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krisek Geneva - A travel report by Krys
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Geneva,  Switzerland - flag Switzerland
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krisek's travel reports

How can Geneva be more tourists friendly?

  8 votes
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A city that had treasured its independence from other Swiss cantons for very long, today is a cosmopolitan place that cherishes its international status. Geneva has more than one face and can be a great place to visit.


Jet d'Eau
Jet d'Eau
Weather in Geneva was unpredictable. It seemed like a lovely, sunny day, but the multiple rainbows meant that rain could fall anytime. As soon as the clouds revealed small parts of the surrounding mountais it was clear that snow had been covering the slopes. Occasionally, the rain got worse and persistent. As the temperature dropped below 10C, it began feeling unpleasant. Small rivers, which filled the pavements washed away the dirt and horrible cigarettes' ends dropped by rude smokers. One would traditionally expect Switzerland to be spotless clean but sadly that is not the case with Geneva. The city is more Genevian than it is Swiss and perhaps the expectation was associated more with the German Swiss, I am not sure. Anyway, the rain cleaned the streets and allowed for the mirror effect as the street lights and expensive shop displays got their reflectionsin wet pavements. I liked that. It created an ambiance of those autumn evenings shaking off the leaves, which are best enjoyed through windows of warm and romantic cafes. Or lively pubs serving mulled wines and heated beer served with spices. Some of them can be found in Geneva, but they are often hidden in small, backstreet alleys.

Interestingly, Geneva does not have an old town as such. There are a few old buildings around, particularly around the townhall (hotel de ville) but really old, medieval architecture does not dominate anywhere in the city. I expected more wood-and-stone Swiss architecture. Instead, I found flamboyant edifices occupied by banks and shops for the super-rich. And how come? For Switzerland was not destroyed by any of the world wars.

Favourite spots:
Place du Molard
Place du Molard
I cannot put my finger on any spot in Geneva to be my favourite. There were few free wi-fi points, which would clearly be my favourite :) but I think it would need to be the boat landing opposite the Jet d'eau, the 100 metre-tall fountain at the end of Lake Geneva. It is Geneva's proud landmark, the fountain, it looks spectacular at any time, day or night, and from the point I mean, there was a magnificent view of the pretty and colourful lake front facades and snow-capped mountains beyond.

The other spot I liked was Place du Molard. For a few reasons. First, it was complete with a grand tower-gate in a distinct Swiss style. Second, many of its cobble stones were replaced by translucent stones illuminated from below, which had words of welcome printed on them in many languages. It looked spectacular at night! Third, restaurants and bar there placed tables outside in the square, making it a super hangout spot.

What's really great:
Geneva travelogue picture
Lac Leman is so clean! I could not believe a lake of this size would have water hued emerald and not brown or grey. Clearly, it meant I was in the mountains, where rivers and lakes are usually crystal clear and extra cold. Many fountains scattered around the city had been labelled 'drinking water'. Now, isn't this a bliss when the summer is hot? Free drinking water in unlimited quantity!

Free travel on public transport for all hotel guests in Geneva, including trips on trains in zones 1-17, was another great thing about this welcoming city. It was handed upon check-in. It was called Unireso Geneva Transport Card. This personal and non-transmissible card was valid from the day of the check-in to the end of the day of check-out on all unireso transport services and trains. How can you beat that?!

Sights:
Cannons opposite the townhall
Cannons opposite the townhall
Geneva shows off with its Grand-Rue, Hotel de Ville and grand cannons in front of it, and the Cathedral. Rue des Granges is lined up with picturesque patrician houses. The old fortifications nearby, which lead to the Promenade des Bastions and Place Nueve, which boasts the equestrian statue of General Dufour and classical facades of the Museum Rath, Grand Theatre and the Conservatory of Music. The Victoria Hall nearby is an elegant concert auditorium. But apart from that there is really nothing special about the city. The elaborate facades of the mansions, hotels and banks sticking right by the impossibly clear lake, was the sight on its own. But Geneva is a small town. There is only so much of sights that could fit there...

