- Lifestyle & Sports
- 10 Oct 14
Cosmopolitan, friendly and surprisingly under-visited, Geneva is well worth investigating… but be sure to bring plenty of money. You’ll need it!
Where exactly is it?
Geneva is located in south-western Switzerland, a short distance from the French border. The ‘Peace Capital’ is situated on the confluence of Lake Geneva and the river Rhone in the French speaking region of Romandy. Greater Geneva has a population of approximately 480,000, making it the second most populous urban region in Switzerland after Zurich.
How do I get there?
Aer Lingus operate a direct service from Dublin to Geneva, with a flight time of approximately two hours. If you’ve a little time to kill, why not fly Aer Lingus to sophisticated Zurich and then make the scenic train trip south to Switzerland’s second city? If stunning Alpine landscapes are to your liking then don’t travel direct. Instead plot a meandering course and be sure to include the breath-taking route of the Glacier Express.
What language do they speak?
The predominant language of Geneva is French, but the vast majority of its citizens are multi-lingual. Switzerland has three official languages, French, German and Italian, but English is also widely spoken in Romandy. Over 40% of Geneva’s inhabitants are non-Swiss and therefore a multitude of tongues are spoken on its city streets. They really put us to shame!
What is the local beer like?
The local beer market is dominated by two major players, Heineken Switzerland and Carlsberg Switzerland. They account for the majority of beer sales in the country and brew a range of both local and international beers. There are also an increasing number of smaller, regional breweries, which are largely concentrated in the German-speaking region. There’s lot of variety, including lagers, amber and wheat beers.
Aside from beer, the alcoholic drink of choice in Switzerland is wine. The country has a number of wine regions and its proximity to both France and Italy ensures that fine vintages are in plentiful supply. For a unique taste of Switzerland, check out La Clandestine Absinthe. It’s serious liquor with varieties ranging from 55 to 72% abv! Interestingly, the ban on absinthe production in Switzerland was only lifted in 2005.
What is the transport like?
Public transport in Geneva is first rate. The city and suburbs are well serviced by bus and tram lines while an excellent ferry network transports people across Lake Geneva to neighbouring towns such as Montreux and Lausanne. Geneva is connected to both the Swiss and French rail networks with onward travel possible to a broad variety of cities including Paris and Marseilles. Likewise, Geneva is linked to both countries’ motorway networks and the nearby international airport is only a short train ride away from downtown. Geneva City Council is currently in the process of pedestrianising large sections of the urban centre, with major investments in both public transport and city bike schemes.
What’s the food like?
From both a cultural and gastronomic point of view, Geneva is a truly cosmopolitan city. It boasts a large number and variety of restaurants, serving up cuisine from around the world. There’s no need to be overly adventurous, but if you want to sample some classic Swiss dishes, here are some ideas. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but tucking into a bowl of cheese fondue is a uniquely Swiss experience. Meat lovers should seek out a Bernese platter, complete with a variety of pork cuts, beef, sauerkraut and potatoes and when you’re sitting down to breakfast be sure to try some of the local muesli. Muesli was invented in Zurich over a hundred years ago by Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a healthy alternative to a meat-based diet for his convalescing patients. If you’re after a scrumptious afternoon snack then order the local delicacy, fried potato cakes, better known as rosti. Rosti can come served with everything from melted cheese and bacon to apple sauce.
What’s the nightlife like?
Switzerland may not be the first place that springs to mind when considering a good party destination. However, the influx of citizens from around the globe has added energy and variety to the city’s nightlife. The Old Town is the place where university students go to kick back. The Plainpalais area is choc-full of super trendy bars, including a number that specialise in cocktails and South American rhythms. The Les Paquis district is home to a broad range of more affordable pubs and café bars with Les 5 Portes and Le Scandale amongst the best. Unsurprisingly, Geneva has a number of Irish bars, including Mulligans and O’Neill’s, which are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. If you fancy bopping away into the early hours then check out clubs like the MOA and the Piping Club. However, be warned: a night on the tiles in Geneva will burn a serious hole in those budget-conscious pockets!
Why should I go?
Geneva is truly a stunning city. It’s got everything from a lakeside backdrop to a picture-postcard Old Town, world-class restaurants and high-end shopping districts. The plethora of global organisations, major banks and luxury brand names ensure the city’s streets cater mainly to a well-heeled and refined clientele. Due to its compact size, a short city break will give you a serious flavour of the city, recently listed as the second richest in the world!
What are the touristy things to do?
One of the major attractions of Geneva is the iconic Jet d’Eau, a water fountain that rises over 140m in height! At night it is truly stunning, illuminated with a faint blue light. The Old Town is full of beautiful buildings from bygone days, including St. Peter’s Cathedral and the birthplace of the world renowned philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a major influence on the French Revolution. Take the opportunity to scale the steps of the cathedral’s tower and sample stunning views of the lakeside city. Relax in the glorious Parc des Bastions, home to the giant sculpture known as the Reformation Wall. Here, some of Protestantism’s most important figures are celebrated, including Calvin and Knox. Science buffs will be drawn to the giant spherical building known as Cern, the world’s largest laboratory dedicated to particle physics research. The Palais des Nations is the European headquarters of the UN and the Bains district is the place to be for avant-garde art galleries and funky eateries. There’s also numerous museums dedicated to everything from watchmaking to the International Red Cross.
If you happen to be holidaying in western Switzerland in July then make sure to hop on a train to Montreux, home to the world renowned jazz festival. What could be better than feasting your ears on some swing, beer in hand, with the stunning backdrop of the Alps looming across Lake Geneva? It’s a little piece of heaven…
Anything to avoid?
If you fancy a spot of lunch with a stunning lakeside view, be sure to check the menu prices before getting too comfortable! Geneva has a large variety of high-end eateries, which cater to those with hefty wallets. Also, the city has recently reported an increase in night-time petty crime, particularly in the environs of the main train station. Considering some of the world’s wealthiest banks, jewellers and watchmakers are based in the city, it’s hardly surprising.
What should I bring home?
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to picking up gifts in Geneva, but be prepared to part with some cash! How about a genuine Swiss Army Knife or a beautifully designed and crafted wristwatch? Swiss chocolate or a fondue set will certainly keep the foodies happy.
When should I go?
Probably the best time to visit Geneva is during July and August. The weather is pleasant and Lake Geneva comes to life with water sports and pleasure boating. However, the city is often thronged with visitors during this period; for a better deal on flights and accommodation, hang on until the autumn. Geneva’s also an excellent winter base for those looking to sample the local ski scene.
What’s my challenge?
Sample the many delights of this truly cosmopolitan city, but keep an eye on your pockets; Geneva’s prices are amongst the highest in Europe! Built up around the shores of the stunning Alpine Lake, Geneva, the ‘Peace Capital’ is the global headquarters to some of the world’s most important organisations, including the World Health Organisation and International Red Cross. At last count, it’s reckoned that people from over 170 countries call Geneva home. With a picture perfect Old Town and both Lakeland and Alpine playgrounds on their doorstep, Geneva’s citizens have it good!
What’s the currency?
The Swiss Franc (CHF) is the local currency.
Something to remember...
Possibly Geneva’s greatest gift to the modern world was the invention of the wristwatch by Patek Philippe in 1868. The company carrying his name exists to this day. Other notable Swiss watch brands include Tag Heuer, Rolex, Omega and Breitling. They don’t call it ‘Swiss Time’ for nothing.