Geneva bleg

I’ll be there for two days, soon.  Please outline an optimal recipe for avoiding boredom, noting that I have been there three times before, though not recently.  Your suggestions are most appreciated.


Great Indian restaurant: Little India, Rue du Prieuré 20

Read Albert Cohen's Belle du Seigneur - at 1100 pages it'll keep you busy in Geneva if you haven't finished before you get there. Cohen worked for years at the League of Nations and then the UN and there are some very funny running gags in the book based on his time there.

This is indeed a challenge, especially if you've already exhausted the historic sites.

Book a CERN tour if you can. It is in the suburbs, but it's a short tram ride out of the city.

There are also some nice walking paths, if you have time, outside the city in Collex-Bossy, Ferney-Voltaire, Versoix, etc. (basically around the wooded area where the Geneva Observatory is). You can pick up a multilingual pamphlet, that looks like it's from the 1980s, at the municipal buildings with charmingly vague descriptions of walking routes.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is interesting--there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on 1980s and early '90s New York art of a type Patrick Bateman might enjoy, which fits the rest of the city. Maybe walk around listening to "You Belong to the City" on your phone.

Nightlife is tough--again, it feels like it was all designed by a very tame 1980s banker with a taste for fondue, shrimp and the occasional glass of wine. One exception is L'Usine, which is economically interesting: it's a punk venue heavily subsidized by the city and/or canton, since all the others were forced out by gentrification. There's also Le Chat Noir, technically outside the city in Carouge, but still in a lovely area ( There may also be things going on near the university.

Les Recyclables is a nice bookstore/cafe near the university. From what I can tell, the city's really lacking in non-work/non-home spaces that aren't formal restaurants or American chains--Starbucks and McDonalds seem to really fill a void and attract big crowds.

you can't expect boredom in geneva, it's a way of live over there.

you can’t escape* boredom in geneva, it’s a way of live over there.

Ferney-Voltaire can be reached using the F bus from behind the main station and takes about 20 minutes. The village was originally called Fernex but extended the name due to Voltaire making his home there for twenty years. The Voltaire chateau can be visited, and it's perhaps interesting for you in that such luminaries as Adam Smith were entertained there.

I also second the suggestion of a CERN tour, though there's often a waiting list. You can get the 14 tram to CERN again from near the main station. Even without the CERN tour there is a free museum over the road which amongst other things hosts the first ever internet server.

When in Geneva why not visit a British pub? Lady Godiva at tram stop Unimail (tram 15) has a good selection of ales, and for me do the most authentic British curry in town.

That's not the first Internet server, that's the first web server.

You're right! (and considering my job I should have made the distinction!)

I take it you've seen all the protestant reformation history stuff there? They have the cathedral that John Calvin preached in. I really like Calvinist cathedrals (of which I saw several in Switzerland) - it is odd to see them totally stripped of the ornamentation that would have been there in its prior Catholic existence and they let you wander all over the cathedral because they don't see any of it as "sacred" - you can walk up behind the altar, places you wouldn't get to go in a Catholic cathedral as a visitor.

They also have a big monument to the reformation not far from Calvin's cathedral. It's worth going just to see how they do NOT include Luther as a Protestant - according to the city of Geneva the Protestant Reformation began not with Luther but 20 years later with Calvin!

Also, beneath the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre they have an archaeological museum which shows that the site has been a religious location for about 2000 years. Beneath the Protestant Gothic cathedral there are Byzantine church ruins and beneath that, a Roman temple and crypt. Worth a visit.

2000 years? Pah! New comers. But tell them to stop digging before they reach the lower layers. You don't want to wake the Old Ones.

After all - "a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror—the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh". Sounds like Geneva to me.

Carouge, just outside the city, was rebuilt in the 18th century as an attempt by Piedmont-Sardinia to capture some of the rents generated by city-state of Geneva. Maybe of interest for an economist. Or take a swim in the Rhône at Jonction (but nothing compared to the Aare in Berne and quite cold this year) or take a walk from there downstream to Le Lignon, back with the tram/bus.

Dine at the classic Cafe de Paris, 26 Rue du Mont-Blanc. Steak and pomme frites only, simmered on your table with their world class mustard butter.

