Three Days in Geneva

Making time for a destination gem
lifestyle, travel, art
Written By Victoria Veilleux

Famed as a center of international diplomacy and land of banks and financial institutions, Geneva possesses the global attraction of cities much larger in scale. The world’s most compact metropolis is dotted with medieval ramparts and unfolds almost magically at the foot of the Alps, with Lake Geneva stretching away toward the Rhône River. With picturesque charm like this, and a polyglot population that speaks five languages or more, no wonder Geneva draws throngs of well-heeled international travelers. Given 72 hours, visitors will have plenty to see and do.


Start the day by strolling the cobblestone streets in Vieille Ville, Geneva’s old town. Stop to enjoy café au lait at La Clémence, where the terrace serves as a perch for people-watching. Energized, head over to St. Pierre Cathedral to climb the 157 steps leading to the top of the north tower for a stunning view of the city and the lake.

Pay homage to the sacrosanct art of watchmaking at The Patek Philippe Museum, where you can revel in more than 500 years of horology genius by the eponymous maker, reputed for creating the world’s most expensive timepieces. After admiring inner workings, head over to the upscale shopping district of Rues Basses to check out collections by Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, Patek Philippe and others. (Luxury hoteliers will also arrange private collection viewings, such as the Luxury Watch Experience by Le Richemond.) Along the way, Café Papon is the perfect place to wind down with a light lunch alfresco. Or, first-time visitors to Geneva might opt for Les Armures, a forever favorite for Swiss fondue and raclette.

With designer boutiques in such close proximity on Geneva’s Left Bank, you can pack a lot of shopping into one afternoon. Natalia Dodi from Green Pebbles Switzerland, a Geneva-based luxury business consultancy firm, suggests hiring a personal shopper to navigate boutiques along Rue du Rhône, Rue du Marché, and Quai du General Guisan. Dodi recommends making stops at the avant-garde shops La Muse and Septieme Etage. Rues Basses shouldn’t be missed; it’s a jewelry mecca today with showrooms from names such as Chopard, Bucherer, Chatila and Fabergé, whose stunning flagship salon was designed by Jaime Hayon.

Gérard Père et Fils is a must for cigar aficionados in search of limited edition Cohibas and other Havana favorites. If your indulgence is chocolate, locals swear by Chocolats Rohr for petits Calvins and pavés glacés.

As the sun sets, arrange for a private yacht transfer to two-star Michelin restaurant Le Floris, in Anières, an exclusive hilltop location providing views of Lake Geneva almost as stunning as chef Claude Legras’ culinary creations. Before turning in for the night, stop off at L’atelier Cocktail Club in exclusive Eaux-Vives, where it’s said that the bartenders create some of the most unique cocktails in the city.


For travelers au fait with all considered en vogue, look no further than Quartier des Bains, in the Plainpalais neighborhood, where visitors will find contemporary art galleries and hip bistros. London-based contemporary and modern art advisor, Fernanda Gilligan, founder of Artset International, says Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (Mamco), built in 1994, served as a catalyst to Geneva’s burgeoning art scene, underscored by esteemed collector Larry Gagosian’s decision to open a gallery in Geneva in 2010.

Your art-inspired day begins with a guided tour of the cutting-edge exhibits at Mamco, or at the Centre d’Art Contemporain museum. Then peruse Quartier des Bains’ gamut of galleries. A staple stop among art goers is Stéphane Ribordy’s gallery Ribordy Contemporary, which promotes the work of contemporary artists such as Erik Lindman, Ryan Foerster, Viktor Kopp and Pierre Vadi. Ribordy spotlights a number of galleries to visit, including Skopia and newer neighborhood additions Xippas, Jancou and Graff Mourgue d’Algue. The Quartier des Bains Association can arrange private art walks.

Once you have worked up an appetite, Café des Bains, Cantine des Commerçants or recently opened Le Paris Bistrot are eateries to consider. And Le Réservoir wine bar provides the perfect setting for discussing favorite artists.

