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Destination... Geneva: The best of what the Swiss city has to offer

Chilly dips and a watchmaking masterclass, plus vineyards and chocolate tastings

Taking tentative steps back into overseas travel could be compared to attempting a dip in Lake Geneva on a February morning: a scary prospect but ultimately one that you’ll enjoy immensely and be very happy once you do.

And now that corporate travel is starting to return to normal, it’s a perfect time to mix some business with lots of pleasure.

Switzerland is famed for its banks, watches, and chocolate, and Geneva has an abundance of all three. But this small metropolis, which has the stunning backdrop of the Alps on one side and Jura mountains on the other, offers plenty in the way of culture, food, wine, shopping and breath-taking scenery, with the option of an icy swim in the aforementioned lake, if you're feeling brave enough.

The best way to experience the region’s extraordinary diversity is by opting for a Geneva pass, which opens you up to 48 selected tourist attractions including the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (MICR), the Patek Philippe Museum and the Modern Art Museum (MAMCO). Getting around the city is simple, it is small, so on foot is great, but there are plenty of trams, buses and tuk-tuk taxis to take you from A to B.

If impressing clients is top of the agenda, book a group session at Initium, where you can make your own Swiss watch. It offers a completely immersive experience and will give you and your colleagues a view into the fascinating world of mechanical timepieces. A master watchmaker gives a presentation on the secrets of watchmaking, an ancestral skill which over the centuries has become synonymous with this country.

After a short tutorial by the experts, many of whom have trained with some of the most exclusive names in the industry such as Rolex, Breitling or Patek Phillipe, you will set to work, tweezers in hand, to assemble a genuine Swiss watch.

Having covered off one element of what it is that makes Switzerland famous, follow it up with a second with a visit to some of the city’s very fine chocolatiers.

Your Choco Pass is activated as soon as you enter the first chocolate shop, and entitles you to a tasting plate. The offering is different depending on where you go, but Geneva pavé is famous at Stettler’s, while truffles at Sweetzerland are a must. For children with a Choco Pass, the selection will be adapted and will feature a special surprise.

Alpine air

For a real treat, take a tuk-tuk into the countryside, where several small vineyards make outstanding Swiss wine. Breathing in fresh alpine air, a blanket and some coffee will be provided as you take in the sights including the Cern physics labs and the United Nations office as you make the 20-minute journey to a pretty village on the outskirts of Geneva.

Sampling wines very much known in Switzerland such as Chasselas and Gameret, but not so much further afield, will have you pondering why there is so little Swiss wine available in Ireland.

As in many other cosmopolitan cities, you’ll find a district where contemporary galleries are clustered. To finish off a busy 48 hours in Geneva, stroll around Quartiers des Bains. A must is Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, currently showing famed American photographer Elliott Erwitt.

Stay 

The Fairmont Grand Hotel Geneva is a peaceful respite in an urban setting with eye-catching views of Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva. Rooms have everything the business traveller could want, including coffee machine, large flatscreen television and very comfortable beds.

Dine and Drink

Le Blanc Valet is located on the trendy Rue Henri-Blanvalet. This lively spot serves great cocktails but music is loud and current. It’s located on a bustling, trendy street, making bar-hopping a simple task.

Café le Peney is located close to the vineyards in Satigny and is a perfect spot to stop for lunch before or after a wine tasting. The food is typically French/Swiss, with plenty of inventive twists on old classics: take the vol-au-vent but filled with d’escargots petit gris, capres, carrottes and morilles. It’s cooking at another level.

For a place full of old world charm, go to restaurant Les Armures on the Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre. Steak tartare, fondue and a dessert of deconstructed meringue and clotted cream are excellent choices.

Fly

Swiss Air offer direct flights to Geneva on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

For more information on Geneva visit MySwitzerland.com