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Geneva

Like the swans that frolic on its eponymous Alpine lake (Europe's largest), Geneva (Genève) is a rare bird. Constantly perceived as the Swiss capital (it isn't), Switzerland's second-largest city is slick and cosmopolitan, and its people chatter in almost every language among streets paved by gold.

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross, the second-largest branches of the United Nations and World Bank (among some 200-odd international organisations, including not-for-profits) are here, along with the overload of luxury hotels, boutiques, jewellers, restaurants and chocolatiers accompanying them.

Beneath this flawless exterior, lies a fascinating rough-cut diamond, peopled by artists and activists educated in international schools, drifters and denizens. Geneva's counterculture dwells in Les Grottes, the Quartier des Pâquis and along the post-industrial Rhône where neighbourhood bars hum with attitude and energy. This is the Geneva of the 'real' Genevois…or as close as you'll get to it.

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