Super sleek, slick and cosmopolitan, Geneva is a rare breed of city. It's one of Europe's priciest. Its people chatter in every language under the sun and it's constantly thought of as the Swiss capital - which it isn't. This gem of a city superbly strung around the sparkling shores of Europe's largest Alpine lake is, in fact, only Switzerland's third-largest city.
Yet the whole world is here: the UN, International Red Cross, International Labour Organization, World Health Organization. You name it, they're in Geneva; 200-odd top-dog governmental and nongovernmental international organisations meting out world affairs with astonishing precision and authority. They fill the city's bounty of plush four- and five-star hotels with big-name guests. They feast on an incredulous choice of international cuisine, cooked up by restaurants to meet 'local' demand. And they help prop up the overload of banks, luxury jewellers and chocolate shops for which the city is known. Strolling through manicured city parks, sailing on the lake and skiing in the Alps next door are hot weekend pursuits.
But, ask critics, where's the urban grit? Not in the lakeside with its tourist boats, silky-smooth promenades and record-breaking high fountain. Not in its picture-postcard Old Town. No. If it's the rough-cut side of the diamond you're after, you need to dig into the Pâquis quarter, walk west along the Rhône's industrial shores or south into trendy Carouge where rejuvenated factories, alternative clubs and humble neighbourhood bars hum with attitude. This is, after all, the Geneva of the Genevois…or as close as you get, at any rate.
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