Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrGeneva, located in the French speaking part of Switzerland, is home to the United Nations and CERN and sits on the shores of the largest lake in Switzerland, Lac De Leman, also known as Lake Geneva. A hub for international organisations, the city hosts more international corporations than any other city in the world.
As a result, there is a huge number of expatriates living in the city, who enjoy an extremely high quality of life – Geneva was ranked 3rd in the world for the quality of life for expatriates. It is also however extremely expensive, even more so than the rest of Switzerland, and in 2011 was ranked as the 5th most expensive city in the world. Even if you don’t have cash to spend, the city, especially in the summer offers a wealth of free attractions, and the scenery of the Alps and the lake alone are worth a visit.
Palace of NationsGeneva is famous for the United Nations, and a trip to the city would not be complete without visiting the Palace of Nations , built in 1929, to serve as the headquarters for the League of Nations. Even for those not necessarily interested in the organisation, the building itself is impressive and an integral part of the make-up of the city. The building subsequently became the head of the United Nations, even when Switzerland was not part of the organisation – a move which many people saw as positive, as the organisation was based in a ‘neutral’ city.
The Palace is open to the public and informative tours can be arranged ahead of time. The tours are available in over 15 languages, but be aware that for languages other than French and English you may have to organize a private tour, or be flexible in terms of dates. Each tour lasts for an hour, and what you see will depend on what is happening during that particular day, but will always include a tour of the Assembly Hall and the Council Chamber, as well as a film on that details the workings of the office in Geneva.
The visiting times frequently changed and can be rather restricting be sure to look them up before visiting. You are not able to pre-book a tour unless you are a group of more than 15 people, in which case it is compulsory, but be prepared to wait for up to 30 minutes on busy days. Each tour is 12 CHF for an adult, and 10 CHF for students, disabled and young persons.
Lake GenevaLake Geneva also known as Lac Leman, is probably by far the best attraction in Geneva. One of the largest lakes in Europe, it is controlled both by Switzerland and France. The Tour Du Lac, a rowing regatta takes place every year on the lake, starting in Geneva with participants completing a full round of the lake. The race is one of the longest in the world and can take well over 12 hours to complete, with previous winners completing it in just under 12 hours. In recent years, for safety reasons, each rowing boat is accompanied by a motorboat.
A very tall fountain, Jet d'Eau, dominates the view from of the lake from Geneva.
Parc La GrangeThe Parc La Grange, is one of Geneva’s other highlights. Located on the shores of the lake, the park covers an area of 12,000 square meters, making it Geneva’s largest park. The park offers a range of activities, including free concerts during the summer every Wednesday and Friday evening. Hosted by the Verdue Theater, the concerts feature a range of genres, and offer seating as well as concession stands. The park is open to the public, but is rather upscale, hosting Geneva’s largest rose garden, as well as an 18th-century castle, that now houses a restaurant.
EatingWhile in Geneva, trying fondue is a must, and it can be tough separating the places popular with locals to those that are targeting tourists, and charging a mark-up for the experience. The best place for fondue is really in the mountains, but if you don’t have time, there are some good places in Geneva as well. The best is Café du Soleil, located on Place du Petit-Saconnex, but go only for the fondue. The service is okay, and the building has a rustic charm to eat, but it is really the fondue that you are going for, served in traditional Swiss pots, at prices geared towards locals, not tourists. In the summer, they have a terrace open, but booking is recommended all year round. Swiss love their fondue so much, there are now Fondue Vending Machines around Geneva, allowing you to have on the go fondue 24/7!
Birdie Food and Coffee, is a recently opened coffee house popular with locals. Small and cozy, it seats around 10 people, so be warned that you may have to wait for a table, especially on the weekend. Open for breakfast and lunch, they serve homemade pastries and breads, as well as sandwiches and in the winter, soup. Expect to pay around 5 CHF for a coffee, and around 10 CHF for a hot sandwich. The café is located on Rue des Bains, near the center of the city.
SleepingHotel d’Angleterre, located on Quai du Mont-Blanc in the center of Geneva, on the shores of Lake Geneva, is the best of the many luxury hotels on offer. For $ 500 USD a night, you expect superior service and quality, and you certainly receive it! The hotel has a spa, as well as a fitness room, free WiFi, a bar and an excellent restaurant. Unusual for five-star hotels, the property is also pet-friendly but arrangements must be made ahead of time. Be sure to ask for a lake view room, although all rooms are nice, and many look out into the courtyard as well as featuring views of the lake. The breakfast is superb, featuring an extensive buffet, so be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy it.
Geneva doesn’t do cheap, but the Geneva Hostel located on Rue Rothschild, comes pretty close. For $ 40 USD a night, you get a bed in a shared dorm, all of which are separated according to gender. Some other great perks are the free transport card which gives you free access to all public transport in the Geneva area, the extensive library and breakfast included.
ShoppingThe only thing really worth buying in Geneva is watches and cheese, everything else can be found cheaper somewhere else. The Swiss are infamous for their watches, and Geneva hosts many brand shops, offering the newest designs at competitive prices. The storekeepers know what they’re talking about so turn to them for advice if you’re not sure what you want.
Patek Phillipe, Swatch, Omega, and Piaget all have stores featuring their products only, but there are also stores that sell many different models allowing you to compare. Head to Geneva’s Old Town where you’ll find most of the watch shops.
SafetyOften considered the ‘rough’ part of Switzerland, Geneva has recently had more trouble with violent crime, as people living in poorer neighbourhoods of France come over the border looking for work. It is generally safe, but most areas should be avoided by single women at night, when petty crimes occurs quite frequently.
Generally the real dangers are the same in every large city, and tourists should be aware of pickpocketing and theft, and be prepared to give up your wallet if challenged as many thiefs carry knives. The police are extremely trustworthy and efficient, and often are able to catch the culprit if enough accurate information is given quickly. Go the police station immediately if something happens, and they will be able to file a report for you efficiently.
Getting ThereGeneva’s international airport is located just six minutes by train from the center of Geneva. Many international flights from around Europe and across the Atlantic land in Geneva, and the airport has recently grown to become a transportation hub. The cheapest way to get from the airport to the city is using the free public transport ticket, which you can get from the ticket machine located just before you exit through customs – only available in conjunction with your boarding pass the ticket is valid for travel into Geneva and its suburbs. The ticket is valid for the bus or train – the train takes six minutes and departs every 15 minutes. A taxi journey should be no more than 70 CHF, but the trains are so convenient, taking a taxi is really not recommended!
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Author: hannahbarkan. Last updated: Apr 07, 2015