Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Geneva doesn't need tourists

Geneva is a city that we all know well, the second most populous city in Switzerland, a ‘global city,’ a financial centre and a City of Peace  ... but not a holiday destination.

Lake Geneva with Jet d'Eau

I don’t really recall seeing Geneva advertised much as a place to visit, it certainly hasn't a large reliance on the tourism market and this is for two reasons:

1. It doesn't need tourists
2. It is very expensive.

In case you think I am starting off too negative, let me confuse you further - Geneva is beautiful.
Geneva has culture, it has grace, it will entertain you and the food is exquisite.

The French speaking city which boasts the Headquarters of the United Nations and the Red Cross hosts a number of international talks and meetings between different countries and groups each year. The city is home to a large number of diplomats and sees an enormous number of foreign visitors each week on various business, so they don’t necessarily need "tourists".

Geneva is in fact, a very travel friendly city, public transport is free to those staying in hotels in or around the city, the landmarks are well signposted and easily accessed, everyone speaks English (along with a host of other languages) and there is plenty to photograph.

But it is expensive, hotel rooms cost a bomb, food and drink is on the very high end, most of the shops only sell designer items and Swiss Francs (CHF) do not last long in your pocket.
Yummy cafe mocha!

When I visited the city for three days, I used the location as a buffer zone (as many do politically). I arrived after a hectic ten pays in Courmayeur, Italy from my Winter Wedding and a ski holiday. I was wrecked. From Geneva I would be returning home to more celebrations.
So I needed to rejuvenate in Geneva, I wanted the city to give me balance, restore my spirits and yet also entertain me.
And as it usually does for countries all over the world and rivalling groups seeking resolution, 
Geneva thankfully delivered.

Due to high prices for accommodation we stayed Novotel Geneve Centre in the Red Light District. The location was perfect, and the area was lovely during the day, at night there was security outside the hotel and plenty of ladies pacing the streets, but nothing intimidating.

The broken chair at Place des Nations

As our time was short, and my energy was low we went to see some of the city’s main highlights, while stopping regularly for coffee, drinks, and food. The coffee, pastries and food were truly French inspired culinary treats.

The Jet d’Eau fountain of water which is pumped 140m into the air is a real spectacle. The spurt of water was once an occasional pressure release for hydro-power generation on the Rhone River - but it was so popular that in 1891 they made it a permanent exhibition. Stunning at night when it is lit up - this is a sight to be seen from a distance as the surrounding half kilometre will have you soaked in water!

Cath├ędral St Pierre is also worth taking the time to admire. Originally built as a Catholic place of worship, it embodies the high point of the reformation.

Place des Nations - home of the United Nations Headquarters is a must see when in Geneva. We didn't actually go inside the centre (energy levels were low) but the square which usually hosts a colourful protest and the interesting broken chair sculpture as well as the flags, the large building and the security (you might even spot a few blacked out limousines carrying some important people!)

Shopping - Geneva’s city centre rivals New York, Paris and London for designer shopping. Even if all you can do is stare into the windows drooling a walk through the expensive street is part of the Geneva experience.

Finally for me Geneva was a food heaven. Admittedly it steals from the French, but it packages it up nicer, puts a hefty price tag on your dinner and makes it feel more exclusive, more delicious, even divine!

Cathedrale St Pierre, Geneva


- Flew into Geneva International Airport with Aer Lingus from Dublin

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