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Geneva Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in Geneva
Where to Stay
Most of the hotels in Geneva are located in the center on both sides of the Rhone River and along the shores of Lake Geneva. There are also a number of hotels at the airport such as NH and Mövenpick which are near the Palexpo Congress Centre. La Réserve Genève, boutique hotel and spa is convenient to both the airport and the center. Geneva is famous for palatial “Belle Epoque” hotels, notably Le Richemont and Hôtel President Wilson. But there are more modest accommodations, as well as smaller boutiques like Les Armures in the Old Town.
Caution: Hotel rates in Geneva are high all year round due to demand from the many international organizations based here.
Hot Tips: Explore the vineyards and shoreline medieval villages outside of Geneva.
What to Eat
An international city, Geneva offers any type of cuisine imaginable for the expats and most are concentrated in the city center. The "Paquis" neighborhood also hosts a lot of ethnic restaurants not far from the Railway Station. The most prestigious restaurant is the luxurious Thai Patara in the Hôtel Beau-Rivage. Superb fine dining is also found in other palace hotels. The medieval Old Town is full of delightful restaurants of many types of cuisine and for different budgets such as Chez Ma Cousine, charming with healthy food and excellent value.
Caution: It is an uphill walk to the Old Town and a taxi may be preferred.
Be Sure to Sample: Excellent Swiss cuisine is found in Cave Valaisanne et Chalet Suisse not far from the Grand Theatre in the center.
Things to See
Experience the lake promenade down to the landmark, the “Jet d’eau,” (lake fountain). Stop on the Mont Blanc Bridge for a 360° view. Nearby is the “Parc Anglaise” with its giant Flowered Clock and the piers for 19th c. paddle steamers. The Old Town (“Vielle Ville”), uphill, is crowned by 12th c. St. Pierre’s Cathedral. Wandering streets and plazas such as le Bourg du Four have quaint shops and cafés. Walk along the "Promenade des Bastions" at the Place Neuve viewing Planpalais Park below and Mt Salève above. Visit the United Nations and nearby Botanical Gardens.
Avoid: Driving, as there is oftentimes gridlock traffic. Taxis and trams use special express lanes.
Hot Tips: The International Red Cross Museum reopens May 2013 for the 150-year anniversary celebration and exhibitions.
Places to Party
Being international, there is a bit of everything for the evening in Geneva such as the Opera or the "Orchestre de Suisse Romande." Famous international stars perform periodically at the Palexpo and there are many clubs of various styles and sizes for live music such as the Alhambar in the center. For some casual socializing, try Mulligan’s Pub not far from the Railway Station. Summers offer numerous festivals and open air clubs, and concerts are everywhere.
Caution: Geneva is not as lively in the evening as Zurich or Bern, as people tend to socialize more with their own friends.
Hot Tips: The liveliest evenings are during "Fete de Geneve" with celebrations and fireworks for 3 weeks starting the 3rd week of July.
Where to Shop
One of the most famous shopping streets in the world is Geneva’s Rue du Rhône, not far from the shore which has exquisite Swiss watches and jewelry, as well as a full array of exclusive international fashion brands. Around the Old Town are many fascinating boutiques offering most anything. Not far from the Railway Station in the “Paquis” quarter, there are more modestly priced stores and souvenir shops.
Caution: Chocolate is more expensive in Geneva than in many other nearby towns.
Best Local Souvenir: There is a diverse selection of Swiss Army Knives with everything — flashlights, USBs, etc.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Set along the River Rhone with the majestic Alps towering in the background, Geneva commands attention. As the home of the International Red Cross and former home of the League of Nations, the city also possesses a multicultural flair. Indeed, French culture and language are still predominating aspects of Geneva today. Geneva has always exuded a chic superiority. The beautifully manicured city abounds with graceful mansions, gull-laden lakes, cosmopolitan stores, and elite restaurants. The heart of the city is called the rive gauche, which includes the charming old town area. Visitors should take time to stroll the quaint boutiques and galleries along the cobblestone Grand Rue. Also check out the Cathedrale St. Pierre, where John Calvin preached; the Reformation Monument, dedicated to leaders of the Protestant Reformation; and the Jet d'Eau, the highest fountain in Europe.