Spend a few hours in this vibrant lakeside city and you’ll know why Geneva perennially tops those ‘World’s Most Liveable City’ lists
Where to stay
Perched on the shores of Lake Geneva, La Réserve Hotel and Spa is more African safari lodge than clinical business hotel. The Philippe Starck-designed colonial décor features leopard-print carpets and elephant sculptures, while the 10 acres of landscaped gardens (highlights: a drool-worthy swimming pool which becomes an ice rink in winter) could easily harbour a herd of hippos. La Réserve also boasts one of Europe’s best spas, with its own USP: it promises to make you younger. The spa’s Nescens ‘Better Ageing’ programme (created by Professor Jacques Proust, a pioneer in anti-ageing medicine) analyses your lifestyle to discover what could be causing you to age prematurely.
If it’s lack of sleep, then La Réserve offers a variety of pillow types, from calming ‘St John’s Wort Pillow’ to snore-reducing ‘Prestige Orthobone’. And should those crow’s feet be diet-related, then tucking into the grilled sole and baked artichokes at the La Loti restaurant may boost your youthfulness (it’s all about the fish oils). La Réserve can also provide the most spectacular way of travelling to your meeting: the free Venetian motoscafo (motor boat), which whisks you across the lake, Bond-style.
Where to eat
For all its gloopy Gruyère delights, sadly cheese fondue doesn’t always make the lightest business lunch – if you can’t resist the 1970s dinner-party staple, though, check out Les Armures, in Geneva’s city centre. The seasonal fare, lakeside setting and industrial-chic décor at Brasserie des Halles de l’Île will impress any client, as will the rooftop terrace at L’Adresse, a contemporary bistro converted from artist workshops. Then there’s always Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, a menu-free restaurant dealing with the eponymous slab of beef, served three ways (medium, well done and rare).
What to see
Visitors can easily while away an hour or so strolling the promenades lining sublime Lake Geneva (main sight: the Jet d’Eau, a water fountain which spurts skywards) or travelling in one of the yellow mouettes (seagull) ferries that crisscross its waters. The city’s attractions include the Hadron Collider at Cern (reserve online 15 days in advance), learning about all manner of barbarous conflicts at the sobering Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum or salivating over the watches at the Patek Philippe Museum.
After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing better than jumping into Lake Geneva at Bains des Pâquis or hiking and skiing in the surrounding Alps. Should you have a full free day, it’s worth gliding through Lake Geneva on a paddle-steamer to refined Lausanne, the music-loving resort of Montreux or the Lavaux vineyards.
“There’s something in the Swiss psyche about longevity and trust,” notes Geoff Linsell, managing director of Moving Brands Zürich. “If you give a Swiss businessperson your card, they’ll put it in their drawer, but a year later, they’ll bring it out and talk to you. People like to think you’re in it for the long term, not just dipping in and out.” Don’t expect to pry too closely, though. “Respect for privacy in Switzerland goes through all levels,” he adds. “It’s not the business of somebody to be too curious about somebody else, because that’s not the way life is.”
For the flight
For insights into the Swiss mindset, try the books by Berne-based British journalist Diccon Bewes, such as Swiss Watching and Swisscellany. Hermann Hesse’s novels, Steppenwolf and Siddhartha, are soul-searching journeys in Jungian psychology while other classic fiction includes Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain or Ernest Hemingway’s Homage to Switzerland.
Switzerland’s majestic Alpine landscapes are also showcased to stunning effect in Bond films (notably On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) while Ursula Meier’s Sister (2012) is an award-winning film about a boy turning to crime in a ski resort. For music, try 1980s electronic duo Yello or classic rock recorded at Montreux’s Mountain Studios, such as David Bowie’s Lodger or Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water (inspired by a fire at Lake Geneva).