If there was a place to make you want to pop a cork or charter a yacht, luxe-loving Geneva would be it. With its Mont Blanc backdrop, rich stash of art and evolving gourmet food scene, this A-lister of Swiss cities is an instant heart-stealer – and that’s just scratching the surface. Here are more reasons to make it your next splendid break abroad.
A walking tour, by Local Flavours, really hits the sweet spot, presenting a three-hour feast of chocolat in all its forms. Your guide will give you the inside scoop on the city, in between tastings of ganache, pastries, cake and truffles at high-end chocolateries and patisseries. The clincher is a stop at Du Rhône, a legendary chocolatier that’s been in business since 1875 and has wowed Winston Churchill, Grace Kelly and JFK, to name a few. They promise you’ll be knowledgeable about all things chocolate by the end of the tour – and you can believe it.
The vineyards on the hillsides above Lake Geneva are nothing short of extraordinary, with their steep terraces and views of the lake and not-so-distant French Alps. The wines produced here are so select, few are ever exported. However, visit the caves (cellars) for a dégustation (tasting) and you’re in for a treat. Chasselas grapes produce some fabulous whites that are crisp and citrusy. Reds include the light-bodied gamay and pinot noir.
A region worth visiting is the grand cru terroir of the Unesco World Heritage Lavaux, with many of its cellars opening their doors for tastings. If you’d prefer to sample the region’s biodynamic wines with dreamy lake views from Geneva, make a reservation at Le Rouge et le Blanc.
Geneva has its finger firmly on the pulse of Switzerland’s art scene, and it’s worth devoting at least a couple of hours to one of the city’s galleries. Top billing for fine art, applied arts and archaeology goes to the neoclassical Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, a spectacular romp through the ages – from Egyptian and Roman treasures to masterpieces by Rembrandt, Cézanne, Renoir and Modigliani. The highlight for many is Konrad Witz’s Miraculous Draft of Fishes, a vivid 15th-century altarpiece that shifts the biblical scene from the Sea of Galilee to Lake Geneva.
At the other end of the artistic spectrum, the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCO) delivers contemporary art with an industrial edge in a former factory. Part of the same complex, the Centre d’Art Contemporain focuses on work by up-and-coming young artists.
From spring to autumn, Geneva feels like one giant botanical garden. Life shifts outdoors and into the gardens, where locals go to stroll, skate, cycle, swim and picnic. Warmer months bring an eruption of colour and fragrance to prettily landscaped Parc Mon Repos, where, on cloudless days, Mont Blanc pops into view across the water. Swing north a little to reach the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques to discover rare species from across the globe.
The gardens of Parc La Grange and Eaux-Vives, along the left bank of Lake Geneva, add cultural cachet during the Sculpture Garden Geneva Biennale, from 12 June to 30 September 2020, when contemporary sculpture comes to the fore with 30 large-scale installations by emerging artists.
Geneva’s love of the high life is topped off with a passion for stylish rooftop bars offering ringside views of the lake and mountains. Sunset is the prime time for champagne and creative cocktails at headliners such as rooftop 42: the mood here turns up a notch as the city begins to twinkle, with live music and DJ sets. Or head to the chic rooftop lounge at the five-star Hotel Metropole, where olive and lemon trees bring a burst of the Mediterranean to summer evenings. The terrace has phenomenal views of the lake, Jet d’Eau fountain and Jardin Anglais.
Geneva sits at the southern tip of Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman in French, which mirrors the snow-capped French Alps across the border. As a city defined by water, there’s no better way to see it – along with the towns, medieval villages and castles around the shores – than by booking a private cruise. Or why not charter your own sailboat or yacht with Genevaboats? In just a couple of hours, you can glide past the 140m (460ft) Jet d’Eau fountain and tick off city landmarks, such as the Bains des Pâquis lighthouse and Villa Diodati, the mansion in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.
Private lake cruises can be combined with food and culture, too: whether you fancy lunch at the two-Michelin-star Anne-Sophie Pic in Lausanne, a gourmet picnic on the pebble beach at Hermance, or a visit to the Château de Chillon, which inspired Lord Byron and JMW Turner.
In a country that loves its food, Geneva is the icing on the gourmet cake. It adds a pinch of French finesse to outstanding locally sourced ingredients, including fresh lake fish, alpine cheeses and wine from the nearby vineyards. This is reflected in the city’s extravagant selection of Michelin-star restaurants. Within the city limits are culinary wonders such as the lakefront Il Lago at the Four Seasons, where chef Massimiliano Sena pulls off a produce-driven Italian menu with panache. There’s also the slick and contemporary L’Aparté at Hôtel Royal, which plays up seasonality in deceptively simple dishes inspired by chef Armel Bedouet’s native Brittany. The best however, is the two-Michelin-star modern French Domaine de Châteauvieux, expertly led by outstanding chef Philippe Chevrier.
Need a holiday? Try a trip to Geneva and be inspired. Find out more at geneve.com