*In collaboration with: Switzerland Tourism
As the plane started to descent towards Geneva on one hot summer day, I gazed in wonder of the mountains rising below the clouds. Switzerland – how is any country this breathtaking? I sipped down the rest of my mimosa on the first row of the airplane. The flight attendant advised me mimosa contains way more nutrients than a glass of water – and I’m nobody to question a statement like so.
I packed my belongings, but made sure to hold a camera close to me as the view kept on getting more and more incredible the closer to the ground we got. I was ready for a weekend in Geneva before exploring even more of Switzerland again.
So in case you are in need of some travel tips to this world’s smallest metropolis, look no further. Geneva took me by surprise – in the best ways a new city can do that.
Travel tips to Geneva: there’s more than meets the eye
Geneva is the second biggest city in Switzerland, home to around 200 000 people. It’s no metropolis by size, which is probably why it’s so easy to approach. As a traveller often wandering the streets of Asian capitals, a weekend in Geneva was just what my mind and soul had needed.
What comes to your mind when you think of Geneva? Expensive watches? Luxurious life? Chocolate? Well, you aren’t wrong – but you are also not right. Wow, that is a clear statement at my end – you’re welcome. Such a helpful blog. While Geneva is what you might think of at first, it’s so much more than meets the eye.
Geneva is a diverse city full of colour, life and culture.
Home to the United Nations Office, Geneva truly is vibrant and multicultural. It’s a finance city with a lot of history. What took my most by surprise was how chill and laidback the city was. You have the old charm, green parks, live music and hip trendy new businesses opening up at every corner. Come afternoon, the locals gather around in bars and cafes to enjoy quality time with friends and family over some divine Swiss wine (yes, it’s my weakness).
Carouge is as hip as Geneva gets!
Carouge is perhaps the hippest area of Geneva, which though reminded us a lot of Italy by its charm. We met up for lunch with Lucie from Geneva Tourism, who knew all the fabulous new spots in town. Her love for this city charmed us both.
As we strolled down the streets of Carouge, Lucie told as about its little markets and secret gardens. And how the whole area reminded the locals of Sicily by its architecture. Carouge is like a small village inside a city.
They also call it the ‘ Greenwich Village’ of Geneva. It’s little boutiques and local artists add that hint of extra appeal to the charm of it all.
We lunched at L’Ecource, a new delicious restaurant where they focus strongly on local cuisine with a modern twist. The thing that has so far impressed me about Switzerland the most is their way of valuing locally produced food and the way they treat animals in the production chain – the whole world has a lot to learn from the Swiss.
Lake Geneva is the heart of it all
The sun was shining from a perfectly blue sky and countless of swans swam past us as we sat by the lake side one fine morning. Life in Geneva revolves strongly around their big lake in the heart of the city.
Lake Geneva is also best enjoyed on a little lake cruise, where we enjoyed some fresh mojitos in the breeze of that warm summer wind. See more cruise options in Geneva here. A cruise is the perfect way to go sightseeing; between Pierres du Niton and Pointe à la Bise, you’ll spot perhaps the most famous sight in town; fountain Jet d’eau. You’ll see the United Nations Office and on a perfectly clear day, you may even spot Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.
One of the major attractions in summer at the lake is Bains des Pâquis. Locals and tourists alike gather around the lake to swim in its fresh waters to cool off when the heat gets high. We decided the area was too crowded and went for a bit of an adventure closer to Pointe de la Jonction, where two rivers Rein and Arve meet. As I’m all for teaching you to learn from my mistakes – let me tell you the streams around this area can get rough if you jump in from where nobody else is taking a swim… You’ll understand what I mean if you go watch my Switzerland highlights stories on Instagram, haha.
Explore the trendy area of Eaux-Vives at night
As we are all the hip and trendy kind, of course – I cannot skip recommending the area of Eaux-Vives to you guys! Just aside the lake and close to the old city, you’ll find the trendy and lively area of Eaux-Vives.
Rue Henri-Blanvalet with its bars and restaurants is where the locals meet at night. I recommend enjoying a sunset (trust me, the sunsets may be magic) drink around Jet d’eau and then heading towards this side of town by foot.
We dined at a delicious Moroccan place, Kasbar. The service was incredibly good and as we wanted to try a bit of everything, they short of created us our own tasting menu. Also make sure you don’t miss out on their amazing cocktail list!
Other restaurant recommendations for Eaux-Vives:
- Bottle Brothers
- L’Atelier Cocktal Club
- Le Garage
Geneva is close to nature: hiking at Mont Salève
Have I ever told you about the morning I found myself hiking a mountain to France and ended up at an old Buddhist temple?
Well, that’s just what happened one Saturday in Geneva. Because life should be an adventure.
If you need a bit more nature on your Geneva exploration, head to Mont Salève for the day – which is in fact, short of in France, right at the border of these two countries.
You can get a bus to the cable car which then takes you up to 1 100 meters in a couple of minutes. On top o the mountain there are several hiking opportunities and other wild activities available. We continued to climb a little higher and ended up at an old Buddhist temple with breathtaking views over all of Geneva, which you see below.
And hey, tt was actually Switzerland where I found my love for hiking again after many years. This happened amongst the mountains of Engelberg. Read more about my experience here.
Geneva is the perfect weekend getaway in Europe
Geneva is just a short 3-hour flight away from my home in Helsinki.
The airport is also located only a 10-minute train ride from the city center, which I guess is part of that Swiss efficiency at its best. And what’s more, the city offers you a free ticket for the train which you can collect from the airport baggage claim. If you are staying at a hotel during your trip, ask for a free card to use the public transportation throughout your journey. You see, Geneva wants its visitors to truly enjoy their holiday, which we surely did.
Geneva is the perfect size for a shorter trip as everything is at a walking distance. I’d even say it’s a bit of a hidden gem what comes to European city getaways. Next time you are considering a trip to Paris or Berlin, consider Geneva instead. I promise you will not be disappointed one bit. Despite its reputation as an expensive business city, it’s actually a chill European charm. The world’s smallest metropolis offering something for everyone.