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.
Author Jebediah Reed
DAY TWO | You catch the lucky number 13 tram in front of the train station, just a short walk from the President Wilson, and take a 10-minute ride south across the Rhone and Arve rivers to the village of Carouge, an artsy alter-ego to the conservative city center. Wandering streets lined with artisan shops hawking wine, cheese, soap and bespoke cosmetics, you come to the unassuming storefront where Jean Kazes (1), one of the world’s most renowned clockmakers, has been building his monumental timepieces for almost four decades. (When Patek Philippe wants a clock for its corporate headquarters, it calls Kazes.) You chat briefly with the master, who recommends you stop at the nearby Wolfisberg (2) boulangerie—recently honored as Europe’s best breadmaker—for a taste of the signature “Wolfis bread” and a cup of coffee. Then you find yourself scoping out the Histoire de Vins (3) wine shop and chatting with the earnest and immensely knowledgeable proprietor, Michel Delomier.
For lunch, walk across the street to La Bourse (4), a restaurant that manages to be warm and unassuming even though the waiters are wearing bow ties and black vests. You order mussels and frites, dipping your fried potatoes into a sublime herb sauce, which according to the waiter has more than 50 secret ingredients. He doesn’t divulge even one.
In the afternoon, on your way back to town, you stroll along the lakefront, watching mouettes ply the lake and gazing at Mont Blanc beyond. The path takes you the elegant hilltop villa housing the History of Science Museum (5). You wander through the mansion’s conservatory, lingering among the collection of 18th century microscopes. Walking down the hill, you listen to an old busker singing John Denver songs in broken English. Country roads, indeed.
More than one new local friend has informed you that the Bains des Pâquis (6) spa is “the soul of Geneva.” So you stroll onto a concrete jetty stretching far out into the lake until you come upon the well-trafficked café, where you enjoy a bowl of delectable (and affordable) carrot leek soup, a plate of bread and brie, and an espresso. The atmosphere is homey. Beyond the café is an outdoor spa, where you relax even more. After 15 minutes in a 200-degree sauna you are suddenly one of the the brave few willing to take a dip in the frigid waters of Lake Geneva. Now you know what everyone meant about soul.
Back at the Wilson, you change into your chicest clothes and hop a cab up to Geneva’s fortress of jet-set cool, La Reserve (7). The hotel and spa, themed as an elegant safari lodge, are set on several acres north of the city and cater to a very exclusive, stylish crowd. You book dinner at Le Tsé-Fung, the hotel’s world-class Chinese restaurant. After the meal, you and your dinner companion step outside onto a patio to breathe the clear night air and enjoy views of the lake. The weather is cool, and before you know it an employee has draped a butter-soft wool blanket over your shoulders and silently disappeared inside.
as though you are part of the fabric of the place, enjoying its charms ever so discreetly. In fact, the Genevoise wouldn’t have it any other way.