Live Like a Local: 24 Hours in Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva holds as much appeal for water babies as it does for culture lovers. Take a spin around the iconic city with SUITCASE and Swiss blogger Emilie Servettaz.

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There aren't many cities you can scratch beneath the surface of in 24 hours, but this compact Swiss delight - with its famed lake, ancient alleyways, mini-Mediterranean beach and cool bohemian enclave - is perfectly formed for a quick break. With input from Geneva native Emilie Servettaz, let SUITCASE be your guide.

Gorgeous Geneva: an incredible 24-hour itinerary

The Old Town

Start your morning off where it all began, in Geneva's beautiful Old Town; perched on a hill and filled with narrow cobbled corridors, medieval courtyards and quaint antique shops. Head to Place du Bourg-de-Four, the city's oldest square, and plot the rest of your day from the first outdoor café that takes your fancy. History enthusiasts should make a stop at Maison Tavel, a cultural history museum located in Geneva's oldest (there's a theme here) private residence - which is free to enter - before visiting St Pierre Cathedral, the 12th-century pinnacle of the region, which - if you commit to scaling its 157-step tower - offers a truly rewarding view. Catch your breath back on ground level at Promenade de la Treille, where you can take a pew on the world's longest wooden bench.

Jetée des Eaux-Vives

All visitors quickly become a fan of the landmark Jet d'Eau - a dramatic fountain that propels 500 litres of water a second, 140m into the sky, at 200kmph. It makes for an impressive spectacle, she says, and can be witnessed (during the day only) from multiple viewpoints across the city. Veer close enough to its source via the jetty that leads up it and the fine mist that catches in the wind is gloriously refreshing on a hot day.

Eaux-Vives Beach

If you didn't get wet at the Jet d'Eau, be sure to bring your swimming togs with you to your next must-visit location, the multi-faceted Eaux-Vives Beach. You'll find pebbled sections as well as stretches of icing sugar-soft sand, and a leafy park in which to set down a rug and kick off your shoes. New to the area is the Anneau Aquatique - a 40m wood-covered ring that sits on the water and makes for a perfect sunbathing spot. But don't just stick to the shoreline…

Take to the lake on a pedalo

This is how Emilie and her family like to make the best of Lake Geneva, by renting a pedalo and churning off towards the glassy centre. You can get one from Les Corsaires boat club, purveyor of many varieties. Our suggestion? Make like the locals do and choose one with a slide. Up for something more challenging? Right in the heart of the city, you can tackle the rapids on the River Arve, where (unusually, for a relatively small metropolis) adventures including white-water rafting, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking await.

Restaurant de la Plage

You'll no doubt be hungry by now, and Emilie's top lunch recommendation is the newly opened Restaurant de la Plage, which occupies a jetty right on the lake and serves reliably delicious regional fare, both inside, where floor-to-ceiling glass provides fine views over the water, and on an outside terrace. Alternatively, book a table at L'Hôtel-Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives, a small but iconic seven-suite mansion dating back to 1750. Its summer-perfect restaurant, La Terrasse du Parc, is the place to enjoy seasonal bites and traditional Swiss lemonade.


Spend your long afternoon at the bohemian heart of the city, Carouge. This eclectic hamlet was designed two centuries ago by Italian architects and today is also known as the "Greenwich Village of Geneva" for its preponderance of artisan shops and studios. Sitting pretty behind the River Arve and easily missed unless you know about it, this is a labyrinth of independent boutiques nestled among Mediterranean-style homes and gardens. Don't miss the colourful umbrellas that dangle above Rue Saint-Joseph and, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the local farmers' market on Place du Marché. Carouge is also where you'll find liquid gold at…

The best coffee in town

Coffee connoisseurs would be well advised to make the pilgrimage to Valmandin, found at 46 Rue Ancienne in Carouge, where 15 varieties are roasted freshly at its small workshop. Former UN engineer-turned-master barista Neslihan Grasser is behind this independent gem, which also sells personalised blends for you to take home.

Take a sundowner cruise

As the sun fades, take to the water again with a sunset cruise aboard the Savoie, a paddle steamer built in 1914 - the pride and joy of the Belle Époque fleet - that's a familiar and cherished sight on Lake Geneva, where Emilie and her clan have spent many a peaceful twilight.

Sway the night away

Fancy some jazz? Le Chat Noir is a lively, locally adored venue dedicated to emerging artists that's been feeding music to the cool cats since 1985, and takes its cocktails seriously. Still not ready to head inside? After a two-year hiatus, Geneva's much-loved open-air cinema, CinéTransat, is back this year on the banks of Lake Geneva, projecting a range of internationally acclaimed films that kick off just after dark from 14 July to 21 August. There's arguably no better way to round off the day.

The Lowdown

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