Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Luxury in 24 Hours: Geneva, Switzerland.

Now, there isn't that much to do in Geneva. It's a financial shopping city that lives and breathes banking and luxury. But for two weeks every summer there's a little festival called Fete de Geneve. The whole city comes alive and it's basically two weeks of partying, food markets, fairground rides by the lake, and other various events alongside the famous Lake Geneva. I went to Geneva for one night (around 32 hours to be exact), right at the start of the festival a couple of Fridays ago (5th August), and had the most epic time!

The main reason Geneva was on my radar as a destination is because of Peter and Adam. Two close friends of mine who used to live in London and both moved to Switzerland for work. I've spent years listening to their stories about Geneva and the crazy nights out and parties that happen there. So after years of hearing the stories and of Pete telling me to visit, I finally did it. I was only there for one night though due to my insanely full calendar, and obviously I had to do Geneve in style, so I booked myself into Le Richemond, a Dorchester Collection hotel.

I flew to Geneva from Heathrow with Swiss Air on the Friday, and landed at around 9am local time. I was originally just going to get a taxi, but Peter made me feel a bit stupid for it and told me to just get on the train - it's free if you're flying into Geneva, and is only one stop and takes about 5mins from the airport. 

I was pretty proud of myself that I found the free ticket machine - you need to make sure you get your free train ticket before you leave the baggage collection area. Every train goes through Geneve City, so just hop on a train and get off at the very first stop. It was then just a 5min walk to my hotel, Le Richemond, from the train station.

After getting to the hotel and checking in I then had some chill out time in the spa. The guys were both at work on the Friday, and so I had the day to myself. It had been my leaving drinks at work the night before, so I had a pretty epic hangover and was super happy to be able to relax and chill out in the hotel spa.

I then went to my room and was unexpectedly upgraded to the Ambassador Suite! It was a bit of a shock, so I then spent about an hour just wandering around the room aimlessly, and sending videos to the guys on whatsapp that were along the lines of 'OMG LOOK AT THIS!' haha!

Finally I left the hotel around 1pm and went for a wander down by the lake. It was a little overcast but the sun came out briefly just as I was walking down the Bains des Paquis, which is a public swimming bath right on Lake Geneva. It was built in the 1930s and is a popular place for the locals to go in the summer! Usually you have to pay to enter but it was free during the festival. 

I walked back to where all of the food stalls were, but because it was the first day of the festival many of them were still setting up so were closed. In my hungover state I really fancied pizza, and spied the Kempinski hotel's terrace restaurant overlooking the lake. Despite the 22CHF (around £20) price tag for a pizza, I decided to just go for it, and actually it was a really great pizza! So good that I persuaded Adam to go there the next day as a last resort after we spent hours walking around trying to find somewhere with seafood (I'll tell you all about Geneva's dismal food scene further down...).

After my late lunch I walked over to the other side of the lake to see Old Geneva. Sadly though it started pouring with pouring so hard that my umbrella did nothing and I got completely soaked through. Also I was wearing sandals. FML. So I ran back to my hotel, dried off, and had a nap before our night out. 

I awoke from my nap really disorientated, and for a moment completely forgot where I was and had a mild panic - especially when I saw this view out of the window from my bed and wondered where the hell I was!

All was OK though and within half an hour Adam arrived straight from work and the lovely man on the reception downstairs let him up to my suite. After a bit of a catch up and showing him around the suite exclaiming 'AND LOOK AT THIS!' at pretty much everything (even though he'd already seen it in the video), we watched the world go by from the balcony for a little bit, and then I finished getting ready while he had a bit of a nap. I only gave him 10mins or so though, then I was pulling the covers off him telling him we had to go as we were already running late!

We walked over to Les Terrasses de Geneve, which is an open-air club over the other side of the lake. It sits right on the edge of Lake Geneva and was such an awesome place! After saying a quick hello to Adam's colleagues, we then went to find Pete and the other guys. We found them at a table raised up opposite the bar and DJ booth, so climbed up and joined them. I hadn't seen Pete for nearly three months, since that crazy night at Home House, so it was SO good to finally see him again! 

