Comfortably Secure in Geneva
18th Sep 2008
Geneva's international airport is encased in a crystallized network of watch ads and private banking claims, setting a hushed, efficient tone from the moment you step off an aircraft. Practice pronouncing Lombard Odier and Audemars Piguet as you glide through immigration to a taxi, which competes with the efficient Swiss Rail network as the best way into the city centre. The taxi will run you about CHF64.00 for the short journey past the United Nations building and down to the shore of the lake and into town.
The hotel scene is summed up in two words: comfortably expensive. This is not a city for budget accommodation, boutique hotels with throbbing lobbies, or capsule locations and space age cuisine.
At the top of the agenda is the mythical La Reserve, one of the world's great spa hotels, located in lush park environs astride Lake Geneva. La Reserve is the type of place where people sit back and recuperate from their face augmentation with a carrot juice and a manicurist, while a personal assistant whispers the latest commodity prices into your freshly moisturized ear. In a word, heaven.
A little more central is the newly refurbished Mandarin Oriental Geneva, a ridiculously posh location on the banks of the River Rhone that only reopened following extensive renovations in July 2008. The Mandarin Oriental offers perfect business capabilities with an understated elegance that makes it the spiritual home of the wing-tipped banker, and the prices reflect that reality. Finally, and of a slightly more affordable shade of gray, is the Hotel De La Paix, which is situated on the Lake with a series of great views and service.
Geneva is currently enjoying an influx of Europeans in flight: non-domiciled Londoners are flocking in to escape higher taxes in the UK, the French merrily skip across to enjoy their gains, and its become the summer home of Arabia. As such, the scene is getting better and better. While always understated, a night out here can be quite fun.
Geneva's first Michelin starred Indian chef, Vineet Bhatia, is making waves with London's Adam Tihany at Rasoi at the Mandarin Oriental - a beautiful contemporary space that's perfect for an intimate business dinner or a small group in need of a perfect private room. Rasoi is probably the best new restaurant in Geneva, and offers great views over the river.
Top of the list are also Heaven Lounge, Arthur’s Rive Gauche and Senso, all of which employ Geneva's sense of dinner + drinks. This is not a 'bar' city, and most evenings are centred around a lingering dinner with drinks afterward or adjacent. All three of these locations get full and rocking later in the evening, if in a slightly more subdued way than you may have seen in Mykonos and Miami. For lunch, power or otherwise, La Terrasse restaurant of Des Bergues, the formal name Geneva's Four Seasons Hotel on the right bank of the Rhone, has the best see and be seen social agenda in town in the spring and summer months. People arrive by foot, by chauffeur driven Bentley or on their red Ducati. Peu importe quel mode of transport, the rich, chic and cool are sipping their champagne and cappuccinos here.
Despite the large number of international institutions located in Geneva, including an alphabet soup of WEF, WHO, CARE, IAEA, IARC, UN and others, it is not all work and no play in Switzerland's second largest city.
Summertime Geneva revolves around the lake, winter the mountains. It is not difficult to book a boating or waterskiing excursion out of the city to check things out. Nothing beats a Riva on the waves, skirting the small towns that make up the south and western shores of the lake.
It wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the famous Swiss spa. Did you know SPA is an acronym for Soothe your senses, Purify your energy and finally, Adopt a new attitude. No better a divine location that the latest in Zen retreats: The Buddha Bar Spa. Unique in concept, it builds on the centuries long tradition that is Evian-Les-Bains (a delicious drinking water with benefits), a short drive south east along the lake. Book your day trip and prepare to indulge.
So there you have it, Geneva is making its mark in its quiet, confident way, and enjoying a bit of a moment while at it. The slower pace of the city might be just the trick after all that stress watching the markets, doomsday scenarios on the news, and thinking about where in the world things are still secure. Geneva. Always.