The nine things you should do in Geneva, Switzerland

THE ONE LANDMARK

The Jet d'Eau is simply a giant pump that thrusts vast volumes of lake water 140 metres into the air. Yet the fountain it creates is Geneva's elegant and much-loved symbol that, in this low-rise city, can be seen from unexpected distances. Kids will delight in edging out onto its pier while risking a soaking in a wind change. See geneve.com

THE ONE WALK

To fully appreciate Geneva's lake and Alp-gazing location, walk the five-kilometre string of flower-flanked promenades that begins near the Botanic Garden, continues along Quai Wilson and crosses the Mont-Blanc Bridge before taking in the floral clock and Jet d'Eau. Finish in Parc des Eaux-Vives, which has towering cedar trees and a perfumed summer rose garden. See geneve.com

THE ONE SHOPPING STREET

Don't miss window shopping along swanky Rue du Rhone, a showcase of Swiss watchmaking. Companies such as Breguet, Chopard and Piaget have boutiques here – Piaget has an upstairs exhibition room. By the time you arrive at Place Longemalle you'll find esoteric brands for the superrich such as Romain Jerome, De Bethune and F.P. Journe, whose signature watch retails at $872,000.

THE ONE MUSEUM

The thought-provoking and sometimes challenging International Museum of the Red Cross celebrates the history of the benevolent society founded in the 1860s by Genevan businessman Henri Dunant, and outlines how it operates in war zones and areas affected by natural disasters. Personal stories related in its Chamber of Witnesses are especially compelling. See redcrossmuseum.ch

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Catholic trading town Carouge, part of Savoy until 1816, still seems more relaxed and Italianate than the rest of Calvinist Geneva. It has cafe-filled cobbled squares, a lively market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and interesting boutiques run by craftspeople who live in apartments above their shops. Genevans come here to relax over drinks on summer evenings. See geneva.com

THE ONE HOTEL

In a city that values tradition, Mandarin Oriental Geneva goes for a refreshingly contemporary look and abundant natural light. Marble, parquet and silk add touches of understated luxury. Ask for a riverside room and you'll be treated to views of the lake and mountains. The location on the Rhone River is impeccable, with many sights a short walk away. See mandarinoriental.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

The ceiling beams, medieval tapestries and suits of armour at Les Armures create a rustic atmosphere suited to a 17th-century building that sits atop 14th-century cellars where Geneva's bishops once stored wine. The menu features French dishes and Swiss specialities such as fondue and raclette (melted cheese over potato), and is a particularly cosy old-town retreat in winter. See hotel-les-armures.ch

THE ONE FESTIVAL

One of Europe's most authentic, least touristy festivals is Escalade, which celebrates a Genevan victory over Savoy in 1602 and is staged annually on the weekend nearest December 11 (December 6-8 in 2019). A costumed, historical procession on horseback winds through a lamp-lit old town before assembling around a bonfire in front of the cathedral. See 1602.ch

THE ONE EXCURSION

Geneva sits at one end of Lake Geneva. A day trip along its northern shore takes you by train or lake steamer to Lausanne, the steep and spectacular World Heritage vineyards of the Lavaux and then to Montreux, from which magnificent promenades lead to Chillon Castle, which dips its foundations in the lake against a backdrop of fanged mountains. See region-du-leman.ch

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ONE MORE THING

If you're using Geneva as a base to see the surrounding region, or travelling onwards to other parts of Switzerland, consider a Swiss rail pass, which offers unlimited travel on trains, lake steamers, postal coaches and urban public transport. Rail Europe offers a variety of passes and can also book individual train journeys in Switzerland. See raileurope.com.au

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of Switzerland Tourism, Geneva Tourism and Rail Europe.

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