Explore Geneva in one day? No way, right? Well yes. Here’s an itinerary.
By Bill Harby
Get up early and start your day at Cornavin, the main train station. Pick up delicious fresh pastries and coffee from one of the patisseries there. Stroll to the Pont du Mont-Blanc and cross where the lake feeds into the Rhone river.
At the Jardin Anglais (the English Garden) gaze up, up, up at the astounding, beautiful feat of engineering that is the Jet d’eau fountain rising more than 130 metres straight up. Note: the jet will be off from Oct. 24 – Nov. 23 for annual maintenance.
- Inside Geneva’s Jet d’eau – the people and machines that keep 7 tonnes of water in the air (Le News)
Walk a few minutes to climb the cobblestone street up to Old Town, the city’s medieval centre, to Place du Bourg-de-Four and the surrounding streets lined with fine boutiques, galleries, cafés and restaurants.
Wander until you find Maison Tavel, the oldest existing house in Geneva. Today, the restored 14th-century building is a small museum with period displays, and, on the top floor, an amazing 3D miniature of the city – museum guide in English.
Onward to the 12th-century Cathédrale St. Pierre. For a religious cardio-pulmonary experience, climb the 96 spiral stone stairs up the tower to gaze upon a panorama of the city. Get closer still to heaven with another 50+ stairs to the top.
Head down from Old Town to nearby Parc des Bastions, the city’s liveliest green space. Play chess on the giant boards where you push knee-high pawns and knights around with your feet.
Sit in silent wonder at the huge stone statues of the founding fathers of the Protestant Reformation – but be prepared to share this hallowed space with students swilling wine and flirting. They’re from the Université de Genève across the park.
To contemplate this cultural clash in fine style, you can retreat to the park’s Belle Époque restaurant: Café Restaurant du Parc des Bastions.
Afterwards, onward still, urban trekkers, to the other side of the lake, for a somber but inspiring visit to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. Geneva is home to more than 100 international humanitarian organisations, including the United Nations (UN) and the World Wildlife Fund International (WWF). The Red Cross was born here in 1863.
Now you’re ready for an “apero” – a drink and a little dish of something. For lakeside elegance, kick back at the FloorTwo Lounge in the 5-star Grand Hotel Kempinski Genève overlooking the lake, the Jet d’eau and the Alps beyond.
But save some of your appetite. For dinner and dancing, something altogether different, modern and full of flirty buzz at La Brasserie Des Halles De L’Île.
If you’ve closed the place down, it’s 2 in the morning. Most restos and bars are closed now, but some late-night clubs stay open until 5. We’ll tell you about them another time, plus other ways to greet the dawn in this fair city.
And now. A few other impossibly selective suggestions from dozens, sometimes hundreds of options.
This cosmopolitan city has innumerable intriguing independent boutiques and galleries, so we’re not even going to start. OK, just one: L’Enfant Terrible (hip furnishings, drinks and edibles)
Science and History
Art and Culture
A neighbourhood just about to get trendy. Still mostly locals. Cool hole-in-the-wall cafés, boutiques, and Foound, a scruffy concept store complete with a hair salon. Fun, funky little outdoor market every Thursday. Home of the fancifully designed apartment complex known as the Schtroumpf (Smurf) buildings.
Good café life thanks to all the students from the nearby Université de Genève.
But most Genevois think of Plainpalais as home to the city’s enormous flea market every Saturday and Wednesday.