Les Terrasses was insane. It was so much fun! We spent the night dancing our little socks off, catching up, drinking constantly flowing magnums and jeroboams of rose, and singing along to the music. The night really got going as soon as it got dark, and all of a sudden the atmosphere changed from a laid back bar to a thumping nightclub full of people. 

I had a blip around midnight when Adam left to go home and get some sleep before showing me around the city the next day (he'd been out for the launch of the club the night before and then had a full day at work), and I got a liiiiiiittle bit unreasonably upset. So Peter and Alex had to sit me down, give me a drink, and tell me to calm down, and all was OK because they were still there and wouldn't leave me until I was ready to go. To which I just responded "BUT IT'S MIDNIGHT! HE CAN'T LEAVE AT MIDNIGHT!" (Why are my friends still friends with me?! Srsly.)

Then Pete and I had another heart to heart and I got all emosh by what he was saying to me and ended up sobbing on his shoulder again while he just hugged me tightly and let me cry. This guy you guys, he's a good egg. I can be a total over-emotional bitch at times and even when he's at the receiving end of me shouting and getting angry at him (to be fair sometimes he does deserve it), he still does everything he can to be the best friend possible and be there for me unconditionally. I know that I can call him at any time of the day or night and he will pick up and do everything he can to help me. Our friendship has taken various forms over the past few years, and despite it taking a while to adapt to a new sort of friendship, I would be completely lost without him and his constant love and support.

BUT. Despite the brief 5mins of over-emotional tears over Adam leaving us early, I ended up having THE BEST night. I pulled myself together, danced like crazy, and Pete, Alex, and the other guys made sure I had an awesome night! Les Terrasses de Geneve closed at 2am, so we walked over to Baroque to finish the night, and I LOVED this place even more than Les Terrasses! Baroque was incredible! We walked straight in (I wasn't ID'd once in Geneva...I'm not sure whether to be happy about this or not) and had a table behind the DJ which was great because we could see everything going on, and the music was just awesome.

Eventually at 4am my feet were starting to give up and exhaustion hit me. Pete and I said our goodbyes to everyone and he walked me back to my hotel (apparently taxis refuse to drive you in Geneva if you're only going 5mins down the road?!). It was that weird time of the night where you're like 'Ooh do I feel like food, or do I just go to sleep?' the decision was a tough one, so we went up to my suite, took a look at the room service menu, saw that it was 42CHF for a club sandwich, and decided against food. This was my face when seeing the prices on the room service's so ugly but makes me laugh so much...

I was struggling to stay awake big time at this point and after sitting down on a chair decided I wanted my bed and pretty much crawled off the chair and over to it. Peter made sure I was OK, then gave me a hug and kissed my gross sweaty head and left me to sleep while he headed home. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow!

I woke up bright and early at 9am (how!?), got up and sorted, and then Adam came to the hotel around 10ish to meet me for breaky. The breaky at Le Richemond was so good we had TWO each. No regrets. I had the poached eggs and the french toast with a fresh OJ. It was amaze. Also we had a view of the Jet d'Eau from our table! I regaled Adam with what happened after he left the previous night, and gave him my evil glare for leaving early. But he apologized and made me laugh so I forgave him.

After breaky we went up to the suite so I could pack, and had some chill out time on the balcony. It was a glorious sunny day, and the view was incredible!

When Adam was taking this photo he goes "put your head back and look at that thing up there, and now open your mouth" my response was basically "what the hell are you doing? are you taking some dodgy looking photo?" and he goes "no just do it!" and I was laughing so much as he was trying to direct me so it looked like the Jet d'Eau was pouring into my mouth....

Still a little tired, I checked out and we went down to the spa for an hour or two. It was pretty much empty again for most of the time and the perfect way to relax after a heavy night. There was a couple sat in the relaxation area with us at one point, and Adam went into the steam room, then came out and jumped straight into an ice-cold shower...the showers were behind a screen and all you could hear was him shouting out from the cold water. Because you couldn't see him it sounded super dodge, so I'm sat there full on giggling to myself while that poor couple were tryna have a nice relaxing time!

