Geneva dazzles from first glance. It sits in a prime Rhône Valley position at the southwestern corner of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), within view of the pinnacle of the Mont Blanc. As you stroll through its cobbled Old Town, the pristine parks and promenades, you notice the cosmopolitan atmosphere is palpable. That's no surprise -- more than 200 international organizations are based here, including the European headquarters of the United Nations. The city's strong French influence shows itself everywhere: in mansard roofs, iron balconies, sidewalk cafes, and French signs.
Things to Do
Stand in the spray of the Jet d'Eau (the world's tallest fountain), which juts water up from the lake just northwest of the center. Just north of the winding alleys of the Old Town is the Jardin Anglais (English Garden). Admire the ever-blooming Flower Clock, which really ticks; it also boasts the world's longest second hand). Then head north of town and brush up on international relations with a tour of the Palais des Nations, home of the United Nations.
Stock up on Gruyère cheese and chocolate from Globus, the massive gourmet food hall in Geneva's biggest department store. Gawking at luxury haunts like Chanel or ogling Swiss watches at one of Switzerland's finest purveyors, Bucherer, is a popular pastime. Those and even fancier shops cluster around the rue du Rhône and Rues Basses in the city center. Pop into the quirky, small boutiques in the Carouge, or seek out fine art in the cobbled passageways of the Old Town.
Nightlife and Entertainment
The Grand Théâtre stages world-class opera and is home to an outstanding resident orchestra and two ballet companies. Catch classical music at Victoria Hall or everything from opera to rock at the dreamy Bâtiment des Forces Motrices; the striking space was once a hydraulics plant. Alternatively, sip a cocktail while listening to live piano music at the sophisticated Le Francis, with its sultry lilac lighting and plush sofas.
Restaurants and Dining
With its international atmosphere and French, German, and Italian influences, Geneva's dining scene is as mixed as its population. Exclusive restaurants line the lake quays, while cozy bistros can be found in the bohemian neighborhood of Carouge. Tuck into hearty Swiss meals like fondue and cheesy raclette in one of the many traditional restaurants holding court in the Old Town. Alternatively, sample filets de perche (perch filet) infused with parsley and garlic or steak frites at the convivial Café du Centre.