On the surface, Geneva is a bourgeois Swiss city, housing world organisations and luxury shops. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find a whole host of gritty bars and rousing nightlife, as well as classy cocktails, writes James Lawrence.
There are few destinations in Europe as widely misjudged as Geneva. For a start, it’s often believed to be Switzerland’s capital (that title belongs to Bern), probably because it is home to the likes of the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and The World Bank, along with luxury hotels, restaurants and cocktail bars.
But don’t be fooled into thinking Geneva is merely an anodyne pit stop for the world’s dignitaries. Beneath this flawless exterior lies a fascinating and contradictory rough-cut diamond. Visitors are initially lured in by Geneva’s stunning alpine lake scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, but then revel in the city’s grittier side. This reaches its apogée in the Pâquis district, a former industrial area that now bristles with clubs, bars and alternative venues – some not so squeaky clean as those found in the centre.
This is the Geneva of the ‘real’ Genevois… or as close as you’ll get to it. Geneva is something of a chameleon in the nightlife stakes. La Rue de l’École-de-Médecine (Medicine Street) is student central, but don’t let that deter you – there is plenty of fun to be had in its lively alfresco bars and cafés in the summer months. Meanwhile, tourists flock to either the glamorous hotel bars in the city centre or the Place de l’Ile, an island in the middle of the Rhône that offers great views and several high-end (and pricy) drinking options.
Many of the city’s most talented bartenders reside in Geneva’s luxury hotels. But, for something different, check out the Carouge district or the infamous Pâquis area. It’s sometimes hard to believe that this neighbourhood, home to both Geneva’s Red Light District and several excellent bars, is in the same city that houses more luxury brands per square mile than any other in Switzerland. A tale of two cities, indeed.
Click through the following pages to see our top bars in Geneva, Switzerland.