For those of us northern-hemisphere-dwellers, summer is just getting started, but for serious travel planners (and cold weather lovers) it’s not too early to start planning a winter getaway. And there are few countries more picturesque in the winter than Switzerland, a country largely known for its natural beauty.
If you only have a few days in Switzerland, one of the best cities to base yourself in is Geneva. The second largest city in Switzerland, Geneva has a ton to offer, including a fantastic public transportation system that makes exploring very easy. Geneva is an important city on the international stage: the second-largest of the four main United Nations offices (after New York) and the Red Cross headquarters are both located here. It’s also home to beautiful Lake Geneva and its famous Jet D’Eau, as well as numerous thermal baths. And, as Switzerland is the land of delicious dairy products, you don’t have to look too hard to find chocolate and fondue.
Here are five fun things to do on winter getaway in Geneva.
Take a food tour
Photo credit: eatandchilltour.com
Sure, your eyes are useful, but what better way to experience Geneva than through your mouth? The Eat and Chill Tour offers hungry travelers the chance to try gourmet cheese, chocolate, dried meat, and wine. Be sure to book the tour in advance as spaces fill up quickly. Also, note that this is a walking tour through Geneva’s old town, so if you’re there in the winter you’ll need to bundle up! But don’t worry—the jacket will hide your bulging belly.
Visit a chocolate factory
Photo credit: Favarger
Two words: Chocolate. Factory.
At almost 200 years old, the Favarger Chocolate Factory is the oldest chocolate factory in Geneva. They offer a guided tour that shows visitors the entire chocolate-making process—from the cocoa bean to the finished product, which includes an assortment of mouthwatering artisanal chocolates. Fun fact: Favarger uses pure cacao chocolate, which is filled with antioxidants, making it a (sort of) healthy treat.
Soak in style
Photo credit: lesbainsdelavey/Instagram
There are a number of thermal baths and day spas around Lake Geneva. They’re open year-round but are especially popular in the winter. Admission is generally for two hours to one day. Most offer day spa treatments, massages, and beauty treatments, along with adult-only wellness areas.
• Les Bains de Lavey, the hottest thermal baths in Switzerland, features a large outdoor pool equipped with various jacuzzis, massage water spouts, mushroom fountain, and whirlpool, along with a hammam and saunas and a freezing plunge pool.
• Leukerbad is the largest thermal spa resort in the Alps, with 3.9 million liters of thermal water filling their 30+ pools.
• Aquaparc is in Le Bouveret and offers toboggans and slides in addition to its thermal springs.
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
There is a large international presence in Geneva, largely due to its connection to the United Nations. Geneva is home to the second-largest U.N. office, which is located at the Palais Des Nations. Built between 1929 and 1938, the Palais was built to serve as the headquarters for the League of Nations, but it has been the U.N. office since 1946. In 2012 alone it hosted more than 10,000 intergovernmental meetings.
The Palais offers guided tours in more than 15 languages. Visitors can see the Assembly Hall, the largest room in the Palais des Nations; the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room; the Council Chamber, the site of many important historical negotiations; gifts presented by various countries to Geneva’s U.N. office; and more.
Go back in time
Photo credit: howtogeneva.com
Switzerland is known in part for its watches, and there are strict rules governing what can and can’t be considered a “Swiss” watch. Patek Philippe and Co. is a famous Swiss wristwatch manufacturer founded in 1851; they make some of the world’s most complicated mechanical watches and are considered one of the most prestigious watch brands in the world. Several Patek Pilippe watches have sold for record-breaking sums at auctions, and in 2016 the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in steel became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction.
The Patek Philippe Museum houses a collection of watches from different eras, including some form the 16th century, as well as a library of over 7,000 books and documents. Visitors can take a public or private guided tour; public tours are offered on Saturdays and are two hours long.