Lake Geneva Photo: Anders Modig
Lake Geneva Photo: Anders Modig


Things to do in Geneva

Geneva is steeped in history, has an emerging scene for contemporary culture and is known for international glam of a relaxed sort. Another thing that makes it a good destination for a short getaway is its size - you can totally cover it in a few days, even on foot.

Photo: Anders Modig

Geneva Time

Geneva has been dominant on the watch scene since the 1500s, when Calvinist reformers deemed jewelry ostentatious, so jewelers turned to watches instead. For an overview head to the Cité du Temps or to the Patek Philippe Museum west of Plainpalais, where you will see timepieces ranging from the 16th to the 21st century. And if you want to get an idea of the craziest new-school trends around, go to the M.A.D. Gallery run by Max Büsser and Friends. Here you will not only see this brand's crazy horological machines, which are best described as kinetic sculptures for the wrist, but also mechanical art by invited artists from around the world. This could be Americana-road mantic photography, hand-built motorbikes, steampunkish light sculptures or larger clocks.

Patek Philippe Museum

Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Genève

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Photo: Anders Modig

Winter swimming at Bains de Paquis

On a pier jutting some 200m into the lake, halfway out you will find Bains de Paquis on your right side. To do the baths Geneva style, you go here in winter, so you can submerge your steaming body into the freezing lake after a sauna - a pleasure and equalizer enjoyed by rich and poor Genevoise. The complete Bains de Paquis experience also includes a massage beforehand and a fondue afterwards in the simple on-site restaurant.

Bains de Paquis

Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, Genève

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Contemporary art

Oh, Geneva, how art thou? Well, the art scene is growing and reclaiming the position it had in the city's small but vivid anarchist scene in the 1990s, when squats were aplenty, street arts and performance flourished, and the steady beats of secret, illegal basement electronica parties bounced between the bourgeois façades. Start in Quartier Les Bains at MAMCO, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, housed in a former factory. In the same building complex, you will also find the photography center, not forgetting the party and event space Le Cercle. Gallery Patrick Cramer around the corner is a good jumping-off point for the private galleries, and three or four times per year MAMCO and all the surrounding galleries are open until late in the evening for what is called Nuits de Bains. To reminisce over the city's rebellious past, finish with a beer at L'Usine - if you don't mind a crusty crowd of diehard studded and neck-tattooed punks.

Quartier des Bains

Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, Genève

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Shop till you drop

Rue du Rhône is one of the world's most luxurious shopping strips. Here you will find the usual high-end fashion brands - Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel . . . you name it and it is probably here. And since we're also in watch country, Rue du Rhône also offers boutiques from Breguet, Piaget, Panerai, Harry Winston and de Grisogono. More alternative shopping is to be had south of Plainpalais, on the east of side of Rue de Carouge, along Rue Prévost-Martin, Rue du Prè-Jerôme and Rue des Voisins. Here well curated boutiques such as Les Enfants Terribles, L'Arsenal and Pourquoi Pas carry fashion and other designs from edgier Swiss and international brands.

Rue du Rhône

Rue du Rhône, Genève,

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View from the cathedral Photo: Anders Modig

Old Town - Cathedral - Plainpalais

Geneva is best explored on foot. Start in the old town by Place du Molard, where the Swiss department store Globus is housed in a purpose-built mall dating back to the 1690s. Criss-cross up the hill to the St. Pierre Cathedral, where you can ascend the 157 steps to the top. Take a compulsory selfie with the old town, the lake and the Jet D'Eau as your backdrop. Interesting fact - today, the daily running of the Jet D'Eau is managed by a gang of voluntary retirees who make sure the fountain is on every day as long as the temperature is above -3°C. Leave the old town behind by descending to the Reformation Wall in Parc des Bastions, a reminder of the process that started 501 years ago. After saying hi to the Calvin statue, cut across the Place de Neuve and head west until you hit Plainpalais.


Plainpalais, Genève

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Photo: Anders Modig

United Nations quarter

Palais des Nations, home to the European headquarters of the United Nations, the Red Cross and other institutions, is where history is made. It is also a contemporary architecture lover's must-see. Start with the Red Cross Museum, with Japanese starchitect Shigeru Ban's cardboard-lined interactive room on how to reduce natural risk, Brazilian Gringo Cardia's space on defending human dignity and the exhibition about reconstructing family links designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso. The temporary exhibition space and common areas are overseen by Swiss Atelier Oï. Take Avenue de la Paix towards the lake, and after crossing the railway tracks hang a right on Rue Kazem-Radjavi for the spectacular Japanese Tobacco International building designed by SOM - finally something good has come from smoking.

United Nations quarter

Avenue de la Paix 17, Genève

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