Geneva has always been pragmatic and innovative. Back in the 16th century the city built upward to house 13,000 Protestant refugees whose labour kick-started the Swiss luxury watch industry.
Now with the Swiss Franc growing ever stronger, and Geneva acquiring a reputation as an expensive destination, Geneva Tourism have acted rapidly. Not only are free tickets available for the train from Geneva Airport to the central rail station, now a 48 Hour Easy Pass for the Over 55s, publicised by the Forever Young slogan, offers unlimited public transport – and in Geneva that includes the cable-car as well as buses, trains and trams – plus a guided walking tour, mini-train journey, lake-cruise and admission to an attraction.
Visitors under 55 need not despair. As well as covering public transport the standard pass includes free admission to a host of attractions. With an enduring Calvinist tradition of public benefaction visitors can choose from generously endowed museums and galleries as diverse as the Red Cross Museum, The Museum of the Reformation, The Ariana Museum, The Philippe Patek Museum (watches), CERN’s Universe of Particles, The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art as well as the Maison de Rousseau et de la Litterature.
Although it is a compact city of just 200,000 people, swelling to 300,000 during the day when 100,000 French workers cross the border, Geneva can be hard on your feet. Take one of the mini-train tours, perhaps along Geneva’s very own Rive Gauche or through the Parks and Residences, to orientate yourself.
The International Geneva Open Bus Tour emphasises that since the 19th century Geneva has built on Switzerland’s neutrality not just to develop international banking but to host over 150 international organisations. The consequence is a cosmopolitan forward-facing city where an average of 59% of the electorate vote every three months on topical issues, some exercising their democratic rights online,
A guided walking tour of the cobbled Old Town gives you a chance to quiz the guides. When asked about the typical characteristics of Genevan folk our guide paused before answering, “They like to be seen as ethical, honest and welcoming, but they speak too slowly,” said our guide, unconsciously hanging onto every considered syllable.
One further tip from the professional guides is The Cottage Café with beautiful views across Lake Geneva, the guides hold their monthly meetings there. Even among carnivores the vegetarian lasagne has acquired a cult following as has the thyme ice-cream offsetting a rich chocolate gateau. Come the evening, a Gastronomic Cruise, departing from Jardin Anglais, provides stunning views as the sun sets.
Use the unlimited travel to take a tram across the River Arve to the Italian-style village of Carouge. After a stroll through a market of cheese, honey, jam and sun-flowers meander down the Rue Saint-Joseph, a remarkable street of artisans: horologists, dress-makers, a Heston Blumenthal style chocolatier, soap-makers and a merchant who raises tea to the status of wine.
Low cost airlines, flying frequently from British airports, and an Easy Pass that slashes the cost of public transport and entertainment have made Geneva a very affordable weekend break. It is no secret, Geneva won Leading City Break Destination in the World Travel Awards for both 2014 and 2015.
Every year Geneva hosts 10,000 conferences, consequently mid-week hotel rates can be steep, delegates often stay in France and travel across the border, but come the weekend rates plummet. The beamed seventeenth century Hotel Les Armures, in the heart of the Old Town is the ideal base for exploring Geneva. It was good enough for Bill and Hilary Clinton while George Clooney returned for a second visit.
Just thirty minutes after leaving the Hotel Les Armures I was stood in the baggage-drop queue. The traveller ahead was already talking about his next visit.
“Civilised, clean, comfortable and safe. Where else in the world can they sell newspapers with an honesty box?”
Geneva fact box
Situated in the heart of the old town on Rue Puits-St-Pierre. Hotel Les Armures is a 17th century building offering intimate, well-appointed accommodation.
View the cosy charm of http://www.hotel-les-armures.ch/
Learn more about Geneva’s Easy Passes at https://www.geneve.com/
More details of the Captain’s Table dinner cruise
Take a look at the menu and the popular Cottage Café
|Michael Edwards was a guest of Geneva Tourism|
Last modified: June 10, 2021