Rues Basses Shopping
Geneva's principal shopping streets, known collectively as the Rues Basses, run along the Left Bank. You'll see everything from limo-loads of body-guarded, burka-clad women shopping for sexy footwear, to jeans-wearing camera-toters seeking a glimpse of the high life.
In true Swiss democratic style, the Rues Basses' sidewalk mix ranges from Mr. and Ms. Everybody to jet-setters. On two parallel streets linked by smaller ones, the Rues Basses (or Low Streets, in relation to the Old Town perched on a hill above) have something for everyone. Rue du Rhône, closer to the river, marks the epicenter of luxury shopping, from heavy-glitz brand boutiques—Chanel, Hermès, Vuitton, et al—to homegrown deluxe watchmakers like Chopard and Piaget. One block in is the more popular thoroughfare known as Rue de Rive, which then becomes Rue de la Croix d'Or, then Rue du Marché, and finally Rue de la Confédération. Up the hill, galleries, antiques shops, home-accessories emporia, and chic boutiques line the Old Town's Grand-Rue.
Best Time to Go
Hit the area on bustling weekday afternoons when all the stores are sure to be open. The Rues Basses get crowded on Saturday, too, but many watch and jewelry stores are closed then—and they remove window bling so shoppers have nothing but empty display stands to take in. Sunday you'll have the place to yourself; everything except a few eateries is closed tight as a drum.
Two ideal places for chocolate sampling are Martel (4 rue de la Croix d'Or 022/3103119) and Gilles Desplanches (Corner of Rue de la Corraterie and Rue de la Confédération 022/8103028), where sumptuously sinful pralines and truffles await: white, black, pile after neat little pile; you can buy just the one or a bagful. Stay for lunch or tea—there's seating in both venues and bountiful selections of savory tartlets, meat pasties, and rolls with fillings more likely to be crabmeat and sprouts than ham-and-cheese.
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