Eurostar launches UK-Switzerland route

Eurostar has launched connections from the UK to 18 Swiss stations in a partnership with high-speed train operator Lyria. Journey times from London’s St Pancras range from 6.5 hours to Geneva, to 7.5 hours to Zurich and Bern. Prices start from GBP100 one way, making this a potentially cheaper mode of travel than even discount airlines.

Can we tempt you to visit Geneva?

Home to a million clocks, a thousand non-government organizations and a hundred Benneton ads, Geneva is a true global city, very beautiful and proud of its rich heritage.

Geneva is not the capital of Switzerland, as most people believe, and is actually only the third largest Swiss city. But Geneva is slick, cosmopolitan and very international. Four out of 10 Genevans were born in another country.

Geneva is known as a seat of world diplomacy, having served as the birthplace of the Red Cross and as an important base of the United Nations. It hosts the headquarters of the World Health Organization and will be one of the host cities of the European Football Championships in 2008.

Most people in Geneva speak French or English but there are also many people who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Italian and Swiss German.

In 1541, Geneva was still an independent republic when it aligned with Protestant Rome. The Reformation played a central role in the city’s history, influencing its administration, economy and politics. In 1813, Geneva became the République et Canton de Genève, a Swiss Canton,

A key moment in Geneva’s history occurred in 1602 when the city turned back the invading army of the Dukes of Savoy to retain its liberty. This historic moment is celebrated during the Escalade, the city’s most important annual festival.

Geneva welcomes its tourists with open arms. It offers them countless museums and prominent landmarks as well as exquisite dining and an eclectic nightlife. Geneva has much to offer, from its beautiful and peaceful setting to its international flavor and sense of adventure.

Attractions

Tourists are usually eager to visit the Jet d’Eau, the most famous landmark in Geneva. But Vienna’s residents know that the real treasures lie in Old Town (vielle ville) where visitors can get an idea of life in Geneva during the 18th century. From there, it’s a short uphill climb to the Cathédrale St-Pierre and its archaeological excavation and a brief walk to a host of other attractions.

Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Geneva.

The Jet d’Eau

Located at Lake Geneva, the Jet d’Eau is a water fountain that spews water 140 meters up into the sky. It was originally conceived to release pressure from the Rhône River and, in 1891, the city decided to make the fountain a permanent display. The best time to admire the Jet d’Eau is at night when the lights are on. Make sure to watch it from a distance unless you want to have an impromptu shower. Admission is free.

Cathédrale St-Pierre

Located at Place St. Pierre atop the old town, Cathédrale St-Pierre is now visited mostly for the old archaeological site dating back to the 3rd century BC and until the old cathedral was built in the 12th century. An underground passage connects the International Museum of the Reformation to the old cathedral. Another building, the Auditoire, houses the Espace Saint-Pierre, a museum devoted to both tradition and modernity.

International Museum of the Reformation

This museum traces the history of the Reformation movement in Geneva through rare books, old manuscripts, paintings and other relics of the Reformation. It now boasts of a state-of-the-art audio-visual presentation that sheds light on the Reformation’s spiritual and cultural elements.

Palais des Nations

Located at 14 Avenue de la Paix, the former headquarters of the League of Nations boasts of beautifully manicured grounds, a spectacular Assembly Hall and a formidable collection of art. You’ll need your passport to gain entry.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

This is one of the best museums in Europe and a tribute to the Red Cross, which was founded in Geneva. It is a testament to the organization’s service to people everywhere during times of war and natural disasters. The photos and display items found here are striking.

Musée ARIANA

Located at Avenue de la Paix 10, this museum contains over 16,000 ceramic items found in Asia and Europe. It’s located at the previous site of the United Nations building.

Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Located on the waterfront, the conservatory has over 16,000 international plant species.

CERN

Funded by 20 countries, CERN is a science and technology think tank that studies particle physics and occasionally introduces new inventions such as the World Wide Web. It has a popular Microcosm display that features the Big Bang and other phenomena. Guided tours are available.

Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

Located in Old Town, this museum was conceptualized as an encyclopedic museum devoted to the history of western culture. It has a huge collection of painting, sculptures and displays.

Musée d’Histoire Naturelle

Also located in Old Town, this museum is famous for featuring the stuffed bodies of every tiger species ever recorded. Children love it here.

Patek Phillipe Museum

Fans of Swiss watches or watches in general will be impressed by the extensive collection of quality timepieces on display here. The oldest watch dates back to the 13th century and is still ticking. Most of the watches were made in Geneva and other places in Switzerland.

Promenade des Bastions

It’s a huge monument to Reformation featuring statues of the forefathers of the movement. There are smaller statues that depict important moments in Reformation history.

Tour de L’Île

Located in Old Town, the ruins of the Tour de L’Île fortress are impressive. It was once a key fortification of the medieval city.

Dining

Geneva is Switzerland’s capital of food. It has a wide variety of food that caters to every conceivable taste, which is a direct benefit of the city’s having a large international community. Geneva’s native food specialties such as fondue are an absolute delight to the taste buds. The bad news is that Geneva is probably the most expensive city in what is regarded as an expensive country.

The following are some of the best restaurants in Geneva.

Edelweiss

For tourists who are eager to soak themselves in Swiss culture, this is probably the best place to try out authentic Swiss food. High on its list of specialties is the cheese fondue as well as other lesser known Swiss delicacies. They also have a live band that sings nothing but folk music, complete with the yodeling singers. The only thing missing in this Swiss restaurant are the Swiss since it’s mostly patronized by tourists. Edelweiss is located at Manotel, Place de la Navigation 2.