During the afternoon hours, art lovers can seek out the creative community of Ports Francs Lancy, four private galleries housed within the Geneva Freeport located in the La Praille neighborhood. Cynthia Gonzalez-Bréart, gallery assistant at Studio Sandra Recio, says, “The Freeports offer an industrial edge to the adventurous collector.”

If you choose to make degustation the main entertainment for the evening, a concerto of the senses awaits at two-star Michelin restaurant Domaine de Châteauvieux. Overlooking the Rhône in wine-growing Satigny, approximately a 20-minute drive from city center, chef-owner Philippe Chevrier prepares innovative courses with refined styling juxtaposed with the antiquated charm of a 16th-century vineyard farmhouse.

Or, dine at the Le Richemond or the Beau-Rivage—two of Geneva’s most exclusive hotels—before curtain call at The Grand Theater, where the city’s most celebrated performers have taken the stage since 1879.

During the afternoon hours, art lovers can seek out the creative community of Ports Francs Lancy, four private galleries housed within the Geneva Freeport located in the La Praille neighborhood.


Leave your in-town accommodations for exploration further afield.

Adventurers can be picked up via helicopter at the Geneva International Airport (ICAO: LSGG) and transported to the Air Zermatt heli-base in Zermatt for a day of heli-skiing-meets-culinary-adventure with Epic Europe. Owner Jack Shaw has picked out the best runs and culinary gems tucked along the slopes between Zermatt and Cervinia, Italy.

“Nowhere else in the Alps are you able to heli-ski a world-class descent like Monte Rosa, and within an hour of taking off your boots, enjoy a wine tasting from an innovative vigneron at a mountainside vineyard,” says Shaw.

Though the almost 14,000 feet/4,267 meters onto Monte Rosa is the highest heli-drop in the Alps, you needn’t be an expert to experience the powdery two-hour descent. View Matterhorn from Swiss Alpine club refuge, Monte Rosa Hutte, before continuing on to the long traverse on Gorner Glacier, meandering through frozen glacial riverbeds, and even skiing through an ice cave. Shaw recommends a stop at one of the best-rated restaurants in the Alps, Zum See, for farm-fresh ingredients and hearty peasant fare prepared with gourmand finesse—the owner’s son having apprenticed with Daniel Boulud.

Back at Zermatt, travel via helicopter to the helipad in Lausanne for an evening stay at the Beau-Rivage Palace. Those foregoing ski runs can hug the road in a Ferrari convertible (or hire chauffeured services) and make the scenic lakeside drive to Lausanne in less than an hour from Geneva. Thirty minutes into the ride, the cascading green terraces of the Lavaux Vineyards emerge. Comprised of vines possibly dating back to Roman times, this area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With only 2 percent of Swiss wine ever crossing the country’s borders, this sprawling hillside provides the ideal platform for tasting the country’s close-to-the-vest varietals garnering global attention—Robert Parker recently putting the spotlight on Blaise Duboux and Pierre-Luc Leyvraz. Spend the morning exploring the storybook towns of Epesses, Grandvaux and Puidoux. Oenophiles swirling and sampling until lunch should visit Auberge de l’Onde in St. Saphorin to have one of the region’s best sommeliers, Jérôme Aké, suggest the perfect meal pairing. Others can seek out the origin of milk chocolate at Poyet, to witness chocolate concoctions being made, partake in tastings or take classes in making chocolate.

There are plenty of places to taste Swiss cheese aged to perfection in Lausanne. Will Wyssmüller is said to make the best Gruyère, which can be found in local markets and shops in Vevey and Lausanne. To enjoy it melted in a traditional setting, go to Le Café du Grütli for a gamut of fondue specialties.

Michelin’s constellation of stars in this region is impressive and evening dining options prove stellar. Beau-Rivage Palace’s two-star restaurant features the culinary prowess of chef Anne-Sophie Pic—one of only four women to ever be awarded three Michelin Stars. Less than five miles/eight kilometers away, is three-star Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville Crissier (formerly Philippe Rochat). Here, you can glean gustatory acumen from Benoît Violier—2013 Chef of the Year by Gault Millau—during a half- or full-day cooking class before experiencing his palate-provoking courses that night.

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