Switzerland Travel Guide: Swiss Wine and Geneva's Top Museums

The iconic fountain in Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Being such a cosmopolitan and international center, Geneva may not offer quite as many diversions as one would expect in a major a European city. But as is always the case, and depending on one's interests of course, there are joys to behold, and it's worth visiting for at least two or three days.

Free Transport Card
Hotels can provide you with a complimentary Transport Card that offers free bus and tram transfers within the city, as well as on the yellow water taxis on Lac Leman. While much of the city is walkable, it can be fun to hop on a water taxi to cross the lake, or take a tram across town. So if not offered, just ask for it at your hotel.

Barbier-Mueller Museum
Located in Old Town near the cathedral, this small museum offers a fabulous collection of tribal and "primitive" art from different regions around the world. Descriptions are largely in French, as are the wonderful books they publish. If this type of art intrigues you, and it's not a large space, you can take in the exhibits on view in 40 minutes.

A couple of doors down is a fabulous bookshop specializing in art and photography books, many in English. I could easily spend a couple of hours here, and the proprietor can be very helpful.

Patek Philippe Museum
While there's a watch shop on nearly every corner in Geneva, one would be remiss not to visit this amazing museum on the history of watchmaking, and view the antique collection and fascinating videos (only 
open from 2 - 6pm).  The one that fascinated me most was the watch in the shape of a pistol, which when "fired" caused a bird to "shoot up" from within the barrel and sing a tune, and the video that showed its construction in detail.  You can easily spend a couple of hours visiting the exhibits on three floors.

The Red Cross Museum
Branded as the humanitarian adventure, the museum documents the work that The International Red Cross and  Red Crescent organizations do around the world, in posters, photographs, films and objects. It's a fascinating look and underscores the importance of these organizations, and worth a visit.

As to excursions nearby, while an excursion to Mont Blanc is popular, I'd recommend a visit to the unique UNESCO heritage site of Lavaux, one of Switzerland's wine growing regions, with a private guide who can arrange some choice visits. For wine lovers it's an amazing experience to explore the very steep slopes and 1000- year-old stone walls and small domaines where the unique varietals like Chasselas are produced.  When it comes to reds, in addition to Pinot Noir and Merlot, unique varietals like Gamaret and Garanoir can be found.

Unlike its neighbors: France, Germany and Italy, Switzerland doesn't t export its wines. So  pretty much you can only enjoy these vintages while here (or dining in a Swiss restaurant), making a visit to Lavaux all the more interesting.

We work with a local specialist that offers a unique 1/2 day experience -- not just visiting vineyards by luxury Mercedes van, but also meeting winemakers and visiting historic buildings that at least in once case, most Swiss have never even been inside of. Besides the wine, the views from the vineyards are spectacular.  For active travelers, there's also a hiking trail one can do through the region.

It goes without saying Switzerland is a chocolate-lover's haven, with numerous chocolate shops readily found about town. I would be hard pressed to suggest a favorite, though we liked Auer and Mont Blanc, which makes a fabulous sugar-free dark chocolate sweetened with tangerine juice.

Unfortunately, we didn't make it to Gruyere, but it was on our list of day trips to do from Geneva, and worth mentioning. Named after the famed cheese, of course, you can visit both a cheese and chocolate factory, and enjoy the fresh air and quaint environment of this medieval Alpine village, along with its castle.  What's not as well known, perhaps, is there are also two unique museums here: the fantasy art of HR Giger (the Swiss artist perhaps is best known for his work on the movie Alien), and a Tibetan Art museum displayed in a reconverted chapel.