Europe, Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva

Geneva has it all! From chateaus, vineyards, romantic hotels to high-end Michelin stars cosy dining and mountains to lighthouses! Geneva is a perfect getaway for a romantic weekend.

Geneva is a City by the Lake, Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman as known to the locals here and is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains with dramatic views of Mont Blanc. It is not only the birthplace of Swiss watchmakers but is also the world’s capital for politics and diplomacy, home to United Nations and the Red Cross. The Swiss-French culture is widespread here.

My weekend in Geneva may not reflect what most would consider as romantic but my idea of romance, quite simply put, is old-fashioned simplistic enjoyment. A romantic weekend does not always have to be high-end indulgence of fine wine and dining and exquisite hotels which Geneva is popular for. What counts as ‘romance’ is personal and what inspires you to enjoy each other’s company, laughter and smiles and all! What makes your weekend getaway even more special is when you spend the day walking hand in hand with ‘your man’, exploring the markets for something unique and he has all the patience in the world to watch you toy around with dresses which you may never need but encourages you to pick them and pays for it too!  😊 You don’t really want to rush around ticking off a do-list but just seeing what you can visit and making time for a stroll along the labyrinth streets of Geneva’s Old Town, appreciating the history and architecture of the town and take in the atmosphere around you. Sitting on the rocks by the lighthouse, watching the sunset and feeling the coolness and the gentle waves of the  water against your feet was wonderfully perfect for me.

Lighthouse, Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Lighthouse, Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Sunset, Lake Geneva
Sunset, Lake Geneva

Our hotel was a 5-star hotel, rather new and super-clean! Every evening when we returned to our room, we were pampered with bottles of fresh water and chocolates on our pillow. They left the breakfast menu on our bed too, to inspire us to have a lazy morning and order room-service instead of rushing for breakfast before 10:30!

There are a good selection of hotels and apartments which you can choose from  to suit your budget.

Anyways, the highlights to the City by the Lake are:

  1. Jet d’Eau
Jet d'Eau, Lake Geneva
Jet d’Eau, Lake Geneva

The Jet d’Eau is a large fountain in the lake and is a symbol of the city. You can’t miss it! The fountain shoots up 140m high, with over 7000 litres of water in the air at any one time. The fountain is lit up at night, with colours changing, giving the lake a beautiful setting and it is indeed a spectacular view. There is a lighthouse there where you can just sit around on the rocks and dangle your feet in the water. The coolness of the water and the gentle waves against your skin, with the sun-setting behind the fountain and the mountains in the back drop is an experience you must not miss when you are in this City.

When the sun sets in, the area around the lake becomes a centre for entertainment with live music and food, for both adults and children.

Live music when the sunsets
Live music when the sunsets
The sun sets & the nightlife begins_1, Geneva
The sun sets & the nightlife begins_1, Geneva
  1. Geneva’s Old Town

History, culture and architecture abounds in the Old Town. A leisurely walk through the stone walls and winding streets transports you to the past.

Old Town, Geneva
Old Town
  • St Pierre’s Cathedral up on the hill, has its structure dating back to 1160. This Cathedral is an important historical site and is also an archaeological excavation site. It’s neo-classical design and iconic pillars makes it a unique feature which must not be missed by any visitor to this City.
  • The Place du Bourg-de-Four is the oldest square in Geneva and was established in the 9th Century as a market. Today, this square is the heart of the Old Town, where there are cafes and bars, terraces where you can just sit and enjoy your coffee or lager. It is a buzzing hub for tourists and local throughout the day and well into the night.

There are many secrets to this Old Town which I could not discover on this trip but it is one which I will return to on my next visit.

  1. Switzerland is well-known for its watchmaking tradition and L’horloge fleurie, or the flower clock, was created in 1955 in recognition of this. It is an outdoor flower clock located on the western side of Jardin Anglais park and is created from about 6,500 flowering plants and shrubs. The clock looks different as the flowers change according to season and it is one of the main attraction of the City.
Flower Clock, Geneva
Flower Clock, Geneva
  1. As Geneva is the de-facto capital of the world, a visit to United Nations offices was added onto the itinerary at the last minute and I can assure you, it was an interesting morning. There are guided tours available in languages other than English and French, so a visit could be worthwhile.

Geneva has a lot of places to visit but we did not do them all. There are a number of day-trips to Germany and France which will capture your interests as did ours. You may also wish to consider skiing or scuba-diving whilst you are in Geneva. Whether you spend a week or just a weekend, filled with romance and inspiring moments, sightseeing or adventuring, you are sure to return home feeling that little bit more special! Our two-night three-day weekend included a memorable day-trip to Mont Blanc which I would highly recommend.

Day trip to Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe and Lake Geneva is situated at the foot of this mountain. So, a day-trip to Chamonix-Mont Blanc, was a ‘must’ for us and certainly a trip you ought to consider if you want to add a little adventure to your romantic weekend. As it was a short visit, we opted for a customised tour of Chamonix and Mont Blanc, allowing ourselves to sit back and relax whilst experiencing it from all angles.

