Geneva City Guide

WALLPAPER CITY GUIDES, 2010

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Geneva’s tale is truly one of two cities. Visit in the summer, and meet Geneva-on-sea: the city’s beaches and lakeside parks are packed with sunbathing, gossiping locals; yachts and windsurfers glide on the Léman; café terrasses are full; and the queues at ice cream stalls are endless. Come back a few months later, and you find what is the price to pay for all that summer loveliness… Geneva turns into a cold, windy city, mostly deserted at weekends. And for a good reason: everybody is up in the mountains, skiing. Yet winter has its charms, too, as the quiet Old Town becomes particularly atmospheric and visitors warm up with endless stops for hot chestnuts at street stalls or creamy hot chocolates in traditional cafés.

Add to this another profound division, not seasonal, but social, and you’ll understand why Geneva is not so easily categorised. Yes, there are UN bureaucrats staying at five-star hotels; wealthy fur-coated tourists shopping on the Rue du Rhône; and spoilt 19-year-olds expats spending their pocket money on vintage champagne in glitzy clubs. But there are also the locals, famed in Switzerland for their independent spirit and grandes gueules (big mouths), who are more than a match for this transcient crowd. They know – and hopefully you will, shortly – that life in Geneva centres not around banks, but around great neighbourhood cafés, a lively cultural scene, amazing food, little-known local specialities and countless outdoor activities in some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe.

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