Nestled in a valley at the western edge of Switzerland, Geneva is a serene setting for a slow-paced vacation. Its cobblestone streets are lined with outdoor cafés and independent shops while the more cosmopolitan stretches of the city are brimming with designer brands and elegant restaurants. Plush seating cradles patrons as world-class orchestras perform inside the Victoria Hall. Even the fine dining here is considered an art. But despite all the luxury, Geneva can ... continue»
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The best time to visit Geneva is in the small "off-season" of July and August. The weather is mild and breezy and Lake Geneva can be thoroughly enjoyed with water sports. Average winter temperatures range between the upper 20s and lower 40s. Summer sees high temperatures in the mid 70s, and June tends to be particularly rainy.Best Times to Visit Geneva»
Geneva is split by the enormous Lac Léman (also known as Lake Geneva) and the snaking Rhône River. Most of the city's attractions are found on the Rive Gauche, or the Left Bank and south side of the river. The Rive Droit, which refers to the Right Bank on the north side of the river, is known more for its international attractions, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum and the Palais des Nations.
Old Town (Vieille Ville)
Hugging the Rhône River, Old Town Geneva finds its center at the Place du Bourg-de-Four, a public square lined with picturesque cafés and shops. The famed 16th-century Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, used to offer fiery sermons from the pulpit of the Cathedrale de St-Pierre, which finds its home in Old Town. Find out about the history of Geneva's Reformation in the nearby International Museum of the Reformation (Musée International de la Réforme).
For some more history mixed in with some European art, make a trip to the Museum of Art and History (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire). And if you're in the mood for a leisurely walk, you might enjoy a stroll along the nearby Promenade de la Treille. Although if you get tired, you're almost sure to find a seat on the world's longest park bench (126 meters).
Rue du Rhône, which traces the south side of the Rhône River, is itself lined with designer storefronts, showcasing everything from Valentino couture to Cartier watches. For the history of fine watchmaking, head to the nearby Patek Philippe Museum.
But for those with a more limited budget, Fodor's says, "One block in, at the foot of the Old Town, is the less expensive, trendier street known variously as: rue de la Confédération, rue du Marché, rue de la Croix-d'Or, and rue de Rive."
Technically a suburb of Geneva, Carouge is just a couple miles south of Old Town Geneva. Commissioned by the king of Sardinia to compete with Geneva, Carouge drips with Italian architecture. And Frommer's says, "The Genevese themselves -- at least those who wanted to escape from the puritanical city -- came here in search of decadence." And Carouge still holds some of the city's best nightlife.
To the east of Old Town and along the southern banks of Lake Geneva is Eaux-Vives, which is known for its sprawling green parks -- Parc La Grange and Parc les Eaux-Vives. Surrounded by boutiques, Scala is a popular indie cinema found on Rue des Eaux-Vives.
And the Jet d'Eau, literally "water jet," is not to be missed. Located at the point where the river empties into the lake, the Jet d'Eau is a huge fountain that spits water more than 450 feet into the air.
Located north of les Eaux-Vives, Cologny is famous for its patrons. Literary ingénues Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley stayed in one of the many magnificent estates -- the Villa Diodati -- during the summer of 1816. Besides its literary claim to fame, Cologny also offers sweeping views of the lake.
"The Pâquis quarter is the closest Geneva has to a bohemian neighborhood," says Travel Channel. "Behind the glittering lakeside façades of the city's most resplendent right bank hotels, less alluring enterprises offer tawdry cabarets and sex products."
Located on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, northeast of Old Town, les Pâquis district is also filled with ethnic eateries, ranging from Lebanese to Singaporean.
Also located on the Rive Droit are the Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum) and the Palais des Nations, home of the United Nations.
Just about 40 miles northeast of Geneva, the breathtaking city of Lausanne beckons. Its perch on the northern shores of Lake Geneva and its proximity to the Savoy Alps make it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But it also owns a thrilling nightlife, a vibrant art scene and an interesting history, too.
"Attractive, interesting, worldly, and well aware of how to have a good time, it's simply Switzerland's sexiest city," says Rough Guides. "If Switzerland has a counterculture, it lives in the clubs and cafés of Lausanne, a fact which lies broadly within the city's long tradition of fostering intellectual and cultural innovation."
Geneva is a very safe city, as far as tourists go -- though it does see some petty theft and vandalism. Wikitravel says one of the only things you might watch out for is swindlers playing a betting game called hide the ball: "There are usually two main players and, between them, they will lose and win money back and forth to give the appearance that it is a fair game - do not be tricked! They are from the same gang. Once you get greedy and get lured in, you will surely lose your money! The person in control of the bottle caps will remove the ball from their position through sleight of hand and you will never see your money back."
The best way to get around Geneva is on foot -- the city is a small six square miles and is easily navigated. But if the weather takes a turn for the worst, the public transit system is still an affordable option. If you're coming into Geneva International Airport (GVA), be sure to grab your free Unireso ticket from the yellow machine by the baggage claim -- it will get you into downtown Geneva via train or bus in less than 10 minutes.Getting Around Geneva»