Your essential guide to Geneva

Caroline Bishop

By Caroline Bishop

Switzerland-based travel and features journalist Caroline Bishop is the editor of news website The Local, and writes for titles including The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph and Time Out Switzerland.

Find your bearings

The beautiful Lake Geneva is the heart and lungs of Geneva, so make the most of the central location of Mandarin Oriental, Geneva by taking a stroll along the lakeshore. Cross the river Rhône to the Jardin Anglais, stop for a photo by the city’s symbol, the jet d’eau, then walk on towards the tranquil Parc de la Grange with its stunning landscaped rosebeds. You’ll finish up at Geneva-Plage, a dedicated bathing spot and watersports centre where you can swim in the Olympic-sized pool or hone your wakeboarding skills on the lake.

Feed your mind

The art scene in Geneva may not be as internationally known as Swiss rival Basel, but it deserves to be. Clustered in the hip Quartier des Bains district are numerous private galleries and public museums, including modern art museum ography museum was recently overhauled by Zurich architects Graber Pulver and won European Museum of the Year in 2017. Further away but well worth the short tram ride is the International Red Cross Museum. Its permanent exhibition takes visitors through the remarkable work of this humanitarian organisation over the past 150 years and will leave you truly moved.

Work by artist Wade Guyton at MAMCO


Work by artist Wade Guyton at Geneva's modern art temple, MAMCO.

Zeitgeist exhibition at MAMCO


Zeitgeist was a hit exhibition for MAMCO in 2017.

Exterior of Geneva's Red Cross Museum

International Red Cross Museum

The unique International Red Cross Museum is a place to reflect on humanitarian work.

Interior of Geneva's International Red Cross Museum

Red Cross Museum

Inside the International Red Cross Museum.

Shop like a local

The luxury watch and jewellery shops and designer clothes stores of Rue du Rhône are a short walk from the hotel. From here, head up into the winding streets of the Old Town for antiques, books and art. Or make the effort to get out to Carouge (a 15-minute tram ride from the hotel). Within the area’s beautiful Italianate architecture you’ll find artisan workshops and independent stores offering children’s toys, clothing, jewellery, shoes and unique gifts.

Samuel Léveillé

Only in Geneva...

“Flying above the impressive summit of Mont Blanc in a Yakovlev single-engine fighter aircraft – used in Eastern Europe between 1947 and 1962 – is such an amazing feeling. Ask us in advance to help book you a flight.” 

Samuel Léveillé, Chief Concierge, Mandarin Oriental, Geneva

See some sights

For one of the best views of the city, take the 157 steps to the top of the Romanesque-Gothic St Pierre Cathedral in the Old Town. Or get higher still by making the short trip out of the city to the Salève, known as Geneva’s ‘home’ mountain (even though it’s actually over the border in France), where a cable car will whisk you up nearly 1,000 metres for a literal overview of the city, the lake and the mountains beyond.

Toast your arrival

Geneva has a thriving cocktail scene, meaning quality is high. Enjoy a mojito on the terrace of MO Bar, sample the inventive creations of the mixologists at the speakeasy-style Le Verre à Monique in Quartier des Bains, or head to the stylish Rooftop 42 on Rue du Rhône for a drink with a view.

Make time to unwind

Woman having a massage

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

The hotel’s beauty studio is on hand to pamper you with a customised massage or facial. If the weather’s good, relax outside on a stroll through the city’s Botanical Gardens among the beautifully tended lawns, exotic plants, hothouses and small zoo. Make a day of it by bringing a picnic from the food hall of upmarket department store Globus and a bottle of chilled local Chasselas, then when you’re ready to leave take the footpath down to the lakeside for a stunning view of Mont Blanc.

Dine in style 

For a seasonal Swiss lunch and a glass of local wine try Café Papon in the Old Town, set within an historic vaulted building and sporting a large terrace overlooking the pretty Parc des Bastions. Top Genevan chef Philippe Chevrier has a popular grillhouse,Chez Philippe, on Rue du Rhône, while his two Michelin-starred flagship restaurant, Domaine de Châteauvieux, just outside the city in the vineyards, showcases his haute cuisine. For those seeking laid-back vibes paired with the finest fresh seafood ceviche, Yakumanka is a traditional cevicheria inspired by the popular local restaurants of Peru, and headed up by Chef César Bellido, Gaston Acurio's right-hand man.

Interior of Yakumanka

Yakumanka by Gastón Acurio

Yakumanka is a Peruvian restaurant serving authentic cuisine centred around fine seafood.

An artfully-plated dish at Domaine de Chateavieux

Domaine de Chateavieux

Domaine de Chateavieux is among Geneva's destination restaurants.

Interior of Chef Philippe

Chez Philippe

Chef Philippe says it offers a New York-feel in a Swiss setting.

Geneva's outdoor flower clock

Time travel

Geneva became a watchmaking centre after Reformation leader John Calvin banned the wearing of jewellery in the mid-16th century. This sparked the city’s goldsmiths to turn their talents to making watches instead.

And finally

Nip from one bank of Lake Geneva to the other on a mouette boat – a quick way to experience the lake if you don’t have time for a sightseeing trip further afield.

Where to chill out in Geneva

The Bains des Pâquis in Lake Geneva

Bains des Pâquis

The Bains des Pâquis are public bath houses on a pier in Lake Geneva, which become a sauna in winter. Photo: M.Sobreira, Alamy

Geneva's Botanical Gardens

Geneva's Botanical Gardens

Geneva's Botanical Gardens. Photo: David Pearson, Alamy

Amphion Beach

Amphion Beach

Lake Geneva's Amphion Beach. Photo: Jack Sullivan, Alamy

Oversized board games at Parc des Bastions

Parc des Bastions

Enjoy oversized board games at Parc des Bastions. Photo: imagebroker, Alamy

Parc Des Eaux Vives

Parc Des Eaux Vives

Take time out in Parc Des Eaux Vives. Photo: Alamy