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Geneva: beautifully located, but a boring city. That is what many people think when they hear the name Geneva. Those people are wrong. The old center, on the south bank of the Rhône, is delightful with nice restaurants, specialized shops and art galleries. Do you feel rather cramped in the narrow streets? Then you should walk to the promenade, where you have a wonderful view over Lake Geneva, with the highlight being the world's highest fountain, which shoots the water 140 meters in the air.
Watch lovers are well catered for in this city of watchmakers. The leading brands are based here and the museum of one of those brands (Patek Philippe) houses a superb historic collection.
The Geneva Motor Show does almost not need further explanation. This large auto show is held every year in March. Are you looking for the latest gadgets? Then you should go to Geneva in April when the Salon International des Inventions, des Techniques et Produits Nouveaux takes place.
To see a completely different side of Geneva, you need to go to the district of Les Pâquis. The neighborhood is populated by various ethnic minorities who have opened up restaurants, bars and nightclubs. One of its main attractions is the outdoor pool Les Bains des Pâquis on the Quai du Mont-Blanc. Here you can do more than just swimming: It also houses a large complex with saunas, Turkish steam baths and oriental hammams.
Geneva is an expensive city (in 2009 the forth most expensive city in the world). It does buy you quality though, whether it concerns culinary delights in restaurants, watches from local watchmakers or artworks in the many galleries. Everything is of the highest quality! The street with the most expensive shops is the Rue du Rhône. Even if you don't plan on buying anything here, it is fun to have a look at the merchandise on offer and to watch the people in the street.
Budget travelers will have trouble finding cheap accommodation. Geneva does not really cater for travelers of modest means. You do, however, find mid-range hotel rooms of outstanding quality. Do keep in mind that many hotels are fully booked during large international fairs and congresses. If you want to visit the annual Motor Show for example, you have to book your hotel room months in advance.
A rental car is an ideal means to visit the attractions in and around Geneva. Just like in any other large city, it is best to avoid rush hour. Outside of morning and evening peak hours though, it is easy to drive around the excellent roads. Signage is also good and so you will have no trouble finding your destination by car.
The area surrounding Geneva has a lot to offer: The Jura mountain range north of the city and the Alps southeast of it. You can also make a beautiful trip in your rental car along Lake Geneva. Along the way you will come across beautiful viewing points or you can stop to go for a walk through a nature area. The historic city of Lausanne is definitely worth a visit. In addition, the city is the International Olympic Committee' headquarters. You can see the history of the Olympic Games in one of the museums.
In the small historic town of Yvoire on the southern shore, you should not skip the garden of the local castle, the Jardin des Cinq Sens, that is, the Garden of the Five Senses. This town is entirely car-free by the way.
If you continue driving along the southern shore you'll reach Thonon-les-Bains, the main city on this shore and – as the name already indicates – a spa. Further east lies the more mundane spa of Évian-les-Bains. A boat trip on Lake Geneva also comes highly recommended.
Note: If you want to use the Swiss highways, you need a special sticker for your rental car. You can buy the sticker at post offices and gas stations.
Throughout the city you'll find indoor parking garages where you can park your car. Parking rates are rather steep by the way. You can also park your car out on the streets, but it may be difficult to find a parking space. Parking is prohibited alongside a continuous yellow line on the curb. Alongside a white line you have to pay to park your car and alongside a blue line you can park your rental car for free for a set amount of time (using a parking disc).
Geneva Airport is officially called Genève Airport (Zwitserland) and is located six kilometers north of the city alongside the freeway between Lausanne and Geneva. It is a unique airport with a French and a Swiss part.