in October, to reduce it to these few things would simply be unfair. Here are five of the best things to do in – and out – of the city.
Watch the moon rise over Mont Blanc
One of the brilliant things about Geneva is its variety – you can enjoy mountains, the lake and the city all within an hour of each other. The recently renovated cable car at Mont Salève (which is actually just across the border in France) will take you up 1,100 metres in under five minutes, and there is not only the Brutalist visitor centre and restaurant to marvel at, but vistas across Geneva, its lake and to the Jura mountains. A short hike further leads you to a beautiful, unspoilt view of the Mont Blanc massif – Brummell took the last cable car of the day and arrived just in time to watch the moon rise over the peak. A truly unforgettable sight.
Discover the Renzo Piano-designed CERN Science Gateway
Ever wanted to know what goes on behind the doors of legendary science facility CERN? Well, now you can, inside a slick new outreach centre designed by Renzo Piano (the architect behind The Shard and Centre Pompidou). Unveiled this month, the series of light-filled glass and steel structures suspended over the main road out of Geneva are inspired by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which operates nearby in a 27km underground circular tunnel. These new exhibits explore the history of the universe and explain particle physics through art installations, important artefacts and interactive exhibits, including the entertaining “build your own star” game and quantum air hockey. Expect to leave educated and inspired, no matter your age (and don’t forget to have lunch at the Big Bang Café).
Indulge in luxury chocolate at Guillaume Bichet
Geneva takes chocolate to another level – think of it as more like a delicacy than a snack. At least, that’s what you’ll discover in the city’s numerous chocolatiers, armed with a ‘Chocopass’, which gets you tasting plates in the very best shops. A highlight is Guillaume Bichet, which feels more like walking into Chanel than going to the corner shop for a Freddo. There are seasonal specialities that resemble mini works of art (Brummell delighted in October’s pumpkin-shaped pralines), chocolates with colours to rival rubies and emeralds, and Darjeeling-infused ganache to enjoy.
Sip wine in the hills
Geneva’s surrounding hills are sprinkled with vineyards – in fact, it has the highest density in all of Switzerland, and you can’t miss the fields of vines on the way out of the city. Brummell took an electric tuk-tuk (which elicited lots of smiles and waves from local drivers) to Domaine Dugerdil in the Dardagny region, where sun-drenched vineyards and mountains provided the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of tastings and raclette.
Cruise Lake Geneva
You’ve seen the mountains and the city – but you can’t leave without discovering the lake. The best way is, of course, by boat. There are a number of larger vessels that offer tasty three-course lunches (or in winter, fondue) and a voyage through the small and large parts of the lake, but you can also charter your own craft for a relaxing day on one of Europe’s largest and most picturesque lakes.
If you’re looking for more things to do (or places to stay) in the city, visit Geneva Tourism online, where you’ll find guides for each season and from local insiders.