Sky View of Lake Geneva from the Hotel Metropole
Lake Geneva (Lacus Lemannus or Lac Léman, which dates back to the Roman invasion of the city in 58 B.C.) is a massive body of water north of the Alps, shared by Switzerland and France. There are many cantons or “member states” here, with 26 in all, including Vaud, Geneva and Valais. Lake Geneva is glacial and shaped like a banana, offering absolutely stunning landscapes that encompass vineyards and majestic mountains.
Where to Stay
Popular hotel chains like The Kempinsky line the waterway near the lake and provide the ultimate in luxury; https://www.kempinski.com/en/hotels/welcome/.
Tourists from around the globe stroll the promenade from morning until night, and this is the place where you can meet locals to learn more about the history of the city. I recommend taking a boat ride, even if you simply cross the lake on the Pâquis to the old town. .The Belle Époque has paddle steamers that take passengers on a longer excursion.
Family-Friendly and a Ferris Wheel
For excellent accommodations, try Hotel Metropole (above) and Hotel Bristol on Rue du Mont-Blanc. If you’re on a budget, book an Air BnB in the Old City or Red Light district, Pâquis. I scored an affordable room that was within walking distance to everything: This city is very walkable. The public transportation is efficient while taxis run the meter and cost quite a bit more.
Bains des Pâquis
The lake is home to several pools, and this amazing, natural water park is open year-round. You’re guaranteed to meet the locals here, especially on the weekends, as it’s great for family fun, with kids jumping off a platform into the crystal clear water. The fee to enter is only 2 Swiss francs, equivalent to $2. The water park offers movies, documentaries, and concerts mostly during the weekends.
Side Note: Speaking of concerts, here’s a fun fact for trivia lovers: Frank Zappa performed at the famous theatre near Geneva, Montreux Casino, during the Montreux Jazz Festival int he 1970s, and the building caught fire. This incident inspired the rock group Deep Purple to compose the song, “Smoke on The Water.”
Fondue To Share
No trip to Geneva is complete without trying Switzerland’s famous fondue. While the decadent cheese fondue is typical in the colder months, there’s still the opportunity to indulge – even when the city and slopes heat up. You can always order chocolate fondue with fruit. Whichever type of fondue you choose, savor it with local wine on the lake at Bains des Paquis. This watering hole is a spectacle to see, and to be seen, and it’s where the entire community comes together.
Check out their website:
The Red Cross + Crescent Museum
There are plenty of parks and museums, so you can spend a full day touring. Check out the Red Cross + Crescent Museum. (Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge). This museum is a brisk walk uphill past Lake Geneva, and its audio tour guides visitors through the history of the Red Cross from the Swiss founder, Jacob Dubs, who opened the first care center in 1866.
The high-tech tour is personalized, since you choose and follow a member of the Red Cross + Crescent (digitally) through their experience when the organization is summoned to help in catastrophic situations. The museum’s offerings stretch beyond the troubled periods of history, and address several present-day conflict zones due famine, war and climate change.
1: Best tap water I’ve ever tasted. Bottled water is not necessary.
2: Delicious coffee, and I’m not a coffee drinker.
3: Geneva is a walkable city with convenient public transportation.
4: This city is home to the friendliest people — but most are beyond trilingual, and can curse you out in your mother tongue if you’re rude or misbehave.
5: Gratuities are included in your bill at bars/cafes/restaurants. Leave a little extra when you receive superior service.
6: Expect to dig deep into your bank account. Everything from lunch to dinner and touring is expensive for locals and tourists alike.
P.K. Greenfield is a freelance writer for Beauty News NYC, The Fabulous Report, Millennium Magazine, Passport, i-Italy and The Wall Street Journal.
Photo Credits: David Meystre and P.K. Greenfield