Geneva’s sincere global air, urbane populace, historic sights, and arresting Gothic architecture snuggled in a tranquil, picturesque setting around a mystic lake make the ‘Capital of Peace’ a place you would want to live forever.
There’s a lot more to Geneva apart from the fondue and chocolates. There’s the picturesque Lake Geneva, a simple teaser of the countless spectacular natural panoramas you can discover in Switzerland. There’s the pretty old town, its meandering backstreets leading to art galleries, unobtrusive leafy parks, and warm cafés.
Burrowed in a valley at the western brink of Switzerland, Geneva is a peaceful setting for a slow-paced holiday. Back in the 1800s too, Geneva used hydroelectric power. They constructed a hydraulic plant and recycled the water from the lake and the river to power the machines to make watches and chocolate. When shops were shut in the evenings or on days off , the power built up and required an outlet. The engineers averted the water into a jet which shot into the air in a similar way to a geyser. Today this Jet is a flagrant feature in Geneva’s vista. It is higher than the Big Ben or even the leaning tower of Pisa and is turned on every morning by hand by a caretaker at precisely 9am, according to a precise Swiss watch, but of course! Lake Geneva is so arresting to see in being. At initial look it has an inimitably whirled look with pulsating shades of aqua, blue and green. Earnestly spectacular. This ensues since the waters from the glaciers in the French Alps are perky turquoise and stream straight into the deep blue waters of the Rhone River, which is nursed by the lake. The two colors blend together and give the lake an amazing moiré look! Visitors coming to Geneva always book a hotel with a view of this breathtaking lake and the Jet d’Eau. Geneva is an impressive city bragging an opulent history, stunning landscapes and several beautiful places to stay. It was in one such hotel where I had booked my stay . Can you imagine the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues is the first hotel to open not just in Geneva, but the entire Switzerland, way back in 1834?. The sizable luxury hotel is situated right on the banks of Lake Geneva and it works best to stay in a lake-view room or suite offering spectacular views.
LUXURY WATCH MAKING
Back in the 1500s, when Martin Luther begun the Protestant Restructuring, John Calvin (an important part of the reformation), relocated to Geneva and became a front-runner of the movement. All art was disconnected from churches to focus exclusively on scripture. Jewelry and extravagant exhibitions of affluence were also forbidden. Watches however were considered practical, so they were still permitted and now the only way the people of Geneva could show their prosperity. The previous jewelers swapped to manufacturing watches, and thus started the luxury watch industry in Geneva. Book yourself in a half day workshop at ‘Intium’ to understand the anonymities of watchmaking, an congenital skill which over the periods has become undistinguishable with this country. With screwdrivers and tweezers in your hand, supervised by a master watcher one feels quite the professional. The pleasure of seeing the beating heart of a watch that you have assembled come to life is matchless and helps one access the obscurities of a motorised gauge. And if you want to buy a Rolex while in Geneva? The Bucherer Jewelry store is your best option.
Buy a Geneva Pass! It will permit you to visit over fifty attractions and also gives you admission to free public transportation! Check out the Palace of Nations which houses the United Nations Office, but with a guide. An identity proof is needed for most tours so do pack your passport! Walking around the Old Town will get you to see all from a magnificent cathedral to a range of rare art galleries. Stopping by and taking pictures of the La Place du Bourg-de-Four, Cathedral St. Pierre, the Old Arsenal and Maison Tavel come highly recommended. A trip to Geneva would be incomplete without devoting a few hours discovering Lake Geneva. You can rent a paddleboard, go kayaking or buy a fishing licence. If you have a some spare time you totally have to paraglide in Geneva! What better way to see a beautiful city than from the sky?
OF MICHELIN DINING
Geneva’s cobblestone streets are dotted with open-air cafes and independent shops, while the more multicultural sections of the city are overflowing with upscale brands and classy restaurants. Luxury seating embraces consumers as superlative orchestras play inside the Victoria Hall. Even the fine dining here is well-thought-out an art. One look at the medieval-era edifice of Domaine de Châteauvieux located in Satigny, in the Geneva canton, and you can instantaneously feel its history. On offer here is nouveau French fare. Philippe Chevrier, owner and head chef has two Michelin stars to his credit. The experience of having a tasting menu crafted entirely of local including the wines is what, makes it unique. Il Lago, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant at the Four Seasons in elegant frescoed rooms on the ground floor, is a pronounced café spot during the day that turns into a stylish restaurant with stimulating cocktails at night and also serves breakfast and brunch, its aim is to create cool to Geneva. Chef Massimilano Sena blissfully brings untried, varied Italian cuisine to the table. Remember to carry your vaccination certificate and passport to enter a dining establishment in Geneva.
TRANSPORTAION WITHIN SWITZERLAND
For a comfortable journey through Switzerland, buy a unique all-in-one 1st class Swiss Travel Pass which gives you Unlimited travel by train, bus and boat. Public transportation in more than 90 cities and towns; Including mountain excursions: Rigi, Stanserhorn and Stoos. Free admission to more than 500 museums throughout Switzerland. Download these two free informative apps for your journey: Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app and Swiss Travel Guide app
LANGUAGE, CURRENCY, MOBILE & TIME ZONE
The language spoken in Geneva is French. But English is widely understood and spoken. The currency is CHF and one CHF equals to 81 INR. Phone cards can be bought at the train station and there are some that come with unlimited data. WiFi is easily available in most public places though. India is 4 hours and thirty minutes ahead of Geneva.
TRAVELLING IN THE TIME OF COVID
If you are fully vaccinated with Covishield & Covaxin or any other WHO approved vaccine (second dose 15 days before the travel), you can travel to Switzerland. Please fill the form before departure https://swissplf.admin.ch/formular. Remember to carry N95 masks and a sanitizer for your flight.
A Covid negative report is required before embarking the flight back to India, so the test has to be conducted in Switzerland and the report uploaded online on Airport Authority’s Air Suvidha website, a day prior to travel. Getting an RTPCR test is also mandatory on arrival. This author took two Covid tests in a three days—one in India and one in Switzerland.
Rupali Dean is a well known food and travel writer based out of Delhi.