Anyway, after some time in the spa we got changed and left the hotel to go over to explore the old part of Geneva that I'd had to desert the day before due to the rain. Adam pointed out his office, took me up to the old part of the city, and we went inside the Saint Pierre Cathedral. The cathedral is a Protestant cathedral, which means that unlike a Catholic cathedral (ala St Peter's Basilica) it's really bland and has nothing inside it, so we walked in and walked out again. 

We then wandered back down the hill to the lake, and tried to find somewhere to eat. By this time it was around 2:30pm, and in Geneva nowhere really serves food outside of their strict eating hours (12-2, and 6pm onwards). Both of us were craving a huge plate of seafood (I ended up getting my octopus fix a few days later at Polpo in London), but sadly we couldn't really find anywhere.

I knew it wasn't looking great when I asked Adam where is good to eat in Geneva and he responded with 'nowhere really...I mainly just eat at home because the restaurants in Geneva are awful'. This is coming from the person who gave me some incredible foodie recommendations for Milan, and who can recommend a huge list of restaurants at the drop of a hat for practically every major city in Europe. 

We stopped off at about half a dozen restaurants where Adam asked each of them (he speaks fluent French, I definitely don't) if they were serving food, and all of them said no, or they were only serving snacks (like bar snacks - nuts and olives etc). So we walked around the lake and had a look at the food stalls that were there for the festival. Most of the food was heavy Indian or Middle Eastern. I love that type of food, but on a hot sunny day I just wanted a plate of seafood! Either a big hunk of fish or a ceviche or carpaccio or even just a bowl of prawns coated in garlic butter. But nope, nada.

I controlled my oncoming hangryness with a really delicious (and cheap, for Geneva standards) ice-cream, and then Peter called and told us to meet him at Les Voiles. So off we went on the bus down the road to Les Voiles. Except we got there and it was closed. It didn't open until 6pm, and I had to be at the airport at 6pm. It was now 4pm, so Adam and I raced back to the hotel and decided to just go to the Kempinski pop-up terrace restaurant I'd been to the day before. 

I had the 'Bella Italia' pizza this time, which was covered in balsamic vinegar, rocket, thinly sliced beef, and ricotta. It was actually one of the best pizzas I've ever had - the combination of flavours was just incredible! Adam had the tuna pizza but wasn't too impressed with it, although he didn't have a whole lot of choice to be fair because the meat at the restaurant wasn't Halal, so he only had a couple of dishes to choose from (margarita pizza, a seafood pasta, and tuna pizza). At least the view was good!

Before we knew it, it was 5:30pm and I was in a total panic that I was gonna miss my 7pm flight (I'm the type of person who arrives at an airport 2-3 hours before a flight..I've never missed a flight so obvs this works well for me). The service at the restaurant was awful and I couldn't wave anyone down to get the bill, I asked Adam to call them over in French for me, and he just grinned and goes 'No you do it', I whimpered like a child and begged him to just do it (especially after he told me I was saying it slightly wrong the previous day - I mean they sounded exactly the same to me!). Finally someone came over and he asked for me!

They seemed to take forever bringing the bill, and then when we paid I got up and Adam just sat there and teased 'Nah, I think I'm just gonna sit here and relax'....I can laugh at it now, but at the time my response was 'That's not even funny, I'm gonna miss my flight!', and I think the classic bitch please look on my face made him stand up and realize just how stressed I was.

THEN he made my stress levels even higher by asking if I had any coins left, I dug around and found 4CHF in coins, and then he starts buying an ice-cream!!! AN ICE-CREAM. When my flight was in 1 hour and 20 minutes time! Except he was 1CHF short, so we had to leave minus an ice-cream.

We got back to the hotel, picked up my luggage, and then it was time to get in the taxi to the airport (my stress levels couldn't deal with figuring out the train again). We said our goodbyes and I could finally de-stress. But then I got to the airport and the queue to get through security was insane. And I just about had enough time to run and get my fave French Haribo sweets that you can't get in the UK (the Orangina ones fyi), and then get to the gate.