Accommodations:
Geneva travelogue picture
Hotel Moderne was a little overpriced for my liking at CHF130 (£66) for a basic single, including buffet breakfast. The room (#556) was small but very bright with large floor to ceiling window. There was a rather weird smell in it, but the bedsheets were crisp clean and the warm feather duvet made a difference! Bathroom was old-fashioned but spotless and the towels were mega clean. The noise coming in from the streets below through the giant window was a drawback. No idea who was driving in the middle of the night.

Geneva had a myriad of hotels on every corner almost, so there should be plenty of choice. I was in a hurry and did not have time to properly investigate. And since I had to work as well, I needed to find something reasonably safe (I had a work laptop with me) and close to the train station.

Nightlife:
Geneva travelogue picture
At the Place du Molard was this great minibrewery called Brasserie du Molard, adjacent to the Lord Nelson Pub. Its own beers were fresh (duh!) and could be served from a several-littre long glass column, which placed on the table effectively worked like a personal tap. It looked wonderful and this system meant less queuing and waiting at the bar! I tried their biere blanche (white wheat beer), which came at CHF8.80 for a pint. The unhealthy accompanying slim chips were also CHF8.80.

An area close to the main train station was packed with young people mingling. It looked like an area with African restaurants, bars, airline offices, etc and the crowd at night was consistent with that feeling. They were loud and in great party mood. They just stood in the street called Chaponniere, which had a couple of well hidden bars or clubs. It was good to see happy people around. It created a pleasant vibe.

Hangouts:
Parc des Bastions
Parc des Bastions
Geneva had a few great and green places, like the Jardin Anglais, Plaine de Plainpalais and the great Parc des Bastions, for example. The last one was a magnificent park where people chilled and played Giant Chess and other pawn-based games. Now, this is what one calls sport! The pawns were about 0.5-0.8 metres big, and although were made of plastic, one had to move around the check board to move them. A nearby cafe made an excellent observation point for those who did not know how to play, or perhaps wanted to catch their breath. It was great to see so many locals at their wise age to be playing. It looked to me like the ultimate hanging out place. I only thought spots like that could only be found in films.

I liked the banks of the lake for the outdoor hanging out. Views of the lake and the distant mountains! Beat that!

For the indoor hanging out places, there were of course plenty of cafes and bars scattered around the city, and those in the old town were the most atmospheric.

Restaurants:
Geneva travelogue picture
From a taxi, I spotted a little Chinese restaurant on Rue de Berne called Hong-Kong. I saw a few Swiss-looking people inside, so I gave it a thought to maybe try it too. Somehow I was craving for a nice and spicy Chinese chicken dish. They had a lunch offer going for CHF16 or CHF12 without the appetizer. The food was really good. I had chicken satay, which was a small appetizer and a good portion of chicken in spicy curry sauce. I would have opted for Sichuan dish, but their specials did not include that and neither did the main menu. Anyway, I was happy with my curry. I had not had Chinese curry for ages.

The area around Rue de Berne was packed with northern African and Middle Eastern venues. There were kebabs, shawarmas, tadjines, but also a few pizza bars. In the old town, near the cathedral, a few small tavernas offered traditional Swiss meals.

Other recommendations:
Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon
About an hour by train, the Chateau de Chillon was an old 16th century castle, which had inspired great romantics like Lord Byron. It looked great and impossibly set between the lake and the rail tracks. From the road it appeared small and insignificant but very photogenic. Then from close, it was apparent that it was a mighty fortress, indeed. The thick round towers and the square tower in the centre stood strong stimulating imagination. The stronghold sat directly in the lake, and so no moat was needed. A picturesque wooden bridge linked the main gate with the mainland. There is a train station nearby, but only one train an hour ran. It was better to get off at Montreux and then take a trolleybus to the castle (CHF2.20), which took only about 10 minutes. A walk from Chillon to Montreux would take an hour.

Published on Saturday October 11th, 2008


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Thu, Nov 06 2008 - 06:14 AM rating by rangutan

Another useful and interesting report [4.6]

Mon, Oct 13 2008 - 03:18 AM rating by magsalex

Comprehensive and informative report.

Sun, Oct 12 2008 - 08:51 AM rating by marianne

Just read (and rated) all your newest reports. I especially like the one about Zurich as we will be there next month. As ever, excellently written and beautiful photos.

Sun, Oct 12 2008 - 07:16 AM rating by pesu

I like it that you are very open for surprises after so many travel experiences. Your report is (as always) a joy to read.

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