Geneva stretches out from Lake Geneva with a Ferris wheel in the foreground and the Jura Mountains in the background. In addition to being one of the most picturesque European towns, Geneva counts as many things to do outdoors as things to see indoors. Its lake is full of sailboats put-putting about all summer and winter long, and its parks are as well-manicured as a Swiss watch is timely. From the Quai de Mont Blanc and the majestic Beaux Arts buildings lining the sidewalk across the river, Geneva becomes a magical getaway.
The Geneva Tourism and Convention Bureau (tel. 022/909-70-00; www.geneve-tourisme.ch) website -- non-French speakers click on the "English" tab on the left-hand side -- is efficient and stylish. The site's "Special Package" page has weekend deals designed around city events starting at $73 for one night. Two-night and three-night packages begin at $125 and $176 respectively. The packages include accommodation in a double or single room, breakfast, hotel service taxes, a two-hour guided city tour by bus or boat or a two-hour walking tour of the Old City, and a voucher book offering discounts and savings at boutiques and restaurants across the city. You can book the tours just one working day before departure, making Geneva an easy extension on any European holiday. These packages are available on weekends only from Friday to Monday until December 31, 2006 and daily from December 23, 2006 until January 2, 2007. They will also be available throughout 2007 during art shows and city-wide events such as the Motor Show in April, Easter, and the Geneva Festival held every August.
For those under 25 years of age, there's a special "Youth Package" which offers the same weekend deals starting at $48 for one night at a two-star, centrally located hotel. The youth package is good on all weekends now through April 30, 2007. Other packages will be also be available throughout the year surrounding operas, museum exhibitions, and cultural events as Geneva tries to lure younger travelers and European students who may find themselves working in Geneva.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a Geneva and Swiss Pass Escape package starting at $979 for an air-inclusive, four-night vacation package. The package includes the airfare out of New York, four nights' accommodations, a four-day Swiss pass rail pass, continental breakfast daily, hotel service taxes and airline fuel taxes. Hotels are in the business class range with modern amenities and are located near the Old Town and central shopping districts. The booking deadline for this trip falls on December 21, 2006. This independent city and train trip has no scheduled itinerary, giving you all the free time you need to explore Geneva's museums, watch stores and the surrounding countryside.
As the humanitarian capital of the world, Geneva is home to the International Red Cross and houses the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum (tel. 022/748-95-25; www.micr.ch/index_e.html). The museum is devoted to telling the history and global impact of the Red Cross. Admission fee is just $8 for adults and $4 for children. Through permanent exhibits, the museum chronicles the Red Cross's past dating back to 1859 and the Battle of Solferino where Swiss businessman Henry Dunant culled local resources to aid wounded soldiers. Soon afterward, Dunant garnered the help of local doctors and politicians who together drafted the First Geneva Convention, a humanitarian global guide book of society's role in bringing relief to the wounded. World War I placed the Red Cross in the role of protector of the war prisoner, setting the tone for the charity's current role in modern-day warfare. The museum is a great way to introduce children to the concept of giving, but some of the images are for adults only. The museum is open Wed-Mon from 10am-5pm.
For escorted tours of the city and the surrounding Swiss countryside, Hans Meier Tours (tel. 044/383-78-78; www.meiertours.ch) has several day trip and escorted multi-day options. Specializing in Swiss trips over the spring and summer periods, these tours take you from Swiss cities into the Swiss mountains visiting sites along the route from Geneva to Zurich. Four-day tours typically depart from Geneva on Wednesdays and arrive in Zurich on Saturday. Accommodations are in first class hotels, transportation via luxury motor coach, and all guides are often trilingual, speaking English and Spanish in addition to the local French or German. Costs of the trip start at approximately $810 for the general Swiss tours with single room supplements available. Seven day trips starting and ending in Geneva start at $1,430. Check back at the Web site or call for 2007 prices and details. Day trips are available all year round out of Zurich.
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