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Not the most exciting of cities (most say it’s boring), but there are a ton of museums and high end restaurants. It’s a good rainy day destination – we’ve made a regular habit of taking a train in for lunch, some shopping, and a museum when it’s gray and quiet. The waterfront, after years of construction, is now open and pleasant to stroll. The old town (up the hill) is quite charming and has a very different feel from the city center.

Note that Geneva is a driving disaster – no major roads, lots of construction, tons of stoplights. Take the train and then walk or use the local buses/trams. While there doesn’t seem to be a consistent vocabulary for the districts, I’ve divided my notes into what seemed to make logical sense: the Rive Droite, Center (Old Town & Plainpalais), and Eaux Vives.

Finally, for foodies, the ***Farmer’s Market in Ferney (near the airport) is GREAT! Seriously next level and full of exotic local options (the cheese! The duck!). Saturday mornings only.

Rive Droite:

The Geneva of the Red Cross, United Nations, and suburbs. Aside from trips to the museums, exiting the train station, or wandering the waterfront, this is not likely where you will spend a lot of time.

  • **El Catrín is quite decent Mexican food. It’s not quite California standards, has some oddities (no salsa?), but it’s solid, the owners are friendly, the decor is cute, and the drinks are good. Expensive. Not as good as Taqueria Los Cuñados (Eaux Vives).

Center (Old Town & Plainpalais):

Shopping, watches, lots of dining, and as you climb the hill, the charming old town.

  • In the downtown area, ***Cafe de Centre is a very classic cafe with excellent seafood. We love this place and make a point of returning.
  • **Chez Philippe is an entertaining expat/power lunch scene. It’s a steakhouse with modernist decor. Not bad, but I’d expect a steakhouse to be better at cooking meat.
  • **Maison Tavel: Maison Tavel is the place to explore Geneva’s history, in one of the oldest houses in the city. The house was built in the 12th century by the Maison family and features six stories of artifacts and exhibits which span the city’s lifespan. It’s a big building with a curated set of assets, including a massive scale model of Geneva circa 1880. We found it charming.
  • *Musée d’Art et d’Histoire: over 7,000 exhibits from prehistory to modern times – everything from artifacts from Ancient Egypt, medieval weaponry, medieval art, a room dedicated to Mt. Blanc paintings, and much more. Unfortunately the overall effect is a little chaotic, and the collection leans more volume than unique quality. It’s not bad, but in a town with a lot of museums, this is not at the top of the list.
  • The **Patek Philippe Museum is worth a stop if you’re in the area. Very impressive collection, of digestible size.
  • **St. Pierre Cathedral is very large and austere. It’s worth a quick stop to see the very modern organ. The *Archaeology Museum underneath, while extensive, isn’t particularly interesting.
  • *Los Bandidos was our latest attempt to source Mexican food in Geneva (in this case, it claims to be Tex-Mex). It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good enough to return to, not in a neighborhood you’d be likely to find convenient.

Eaux Vives

A more residential area. We’ve had far better luck here with food quality, it’s nice to explore on foot, and there are standout museums.

  • ***Taqueria Los Cuñados is very good! They’ve kept the menu simple – tacos, quesadillas, guacamole, lots of drinks – and execute well. Best Mexican we’ve had in Switzerland.
  • ***Fondation Martin Bodmer: In the mid-20th century, Fondation Martin Bodmer set out on a mission to create “a library of world literature”. Through his collection of manuscripts and texts, which feature some of the first writings ever recorded dating back to 5,000 years ago, he sought to showcase the power and wonder of humanity and the human mind, through literature. His collection, much of which is permanently on display, features not only novels or poems but letters, scientific texts and much more. It’s really a special place and worth making the trip.
    • Just past the Bodmer Museum is Villa Diodati ( Chemin de Ruth 9, Cologny), where Byron stayed while on the Frankenstein summer trip. You can’t see anything from the road, not worth the effort.
  • **Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle: this is almost a skip, but with small kids, or if you just appreciate a really well preserved time capsule, try it. Free! Packed with stuffed animals in dioramas, most of which seem to date back to the 1840s (the animals, not the displays).
  • ***Mi Food Mi Raisin is a tiny wine bar that only stocks natural wines (mostly French, but a decent Italian & Spanish assortment). The owners are young and personable. They’re open late and do tastings and meat/cheese platters.

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Bernex

On the outskirts of Geneva near the French border there’s a lovely historic restaurant, **Restaurant les Curiades, which dates back to 1850. The food is elegant and tasty, with seasonal menus. The quality of the service was impressive (and included a brief visit from the chef to great each guest near the end of the service). 

Comments:

  • Robert

    February 11, 2021

    One goes to Geneva not to do things per se but to feel human and to be enchanted by the scale of nature and the light. Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine writer, lived in the city for many years and said it was the city that gave him the greatest happiness…

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