1. Where to Stay
Explore Geneva’s scruffy Pâquis neighborhood at the year-old Manotel N’vY (from $189), located a five-minute walk from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman to local French speakers). The 153-room hotel features in-room chromotherapy lighting, vegetable-based Etro bath amenities, and glass-walled bathrooms with boxy tubs overlooking the lake. The lounge fireplace and 24-hour gym offer respite from cold, wet days, as do the colorful public spaces designed by several artists, including six custom-designed mural frescoes by New York graffiti artist Meres One.
Hop aboard a Venetian-style water taxi bound for La Réserve (from $590), a tranquil resort-clinic hybrid just five miles from the city center. Iconic Parisian interior designer Jacques Garcia plastered the walls in animal prints and topped beds with crushed velvet, but the main attraction is the La Réserve Spa Genève, where treatments like Barbary Fig scrubs and Yang seaweed wraps draw on the medical expertise of the Center for Aging at the Clinique de Genolier. The property also offers free access to its indoor-outdoor thermal pools, sauna, fitness center, and tennis court.
Splurge on a stay at The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues (from $700), Geneva’s top five-star hotel, where the new Spa Mont Blanc opened in October. Occupying the top three floors of the hotel, the spa features saunas and hammans festooned in white Marmara marble, aged oak, and Valsite quartz, while treatments include a two-hour Swiss detox ritual using juniper berry and cypress ($350). Afterward, sip on complimentary mint tea at the glass-enclosed rooftop infinity pool, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the luxury-logo-studded skyline.
2. Where to Eat
Dig into brown boxes stuffed with corn spaghetti and seasonal vegetables at Qibi Urban Smart Food, a micro café that opened in 2013 on the Rive Droite. Health-conscious cuisine is relatively new in Geneva, but this spot is making up for lost time by emphasizing lactose- and gluten-free but flavor-forward food, with options including Kamut, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, and raisins dressed in mint oil ($7), and meatier dishes like shrimp over brown rice with carrot cream and sherry-marinated pineapple ($19).
Find the discreetly marked entrance to L’Adresse, an artist’s studio turned clothing boutique and restaurant. Chef Sébastien Schwebel plates up a healthy mixture of localized Mediterranean, Asian, and vegetarian fare; think feta-and-Spanish-clementine salad ($20), tofu-and-turmeric soup ($25), and an inside-out chicken-pita wrap with parsnip chips ($36). Be sure to try refined drinks including alpine iced tea ($5.50) and pear-verbena juice ($7), or organic Swiss wines like a 2012 Aligoté from Laurent Villard ($40/bottle), harvested right on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Head up the cobbled hill to charming Old Town to find Une Bonne Santé, a new health-food shop and café where you can buy violet mustard and cashew butter while waiting for the staff to whip you up pumpkin-coconut soup ($7) or a phosphate-free ham and Gruyère sandwich on whole-grain bread ($10). One of its owners sells a variety of healing turmeric products—juice, oil, and a line of nutty crumbles—and also runs a therapeutic massage studio specializing in bio-resonance and color-smell association techniques (call 41/79-428- 4776 to book).
3. What to Do
Show off your downward dog while overlooking the French Alps at InnerCityYoga, where classes are held on a huge outdoor roof deck or in the sunlit studio, depending on weather. Geneva’s high concentration of expats are fond of the bilingual teachers (English and French) and renowned visiting instructors, as well as the individual showers, towel service, and the bio-sauna. If you’re seeking another type of relaxation, L’École Occidentale de Méditation, located in Noisy Castle in Pâquis, offers several classes exploring the link between poetry and meditation, including free meditation classes on Mondays.
Brave the cold and join locals for a winter swim in Lake Geneva at the Bains des Pâquis ($23/day). Swimming in the lake is popular in the summer months, but winter swimming has surged in popularity recently. After you hop out of the water, immediately warm up in the bath’s two mixed saunas, Turkish bath, and two hammams (one for women only). The facility is fully equipped with lockers, hot showers, and hair-dryers, so once you’re dry, find a nook near the large glass windows and soak up the winter sun.
Give traditional Chinese medicine a try at SinoSanté, a reputable chain of clinics in French-speaking Switzerland that specialize in treatments like plant-based phyto-therapy medicine (from $24) and tui na massage ($76). For something completely different, try moxibustion, a somewhat bizarre technique in which smoldering dried mugwort is attached to the ends of acupuncture needles before they’re placed at various pressure points on the body.
4. Insider’s Tip
The running paths along the Rhône River and Lake Geneva are gorgeous, but they’re constantly clogged with tourists. If you’re hoping to actually get some running done, point your trainers toward the city’s other river, the Arve, where a soft running path follows a loop in and encircles the Bout-du-Monde Sports Center, which is open to the public. The path is a favorite with local runners, of which there are many, because of its lush greenery and lack of interruptions.
5. Oddball Day
After experiencing the city’s healthy living, indulge just a bit in its sinful side. Start sipping early, as locals do, at Île Rousseau (Pont des Berges, 41/22-310-8470), a cozy café on its namesake island that specializes in eye-popping espresso and Swiss white wines. While you’re in the area, pick up a box of chocolates at the city’s sweetest boutique, Favarger, whose small factory has been converting the Rhône’s hydraulic energy into elaborate milky truffles for over 200 years. Then, walk across the newly restored Pont de la Machine to the Rive Gauche, where you can buy something more substantial, like a six-pack of petit fours ($25), at A. Pougnier Boulangerie & Pâtisserie, behind the fragrant crêperies and rôtisseries at Marché de la Fusterie (open Saturday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Next, head to the Rue du Rhône, where expensive Swiss watch shops sit beside the usual luxury fashion suspects, including a nearby Davidoff, where you can score pricey cigars and a cheap carton of cigarettes ($60) thanks to Switzerland’s low taxes. Afterward, spin through the Pâquis neighborhood, home to a wealth of ethnic restaurants (from Eritrean to Iranian) thanks to the adjacent U.N. building. Stop in at Chinese newcomer Jia Wei (Rue de Lausanne 56; 41/22-738-9553) for homemade (and delightfully greasy) crunchy-chicken noodles ($19). Once the sun starts to set, wander toward the red-light district on Rue de Berne; prostitution is legal in Switzerland, but you don’t need to partake to see that the working girls are as friendly and chatty as any shop owner. For dinner, treat yourself to a bubbling pot of fattening fireside fondue at Buvette, ($25; evenings only and reservations required), adjacent to the Bains des Pâquis. The restaurant also hosts Friday-night folk-dancing performances and serves spiked hot cocoa ($18). Geneva’s nightlife is sorely lacking, but after dinner you can gamble, smoke, drink, and watch French female dancers until 5 a.m. at the Casino du Lac Meyrin-Genève, which features 185 slot machines and classic table games like roulette and blackjack.
Geneva Family Diaries is a blog emphasizing family-friendly events in the city and region.
Edelweiss is a stylish lifestyle luxury magazine covering Geneva’s social and creative scene.