Geneva is home to Switzerland's largest concentration of five-star luxury hotels. With so many options, here are my favorites. I'm certainly looking forward to returning to Switzerland again once American travelers can visit again.
Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
The Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva was the first hotel in Geneva and all of Switzerland when it opened in 1834. Even today, it's still a living room for locals with luscious Neoclassical brocade, ornate antiques and the most impressive lobby floral arrangement in the city. The Salon Dufour and Le Bar des Bergues are cozy spots for business meetings or a cocktail. One evening, the kitchen graciously prepared dinner for my Israeli and Kazakh friends despite our late arrival well after midnight.
Small for a Four Seasons, there are only 115 rooms, including 44 suites. In coming years, the hotel plans to continue to increase the number of suites. Most of the public spaces and guestrooms have a Neoclassical theme, although nearly a third of the suites have been renovated in a more modern style, with a lighter, cleaner color palette.
The seventh floor indoor rooftop pool is one of the property's most notable highlights. It's the only rooftop pool in Geneva, with ample natural light, infinity edges, and underwater music. Not to mention views of the Alps, lake and old town. The entire spa area is quite different from the rest of the hotel décor, with rustic wood columns creating a ski chalet feel. Several treatments blend Ayurvedic philosophy with aromatherapy. There's a blissful marma massage to align chakras and assist with sleep, and an energizing body polish with Himalayan crystal salts.
Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant Izumi, overlooks the spa on the top floor, with indoor library seating in the winter and more of a party vibe on the rooftop terrace in summer. For a more refined meal, Il Lago is the most authentic and elegant Italian restaurant in the city, helmed by Chef Massimiliano Sena from Sorrento and supported by a passionate crew of largely Italian waitstaff. Even a simple warm vegetable salad is dressed up with seasonal truffles and the lobster risotto and scallop carpaccio are also sublime. If the weather permits, dining al fresco makes for some great people watching with views across the Rhône.
There are two things that set the Beau-Rivage apart amidst the city's fierce competition. It's the last family-owned luxury hotel in the city, now managed by the fifth generation of the same family that opened the hotel in 1865. Plus, Beau-Rivage has the best views in town. Its location on the shore of Lake Léman (aka Lake Geneva) along with the unique angular shape of the building maximizes views in all directions from the Jet d'Eau fountain and St. Peter's Cathedral to Mont Blanc.
There are just 95 rooms, including 15 suites, with a few celestial suites on the top floor offering views of the night sky from bed. Approximately 160 cherubs watch over guests, sculpted from bronze, marble, and painted onto the walls. Neoclassical columns and frescoes define this grand dame, and despite its historic grandeur, the hotel has always been are the forefront of innovation. Beau-Rivage was the first hotel with an elevator in Switzerland and more than a century later, the first in Geneva to offer free WiFi.
Le Chat-Botté is a true delight. Chef Dominique Gauthier serves vibrant French flavors with the best Swiss ingredients. There's local pig from nearby Château-du Crest glazed with the hotel's own honey and wild-caught char from the lake. Tender chicken breast served with juicy fresh figs, boletus mushrooms and green curry foam was a highlight and I'm still dreaming about the crispy Gruyère and Vacherin fondue cheese course.
Eleanor Roosevelt drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while staying here, and now the largest suite of all, just renovated in 2017, is named in her honor. The Beau-Rivage is still a favorite hotel for some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world. The late Kofi Annan is quoted as saying – “There are great hotels, and there is the Beau-Rivage!”
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix
Just across the Jardin des Alpes, where the neo-Gothic Brunswick Monument stands in honor of Geneva's benefactor the Duke of Brunswick, is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix.
This historic property is nearly as old as the Beau-Rivage, opening its doors the same year in 1865 with just 40 rooms. It was purchased by Ritz-Carlton and debuted after an 18-month renovation in September 2017 as the smallest Ritz-Carlton hotel in the world, with just 74 rooms and suites. The original painted columns in the lobby remain, but a rotating selection of contemporary art from local gallery D10 and fresh flower arrangements create a chic and sexy first impression.
The subtle fig scent, with sandalwood undertones, was chosen by general manager Guillaume Benezech because it reminds him of his grandmother's garden in France. This Ritz-Carlton is unlike any other; it is such a unique boutique property that balances contemporary cool with the building's rich history, similar to The Beekman in New York.
Master chocolatier Philippe Pascoët has a shop adjacent to the lobby, and guests are offered a complimentary chocolate and wine pairing during their stay at the Living Room bar. Chocoholics can ask the concierge to arrange a private chocolate workshop with Pascoët at his Carouge boutique, although be warned that the French chocolatier doesn't speak English. There's also a close partnership with watchmaker Audebars Piguet including an art exhibition representing nature and time, so it's possible to arrange a private visit to their atelier too.
The presidential suite is named for Grace Kelly, who was president of the Red Cross as Princess of Monaco. At one point, she spent six months here with her whole family in the 1950s and the suite, which takes up nearly the whole floor, is inspired by how she preferred her room set up according to old photographs.
Mandarin Oriental Geneva
Further along the Rhône River is the Mandarin Oriental Geneva. When the building originally opened as L'Hôtel du Rhône in 1950, it was the first luxury hotel to open in Geneva after World War II, pioneering a more modern architectural style in the city. Fifty years later, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group bought the hotel in 2000 and completely renovated the property and its 162 rooms and 27 suites. Guest floor hallways are reminiscent of ship corridors and the decor is much more simple and understated compared to Beau-Rivage and Four Seasons, with an obvious Asian influence in the design, layout and artwork.
Sixth floor rooms stand out from the neutral beige, brown and green tones of most guest rooms, with a palette of bright fuchsia, rich purple and silver. These trendier rooms debuted in 2013, designed by Sybille de Margerie, the same designer behind the rooms, public areas and spa at the Mandarin Oriental, Paris.
The intimate Bellefontaine Spa has just one suite available for facials, massages and body treatments. The exclusive Swiss line is rarely found in the States and their facials boost collagen and elastin production with plant stem cells from edelweiss – what could be more Swiss? There are also smoothing and firming body massages and wraps, along with treatments that fight jet lag. If you're intrigued, Bellefontaine has a flagship Maison de Beauté in Geneva's old town too.