Visit Switzerland’s Second Largest City

Geneva lies between the Alps and the Jura mountains on the shore of Lake Geneva on the west side of Switzerland verging on France. Geneva is the second biggest city in Switzerland after Zürich.

Most foreigners know Geneva as a quaint Swisscity, home to the United Nations, chocolate shops and watchmakers. But beyond the tourist haunts, in-the-know locals are slinking into underground jazz bars, exploring the city from the seats of vintage bikes and swapping luxury jewellery shops for browsing the wares at quirky boutiques. So forget the sparkle, the plush hotels and the flower clock, and experience Geneva in a fresh way – as an insider would.

History:

A city-state transformed after many modifications into a democratic Swiss canton, Geneve has functioned primarily as a centre of commerce, in contact with both Germanic and Mediterranean countries. The contemporary city of Geneva is, above all, a service metropolis, retaining its financial importance and housing the headquarters of many public and private international organizations. Pop. (2010) city, 187,470; urban agglom., 544,772.

The Mediterranean serves as inspiration for the ever-changing menu of innovative quiches, breads, pastries and tarts. Using flavors from Turkey and Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon, savory and sweet tones are creatively fused and an in-truck oven means piping hot goods are always on offer. For a real treat, grab a slice of the apricot and rosemary crumble and wash it down with spicy chai while strolling the market’s stalls for vintage watches.

Attractions:

Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève

Admission is free to the permanent collection of this excellent hands-on museum, ‘The Archives of Human Diversity’, which examines the similarities and differences of our planet’s myriad of cultures. It showcases around 1000 artefacts from the museum’s 80,000-strong collection. In 2017, the ‘MEG’ was awarded the prestigious title of European Museum of the Year. Admission fees (adult/child Sfr 9/6) apply to visiting temporary exhibits.

Buvette des Bains

Meet Genevans at this earthy beach bar – rough and hip around the edges – at the Bains des Pâquis lakeside pool and sauna complex. Grab breakfast, a salad or the plat du jour (dish of the day), or dip into a fondue au crémant (sparkling-wine fondue). Dining is self-service on trays and al fresco in summer.

Activities:

See: For top-notch jazz, step inside the AMR (www.amr-geneve.ch), a local music school that hosts some of the continent’s best jazz bands and musicians nightly. Workshops and open jam sessions held in an underground cellar round out its daily performance schedule.

Eat: Set among leafy trees in a petite park behind the historic Brunswick Monument is the Cottage Café. This restaurant is always packed with locals sipping on coffees in the morning, lounging over lunches at midday, or digging into tapas dinners when the restaurant’s menu of small plates kicks in at night (the sweet potato tart tartin with morels and cream is not to be missed). Warmer months are best spent on the patio, while the eclectic interior provides a cosy respite in the winter.

Drink: Floor-to-ceiling windows and bright, colorful chairs make Les Cinq Portres (www.lescandale.ch/public/5_portes.html) a cheerful and airy spot to share a carafe of wine, beer or cocktail in any season. In the evenings, dim lighting and a plethora of candles set a relaxed mood that makes lingering a pleasure. The servers and clients are all down to earth, offering a reprieve from the more buttoned-up bars around town.

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