Need a reasonably priced business hotel in the third most expensive place to stay in the world? Have some time to see a Museum or need a lunch spot close to the United Nations? Then this is the guide you.
The city of Geneva certainly punches above its weight when it comes to international matters. Geneva has the same population as Swindon but is known globally as the home of high profile international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, the World Trade Organisation and the European headquarters of the United Nations. It is also home to hundreds of other international bodies such as the World Economic Forum, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the International Telecommunications Union. CERN, the European particle physics research laboratory which recently announced the discovery of the infamous Higgs boson – and is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web – is also based in the city.
Many multinational companies have their European bases in Geneva, including Caterpillar, DuPont and Procter & Gamble. Geneva is also a centre for private banking. It's one of the world’s leading centres for offshore funds – home to as much as one third of the world’s offshore wealth.
The watches for which Switzerland are so well known have a strong connection with Geneva: Patek Philippe, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin are among the watchmakers with headquarters in the city.
Each March, the city becomes home to the world’s car manufacturers. The Salon International de l’Auto (Geneva Motor Show) has been running since 1905 and is one of the world’s leading events for the unveiling of new prototypes and production models.
Geneva is the most important city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and although speaking French is not essential here – especially as the population is so cosmopolitan – you are likely to meet more nationalities here than in any other city around the world.
Geneva’s Cointrin airport enjoys regular service from Heathrow with both British Airways (ten a day) and Swiss International Airlines (five a day). The airport has received substantial investment in recent years and has better facilities for airline passengers than ever, particularly shops and restaurants, but also in terms of easier journeys through the airport.
Like many Swiss airports, Geneva is tightly integrated into the Swiss public transport network. The train station below the airport provides a regular (every 12 minutes) service into Geneva’s central Cornavin railway station with a journey time of just six minutes.
There are also excellent bus links from the airport to many key business destinations such as the Place des Nations (for international organisations), Bel-Air (for the banks) and Meyrin (for CERN).
Geneva Airport operates a scheme whereby arriving passengers can pick up a free ticket from machines in the baggage claim area which can be used on trains and buses for 80 minutes. Look out for the 'Unireso' machine to pick one up.
There are also plenty of taxis available at the airport. The journey into the centre is just four kilometres but can take a long time due to heavy traffic on the main airport access road; the fare is approximatley CHF 30-35.
The city has a relatively small footprint so getting around by foot is perfectly possible, but the efficient public transport network (including a growing tram system) is there to provide an alternative.
If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare in between meetings, the Patek Philippe Museum, at Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7 close to Geneva’s banking district, is a must for watch-lovers. It's open afternoons from Tuesday to Friday and entry is CHF10. The collection includes historical timepieces from many different makers from the 16th to 19th centuries, including Breguet pocket watches from the early 19th century, as well as 160 years of watches from Patek Philippe itself.
Another museum worth visiting is the Red Cross Museum at Avenue de la Paix 17. It has recently reopened after a two-year refurbishment and offers a highly interactive insight into the work of the International Red Cross. While here, you can also take a look at the glitzy buildings of the UN and other international organisations.
To get an insight into Geneva’s luxury lifestyle look no further than Rue du Rhône on the rive gauche of the lake by the Old Town. Here you will find the luxury watch shops and fashion boutiques where the Genevois go for expensive retail therapy.
Geneva is an expensive place to stay. The most recent annual hotel survey by business travel management company Hogg Robinson puts the city third in the world for rates after Moscow and New York (averaging £216.90 a night).
That said, it does have some fabulous hotels – particularly the luxury lakeside properties on the Quai du Mont Blanc, which have spectacular views to the Alps. The opulent decor of the Hotel d’Angleterre may not appeal to everyone, but the views and the service are second to none.
The Geneva hotel group Manotel has six three- and four-star hotels in the city at more affordable rates, but still well located for the international organisations and transport links. Rates at their Hotel N’vY, a contemporary design hotel at Rue Richemont 18, start at around CHF175.
If you have meetings at the international organisations, a great place for lunch is the Café du Soleil. Tucked away in a square in the quiet village of Petit-Saconnex, between Place des Nations and the airport, this brasserie serves the best fondue in Geneva as well as serving other classics such as steak-frites. And if steak is your thing, you’ll want to add another address to your black book: the Café de l’Aviation by the airport at Chemin des Coquelicots 18. The café is famous for its A380 steak with Café de Paris sauce, weighing in at – you guessed it – 380 grammes.
Geneva is very much an outdoors city, with the lake in the summer and the mountains in the winter. To get a feel for this, don’t forget to pack a running kit or swimming costume. A run around the broad pavements of Lake Geneva or a dip in the open air lakeside baths of the Bains des Pâquis with the Alps as a backdrop is hard to beat. If that sounds like too much exercise, go for an early evening beer in the buvette bar there instead.
On the opposite side of the lake, in Geneva’s Old Town, another great place for an outdoor beer is the Place du Bourg-de-Four. This cobbled square hard by St Peter’s Cathedral is home to several great bars with outdoor seating.
Who are the international influencers to watch in Geneva? Try these for size:
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