Café des Négociants

Everything about this restaurant is hip, from its food and wine to its wonderful design. Diners can look around the restaurant’s wine cellar and choose their bottle. Naturally, the desserts are hip as well. If you plan to eat here, book your reservation about a week in advance as it tends to get very crowded. It’s located at 29 rue de la Filature.

Le Triporteur

Located at 33 rue de Carouge, Le Triporteur appears to be as expensive as any swanky restaurant in Geneva but, for such a high-end place, tourists are pleasantly surprised at how cheap dining here costs. It’s an excellent place for couples and an ideal venue to impress a date. The ambience is romantic and discrete.

Café des Bains

If you want to dine with the beautiful people, this is the place. Located at Rue des Bains 26 in the city center, Café des Bains is a favorite dining spot of artists and models. The house specialty is pan-fried king prawns. Naturally, they also have plenty of fine vegetarian dishes for their figure-conscious clientele.

Bars and Nightlife

A city with such a large international community as Geneva will surely have an eclectic mix of bars, pubs and nightclubs. The following are some of the best nightspots in the city.

Alhambar

Located at Rue de la Rôtisserie 10 in the Old Town, Alhambar sits right atop the Alhambra Theater. As such, it consistently draws the good-looking theater crowd who all love to dance to the beat of the house DJs. Feathers hang from its ceiling while lamp shades with zebra prints adorn every table in the place. Alhambar also serves brunch on weekends.

Pickwicks

Of the dozen or so British pubs in Geneva, this is probably the most popular. It’s filled to the rafters during football nights as the raucous expatriates sip Guinness while cheering on their favorite team. There’s dancing on Saturday nights but most people come here for the drinks. It’s a very friendly place and also serves some of the best burgers in town.

Plaine de Plainpalais

This area located south of Old Town hosts over a dozen excellent bars and clubs. It draws a lot of students and young professionals, especially since the Université de Genève is just around the corner. Among the best nightspots in this area are Remor, Moloko Bar, and l’Ethno.

La SIP

SIP stands for “Soul Influenced Product,” and it’s one of the biggest and most popular nightspots in the city. The ground floor is a bar while the second floor is a dance club. It regularly draws a huge crowd every night composed of both locals and foreigners. Located at rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, the music is mostly mainstream. It’s open until 5 a.m. every night.

Weetamix

Located at 37 Chemin Jacques Philbert, Weetamix isn’t easy to find but it certainly has a lot to offer. This club features the best electronic music in Geneva, courtesy of international DJs from the US, UK and France.

Shakers

This is the place for a fun wild night, helped along no doubt by the strong cocktails that they serve. Shakers has a magnificent dance floor and is a favorite haunt of English-speaking tourists. It’s located at rue Winkelried 4.

Getting to and Around Geneva

Nearly all European carriers and airlines from many major cities serve the Generva International Airport.

From the airport can take the bus, train or a taxi to the city center. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., a bus (Number 10) leaves the airport to the 22 Cantons stop every 15 minutes. Trains leave the airport every 20 minutes and stop at the main train station in the city. Tickets for both bus and train cost 3CHF, good for one hour of travel. The airport also offers free bus and train tickets at the Geneva Transport kiosk near the arrival terminal, and they are enough to get you into the city center. Meanwhile, a taxi into town usually costs around 30 CHF. There are plenty of taxis outside the airport terminal.

Once inside Geneva, it’s easy to get around as there’s a wide array of transport at your disposal, including buses, trams, trolly buses and taxis. Tickets can be purchased at any stop. If you’re staying for several days, you will save more with a week-long pass.

Driving around the city can be difficult as parking is hard to find. Most tourists prefer to take a taxi around Geneva, and rates are cheaper if you’re in the city limits. Phone to order a taxi instead of waiting for one on the streets.

Many people get around Geneva by walking, and tourists should try that as well, especially near Lake Geneva or around Rhone River. If you want to cover more ground, rent a bicycle for a day or half-day. It’s also possible to borrow a free bike from May to October around Genève Roule.

Naturally, the best way to get around Rhone River is by boat and there are hourly daytime excursions available, unless it’s raining. These trips are either full-day or half-day. Couples prefer to take the evening cruise. Tickets are available at Quai du Mont-Blanc, which is also where the boat trip begins. There are also daytime excursions available on Lake Geneva.

Festivals and Events

Geneva has a host of lively festivals throughout the year. Here are some of the most notable among them.

L’escalade

The biggest event in Geneva’s festival calendar is L’escalade on December 11 which celebrates a remarkable event in the city’s history: turning back the Duke of Savoy’s army in 1602. One story that locals love to recreate: as the army invaded Geneva, one of the local housewives poured a steaming cauldron of vegetable soup on a soldier’s head and repeatedly bopped him over the head until the soldier made a hasty retreat. Today, Genevans celebrate by eating large amounts of chocolate, not soup. The locals don period costumes and participate in processions around town which culminate in a large bonfire in front of the cathedral.

Fêtes de Genève

Held every August, this national day is celebrated over two weekends with fireworks, parades and free musical concerts. Some say this occasion features the best fireworks display in Europe every year. People have picnics all over the city and there is dancing in the streets.

Bol d’Or

This is the biggest yacht race in Europe. Every June, Lake Geneva is filled with over 600 yachts that participate in a joyous race to the end of the lake and back. The crowds cheer lustily as Lake Geneva becomes a sea of bobbing white sails.

Fête de la Musique

During three days in June, about 40 stages are set up all over Europe for a series of free musical concerts. Performers cover the gamut of musical styles, including jazz bands, chamber orchestras, punk rock, electronic music, drum and bugle bands, children’s choirs and others. The main venues for this musical extravaganza are Parc des and l’Usin

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