Pink, orange and yellow streamed from behind the darker silhouette of the mountain line. The pilot told everyone to look to their left if possible. Sunrise over the Swiss Alps. What an incredible sight! It was the natural beauty I had hoped for and we hadn’t even touched down in Geneva. I felt like I would connect with Switzerland as soon as I booked but soon that turned to worry that it wouldn’t live up to the expectations.
Switzerland had been raved about on blogs, travel company sites and also by friends who had visited. Geneva was decided on a few months ago for my New Year’s Eve getaway. As the sun rose while I sat descending in the plane, I suspected I’d made a good decision.
What would I do?
A question I had been asked a few times and something I thought about and researched. I want to see fireworks over Lake Geneva on NYE. I love a good firework display and its quite an iconic place in Switzerland so that would be great. History and culture would be up there for things to find out about. Sadly the Palais des Nations is closed for tours until 4th January but museums are open. Old Town was the first stop so this morning, I headed out to the other side of the Lake.
Switzerland feels clean and its expensive! These are the two things that hit me in the first five minutes in the city. I’m getting roughly 1.3 Swiss Francs to the British pound and a coffee costs 7.40 Francs. That is some expensive coffee! In my first day, I have managed to sniff out a few budget things. I will explain later. There is no litter and the train was spotless. My hotel is very clean and tidy and streets, parks and the lake are all well maintained.
Geneva is a pretty place. From the lake with boats bobbing along to the historic buildings, squares and parks and obviously the backdrop of mountains. It is beautiful. Its easy too. Walking everywhere is completely fine plus I got a free transport pass when I checked into my hotel. There are pedestrian only parts and, at the moment, its not crowded.
Seeing the Jet d’Eau was actually nice. I’d seen it in photos and while it wasn’t a major thing to see on my list, it is impressive at 140 feet. At the other side of Lake Geneva, I was reminded of one of the things this city is famous for – clocks. Well watches really but the flower clock symbolises the watchmaking history.
The second delightful sight was chocolate! Beautiful, handmade truffles and bars. I must resist. I must resist. Who am I kidding? I’ve had half a bar already!
Old Town begins just across the road from the Lake and the architecture is easily recognisable. I love old buildings and winding cobbled streets. This was going to be good!
The cathedral Saint Pierre is visible from many places in the city due to being on a hill and I knew I wanted to visit. So I headed in that direction. There are a lot of maps dotted around showing heritage sites and museums. This is a whole area of history to explore.
I will do a full blog post on Cathedral Saint Pierre because I’d recommend visiting. For now, I’ll share a photo of the huge organ at the back (confusingly next to the entrance!) of the cathedral. There are info boards showing the past organists and it is a famous feature of this place.
People bustled in and out while I was there but it is possible to get a quiet spot and reflect for a moment. There are also services that are open to everyone if you wish to worship.
So far my day had been free. By free, I mean no money had been spent. It was lunch time and I decided to go to a café in the Old Town. I ordered Spaghetti Carbonara and a diet coke and spent 30 Swiss Francs including a tip. That’s around £20. It was a good sized bowl and I didn’t need much tonight but it was expensive.
I started looking around after that for deals and the plat du jour looks like a good deal. Usually two or three courses and a soft drink/coffee for 20 Swiss Francs. For alcohol, sangria maison is 5 Swiss Francs or beer/wine can be bought in shops. A good one I’ve found is Coop which sells fruit, veg and meals as well as snacks and alcohol for much cheaper. I think it’s possible to do things in a budget way here. You just need to plan and research a bit first.
I continued to walk around after lunch. Meandering down and out of the other side of the Old Town, I found some museums, a park and the Grand Theatre.
Squares and parks look like great places with a small ice skating rink and giant chess pieces to play with opposite the theatre. Tree lined pedestrian walkways and gardens that would be in full bloom in warmer months are dotted around the city. The touches of nature and quiet spots as well as the historic buildings are the things I loved about Geneva today.
A great first day in Geneva. I can’t wait to explore more tomorrow and have New Year’s Eve celebrations at night. Have you visited Geneva, Switzerland?