Think of the Alps – where does your imagination take you? Off-piste adventures? The thrill of fresh powder? The roaring log fires of après-ski? Now picture a sun-soaked hike across the mountains, where the rich greens of the valleys contrast against glistening white peaks and the glow of the sunset as it dances across the water. Welcome to the Alps in summer.
The longest mountain range in Europe is famed as one of the most stunning with varied settings for exhilarating pastimes like skiing and snowboarding. If visiting between May and September, prepare to be greeted by an entirely different facade.
While the snow-capped mountains remain, the air turns fresh and warm and the landscape comes alive with colour and wildlife. Mild temperatures make it perfect for hiking and mountain biking, as well as rock climbing, swimming, kayaking and golf. Combine that with sky-high peaks and sprawling panoramas for an idyllic alpine summer.
The small yet energetic metropolis of Geneva is all about the culture, the architecture and of course, the views. With its dramatic mountain backdrop and chic shops and galleries, this enchanting city on the Rhône is truly endearing, with a number of hotels to match.
Five-star luxury and classic Swiss charm are epitomised at the Mandarin Oriental, Geneva. Its tranquil setting overlooks the water with the Alps on the horizon, with interiors featuring warm tones and art deco style. As the first hotel built in Europe after World War II, it has been heralded as the most luxurious in the city, complete with Michelin-starred dining, marble bathrooms and five-star service.
It’s also in a great position for exploration. A short walk east along the lakefront reveals the Pont du Mont Blanc Bridge, offering a spectacular view of the Alps, the Lake and the 140m-high Jet d’Eau fountain. The landmark that can be admired from most parts of the city, but is most impressive from the bridge, jetty or aboard the public shuttle boats, les Mouettes Genevoises. Look out for a little island called Île Rousseau too; named for its statue of prominent former resident and philosopher, writer and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
On the other side of the bridge is the old town or vieille ville. This ancient labyrinth of quaint streets and historical buildings extends from the Roman marketplace of the Place du Bourg-de-Four, the oldest and most central square in Geneva. Cute coffee shops, restaurants, a Swiss chocolate tea room and souvenir stalls surround a medieval fountain, making it perfect for a mid-morning meander.
Just a few minutes away is the neoclassical St. Pierre Cathedral. Sitting proudly on the site of an ancient Roman temple, it’s worth a visit for the First Century ruins and 360-degree view from the tower. Other examples of Geneva’s medieval past include the Maison Tavel, known as the city’s oldest private residence and home to the Museum of Urban History, and military landmark L’Ancien Arsenal. Contemporary art gallery Quartier des Bains may also be of interest, while those with a penchant for art and luxury watches may like to visit the Patek Philippe Museum which delves into the history of watch-making.
If the sun is shining, stroll down the tree-lined walkway of the Promenade de la Treille in the old town. Originally an observation post and artillery, today it’s a peaceful place from which to admire the Parc des Bastions. This botanical garden is located at the foot of the city, and is the venue for the Festival of Music each June. Also worth a mention is the magnificent rose garden Parc de la Grange, where you’ll find two outdoor theatres that play free concerts during summer.
Outside the old town, visit the United Nations headquarters. Book a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, or explore the 46-hectare grounds (Ariana Park) on foot where peacocks roam freely. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mont Blanc.
With its pristine waters, fairy tale chateaux and beautiful beaches, the utter majesty of the alpine lake shared between France and Switzerland has rendered it one of the world’s must-sees. Known to French speakers as Lac Léman, it is an oxymoronic hive of peace and activity year-round. The warmer months see visitors and locals take to the lake to swim, wind-surf, scuba-dive and wakeboard. Regattas and yacht races run throughout the summer too, including the Tour du Lac rowing race at the end of September, recognised as the world’s longest non-stop rowing regatta.
While Geneva sits to the west, on the eastern side is pretty resort town Montreux, known for its mild climate, lakeside promenade and jazz festival held in July. From there, those travelling north-west may direct their attention to Lausanne, the capital of the Swiss Canton of Vaud. This picturesque municipality is known for its gothic architecture, and as the home of the Olympic headquarters and Musée Olympique. It also sits nestled between two wine-growing regions: la Côte to the west, and the famed Lavaux to the east. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with breathtaking vineyard terraces of Lavaux. Vines cover the mountainside and quaint, historic architecture frames the view of Lake Geneva.