GENEVA — The upcoming Watches and Wonders will be a week packed with innovation, craftsmanship and the latest refinements of horology, but there are plenty of distractions once the show closes for the day. From an omakase and the best specialty coffee to art exhibitions and a citywide watch celebration, make sure to spare time to enjoy the many delights offered by the Swiss metropolis.
Once an institution frequented by European royalty, captains of industry and artists of renown before being turned into a bank, The Woodward is a 26-suite neoclassical mansion built in 1901 on Quai Wilson with Lake Geneva lapping at its feet. Restored to its former glory by architectural firm Pierre-Yves Rochon for luxury hospitality group Oetker Collection, it offers the city’s only Guerlain spa, the Michelin-starred Atelier Robuchon led by executive chef Olivier Jean and Le Jardinier, headed by chef Alain Verzeroli — and of course, a majestic vista that stretches from the lake to the snowy cap of the Mont Blanc.
The best feature about the newly build Geneva Marriott isn’t its location between the airport and the city center, or even the amenities in its 263 rooms, but the focus on reducing its environmental impact across the board. Produce for its restaurant and bar are locally sourced and seasonal; heating and cooling systems use renewable energies in state-of-the-art closed-loop systems connected to the local district heating network and the running water source located under the hotel, and there’s even state-of-the-art electrochromic glass technology on the windows to ensure guests don’t lose any of the view — or the energy.
Just a stone’s throw away from the banks of the Rhône river, Natürlich offers a short, ever-evolving menu by chef Alex Ionut that’s been garnering rave reviews from the locals and from culinary guides. Regional and seasonal ingredients sourced from small farms and local producers are given pride of place but the real star here is the wine cellar, which offers hard-to-find gems in a selection that includes biodynamic wines and more.
Sachi means happiness or luck in Japanese. Those fortunate enough to snag one of the 10 seats available here will feel both when presented with the dishes imagined by Mitsuru Tsukada, best known as Chef Mitsu, now helming Geneva’s first high-end omakase restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental. Beyond the six, eight or 10 dishes expertly prepared by its team, be sure to leave room for a tipple at its martini bar and time to admire the zen garden on the terrasse.
You’ll see the sea with every bite at Boccadasse, a restaurant named after the colorful neighborhood of the Italian city of Genoa, where architect Renzo Piano was born. From this locale that was once a fishing village, chefs Monje Jebali and Antonio Mignone have extrapolated a menu that blends the freshest catches with homemade pasta — and one of the best pizzas in town.
And no Geneva stay would be complete without a fondue — at Les Armures, in the heart of the old town, of course.
Rue de la Coulouvrenière 38, 1204 Geneva
Open Monday 7 to 10:30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday noon to 2 p.m. and 7 to 10:30 p.m.
Sachi at Hôtel Mandarin Oriental
Quai Turrettini 1, Geneva 1201
Every day, open lunch and dinner
Rue de Fribourg 3, Geneva 1201
Monday to Friday, noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday 7 to 10:30 p.m.
Rue du Soleil-Levant, Geneva 1204
Monday to Saturday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.
“Happiness starts with a coffee,” say The Barista Club‘s owners Güzel and Dany, who opened this non-hipster specialty coffee shop in 2020 with the idea of offering a spot for a decent cup — made with meticulously selected beans — to anyone in the neighborhood. Of course, these days a good coffee is something to linger over, so the café offers an all-day brunch menu of loaded toasts with bread from a local baker, generous salads and sweet treats.
Speciality coffee roaster Utopia Coffee is also all about organic and ethically sourced beans, which are roasted in its own premises located in the picturesque lake town of Gland. After its first Geneva outpost, minutes away from the Cornavin train station, a second one opened in October in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood and is just as perfect for a pick-me-up on the spot or on the go.
It may be a bar in name but most people come to Sauvage for the delicious fare that they can eat with its top-notch selection of wines and other cocktails. A snaking concrete table by artist Patrick Csajko is the ideal setting for the dishes by noted chef Benjamin Breton, who plays with a surf ’n’ turf repertoire of dishes highlighting local produce.
The Barista Lab
Boulevard de Saint-Georges 8, Geneva 1205
Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Utopia Coffee St-Jean
Rue de Saint-Jean 58, Geneva 1203
Monday to Friday, brunch from 8 to 11 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, brunch from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; all week, coffee and pastries until 6 p.m.
Utopia Coffee Eaux-Vives
Rue des Eaux-Vives 8, Geneva 1207
Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, brunch from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., coffee and pastries until 6 p.m.
Rue de la Mairie 6, Geneva 1207
Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight
As part of the Watches and Wonders’ In the City program, take a tour of Geneva and its historical watchmaking landmarks with a special tour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Dive into the Patek Philippe Museum and its 2,500-strong collection of watches, automata and more with two guided tours, organized on Tuesday and Saturday. And if you can make time, it also boasts more than 8,000 publications on time and time measurement in its library.
For those who want to look beyond the art of fine watchmaking, there will be the European Artistic Crafts Days from Friday to April 3, to discover instrument makers, weavers, milliners, stonecutters, saddle and harness makers at the eyecatching Pavillon Sicli.
Wander around the Quartier des Bains for a taste of contemporary creation with 20 art spaces and galleries, among which are Xippas and Wilde, and institutions like the Fluxum Foundation, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (or Mamco) and the Center for Contemporary Art.
The whole of Geneva will turn into a city-sized street Watches and Wonders party on Thursday. Entertainers will warm up the crowd in the Rues-Basses neighborhood, before a conference titled “Geneva, Switzerland and watchmaking” at 7 p.m. in the Pont de la Machine building, home to the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie. From 8 p.m. onwards, food trucks and French DJ The Avener will amp up the beats on Quai Général Guisan.
Watches and Wonders In the City — Guided tour by registration only, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:30 and 4 p.m. — Pont de la Machine 1, Geneva 1204
Patek Philippe Museum — Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Geneva 1205
European Artistic Craft Days — March 31 to April 3 — Pavillon Sicli, Rte des Acacias 45, Geneva 1227
The Watches and Wonders Celebration will take over the Rues-Basses neighborhood, the Pont de la Machine, the Place Longemalle, the major watch houses on Rue du Rhône and Quai Général Guisan.