Four decades ago I bought that butter wrapped in tin foil and carried it back on the flight. My son was 7, and just last week reminded me of the special family dinner at home that night.


Carouge and CERN are probably best to escape boredom. Otherwise, do as the locals: get out. Go see Montreux and Byron's Chateau de Chillon. Go hike in the mountains overlooking lake Geneva. Take a boat trip between Lausanne and Montreux...

I second this. The best thing to do in Geneva is get out of Geneva. Even CERN is in the outskirts.

As for food, it's the blandest most expensive experience you'll ever have. Fun times.

I really enjoyed my hiking in Switzerland though.

Only boring people get bored. This has long been a tenet of mine, and I was delighted to hear Camile Paglia voice the same opinion in your recent, excellent podcast with her.

So what do you do for fun BD, when in a boring town? Probably read economics books?


You are a sad man Ray, but never boring. I'll give you that.

Tedious at times, particularly your one-note comments on Sumner's blog, but not boring. I will continue to follow with interest your effort at keeping the Greek government at bay in re your effort to abscond back to Manilla with another slug of unearned wealth to make you an even bigger man in the third world.

About a third of Genevans voted for the BIG. Please discuss results with Genevans, and register my disappointment with the outcome. Have a good time.

Does anybody know how I can launder money in Geneva? (It's not drug money if it helps your conscience). I thought about driving there from Greece, but you have to go through some hostile countries. Airplanes are out due to airport security. Set up a business there? Capital controls in Greece prevent wiring more than 1k euro a month to a non-business. Maybe I can find a trusted diplomat to put money in his diplomatic pouch? But I don't trust politicians. Such a rich man's problem, moving money, sigh...

Are you interested in Sports, Ray? Both FIFA and the IOC are headquartered in Switzerland, perhaps they could assist?

CERN is number 1, and leave time for this sculpture

Geneva is boring. They have a jet of water. And a flower clock with asian tourists getting photos taken while making peace signs.

Best recommendation: Leave Geneva. Go hiking in the mountains. (Sorry, no specific recommendations.)
2nd best recommendation: Go to Lausanne or Annecy. Both are significantly more pleasant places to be.
3rd recommendation: Visit Evian les bains and drink bottle water from a tap.

By the way, crossing the border from Geneva to France (by car or train) is an interesting case study in significant income and living condition differences based on political borders. Specifically, go towards Annemasse, which is essentially a French suburb of Geneva. (Not touristically interesting though.)

I don't know. Thinking about it some more, if I were you, I'd stay in Annecy and "commute" to Geneva for whatever you have to be there for.

Take a ferry across Lake Geneva to Evian, France.

The beautiful source of Evian water.

Take the train to Montreux, get off, walk along the lake to Territet (or better yet, chateau de chillon), take the funiculaire up to Glion or Caux, enjoy the awesome view, walk down, eat filet de perche at restaurant du pont, head back to GVA (stop in Lausanne and walk around Flon neighborhood if you have time)

Definitely should go to Montreux and go to the Territet, because, if I am not mistaken, that is the new name of the old Grand Hotel. Which is where Deep Purple recorded Machine Head. But not the best known song on that album Smoke on the Water which must be the only rock song to ever reference Montreux:

We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile, we didn't have much time

Nice to see they had mobiles that long ago. Now admittedly the audience that would be impressed by this visit is rather small and getting smaller all the time. But given that everyone who has ever tried to learn to play the guitar seems to start with those four damn notes, it is worth going.

bicycle along the lake. There are nice lanes just on the lake.

There is a parc on one side of the lake adjunct to it.

there should be city bikes or something similar.

Since no one else mentioned this, and TC is a foodie, if he's around on the weekend he should check out a farmers market. The Saturday market in the center of Ferney-Voltaire is easily accessible by bus and is definitely worth a trip. If he has a kitchenette in the place he's staying he can whip up a tastier meal than just about anything he can order in a Geneva restaurant. If he does eat out, skip the filet de perche. The Genevois are proud of it because it's the only edible substance in the lake, but it's really nothing special IMO.

I agree that hiking in the alps is the best option, but a two-day trip might not leave enough time for it. The Lonely Planet guide to hiking Switzerland gives mass transit directions to a number of trailheads for the carless. I know it's hokey, but there's something to be said for zipping over to Chamonix and checking out Mont Blanc or the ridge on the other side of the valley with a great view of MB. Take along your copy of Frankenstein.

