Geneva Feature


A Good Walk: The Waterfront

Discounting its final uphill loop through Cologny, this walk covers 5 km (3 miles) of largely flat, paved promenade—the perfect way to spend a leisurely day following the sun.

From Gare Cornavin, take Bus No. 1 to the Sécheron stop and walk through the gate labeled "restaurant la perle du lac." The second paved path to your left after the parking lot leads to the Villa Bartholoni, home of the Musée d'Histoire des Sciences, housed in an elegant neoclassical mansion.

Turn right as you exit the museum, and make your way down to the water. On a clear day Mont Blanc floats above the hills on the far side of the lake like a sugar-dusted meringue. Keep the water to your left as you head past the Mouettes Genevoises landing dock, La Perle du Lac, and spectacular seasonal flower beds.

Continue straight along Quai Wilson as the traffic curls down to meet you. The stately Palais Wilson, on your right, housed the League of Nations from its creation after World War I until 1936. Pass the Hotel President Wilson and follow the manicured lawns and ornate buildings around a sharp curve to the right.

The Bains des Pâquis, hugely popular public baths with protected space to swim and sunbathe, occupy most of the jetty extending to your left.

Keep walking past the Port des Mouettes and the Hotel d'Angleterre. The slender statue of Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, on your left, was erected in 1998 to mark the centennial of her death; she was stabbed as she left the Beau-Rivage to board one of the paddle steamers docked alongside the quay.

Make a brief detour to your left for a close-up view of the boats and the city center. Then cross the street in front of the Beau-Rivage and angle left to the elaborate Monument Brunswick.

Cross back to the quay at the far end of the block and take the last staircase before the Pont du Mont-Blanc down to the left. Continue straight under the bridge. When you surface in front of the Four Seasons des Bergues, make two lefts onto the pedestrians-only Pont des Bergues.

The Ile Rousseau, halfway across, harbors a statue of its locally contentious namesake. The Temple de la Fusterie, on the far side of the bridge, was Geneva's first custom-built Calvinist church.

Turn left when you reach dry land, and follow the quay under the Pont du Mont-Blanc a second time. Head straight at the top of the ramp then right toward the statue commemorating the union of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation on September 12, 1814. With the statue on your right, follow the path as it arcs to the right, and keep walking until the Horloge Fleurie comes into view on the left.

Continue past the floral clock face and through the Jardin Anglais, toward its graceful 19th-century fountain. Keep going straight when you get back on the lakeside path, past the bust of Gustave Ador on your right.

Take care on the steps down and angle left toward La Neptune, the only original boat of its kind still in service on Lac Léman. Sticking out of the water to its right are the Pierres du Niton, two glacial erratics deposited during the last Ice Age. Geneva's Guillaume-Henri Dufour designated the larger one as the base reference point (1,222 feet above sea level) for all altitude measurements taken during the 19th-century land survey that produced the first map of Switzerland.

Return to the upper promenade by the next set of stairs, continue to your left past more flower beds, and veer back to the lower level where Rue du 31-Décembre meets Quai Gustave-Ador. The Jet d'Eau, Europe's tallest fountain, gushes straight up from the lake halfway along the stone jetty before you; it also produces spray that feels like the mother of all sprinklers. The lighthouse at the end of the jetty has an unmatched view of the Centre Ville.

Return to the quay and continue to the left past the city's main marina. Look back for a great view of the cathedral just before you reach the statue of La Bise (the North Wind). Then turn right when the asphalt ends and cross the street opposite Parc La Grange. Have a peek at the park and return to the quay, or wander through the rose garden on the left inside the gates.

Make your way into the neighboring Parc des Eaux-Vives, where the Hôtel Restaurant Parc des Eaux-Vives offers the possibility of a drink or brasserie meal in a former 18th-century mansion with superb lake and Jura views, and return to the quay farther down the road. Regardless of which park exit you use, cross the street and continue to the right past parallel beds of roses and terrific Jura, lake, and city views.

At Port Noir, where the formal quay ends, a simple nautical monument commemorates the June 1, 1814, landing of Swiss troops sent to guarantee Geneva's safety in the aftermath of Napoléon's rule.

If you're feeling energetic and time permits, continue past Port Noir, cross the street at the traffic light, and follow the steep, leafy Rampe de Cologny about 1 km (0.6 mile) up to the hilltop village of Cologny, where Byron's guest Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at the Villa Diodati (private).

Continue straight through the small traffic circle and head left to the end of the Auberge du Lion d'Or parking lot for sweeping views of the Palais des Nations, lake, and Jura; turn right at the traffic circle toward the Fondation Martin Bodmer, if the sweeping vista of human thought is more your style.

Retrace your steps or take the peaceful pedestrian Chemin du Righi, just below the museum, back down the hill, then head left to Port Noir past Genève Plage, a public beach. If the sun is setting, stay awhile and watch the city lights flicker on; in July and August, opt for an open-air film at Cinélac. When you're ready to head home, cross the street and take Bus No. 6 (direction Vernier-Village) to the Métropole stop. From there you can take Bus No. 8 (direction OMS) or walk across the Pont du Mont-Blanc to the train station.

Updated: 2013-09-09

View all features


Trip Finder

Fodor's Switzerland

View Details
Travel Phrases

Learn French phrases while you're on the go!

Download Now
Travel Deals