Switzerland’s Geneva, the alpine city that invented the art of fine watchmaking, sure knows how to keep pace with the times. For centuries Switzerland’s French-speaking hub, perched on the slice of river bend where Lake Geneva meets the Rhône, has played a pivotal role in world history. Home to the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross, boasting over 200 non-profits and trade organizations, Geneva was also formerly a vacation resort for Roman noblemen, who would ride into town en-masse and detox in the area's many ornate thermal baths.
Geneva maintains its legacy as healing centre even today, however, many choose a different route to wellness in the form of art, culinary, and retail therapy. Wander the area's rich selection of luxury boutiques, jewellers, Michelin-starred restaurants and chocolatiers, then later, stroll through LesGrottes in the QuartierdesPâquis or along the post-industrial riverside where chic bars and outdoor cafés hum with activity and vibrant conversation.
In between views of Geneva’s peacock-studded lawns of Parc de l'Ariana, visits to the lush Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques, and a leisurely meander through the immaculately preserved Grand-Rue, birthplace of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, be sure to also check out the city's thriving design scene. Each year, thousands flock to Art Basel to scout and collect up-and-coming artists; while true insiders know where Geneva's low-key charms and legacy of craftsmanship have yielded a new breed of galleries, museums, and design shops, making their mark in Switzerland and the wider world. Well worth a sojourn off the beaten track, read our Geneva Design Guide to discover just where to go.
Chemin Édouard-Sarasin, 1218 Grand-Saconnex
Held each year in conjunction with the International Book and Press Fair, this popular international modern and contemporary art fair presents an eclectic mix of curators, artists, and art publishers; this is where the European art world comes together to mingle at the modernist gem that is the Palexpo.
Considered the “heart of international Geneva” this promenade is the site of the Swiss artist Daniel Berset’s BrokenChair, a public art installation meant to symbolize the fight against anti-personnel mines.
Quai du Général-Guisan 28
A symbol of the city’s watchmaker history, this large-scale “flower clock” is located on the western side of Jardin Anglais park and features over 6,500 seasonal, flowering plants and shrubs.
Rue Kazem-Radjavi 8
Created by renowned architecture firm SOM, the recently completed headquarters for Japan Tobacco International is a marvel of post-modernist delight, featuring a sleek facade of glass triangles and a spacious central courtyard surrounded by parkland. Built on a former industrial site, it currently ranks as one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe.
Most wouldn't put a nuclear research facility on their must-see design list, but the CERN isn't just any scientific centre. Founded in 1954, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research is widely known as the pre-eminent laboratory for research into particle physics. Design-lovers, however, have visited for decades, to be inspired by the centre’s futuristic architecture and interiors.
10 rue des Vieux-Grenadiers
An almost textbook definition of the term kunsthall, the Centre d’Art Contemporain displays temporary exhibitions by a varied range of artists — from bigger names like Joseph Beuys to local, emerging talent. Considered a multi-purpose cultural institution, the Centre acts as both incubator and gallery, allowing artists a space to work with mediums ranging from photography, video, and installation art to performance and public dialogue.
Grand Rue 2
Known for its focus on photography, sculpture, and painting, Frank Pages is one of the most famous — and innovative — galleries to come out of Geneva. With a focus on global collaboration, they are frequent attendees at acclaimed art fairs such as Scope Miami, Art14 London, and Art Stage Singapore (among many others).
Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10
The largest contemporary art museum in Switzerland, located in a 4 story-former laboratory, this cavernous space holds over 4,000 works by Europe’s leading artists; including permanent collection pieces by Christo, Carl Andre, and Vito Acconci.
Launched in 1994, Skopia began with the distinct mission of promoting Swiss artists. Today it hosts an international roster of contemporary creators, ranging from Swiss painter Silvia Bächli to American artist Melissa Steckbauer.
1 place de l’Ile
Considered by its curators to be "part-art centre and part-gallery" this creative space works in tandem with the city’s many cultural institutions and artists to organize shows, lectures, and installations of an experimental nature. From video and photography to sculpture and painting, Halle Nord’s exhibitions are often some of the most talked-about (and visited!) events in the city.
Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7
Conveniently situated next to MAMCO, the Patek Philippe Museum is home to the iconic creations of the city’s legendary 16th-century watchmaker. Inside, peruse one of the world’s largest displays of watches, portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th century, and browse a library dedicated entirely to horology and its related subjects.
Switzerland’s bastion of all things luxury, Geneva is a hotspot of wealthy, cultured cool. Peek in our Travel Journal to discover more about fashion house Bally and glimpse some jaw-dropping jewels by De Grisogono. For more design guides browse through the White Line Hotel collection, full of under-the-radar guides to all things design in: New York, Paris, Zurich, Lisbon, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Vienna.