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Top five bars in… Geneva, Switzerland

On the surface, Geneva is a bourgeois Swiss city, housing world organisations and luxury shops. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find a whole host of gritty bars and rousing nightlife, as well as classy cocktails, writes James Lawrence.

There are few destinations in Europe as widely misjudged as Geneva. For a start, it’s often believed to be Switzerland’s capital (that title belongs to Bern), probably because it is home to the likes of the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and The World Bank, along with luxury hotels, restaurants and cocktail bars.

But don’t be fooled into thinking Geneva is merely an anodyne pit stop for the world’s dignitaries. Beneath this flawless exterior lies a fascinating and contradictory rough­-cut diamond. Visitors are initially lured in by Geneva’s stunning alpine lake scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, but then revel in the city’s grittier side. This reaches its apogée in the Pâquis district, a former industrial area that now bristles with clubs, bars and alternative venues – some not so squeaky clean as those found in the centre.

This is the Geneva of the ‘real’ Genevois… or as close as you’ll get to it. Geneva is something of a chameleon in the nightlife stakes. La Rue de l’École-de-­Médecine (Medicine Street) is student central, but don’t let that deter you – there is plenty of fun to be had in its lively alfresco bars and cafés in the summer months. Meanwhile, tourists flock to either the glamorous hotel bars in the city centre or the Place de l’Ile, an island in the middle of the Rhône that offers great views and several high­-end (and pricy) drinking options.

Many of the city’s most talented bartenders reside in Geneva’s luxury hotels. But, for something different, check out the Carouge district or the infamous Pâquis area. It’s sometimes hard to believe that this neighbourhood, home to both Geneva’s Red Light District and several excellent bars, is in the same city that houses more luxury brands per square mile than any other in Switzerland. A tale of two cities, indeed.

Click through the following pages to see our top bars in Geneva, Switzerland. 

La Verre á Monique

Rue des Savoises 19

Half retro, half sci-­fi and tucked down a side street in Geneva’s art district, Le Verre á Monique inhabits a parallel dimension where Mad Men meets Blade Runner.

On a 1950s terrazzo floor sits a large central copper bar with columns of vintage crystal glasses – take a seat and pick up a blue snake-skinned cocktail menu.

Each drink is designed to bring something new to your tastebuds: The Smokey Bear takes black truffle-­infused Cognac, strawberry and mandarin and pairs them with the perfumed smoke of flamed oak moss.

Le Bar Des Bergues at Four Seasons Hotel Des Bergues

Quai des Bergues 33

Geneva’s most convivial meeting place features an all­-day menu of imaginative light fare, supremely attentive service and the welcome talents of Sophie Larrouture, awarded the title of World Class Switzerland Bartender of the Year 2016.

Her Manhattans are dangerously addictive.


Rue de Lausanne 24

The Pâquis district’s pride and joy, Scandale is conveniently located by the train station, and is considered the place to go to for a nightcap.

The atmosphere is fun and lively almost any night of the week, while the basement is given over to raucous karaoke. Perfect for big groups, Scandale also serves up Geneva’s best pizza.

La Petite Reine

Place de Montbrillant 15

You cannot miss La Petite Reine, with its signature bicycle on the grey outdoor wall right behind the train station.

It’s simply Geneva’s friendliest neighbourhood bar, with a nice terrace that is always packed in the summer months. Gallons of locally brewed IPAs are its raison d’être.

Voodoo Reyes

22, Rue du Cendrier

Newly opened, Voodoo Reyes serves some wickedly tasty potions, charms and cocktails created by bar manager Katalin Bene, World Class Switzerland Bartender of the Year 2018.

Expect smoke and mirrors and spellbinding drinks served to a great soundtrack. Our top choice is Crocodile Tears, served inside a smoking glass cage.

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