Despite spending the entire trip hungover or drunk, and despite the stress of thinking I was gonna miss my flight, I had such an awesome time in Geneva! Even though I didn't see many of the 'touristy' things (see below for a list of what you can do there), I had such a fun two days chilling out at the hotel and by the lake with the guys, and partying hard. It was brilliant to finally see the Festival I'd been hearing about for so many years, and to meet Alex too who I've also been hearing about for years from Pete.

Geneva is a bit of a weird place, there isn't that much to do, but if you did everything on the list below you could comfortably visit for 3 days if you took things slowly and relaxed. If you rushed around you could also easily do everything in 24 hours, just skip the day trip to Chamonix. I also found it very much felt stuck in the past, like it's trying to cling on to it's reputation as this big financial luxury hub, when actually many cities in Asia have overtaken it on both counts.

From the hotels to the restaurants, and even the shops, all of it just felt a bit tired. As if the city needs to draw people in with something new. They've got such an incredible position on the lake, it seems such a shame that they don't make full use of it with loads of restaurants and bars that overlook the water! 

Other things you could do in Geneva if you're not hungover the entire time you're there:

  1. A tour of the UN 'Palais des Nations' building
  2. A tour of CERN (this is outside of the city)
  3. Visit the Red Cross Museum
  4. See the Reformation Wall
  5. Visit the Patek Phillipe Museum
  6. Spend time in the parks
  7. Explore the museums
  8. Eat a fondue (I can't do this because I'm allergic to the type of cheese they use in it)
  9. Go up Mont-Saleve (Adam wanted to do this but I was worried I wouldn't make my flight in time)
  10. Go on a day trip to Chamonix (if you have at least two full days)



PIN FOR LATER: How to spend a luxury 24 hours in Geneva, Switzerland! Perfect for anyone who loves to relax, see a city, eat delicious food, and check out the party scene!



  1. I found that with places like Luxembourg, though pretty to look at, there really isn't much to do!

    I made the mistake of getting a taxi from the airport in Lausanne and it was really expensive, I was silly not to get the train which I did on the way back, it was super easy but I had some weird fear about getting the train on my own the first time in a new city!

    Lausanne, was the same with food! I was having lunch at 12pm! I wasn't really hungry so early but that was apparently what everyone does. Anyway, the club looks amazing and your friends sound so sweet and fun.

  2. Eek, that sounds like a stressful end to the trip! I'm a 2-3 hours early kind of person too and once arrived at the airport with only 40 minutes (!!!) to go because it was the opening ceremony day of the London Olympics and my coach into the airport was delayed by 2 and a half hours... Anyway. My face would have been like that too at those prices, blooming hell! The views are gorgeous though so maybe I'll pack myself a picnic in England and make it last for the entire trip! xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua : Travel, Food, Italy

  3. Oh Switzerland in the sunshine is just so glorious isn't it?! I've been to a few other parts of the country but never to Geneva and you've certainly made it sound like a rather fun destination to explore! Your suite is absolutely gorgeous - what a lovely upgrade :)

  4. What a great post! I felt like I was there, Catherine. I also have friends who live in Geneva. I'm sure they'll be interested to read about your experience. Fete de Geneve looks like fun :) Angharad x

  5. That 'what to do when not hungover' list is the BEST!

  6. Isn't it just?! It's such a beautiful country! Geneva was awesome, just make sure you do some restaurant research before you go ;) x

  7. Haha, yeh, it was all good in the end though :) The prices were insane, but I guess it's all part of the experience haha! Thankfully the views definitely made up for it! x

  8. I feel like a lot of places in Europe are like this - small towns and cities don't have a whole lot to do, but are just so pretty to look at!

    It was awesome, and yeh, I'm pretty lucky to have friends that are so great :)

    C x

  9. What a great time! Switzerland is on my bucket list - I'm hoping next year!

  10. I had so much fun! Definitely go - it's a beautiful place! x


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