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The most famously cosmopolitan city in Switzerland thanks to the presence of the UN, Geneva doesn’t disappoint. First, there’s the prime location slap-bang in the heart of Europe and framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Jura Alps. Then, there’s the magnificent Lake Geneva (Lac Lemain to locals) that still provides a hub for city life, as well as the location for the city’s most famous monument, the towering Jet d’Eau.
But while Geneva has no shortage of natural wonders, it is also a hub for diplomacy, watch-making and science, the latter thanks to the presence of CERN and its Large Hadron Collider just outside the city. The other two make their presence felt as well, not least in the shape of the Palais des Nations, the UN’s European headquarters, and the flagship stores of Patek Philippe and Piaget in the city centre’s boutique-lined boulevards.
Unsurprisingly, all this means Geneva is hardly the cheapest city to visit, with locals more likely to be spotted in Prada than Primark and prices for everything from hotels to eating out requiring a healthy budget. Nevertheless, bargains are there to be had, particularly in the arty Bains and Plainpalais areas, both of which are awash with flea markets and quirky contemporary galleries. Equally worth a visit is Carouage, a suburb founded by Sardinian immigrants and now one of the most popular places in the city once darkness falls.
Money isn’t required for a day spent lounging on one of Geneva’s lake beaches either, with the Bains des Pâquis, which faces the Jet D’Eau, among the most popular. Built in the 1930s, the area also boasts a Turkish Bath and a series of quaint cafés, most of which come with a view of the lake and the paddle steamers that unhurriedly ply its waters. These steamers are also an inexpensive way to get a day out, with the wonderfully pretty Montreux and the vineyards just outside Vevey all within striking distance.