Alicia Johnson, a Lonely Planet destination editor based in Nashville, shares a snapshot of her recent trip to Geneva, Switzerland, highlighting the best things to do, experience and eat.   

Switzerland map with Geneva highlighted
Postcard from Geneva Lonely Planet

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Switzerland. I was there as part of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s World Summit conference. I spent the first five days in Geneva watchmaking, sipping Swiss wine, and, of course, eating pounds of chocolate.   

Chocolate-tasting in Geneva
Chocolate-tasting in Geneva

I usually start the day in Geneva with...

A piece of chocolate. OK, hear me out. Maybe chocolate isn’t everyone’s go-to breakfast snack, but Swiss chocolate is incredible and, thanks to the 30-40 chocolate shops dotting the city, always within reach. I’m a sucker for milk chocolate, but I definitely indulged in white and dark chocolate too. And don’t get me started with all the hazelnuts, caramel and fruit fillings.

A few of my favorite Geneva chocolate shops include Phillippe Pasoet (try the natural “ruby” chocolate), Pierre & Jean (grab the chocolate pastry) and MANOR (for cheap treats). Chocolate tours that delve into the history of the sweet treat are available.  

Watch-making in Geneva
Alicia tries her hand at watch-making

In Geneva, you must book...

A watchmaking class. Gain a deeper understanding of Switzerland’s connection to timepieces through Initium’s watchmaking class. The intimate course is open to visitors (book in advance) with three options based on session time and price.

The most expensive option includes assembling your own custom-made watch. Every option includes a presentation on the history of watchmaking in Geneva and the rest of the country. This class is the perfect rainy day activity. 

Fondue at Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville

The top spot for fondue in Geneva is...

Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville. Perhaps it was the rainy, gloomy day, but sitting in this comfy, warm cafe sipping white wine and eating fondue was a highlight of the trip.

There are several places to go for fondue, but a very informed local told me Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville is the best. And after an evening of heavenly gooey cheese and chunks of bread, I have to agree.    

White-water rafting
Alicia and pal Dave Brett on the Arve River

In Geneva, I got off the beaten track by...

Going whitewater rafting. Thanks to heavy rains, some class 4 rapids were waiting for us on the Arve River on a chilly day in late September. We were one of the last rafting excursions of the season.

When I wasn’t getting water dumped on my face, I enjoyed Geneva’s dynamic scenery, which included tall, beautiful trees along the banks mixed with residential buildings and city streets. My guide from Rafting Loisirs said most Genevans don’t know they can raft so close to the city.  

Swiss red wine
It's hard to find Swiss wine outside of Switzerland

The one item you should bring back from Geneva is...

A bottle of wine. About one percent of Switzerland’s wine is exported internationally, meaning if you want a glass of Swiss wine, you’ll have to travel for it. The country is home to six wine regions and over 250 types of grapes.

I’m not much of a wine drinker, but I enjoyed the variety of wines I sampled on my trip, particularly the Chasselas. Pack a wine sleeve and bring a few bottles back with you. 

Alicia refills her water bottle
Alicia refills her water bottle

The one item I recommend bringing to Geneva is...

A reusable water bottle. When admiring the beautiful water foundations throughout the city, look for the small blue “Eau Potable” sign. This means you can safely drink from the fountain. Save a few bucks, stay hydrated and help the planet in one go.

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