Geneva has been a strategic mainstay in world politics. One can’t say the city’s name without thinking of historical conferences and documents. Home to the League of Nations, the scientists of CERN and a glistening lake, Geneva is at once quite serious and yet so seductive. As soon as you exit the main train station, the Gare Cornavin, you’ll be taken under its spell.
There is a grand opulence to this city. High-end stores such as Harry Winston, Rolex, Louis Vuitton and others line the streets with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop. It’s easy to comprehend why Geneva is one of the most affluent cities in the world.
Besides the extravagant shops around town, Geneva is also infused with tradition, cultural activities and of course, that dazzling scenery. It’s possible to climb to the highest point in Geneva, although in actuality you are in France. How? Mt Saleve, is in the French Pre-Alps, towering 1400 meters above Geneva. You can climb to a cable car that will take you the rest of the way. The 90-minute hike is worthwhile for its dramatic view.
On more solid ground, see locals and tourists alike enjoy the manicured beauty of their city. The Parc La Grange is home to very old and tall trees and an 18th century villa. But the highlight of this park is Geneva’s largest rose garden with over 10,000 fragrant blooms. For another dose of humanity, visit the Plainpalais. As the name implies, this little oasis brings together people of all kinds. People walking their dogs, students reading on benches. Most days you’ll spot a fruit or vegetable market.
And speaking of food, while there’s no shortage of Michelin-starred restaurants, Geneva is home to quaint country inns ready to serve you more than fondue and raclette. A highlight of local cuisine is the Malakoff cheese fritter made with egg, white wine and kirsch. This makes a great appetizer to the main event: saucisse aux choux (pork and cabbage-filled sausage.) Wash it all down with a glass of local wine. Swiss wine? Yes! In the Lake Geneva Region there are 28 controlled appellations, which are grouped into four geographical areas, each producing both reds and whites. Not surprising considering the city’s close proximity to France.
How close? Considering Genevans speak French, very. You can get to Geneva from Paris in just over three hours on the high-speed TGV. The train goes fast – but slow enough that you can enjoy the scenery from your window. Use a Eurail France-Switzerland Pass to freely travel within both countries.
Switzerland really is the apex of exceptional views. They are jaw-dropping, mind-bending, soul-enriching. And you can see so much more of this magnificence from the train and the Swiss have one of the top-rated rail systems in the world. Swiss trains are known for their punctuality and frequency. Get a Swiss Pass and hop on board for the ride of your life. You may even yodel in delight.
Contributed by: Mick, Rail Europe French Bilingual Staff, studied in France and became a nomad backpacker in Europe.