Geneva is probably one of the loveliest cities on Earth, especially by night when its 140-foot fountain (the Jet d’Eau) is illuminated. Of course, when you’ve been there a few times like I have, you find out some of its dirtier secrets – like the fact that that huge fountain sucks up all kinds of things from the bottom of the lake. All kinds of things. But I still love it, and that’s why I keep going back.
Everyone knows Geneva as the home of diplomacy, fine chocolate and very accurate clocks; and it’s true, these things are all abundant. But there’s much more to this city than that, and for me Geneva is most importantly home to one of Europe’s greatest flea markets: the Plainpalais market. Every Wednesday and Saturday stallholders set up shop to sell everything from renaissance paintings to vintage typewriters – one of which I actually bought myself (a typewriter, not a renaissance painting; unlucky). Another attraction to top everyone’s list should be St Peter’s Cathedral, which offers from its tower the best view of the city it’s possible to get.
A bustling metropolitan city, Geneva nonetheless has its quiet parks and unfrequented byways. Many small independent bookshops and patisseries can be found north of the lake, making this a great area to lose yourself – if you want to get lost. Near the fountain on the left bank you can find the English Garden, a very peaceful and well-maintained park which is home to Geneva’s famous flower clock. In fact, Geneva is sometimes referred to as the “city of parks,” because more than a quarter of its total space is taken up with public parks.
Another constant fascination has been Geneva’s museums, particularly the natural history museum, the museum of far-eastern art, and also, of course, the clock and watch museum. All three of these galleries have extensive and wide-ranging exhibits: the natural history museum of Geneva rivals our own in London, and the clock and watch museum is home to some of the finest timepieces ever created. That said, it’s probably a venue to be avoided at midday if you want to keep your eardrums.
When it comes to dining, I’ve always been a fan of La Lagune, a buffet restaurant that seems to have had mixed reviews. With a wide array of buffet items available, as well as a variety of more exotic meats – crocodile, shark, ostrich – this is a place with something a bit different to offer. If you’re looking for something more upmarket though, the Café du Soleil stakes a credible claim to the finest fondue in Geneva and is also one of the oldest establishments in the city. I’ve always found, however, that Geneva is the most expensive city in an expensive region food-wise, so preparing your own meals can be a real money-saver.
There’s a hell of a lot on offer in Geneva, without even mentioning the city’s majestic surroundings. Only slightly further afield than Paris, it’s an ideal location for a city break, especially for students or die-hard chocolate fans of any age.