Good point about the markets and cooking yourself!

But he can visit the world's only three star Indian restaurant as well for only 50 times the price but maybe a much harder to replicate experience.

Or if he came in season, which he has not, there are some good game restaurants.

I am deeply concerned for your prospects.

1. play chess with the chess-playing hobos of parc des bastions
2. walk to Carouge and appreciate the fact that the two cities were once at war, the architectural difference is striking and this does not take much time
3. try and survive 1 km standing up on any tram or bus
4. go to the mountains, maybe try the "Augille du midi" and glass-bottomed look out (you will be bored enough to do this in short order)
5. Read the local literature, Joel Dicker, the hottest thing in Genevois authors, wrote of all things about Maine, but is not a bad book.
6. Belle de Seigneur is not a bad book either ;)

Or as some have suggested, visit the neighbouring French communities as an exercise in sociology, and at the same time consider Alex's writing on caste-based immigration as a the solution to inequality and democracy.

Geneva basically operates such a system, with about half the working population living in neighbouring France and commuting. It is a significant boost to the French average income!

Finally if you are desperate we can catch up for a very average coffee.

Take a trip over to Samoëns in the Grand Massif. About one hour, door to door, and it's been name a "ville fleurie", one of the prettiest villages in France. You can enjoy savoyarde cuisine while looking at mountains.

Yesterday, the Sun arrived to the Swiss Plateau. A beer or wine by the lake, no more.

There's the Patek Philippe museum. Montres are kind of boring but the automata collection is very interesting. It's comforting to be reminded that machines are older than the word robot. Also, why not some damned good fondue? Friburgeois is very good.

If you need to sit in a coffee shop for a long period of time, or even visit a cafe for a wide variety of hot and cold beverages, I highly recommend Boreal (rue du Stand).
Great beef steak at le relais de l'entrecote in rue Pierre Fatio (though quite expensive)
Jonction, where two rivers of two different densities and colours, come and meet - is probably worth the walk.
Bains des paquis (restaurant) for food or a drink right next to the lake.

A favorite for me in Geneva: Up on the hilltop at WHO HQ head toward the US Embassy in same direction as the Lake. Walk along quiet streets to a garden area just across from GATT offices (now WTO). Then down to the lakkeside and walk into Geneva Center. Famous restaurant overlooking lake on your right as you pass by. Another favorite: From hotel on main street from downtown Geneva to GVA a walk toward WHO and UNAIDS HQ takes you to crossing a street named Rue Alzheimer's.

Depends how soon your visit is, but in summer there are festivals, dawn concerts at Bain de Paquis (absolutely unique - recommended if you're here in late July/Aug), lots of free music and films happening in parks every evening; bike hire is free at certain places. Lots of information here:

The weekend of 17-19 June is the annual fete de la musique, which is well worth checking out if you happen to be in town. (Watch staid Geneva turn out in force for an annual weekend of coolness, or at least trying.)

Others have pretty much said it when it comes to Geneva's food offerings. There are places that are okay but nothing that stands out as spectacular. On the fun side, there are food trucks. This site gives you local food markets and the locations of the various food trucks: Do not try the coffee anywhere unless you're desperate, although Boreal as someone else suggested is maybe the best of the bunch. One Geneva food thing is Sunday brunch - you pay 39-70 CHF for a buffet-style breakfast (Brasserie des Halles des Iles is a lovely setting). Food is still average but it's one of the few non-museumy things to do on a Sunday if you happen to be here at the weekend.

Or come and have dinner with us! We like to think the food is better at our place than many of Geneva's average restaurants, although of course the company is a bit iffy.

Try the excellent pot au feu at Boucher du Boeuf and admire the photographs of cow testicles in the men's bathroom.

Hey, download Cloudhop (beta) on iOS and there you can find hand-crafted maps of Geneva with local people's recommendations: restaurants, bars, anything. All recommendations are already on maps with all the info necessary - no need to Google the places. Im the co-founder of the app and spent 10 years in Geneva so check out my Geneva map. Let me know if you have any questions.

Comments for this post are closed