How to get the most out of Geneva's shopping scene

 
 

Grab your Prada and head out on a dedicated, no-holds-barred, shopping extravaganza. For Geneva will dazzle, beckon and beguile, and its retail attractions are hard to resist says our reviewer, Alison Holmes.

‘Bienvenue, madame.’ How many times have I heard those words? I’ve done the circuit of shops in Geneva many times over so, yes, I suppose I am ‘very welcome’. I can prove it too: I know the name of the salesman in Chopard; the opening hours of the city’s fanciest department store, Bongénie; the faces of most of the waiters in Place Molard’s best restaurant, Café du Centre; and exactly where to go if you need a new handbag for the evening, as well as a blouse, a watch, a pair of shoes…

  Les Armures restaurant

Les Armures restaurant

For a small city, Geneva has lots to offer; its compact size makes shopping very easy indeed. And fun. I like to start with the Rue du Rhône, which is home to the city’s most luxurious names for fashion, jewellery and watches (Louboutin, Roger Vivier, Dior, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chopard, Rolex, and the list goes on). You can set off on your quest, browse to your heart’s content, and then think about what you really want to buy over the course of the day. You can then pop back into your final selection of shops in the evening to seal the deals, as most of the city’s hotels are found just beyond this street.


Of course, all that dazzles are not diamonds and damask, so after you’ve exhausted the fashion and the jewellery here, head over to lunch at the bistro-style Café du Centre (if it’s summer you can sit outdoors in the square), where the French-style fare will make you smile.

Of course, all that dazzles are not diamonds and damask, so after you’ve exhausted the fashion and the jewellery here, head over to lunch at the bistro-style Café du Centre (if it’s summer you can sit outdoors in the square), where the French-style fare will make you smile. Ask your hotel concierge to make a booking for you as it gets busy, although they’re open morning to night. The waiters are very professional and speak English so you’ll have no trouble ordering. An enormous seafood tower and a chilled glass of Swiss chasselas? Why skimp? Thereafter you can sit back and discuss whether you should buy the Omega or the Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Dior or the Céline.

  Bongénie

Bongénie

Sated and rested, you’ll be ready to take on some more, and you won’t have to cover too much terrain. Just steps away from Place Molard is Geneva’s branch of Switzerland’s darling of a department store: Bongénie. Literally translated as the ‘good genie’, there’s so much temptation here you won’t know where to look first. All the latest high-end fashions and fripperies under one roof, and it’s on the small side so it does not overwhelm. Plus, the cosmetics and perfume sections here are the best in town, as is the nail bar if you can find time to slip in a manicure.

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Outside, back on the Rue du Marché, you’re just a few steps away from Anne Fontaine on Rue de la Fontaine (you’ll never forget it), where you can pick up an elegant (French) white, cotton blouse and a handbag to match. And there’s an Apple Store at the end of the road. The streets around here are lined with small boutiques selling some unique, European designer pieces, the kind you won’t see anywhere else. If you love shoes, look up Charivari on Google Maps and head over to this Aladdin’s cave of boots, shoes, handbags and accessories. It’s Geneva’s best-kept secret, although the prices aren’t for the faint-hearted. You have been warned.

And of course, last on your list should be a wander up into Geneva’s Old Town (or Vieille Ville, the cathedral dates from 1160), where a maze of small streets and picturesque squares also hosts some of Geneva’s best boutiques. There are plenty of cafes and bars too, where any shop-averse companions can relax with the newspaper (sold here, at Bourg de Four’s newsagent) and a coffee or something slightly stronger.

  Arial view of Geneva

Arial view of Geneva

By now you should have at least got your bearings and covered many of the city’s best shopping spots. Don’t miss the chance to have dinner at Les Armures restaurant, in one of the Old Town’s most historic locations, just steps from the cathedral. Set in a 17th-century restored home, the restaurant serves a variety of traditional Swiss dishes, but, of course, anything with cheese is the order of the day.

And if you miss the chance to pick up that watch you spotted in the morning, do not worry. Tomorrow’s another day.

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