Geneva, Switzerland & Surrounding Areas
I had the opportunity to visit Geneva, Switzerland, on a 7 day excursion with my daughter, and we had the time of our lives. From the chocolate factory tours to the delicious cheese fondu and all the Saint Bernard souvenirs in between, I can’t say enough good things. If a trip to Switzerland sounds good to you, I put together the Ultimate Switzerland Bucket List – so you don’t miss a thing.
Getting to Switzerland from the United States
To get to Switzerland, from the United States, we flew Phoenix to London then London to Geneva on British Air. I actually loved the flights. British Airways seems to be a courteous airline, who puts it’s customers first. You can get great rates on airfare to Switzerland HERE.
Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals on my Switzerland Bucket List
This one is tricky. It depends on your tastes and preferences. I stayed at the very reasonably priced and well located, hotel Tiffany It is in the heart of Geneva I could walk everywhere. I took early morning walks to old town to see the lake Geneva, the wonderful shops, get coffee at Starbucks and just enjoy myself. Later in the day, I walked to bus routes, restaurants, street fairs, shops and to the Patek Philippe museum.
I loved the hotel, but there are also a bevy of apartment and chalet rentals available in Switzerland. I would not hesitate to check those out – they may even be a more afforable way to see the country. As you are no doubt aware, Switzerland can be an expensive county to visit.
Need an Airbnb Coupon?
If you are new to Airbnb, I can offer you a $35 off coupon if you want to check it out. I have stayed in many Airbnb’s and I have found them a wonderful alternative to hotel rooms. You should read my 6 secret Airbnb tips article on how to save money before you go.
Here is a “Geneva on the Lake” vacation rental that I highly recommend.
Now, if you prefer a hostel, here is an excellent site for you to check out. They offer great deals and affordable rates on hostels all over the globe.
Because I had not been to Switzerland before, and I was traveling with my daughter, we booked quite a few day trips and tours. Each turned out to be wonderful, in it’s own way. Let me share them with you here.
First – a little Geneva History before you view my Switzerland Bucket List
Did you know that two rivers meet in Geneva?
It is true. The Rhône River, flowing from the Swiss Alps, meets up with the River Arve in Geneva. It is said they have different origins, colors, speeds and behaviors but become one in Geneva, and then descend to south eastern France.
Now, let’s get started on my Ultimate Switzerland Bucket List.
3 Hour – Chocolate Walking Tour
This tour was so much better than it even sounds. We did this on day one of our trip and I was so glad we did. Along with chocolate shops and tasting, the walk is all around Old Town Geneva as well. We were able to check out the places we really liked so we could go back again, when less hurried.
The tour was three hours long and we met up with our tour guide at the Starbucks on the river. So if you need a Starbucks fix, you can get it before the tour begins!! You can find the exact tour here
The chocolate walking tour included a boat ride across lake Geneva and visits to, as we were told, the “best” chocolate shops Geneva has to offer. At each shop, the merchants told stories about the history of chocolate and what it is that makes their chocolate unique. We were also given samples to taste along the way. YUM!!
I think my favorite part of the Chocolate tour was the store called Laduree. The boutique itself was stunning and decorated with colors of green and lilac and adorned with velvet tasting chairs. We sampled chocolate bars and drank hot chocolate, which was unlike anything I’d ever had in the United States.
The hot chocolate in Switzerland is not runny or made with water and freeze dried marsh mallows. Nope, it is thick and rich and pours like a melted chocolate bar. It was honestly….amazing.
If you are not able to take the full 3 hour chocolate walking tour, I highly recommend a visit to the Laduree Chocolate Shoppe for some hot cocoa.
Panoramic Cheese & Chocolate Factory Tour to Gruyère with Fondue Tasting
The second item on my Switzerland bucket list is a trip to the city of Gruyere. There we visited the Willy Wonka style Cailler chocolate factory and a magnificent cheese factory too.
It’s was the perfect, full day excursion.
First, we had a car ride through the delightfully charming dairy town of Gruyere. The hills and pastures were green and rolling and happy cows seemed to fill the serene countryside.
Our first stop was to the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory where the smells and tastes were intoxicating. The factory was beautiful inside and out and it reminded me of the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory movie of the 1970’s. Heck, it almost made me cry.
