This lakeside city of high finance and even higher mountaintops may seem like an exclusive Old World bastion, but it’s got the soul of a small town.
climbs Le Salève
Image – Dean Shults/Alamy
DAY THREE Roll out of bed, grab your passport, fortify yourself with coffee and fruit at President Wilson’s morning buffet, then walk up the hill to catch the No. 8 city bus. Within a few minutes you’re at the French border, walking through the checkpoint and hopping the aerial cable car—“Le Telepherique”—to the top of Geneva’s own magnificent Alp, Le Salève (1). You take in the astounding views of the city, the lake, and the valley of the Arve—wishing luck to the paragliders about to leap off a nearby cliff — then head off for a hike above the cable car station. In a meadow thick with wildflowers, you gamely hum a few tunes from The Sound of Music. Grab a hearty lunch at the mountaintop restaurant Horizon (2).
Down below, hop the No. 8 again and head for the Plainpalais district. There are plenty of art museums and shopping adventures to be enjoyed here, but you’re beelining for the Patek Philippe Museum (3), with its astonishing collection of watches dating back to 1540.
Drift uphill to a pedestrian mall near the rail station, and suss out Café de Paris (4), one of Geneva’s best-loved restaurants. The venerable family-run steakhouse is hidden among bland storefronts, but the atmosphere inside is crackling. A waiter points you toward a small table, packed in among other diners. There is no menu. The only dish available is steak in herbed butter. Here, the staff is in charge. You order a beer. The waiter shakes his head. You’ll be having red wine, he informs you. You comply cheerfully, thinking to yourself—as Julius Caesar must have during his own visit to Geneva two millennia before—“When in Rome…”
JEBEDIAH REED has a wedge of Gruyère stashed in a Swiss bank account.