Geneva travel guide: my favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and play

The beauty of my travelling lifestyle is that I make friends in one continent and find them again in another. Case in point, the fabulously chic and exquisite Erin Hazelton, whom I met in New York City when she was Erin Skrypek. She has since moved to St Pierre en Faucigny, France, about 30 minutes outside of Geneva. Today, we met at the Mirror Bar in Hotel Metropole for some rosé champagne and a catch-up. She inspired this blog, when she asked me for some recommendations of places to have fun, great food, and fabulous cocktails in Geneva. This made me think about my home-town, and all of the places I (and my sisters and my cousin!) love to spend time, shop, and people watch.

Best beauty address: Of course, there is only one… Forever Laser Institut, my father’s premier medical spa on the Place du Molard. Go there for a facial, for a massage, for the best injectables and medical spa treatments in Geneva and the surrounding areas. Of course, you can also go there to look at the art on the walls, my father’s favorite pieces from his personal collection.

Best art address: Analix Forever, also owned by my family. My mother will take the time to explain any show in detail, and show you an amazing collection of drawings and small pieces (which I love, as they fit in small (or what I like to think of as “normal-sized”) apartments.

Favorite hotel: Hotel Tiffany, on Rue de l’Arquebuse, directly across from Analix Forever. This boutique hotel with excellent service blends art nouveau and contemporary styles to perfection. Even if not staying there, this is my go-go place for a café on the terrace (weather permitting).

Favorite clothing boutiques: Of course, there is the Bon Génie , the best department store in Geneva. I go there mostly to shop for extravagant gifts for the children in my life (they are not mine, so extravagant gifts are ok), and to have a glass of champagne with my godmother at the BG Café. I also love to go to Apostrophe on Rue du Rhône for classic sweaters, slacks, and skirts.

Favorite Parisian-style café: if you want the feel of being in the heart of Paris, surrounded by intense and crazy intellectuals, the Remor is your place to go. In the morning for great croissants and espressos, while reading the paper. In the afternoon, go there for ice-cream  In the evening, go there for wine and conversation.

Favorite alternative, live music hangout: L’Usine. This is a recommendation courtesy of my 20-year old cousin, who loves the live music here, although he warns me that I might be too old and conservative for it… I seem to have recollections of going there during my high-school days, although I don’t get in to that conversation with him…

Three favorite places in one: As I ask my sisters for additional advice on this topic, the Grand Hotel Kempinski comes up a few times. Le Java is a fabulous night spot, pretty much representing the other extreme from L’Usine. I guess that would be the place for me, now that I am the age that I am and too old for L’Usine… Floor 2 also in the hotel is a great high-end, classy bar, where it sounds like I might want to take my husband, featuring great cocktails and an atmosphere that makes conversation easy. Then there is Le Grill, the restaurant in said hotel, where my sister Rachel says the thing to get is the “fillet de boeuf mademoiselle.” I am definitely going there!

Best Italian, possibly my all-time favorite place ever anywhere: Auberge Communale d’Onex. My family started going there in the mid-1980s, and I still go there today for the nostalgia and for the amazing food. Valentino, the chef and owner, is like family to me, as are his waiters, who all sport amazing mustaches. The ricotta is to die for, any pasta tastes as if it was from my grandfather’s kitchen, and the desert tray is the best there is. I will always remember that as we used to have an account there, meaning they would mail us our bill, it was to my sisters and me when we were younger “the place where we ate so well but never had to pay!”

Best lunch place: This is a tie, and a hard one. First, Le Relais de l’Entrecote, where they serve one salad, steak with an amazing sauce (all you get to pick is how you would like it cooked), and fries. It is always packed, lively, consistently delicious, and a must. Second, Le Baroque. This is in the same building as my father’s medical spa, and a great spot for business lunches (fabulous terrace, again weather permitting), or any lunch. I have to admit to also going there for apéro on weeknights after work, and only in part because their décor is exclusively purple…

Most artsy restaurant: Curiositas, a restaurant located at the intersection of three fabulous museums, i.e. Musée Patek Philippe, Musées d’Ethnographie, and Mamco (museum of contemporary art), where you not only enjoy great food, but also discover the cabinet of curiosities of owner Jean-François Schlemmer.

Best wine bars: there are two, depending on your style. Casual afterwork style would be the Soleil Rouge, where I know my team members have been a few times when I have called them around 1 pm Washington DC time… If you are looking for a slightly higher-end (aka more expensive) after-work glass of happiness, Rouge et Blanc on the “bord du lac” is phenomenal. If for some reason your “afterwork” is later than most people would expect, i.e. 9 pm or later, the Brasserie des Halles de L’Ile is the place to go (and apparently they do a fabulous Sunday brunch also, which I will have to try).

Best area in general according to my sister Roxane: Carouge. I don’t venture out there, or have not yet, but she recommended Brasserie de la Bourse on Place du Marché, for fabulous steak frites, and le DixVins, a tiny French-style bistro that serves amazing food.

Finally, if a meal just isn’t enough time and you want to make a weekend of it, the place to go is La Réserve, a fabulous hotel, restaurant, bar, and spa that makes for the ideal getaway from “normal life,” ideally with the love of your life.

New at Forever Laser Institut: The Exilis…

My father, Dr. Luigi Polla, leading Swiss dermatologist, was the first physician to offer laser technology for dermatological conditions in Europe. In the mid-1980s, he opened his solo dermatology practice after spending time at the Wellman Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, with Professor Rox Anderson. After 10+ years in his traditional dermatology practice, he opened Forever Laser Institut, Switzerland’s premier medical day spa, in the heart of Geneva, in November of 1997 (we actually just celebrated the Institut’s 15th anniversary, click here for a great video).

Forever Laser Institut has many claims to fame – it is where Alchimie Forever products were born; it was designed by visual artist and architect Andreas Angelidakis; it offers the largest laser and device platform in all of Switzerland, including hospitals. My father continues to update the technology offered to his patients by investing in the leading avant-garde devices. His latest addition is the Exilis, which arrived at our Institut less than a month ago. Our team is being trained as I type, treatments will be available starting next week.

So what is this new exciting machine? How does it complement what we already offer? While this device can be used for the face and body, my father purchased it specifically for use on the body. The Exilis will complement other body therapies we offer, including massage, cryolipolysis, mesotherapy, and more.

The Exilis is a non-invasive treatment system for the reduction of targeted fat deposits and skin tightening. It provides effective body contouring by utilizing a new platform for volume reduction and re-contouring of problem areas. The results include marked improvement in cellulite, skin tightness, tissue volume, tone and elasticity. The Exilis patented technology uses controlled heating to the tissue through radio frequency in conjunction with mechanical action of ultrasound and skin cooling. The combination of the mechanical effects of ultrasound and the radiofrequency energy allows access and treatment of previously resistant tissue, including deeper fat layers, while contact cooling of the surface regulates the temperature of the skin and protects the fine dermal structures. As part of the process, the mechanical energy of ultrasound helps to open up fibrotic matrix fat structures, causing the separation of the fat-cell defensive formation into individual units. The exposed fat cells are then more isolated and accessible and more responsive to treatment. The energy causes targeted deep thermal tissue heating; metabolic activity is thus initiated and localized fat tissue lipolysis is accelerated. Fat cell volume decreases and the fat layer is reduced.

At Forever Laser Institut, we will recommend 5 sessions every 10 to 14 days. Each zone requires about 30 minutes of treatment. A zone can be arms, belly, thighs,  etc.

Translation: firmer, tighter contours, and a more beautiful silhouette.