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Geneva: Explore the Jura Mountains


Many people head to Geneva to ski in the Alps. But the less-famous mountains to the north of the city, the Jura Mountains, are a peaceful, beautiful gem. There is great mountain bike potential here, following your nose up small tracks and paths into the wooded heights that overlook Lake Geneva. If you’re just after a day’s ride rather than an overnight camp, then consider hiring a guide to show you the best trains (eg bikeswitzerlandrentals.com/rent-a-bike-guide).

Level of Difficulty: Very Hard (if you're going to bivvy - Hard if you just want a day trip outing).

What to pack: Warm clothes (check the weather forecast!), appropriate cycling kit, woolly hat, headtorch, raingear, sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag.

Best time to go: summer.

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With an old town ripe for exploring, full of winding cobblestone streets, gothic cathedrals and ancient city walls, Geneva has the historic charm that you would expect from any Swiss city. And being at the foot of the Alps, it also has a natural beauty that is hard to beat. Think lakeside promenades, parks and cafes complete with snow-capped mountains and you get the picture. But don’t go thinking this city is all history and no buzz. You’ll be hard pushed to find a more cosmopolitan place in Europe.

Geneva is home to international organisations such as the Red Cross and United Nations, to name a few, and is a modern city full of upmarket restaurants and hotels, with a nightlife that is more pumping than you’d expect. Rooftop cocktail bars, lakeside terraces, live music haunts and techno blaring dance clubs are all here catering to Geneva’s diverse population. 

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Shopping


For many, the city of Geneva is synonymous to the watchmaking craft. The best way to learn more about it is to take a watchmaking tour of an independent, family owned watch manufacturer. Alpina & Frederique Constant is a great example of the fine Swiss watchmaking. Book well in advance. www.frederique-constant.com


Advent calendar, Bains des Pâquis (Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, +41 (0)22 732 2974) Geneva's much-loved lakeside bathing resort is open for meals and entertainment over winter but what to do with the 300 changing rooms? Turn 25 into a glorified Advent calendar, of course. Be at the Bains des Pâquis at 7pm December 1-25 when the door of a changing room will be thrown open to reveal an interior decked out by a local artist.


Follow the Geneva Mystery Tour alone or with your friends and try to find Professor Archibald Kymerion. Get your mystery tour book and entry tickets to various museums linked to your investigation from the Geneva Tourism office and discover the Old Town's historical places in an alternative, fun way. http://www.geneve.com


Cruise along the Rhône river to see the region's serene countryside and villages. Reserve your place in advance and head to Quai des Moulins de l'Ile for this three hour cruise. (www.swissboat.com)


Head to Bains des Pâquis or t? Geneve Plage and make like the locals: rent a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) to enjoy the lake during summertime. Either on a group lesson or on your own, this is one of the best ways to experience Geneva's outdoor lifestyle. For more information visit www.bains-des-paquis.ch, www.geneve-plage.ch.


One of the best things to do in summer is have a picnic in one of the city's many parks - it's a great way to slow down, take in the scenery and absorb the local vibe. If you're not a planner, head to the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives where you can get your lunch, glasses and blanket ready to go. parcdeseauxvives.ch

Sightseeing


The city celebrates the new year with the Geneva Lux Festival and Julien Pavillard is its artistic director. When the night falls walk around the city and discover the festive and luminous installations created by Swiss and international artists. www.ville-ge.ch/genevaluxfestival


Dinosaurs, at the Musée d'histoire naturelle (Route de Malagnou 1, +41 (0)22 418 6300) Switzerland's largest natural history museum celebrates 50 years at its current site and to celebrate, has called in the big guns. Exhibition includes a remarkable collection of fossils unearthed in Wyoming by Swiss palaeontologists. Free entry.


Don't miss the Geneva lake festival, one of the city's biggest celebrations taking place from 04th to 14th August along the banks of the lake. With culinary creations from around the world, music concerts, dancing, street performers and roller coasters, the festivities culminate with the renowned fireworks display, taking place on 13th August and setting the lake on fire. www.fetesdegeneve.ch


The Tulip Festival is held every spring in Morges, where the Parc de l'Indépendance blossoms with more than 120,000 tulips of 300 varieties. It's a lovely way to celebrate spring along Lake Geneva's charming lakefront. Free entry, 26 March - 8 May, www.morges-tourisme.ch.

Key Areas


Cité du Temps, housed in one of the city's landmark buildings, is a great events and exhibition centre. The top floor hosts a permanent exhibition showcasing the watchmaking story of Swatch, while itss outdoor space is perfect for people watching or having a picnic. www.citedutemps.com


On Wednesdays, Saturdays and every first Sunday of the month, Plainpalais flea market becomes a meeting point for bargain hunters and vintage lovers alike. Locals love to come here and search for antique furniture and paintings, magazines, vinyl records and so much more. From 6:30 to 17:15.


Chocoholics will love the Chocolate Rally of Geneva, happening 1 October. Pick up your chocolate passport and discover delicious creations from 12 chocolate makers, which this year revolve around the theme of cocoa nibs and raspberry. (www.salondeschocolatiers.com)

Day Trips


The Unesco World Heritage vineyards of Lavaux offer beautiful walking and biking trails, charming wine caves where you can sample the best local wines, plus plenty of charming villages to discover along the way. www.lavaux.com


Head to St Cergue and combine two of the country's winter favourites: snow and fondue. Follow a snowshoeing path, preferably during night, then indulge in melted Swiss cheese at one of the typical Swiss chalets. www.st-cergue-tourisme.ch


It's a three-hour scenic train ride to the car-free alpine village of Zermatt. Even if you're not a skiier, it's worth the trip for the amazing mountain landscapes.


On 24 September experience the désalpe: the alpine cattle descent that is one of the country's oldest traditions. Farmers wearing traditional costumes and cow horns decorated with flowers are among the highlights, as are the sounds of the Alphorn or the alpine choir. For more information visit www.st-cergue-tourisme.ch/fr.


Paléo Festival is one of the biggest highlights of the Swiss music scene. More than 250 concerts and shows take place annually above the town of Nyon, and this year's line up includes Iron Maiden, The Lumineers, Massive Attack and The Chemical Brothers. 19 to 24 July, http://yeah.paleo.ch.


Book your tickets and watch the legendary Bejart Ballet Lausanne performing at Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne from 7 to 12 June. On this occasion, two choreographies will be presented exclusively: Giorgio Madia's “Swan Song” and Julio Arozarena's "Corps circuit". (www.bejart.ch)

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