Geneva (Geneve) is an excellent base for snow travellers as it is located on the Swiss/French border just a stone’s throw away from many of Europe’s top resorts.
Geneva Cointrin International Airport is six minutes by train from the city and handles more than eight million passengers a year providing direct links from around the globe. Fast TGV and intercity trains heading all over Switzerland and Europe depart 24 hours a day from both the airport and Geneva Central Station. Buses leave from the airport to many of the Swiss and French ski resorts multiple times daily.
Geneva is a small city with a large international culture. It is home to world leading trading companies, international banks, aid agencies and high tech and biotech companies. It has a reputation of being very elite and expensive but it can easily be experienced on a budget.
Hostels and small 2 and 3 star hotels are located well within walking distance of the central train station with 4 and 5 star hotels generally located on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Hotel Bernina is a secure 3 star hotel opposite the central train station costing around $130USD per night for a medium sized room with an ensuite and a small breakfast. It is well run and has a handy storage room to leave luggage and excess shopping for extended periods.
The best way to explore Geneva is on foot. From central station it is a five minute stroll to the shores of Lake Geneva where the largest fountain in the world - Le Jet D’Eau - is located. The fountain looks magnificent on a clear sunny day, visible throughout Geneva spurting 110 gallons of water per second 425 feet into the air.
Sightseers cross the river and walk through the modern city to the old town made up of tiny cobbled streets lined with old bookshops, antique stores and tiny bars and restaurants. The 750+ year old Geneva Cathedral sits atop the hill looking down across the lake.
Still on foot explore the many shops Geneva has to offer, the main shopping area runs parallel to the lake along Rue de la Confederation, Rue du Rhone, Rue De Rive and Rue du Marche. Whilst top designer stores are always expensive, good stores like Benetton, Zara, Kookai, Esprit, H & M, Morgan, the Globus department store and a myriad of other local Swiss design stores are surprisingly great value. If you happen to be in Geneva at the end of the winter season huge discounts are offered.
Jewellery and watch stores are scattered throughout the city offering beautiful pieces and the latest fashion watches, many also selling the renowned Swiss Army Knives. Duty can be claimed on some items.
The chocolate shops along Rue De Rive have exquisite chocolates and beautiful display windows selling individual chocolates as well as boxes of all sizes.
Geneva has restaurants offering all types of cuisine from Swiss, to French, Italian, Greek, Asian and fast food outlets. During the day it can be cheaper to eat on the run rather than go to a restaurant. The department store Manor near central station has a very high quality food court selling fresh warm baguettes filled with Swiss cheese and ham or hot slices of thin crust pizza, warm cakes and breads. Hot chickens, cheesy potatoes and salads can also be bought and although there are no sit down tables inside Manor it is just a short walk from lakeside picnic tables.
On Rue de la Confederation sample a hot fresh quiche or chocolate croissant and café au lait from one of the superb patisseries.
All shops are closed on Sundays in Geneva except fast food outlets and some restaurants. The cinemas are open and usually very busy. Many English movies are available - you know they are in English if there is a ‘VO’ written after the title – it means original version.
Bars and nightclubs are dispersed throughout the city of Geneva. The red light district, around central station, has a lot of small bars that stay open late while dance clubs are located on the other side of the river on the edge of the old town.
English is spoken extensively in Geneva; it is very unusual to be in a situation where someone does not speak any English.