Planning your next weekend away? Consider Geneva – Switzerland’s cosmopolitan city with designer shopping, luxury spas and fine dining — and all just an hour’s flight away.
Quick flight, easy transfer
Unlike most places you fly to with Easy Jet, Geneva’s airport isn’t in the middle nowhere. I’ve honestly never been out of an airport and into a city centre so fast. The train is well signposted throughout the airport and free once you’ve printed a ticket from a machine on the platform, and you’ll be walking through the city centre within 15 minutes.
There’s no doubt Geneva is swish and its hotels simply amplify that aesthetic. Just a 5 minute walk from the central station (where the train pulls in from the airport), Mandarin Oriental sits on the waterfront. From the moment I enter the dark marble lobby I know I like it; there’s a giant centrepiece made up of white peonies and I’m offered a glass of Prosecco as I check in. I’m escorted up to my room on the 6th floor and it’s stunning. I’ve got 2 marble bathrooms to myself, endless lighting options and settings, a mountain view that delights, and the biggest, whitest, nicest bed I ever set my eyes on. Even the Bang & Olufsen TV remote impresses me. I spend my first evening in Geneva admiring the view from the window, drinking champagne in bed and eating the tiny Toblerone from the world’s plushest pillows.
There’s no swimming pool but there’s great a steam room and tucked away in the changing rooms on the first floor, that I’m not sure if anyone knew about because both times I visited I had them all to myself. There’s also a spacious gym with state-of-the-art machines, weights and yoga mats — just don’t fall off the treadmill like I did…
Breakfast here is worth writing home about. Whether you start with carrot juice or Bucks Fizz, you can move on to fresh fruit, cheese, cold meats, cooked breakfasts, pancakes, pastries, nuts, yoghurt parfaits, Cocoa Pops, crab cakes, you name it. I test my stomach limits, and then have another pancake, before waddling back to my room.
Fresh mountain air
From looking out of the hotel window I can see city, mountains and Lake Geneve all at once. Geneva might be a city but it’s a small one and pollution is minimal. Make the most of its clean, mountain air with a fresh morning run along the lake — taking in the impressive mountain backdrop as I go and admiring Lake Geneve’s spectacular fountain. If you don’t fancy a run, a leisurely walk around the lake is just as beautiful — it’s pretty vast so it’s the perfect opportunity for a bit of headspace and a good old chinwag with your pals.
Window shopping aplenty
Geneva has designer shopping like no other; Bond Street has nothing on this. From one street corner on Place du Rhône I can see Boucheron, Harry Winston, Jimmy Choo and Céline all at once. But people here aren’t just window-shopping. I walk behind a woman who’s chicer than Phoebe Philo, and later at dinner, a woman on the table next to me must be wearing at least £200K of diamonds. We’re not saying you won’t fit in if you aren’t in designer, but if you’ve got some Burberry, bring it. If you’re in the market for splurging, Bongénie is a great department store with 7 floors of beauty and designer and luxe labels. Then for the rest of us, there’s a giant Zara too. And if you’re looking for something a little more boutiquey, that’s where the Girls Guide comes in – it has a great edit of the best fashion boutiques from right across the city.****
Stop for an Aperol Spritz
Like with most cosmopolitan European cities, as soon as the sun comes out squares and piazzas are awash with orange as locals don’t miss an Aperol Spritz opportunity, whatever time it might be. I like their thinking so I join in, enjoying a Spritz to myself on a table in the sun in the Bourg-de-Four Square in the old town.
**Prime pampering **
Don’t miss the opportunity to be pampered in Geneva. Get your nails done at Nail Bar, which has several locations across the city and gives a quick but quality manicure using O.P.I polishes (there’s an easy-to-find bar in the Bougénie department store on the main shopping street). For a massage that will leave you floating, go to TAOBAN on Rue des Chaudronniers in the old town. An hour-long full body massage complete with soothing music, lighting, and scents matched to your personal energy will leave your mind free and every muscle in your body relaxed. This is what weekend trips are about.
**Fine dining **
Hop on a tram and head to Carouge, Geneva’s prettiest neighbourhood, which is scattered with good restaurants, cute coffee shops and quaint boutiques. I ventured over that way in the evening for dinner at Le Flacon, a Michelin-star restaurant, which is highlighted in the Girl’s Guide. It was a great shout as the food, space and service were all wonderful. It’s a tiny neighbourhood joint and the intimate little venue has red shabby chic decor with tightly packed tables, a busy open kitchen and chalkboard menus. It’s a set dinner menu when I visit and there are only 2 choices for each course. I’m pescetarian so for me there’s only one option and I guess vegetarians just go hungry. I’ve always been told the less options on the menu the better the food, so I’m assuming this is going to be brilliant. It is indeed *delicious; *the starter is like nothing I’ve had before, comprised of 4 round serves of chilled fish with sliced radish, pea puree and Parmesan pastry squares. The main is a hearty fillet of fresh sea bass served within a pretty ring of pak choi, roasted parsnips and seasoned new potatoes, and a light lemon and custard dessert with cream foam finishes off the gastronomic affair.
I can’t speak with much authority but I’d say surely this had to be one of Geneva’s best date spots – great food, great French wine and a cosy, romantic atmosphere.
As the smallest city in the world, Geneva is great for roaming. Once you’ve explored the streets in the centre of town and the main shopping thoroughfare, wander more aimlessly around the backstreets to take in city life, or use the various maps in the Girls Guide to find yourself at rated coffee shops and museums — all the while being careful not to be hit by a tram! I enjoyed wandering along the waterfront to the MAMCO (Museum of Modern And Contemporary Art), where the city vibes turn slightly more grungy and arty, with converted warehouses and colourful graffiti.
Want to stay longer?
Ask any Genevan what they do at the weekend and they’ll say ski. The pistes are just a short drive away meaning that a day on the slopes is a feasible day trip – jealous! If you’ve got time to extend your weekend trip, hit the snow!
*I navigated my way around the city with the ‘Geneva Girls Guide’, a girls-orientated guidebook, which covers everything from the best stores to spas, drinkeries, eateries, activities and afternoon tea spots. Never before has a guidebook been so on my wavelength. *