My cousin Katrina is currently on secondment with her work – she’s been transferred to Geneva for a couple of years, so it was the perfect excuse for a visit and to explore what the region had to offer.
Here’s what I found:
Geneva is just a 10-minute train ride from its international airport and will welcome you as an American-style city with wide streets and excellent transportation.
Stroll down to the Southwestern end of Lake Geneva to see the largest waterfall in Europe. Walk along the promenade along the lake, and enjoy the scenery of the water with the Alps and Jura mountains in the background, and if the weather is nice, lots of joggers.
Crossing over the bridge will take you to Rue du Mont Blanc, the expensive shopping area of Geneva. And nearby, up a hill, is the old town, with lots of pretty shops, cafes and the requisite cathedral. Spend a couple hours walking around with a partner as it has the romantic feel of a small French village.
A short drive from Geneva, across the border and into France is the lakeside town of Annecy.
This is a hugely popular vacation hot-spot. We were here on a Sunday, when the narrow streets of the old town are taken over by market stalls.
The lake-side position means that there’s plenty of swimming and boating activities to be had.
It’s easy to combine a trip to Geneva with a trip to Lausanne, 30 minutes to the north.
Lausanne is a picturesque city which overlooks Lake Geneva – Lausanne is a city on top of a mountain with many hills, and little alleys.
The city is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, and a visit to the museum is worth the time, if not only for the view of Lake Geneva from its garden.
The city cathedral which dominates the city skyline and is the biggest cathedral in Switzerland, with a history going back to the Roman era. It has 105 panels recounting the history of the medieval world and has an impressive organ, with 6,000 pipes. The grounds have an amazing view of the city rooftops and Lake Geneva.
Also check out the Flor district in the lower valley of the city – once an area of dreary warehouses it has turned into the entertainment area of Lausanne, with movie theatres, bars, and shops.
The 17th century town hall has a Renaissance facade decorated with two copper gargoyles in the form of dragons. Two statues represent justice, and close by is a clock which presents the history of Switzerland in animated scenes every hour.
Take a walk along the Esplanade Montbenon, in the heart of the city, which offers exceptional views over Lake Geneva and the mountains in the distance.
A water trip away from Lausanne is highly recommended. A 30-minute boat ride to Evian, across the lake, is nice, to experience the city (and to drink water directly from a tap in a mountain, rather than having to buy it in plastic bottles). Better yet, take an all day boat ride to Montreiux. Leaving in the morning the boat disappears into the cavernous mountains which surround you on all sides. The stunning scenery will make you feel like you are in a Lord of the Rings movie.