Our itinerary began at 08:00, aboard an air-conditioned coach, taking us through a 90-minutes scenic journey to Chamonix, which is on the French side, so you gonna need your passport or ID card with you!  We selected the following activities:

  1. Cable car ride to the summit of Aguille du Midi
  2. Lunch at one of Chamonix’s traditional restaurant and exploring Chamonix valley
  3. Mer de Glace
  1. Aguille du Midi

The gateway to the Alps is a 20-minute ride aboard the Aguille du Midi cable car from the Chamonix valley. The Aguille du Midi is the highest point and stands at 3842m, directly across from Mont Blanc.

Chamonix, Mont Blanc
Chamonix, Mont Blanc

It is a two-stage journey to the summit from the valley floor. The first takes you to Plan de l’Aiguille which is at 2317m. Here, you have the option to exit and hike to Montenvers Railways. The second stage of the car ride takes you to the top station of Piton Nord at 3778m. This part of the ride is a steep ascent. You exit here, onto terraces that offer breath-taking views over the massif. A lift takes you to the summit terrace situated at 3842m, where you will have a clear view of Mont Blanc.

The massif
The massif

Exiting the lift, you can take ‘A step into the Void’ (Le Pas dans le Vide), a 2.5m glass cage out, suspended from the side, at a 1000m above glaciers below.

There is ‘The Pipe’, which offers five-windows to admire the Mont Blanc. It is a safe, 32m long steel gallery, with lots and lots of space below, which allows you to walk all around the pinnacle, offering you a 360-degree view of the Alps.

The Aguille du Midi is the closest one can get to Mont Blanc. It offers breath-taking views over the massif, the glaciers towards Mont Blanc, Chamonix valley and the Alps as far as you can see across the surrounding countries. This is a popular attraction not just for tourists but also for mountaineers and skiers.

It is difficult to convey what an awesome experience this was! A seamless ride up on a single cable, ears popping more than once, the sun’s reflection off the snow and the windy chill…is an experience you ought to have at least once in your life.

Useful information:

  • Wrap up warm as there is a marked drop in temperature from the valley floor due to the wind chill.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses! You will need it, as the sun’s strength is amplified at altitude and reflects off the snow.
  • Just a gentle caution to vertigo sufferers, please consider whether ‘A Step into the Void’ is something for you.
  • The souvenir shop and the cafeteria here is open all year round.
  • The ‘3842m’ restaurant has a unique setting and serves Savoie dishes.
  • Allow at least 2 – 3 hours for your visit
  1. Mer de Glace

The Mer de Glace, also known as ‘Sea of Ice’ is another popular attraction in the Chamonix valley. At 7km long and 200m thick, the Mer de Glace is the largest glacier in France, and sadly, is also the most visible symbol of climate change.

Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace

Take the iconic red cog railway (Montenvers train) from Chamonix town centre. The train runs on a single track, with one passing point, about 5km uphill to the top station at 1913m. Exiting at the top station, you will step onto a large viewing platform, offering you a panoramic view across and of the glacier below. You can also see how much the glacier has receded over the years. There is also a small bar here where you can grab a drink and/or a snack.

Receding glacier
Receding glacier

From the top station, take the gondola lift down to the Ice Cave. There are about 480 steps from the arrival of the gondola lift to the entrance of the Ice Cave, on both the outward and return walk. Walking these steps were literally breath-taking, at times challenging, aching knees and major cardio experience, to say the least!

Metal steps all the way down to the Ice Cave
Metal steps all the way down to the Ice Cave

The Ice Cave is a man-made grotto and it takes you to the very heart of the glacier. Each summer, the grotto had to be carved out of the glacier because the glacier moves, making its way downhill at a rate of 80m per year.

At the entrance to the cave, you will see the old entrance from previous years which are no longer in use. The Ice Cave is 100m long and you can find ice sculptures, coloured lights and mannequins portraying historical life in the mountains, in the early 19th century. The Gallery of Crystals showcased a collection of the finest crystal specimens in the Mont Blanc massif.

Useful information:

  • The bar and the viewing platform at the top station is a good place to relax for a little while over a drink from the bar – you will need one after those steps!
  • Not advisable for people with limited mobility.
  • Opens daily and all year round. Check opening times as it varies to season.
  • Allow yourself 2 – 2.5 hours
  • Access is via the train of the Montenvers from Chamonix town centre.

Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley

The picturesque alpine town of Chamonix, surrounded by the Alps mountains and glaciers, is the main town in this valley and is a popular destination for tourists and mountaineers as it is the gateway to the Alps. English was widely spoken here, so ordering our meals was not a problem.

Our weekend in Geneva was very special and is one of the highlights in my life. The glittering lake and the bright, wonderful nightlife was quite awesome! Everyone was  friendly and the locals are inviting. Adding an adventure to our weekend was just an added touch to our romantic moments in Geneva.

 

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