Explore Lake Geneva’s rich cultural and historical heritage
Wander, walk and soak in the rich culture and history surrounding Lake Geneva and its neighbouring regions
Lake Geneva, the largest Alpine lake in Europe, is a waterbody of many names and an exquisite destination that one should add to their travel bucket list.
Commonly known as Lac Léman in French, Genfersee in German and Lago Lemano in Italian, the crescent-shaped marvel stretches 73km. It is shared between France and Switzerland, with the latter controlling the northern shore of the lake.
On one end is the elegant and bustling city of Geneva and on the other end is musical Montreux which offers a picturesque backdrop of the lake. It has also often been a stomping ground for the star-studded list of visitors who fell in love with the tranquility it offers and rightly so. Along the northern shores is the Olympic city of Lausanne which is an ideal stopover for youthful travellers who would love to be lost in the narrow and cobbled streets of the hilly town.
These largely French-speaking lakeside urban settlements undeservedly fall under the radar of many travellers who often prefer the mountainous destinations in Switzerland, such as Interlaken and Jungfrau. Considering the unique aspects of the Lake Geneva and its surrounding areas, one would quickly realise that this freshwater wonder is a marvel on its own.
Regarded as the largest freshwater lake of Central Europe, Lake Geneva is fed by the river Rhone. It covers an area of 580 square kilometres of which 60 per cent falls under Swiss territory while the remaining part is in France. Don’t let your eyes deceive you as this lake is a lot deeper than what it seems at first glance. It has an average depth of 500 feet or 154 metres with its deepest point located between the French town of Evian and the Swiss Lausanne is an impressive 310 metre — so keep your life vests on should you hop on a ferry between the two towns.
What you need to know before you travel
Switzerland has been welcoming vaccinated travellers from the UAE and the GCC region since June 26, 2021. It is one of the destinations in Europe that accepts the Sinopharm vaccine, hence it is a convenient holiday choice for most of the UAE residents. Travellers are expected to complete the ‘Passenger Locator Form’ prior to arrival. It is always a good idea to keep a copy of your vaccine certificate wherever you go, just in case.
Lying in the narrowest alcove of the lake is Switzerland’s second largest city and gateway to the Alps — Geneva. Propelling 500 litres of water per second around 140 metres high into the air, the Jet d’Eau or waterjet is the waterfront city’s nucleus. Surrounding the two banks of the lake, although Geneva has primarily been viewed as a business destination, it has plenty to offer to those seeking a gastronomic journey in Switzerland.
On the north of the Rhone river is the ‘International Quarter’ which houses humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross as well as the body that earned global prominence during the pandemic — the World Health Organization. Those looking to freshen up their wardrobe will be particularly interested in Rue de Rhone which houses the world’s top brands. It is an easy-to-navigate area and sits on part reclaimed from the lake, much to the delight of shopaholics.
Those looking for a traditional space to explore should head to The Haute-ville, or upper city, which sits on top of the hill and where the story of Geneva began.
Surrounding the Cathedral of St. Peter, the historic heart of Geneva is a must-see with beautiful narrow streets where you can also grab the local delicacy Swiss Fondue.
Geneva’s rich cultural and historical heritage can be enjoyed the most by walking around, so get your walking shoes on. For those who want to fill everything in without losing time on deciding where to eat can hop on a tuk tuk called ‘Taxi Bike”. Born as a result of the pandemic, it takes you to all parts of Geneva on a half-day tour onboard the electric tuk tuk whilst serving you a three-course meal.
Wow-ed by Vaud
Located in the southwestern part of Switzerland in its French-speaking region between Lake Geneva and Lake Neuchâtel, the region of Vaud is a dream vacation destination. Steeped in centuries of history and culture is the Vaud region, which one should add to their itinerary. Lausanne is viewed as an entry point of the canton Vaud, which is only a short 40-minute drive or a train ride away from Geneva. They say a picture speaks a thousand words and the picture-perfect views that the shoreline towns offer is worth experiencing.
Lausanne – a multi-storey city
Built on three hills on the northern-most shore of Lake Geneva is the Olympic city of Lausanne. Switzerland’s fourth-largest city boasts historical architecture and narrow cobbled streets, which make it a pleasant town to discover on foot. It hosts over 35,000 students a year and hence is a great spot for the youthful souls seeking a vibrant nightlife.
What to see
Lausanne is the world headquarters of the Olympics, and an Olympic museum is among its most popular tourist attractions. You can head to the 35-metre Sauvabelin Tower which offers a 360-degree view covering the city of Lausanne, Lake Geneva, the Swiss Alps, and the Jura region. Add Notre-Dame Cathedral to the list as it is viewed as the queen of the Old Town of Lausanne.
A source of inspiration for artists such as Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin and Freddie Mercury is this town of friendly faces. It is also home to the world’s second-largest jazz festival — the Montreux Jazz Festival. Montreux’s tranquillity was appealing enough for Freddie Mercury to settle in this town and record over six albums for the band Queen. A bronze statue of the music icon is the nucleus of this town with a bustling shopping district surrounding it.
The 13th century castle, Chateau de Chillion, which had been the residence of counts and Savoy of The Middle Age cannot be missed. It holds the title of the most visited historical building in Switzerland. Queen: The Studio Experience is a museum located inside Casino Barrière de Montreux; this is where the band made recordings between 1978 and 1995. A short drive away is the town of Vevey, known for the 8-metre-tall fork plunged into the lake that offers a picturesque-stroll along the lake where you will also bump into the statue of Charlie Chaplin.
I spent a week in the gorgeous surroundings of Lake Geneva leaving with fond memories of region’s rich history and mystical surroundings.