Each room had something more unique and enjoyable and I wanted the tour to never end.
Watch the mouth watering chocolate factory videos here:
The Chocolate and taste testing tour lasted about an hour at which point we were dropped off into a robustly stocked gift shop. I purchased a few chocolate delights for my friends back in the States – and maybe one or two treats for myself.
Who could blame me!
Cheese Fondu at La Maison Du Gruyere
After chocolate, there was wine and cheese. We made our way to the cheese factory at La Maison Du Gruyere, where we learned everything about the traditions of cheese and cheese making, that has been passed down through the generations of Gruyere cheese makers.
We dined at the La Maison Du Gruyere restaurant and filled up on the most delectable cheese fondu The warm, crusty bread was washed down with a bottle of Swiss white wine and were happy as larks.
Patek Philippe Museum – not your ordinary bucket list destination – but well worth it
The next place on my Ultimate Switzerland Bucket list is the Patek Philippe Museum in the heart of Geneva. It was magnificent!
It does not matter if you are a watch lover, this museum is more an art museum than anything else.
The Patek company, founded in 1839, for almost two centuries, has made incredible time pieces. Every watch is made by hand which keeps the pieces rare and the prices high.
The Patek Philippe watch company is known for making special watches for Kings and Queens, royalty and the rich and famous. Some how, although I’m not sure how, many of these pieces of art are housed inside the walls of the Petak Philippe Museum.
There are 3 levels of watches and clocks, from ornate to simple, to view and admire.
One display in particular really caught my eye. It was the watch Patek Philippe made for Czar Nicholas II of Russia. It was a yellow gold chronograph pocket watch and it was magnificent.
Nicholas II served as Czar from 1894 to 1917, when he was overthrown and his family was killed. He was the last ruler of Russia.
The magnificent Petak Philippe store
Of course, there is the modern day Petak Philippe store in Geneva as well. I went inside and could not believe my eyes. Every inch of the store looks like it is still made special for royalty.
I tried on a watch, just for fun!
When I did, the salesperson politely showed me to the back of the store, inside a glamorous room filled with crystal chandeliers, gold trim and ornate tapestry. It made me feel like a million bucks.
She told me all about this history of the Petak Philippe company and how the watches are hand made and so on. It was really a very nice adventure.
Old Town Geneva
The city of Geneva is magnificent. I stayed in the heart of old town, so I was able to get up early each morning, before tours and excursions, and see the magnificence of the city, as the sun rose over the river. Most of the city was still asleep so it was as if I had the city to myself.
I definitely recommend a day on foot in old town Geneva on my Ultimate Switzerland Bucket List because there are just so many wonderful sites to see. Here are just a few:
Swiss River: Lausanne, Montreux & the Chateau Chillon
I took a full day tour of Lausanne, Montreux and the The Chateau Chillon.
The Olympic Museum
In Lausanne, we first stopped to visit the Olympic Museum which was extremely interesting and educational. If you are an Olympics buff, you will not want to miss this museum.
The Lausanne Cathedral
Next we visited the Lausanne Cathedral which was really beautiful too. The architecture is incredible. Waled to the top to see the giant town bell and get a full city view.
The City of Montreux
From the Cathedral, we visited the town of Montreux, which is right at the Swiss Riviera. The town is small but it has excellent shopping and the most stunning water views you have ever seen. We shopped, ate and took in those water views as long as the guide would allow :))
Chateau de Chillon Castle
The final stop on the Swiss River tour, a little further down the road in Montreux, was the Chateau de Chillon. This castle is a must-see on any Switzerland Bucket List. From the stone work to the ceiling architecture to the elaborate mote and beyond, this castle is exquisite.
I have seen a many castles in my day and this one was spectacular. Trust me, you will want to see this one for yourself.
Summary of the Ultimate Switzerland Bucket List
I hope you have enjoyed my Ultimate Switzerland Bucket List. Switzerland is a beautiful place with snow capped Alps, extremely friendly people, upscale shopping and to-die-for chocolate.
I have done my best to give you highlights of the land. I hope I have pointed you in the right direction for a magical trip of your own.
Safe travels – Laurie
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