Vernier is a lovely little town in the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland. Within the oldest part of the Vernier Village, people often get married since the background houses have been around for more than two hundred years. Somewhat at odds with the old village, Vernier’s most imposing sights are the block of flats that stretches for 1 km and the huge Lignon residential tower.
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History and Geography
This particular town covers just less than 8 square kms and it is nestled among lakes and rivers. The languages spoken here are varied with French being the most popular followed by Portuguese, Italian and German among others.
It lies on the outskirts of Geneva itself and is relatively flat. It is also not far from Lake Geneva and all the tourist attractions on offer there. The town is just 5 minutes from Geneva airport so it is very handy for tourists and, unusually, it seems that foreigners are beginning to outnumber the locals. Every year, if the figures are correct, locals are either dying off or moving away leaving the place for those from outside the country.
Best time to go
Although you might think that Switzerland would have some extremes in temperatures, this is only true for the mountainous regions. In Geneva and surrounding areas, the weather is quite mild all year round. Obviously it gets quite warm in July and August but not so warm that it is uncomfortable. Rain is average throughout the year so there is never a bad time to visit.
Getting Around in Vernier
Geneva and its environs, and this includes Vernier, has a great transport system in the form of trams, trolleybuses, trains and even ferries on the lake. It is extremely easy for visitors to find their way around.
Car ire is available but can be quite expensive so it may be better to hire bicycles instead to explore the area. Hiring a bike is very simple and there are many sites where they can be found.
Major Attractions and Sights
Most people will certainly want to visit the International Automobile Museum in Vernier. Here, enthusiasts are treated to more than 400 exhibits of racing cars, antique and classic cars from all over Europe. There are even a few prototypes that never made it into production. For those who visit in March, look out of the largest car show in Europe.
For rainy days, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is a great place to visit. This is one of the largest yet youngest museums in the area and is stuffed full of all things modern. There are 4 floors of exhibits to meander around, with more than 3,000 works of art to pore over. The museum is always alternating different shows so there is something different to see no matter how many times visitors go along.
Vernier really is a suburb of Geneva, so visitors will find that the attractions and places of interest are more likely to be in the city rather than Vernier itself.
The Grand Theatre de Geneve is an opera house set in beautiful surroundings. The building is an art work in itself and towers over the Place Neuve. It has been open for around 150 years but was closed temporarily in the 1950s when fire engulfed the building. It houses the largest stage in Switzerland and puts on opera, dance shows, concerts and other performances of dramas from as far back as the 18th century.
A rather interesting site for history buffs is the Reformation Wall in Geneva. It was built to honor certain individuals and happenings during the Protestant Reformation. Look for the wall in the same compound as the University of Geneva which in itself is historical since it was founded by John Calvin.
Being so close to Lake Geneva, those who are staying in Vernier often spend the day on or around the lake on boats or in the parks. One, known as the ‘Pearl of the Lake’ – La Perle du Lac – is one of the prettier ones. Reformed from waste land, the park was built from around 1825 and then taken over by Geneva in the following years.
There is also the Botanical Gardens to wander round and this one too has been around since the eighteenth century. This is a magnificent 28 hectares of land right on the dge of Geneva where people can go to just take in the fresh air or to learn about plants etc. There are more than 16,000 different specimens from around the world and the whole thing is split into different sections to make it easier to see. One is a garden of ‘smell and touch’ while another is specifically designed for families near the lake.
We all know that Switzerland is renowned for its clock makers so to commemorate them, there is a five meter wide floral clock to see. The flowers are changed each season, all 6,500 of them, and it has been here since 1955.
Of course, a visit to Geneva would not be complete without seeing the magnificent Jet d’Eau (water jet) in the lake, one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It rises to around 140 meters but it is sometimes not operating in winter.
There are plenty of things to do in Switzerland in winter and summer. To this end, camps have been opened for kids to enjoy some time away from the parents. Les Elfes is one that has camps all year round for children between 8 and 18. They get to try out all kinds of different sports, depending on which season they go in, and they also get the chance to mingle with other kids from all over the world. Languages are taught and the kids get to enjoy a true taste of the outdoors kind of life that is famous in Switzerland. It also makes them much more independent which is a big bonus for most.
Geneva is home to the European Headquarters of the United Nations. Add this half day tour to a half day trip to the Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and you have a very interesting full day out learning about two very significant world organizations. If you have an interest in world politics, you can add the HQ of the World Trade Organization to your itinerary too. All three of these places are within 4kms of Vernier.
For a longer day out, a trip to Lausanne will reward the visitor with a lovely display at the Olympic Museum. Exhibits range from more than two thousand years ago and come right up to modern day examples. Look for the different examples of the Olympic torches and medals which were introduced in the mid twentieth century. Pierre de Coubertin, the same man who brought back the modern day Olympics, is the one who had the idea for the museum too. His idea was to not only embody the ideals that are the Olympics he also wanted to keep exhibits for those who are not yet born. A sterling idea indeed!
Shopping in Vernier
It goes without saying that visitors can pick up great watches and clocks here as Switzerland is world famous for these products. To save a little, try buying a perfect, but used, watch.
Chocolate is also ubiquitous here and, as long as the weather is not too warm, makes for good gifts to take home. There are several specialty shops which offer truffles, decorative fruits and other delightful morsels to tempt the palate.
Leather goods are a good buy. They are imported mainly from Italy and the quality is absolutely superb. Handbags make great gifts and souvenirs too or perhaps shoes may be a good idea.
Clothing is a great buy and there are so many outlets that sell everything from designer wear to second hand clothes that are classed as retro. Try the Plainpalais or the Paquis to find some great bargains.
Lastly in this section, tobacco is very much still in vogue in Switzerland so Havana cigars, antique smoking paraphernalia and unusual lighters are good buys. All these can be found in all the different tobacco shops throughout Geneva.
Eating Out in Vernier
Geneva itself has at least one thousand places to eat. Local dishes include the infamous fondue, lake fish or smoked sausage which seems to be the food of choice for the locals.
Since Geneva is a center for the jet-set, those who stay in nearby Vernier will be able to access all kinds of food from around the world. There are gourmet restaurants and smart places to eat but expect to pay high prices too. However, for those who like something a little more relaxed, try the local café culture where prices are far more amenable.
Any eatery around the lake will obviously be more expensive than most. What the diner will get though is stunning views, exquisite service and a chance to dress up at dinner time.
The Paquis is an international district for food etc and has African, Thai and South American dishes on offer among others. Even Arabic dishes can be found here so there is no way that anyone could get bored with food choices in Geneva. The Rue de Berne is the ideal place after clubbing to grab a late snack in the form of a kebab.
For local food par excellence, try the old town where French style cafes and romantic little eateries beckon to the romantic. If the meal is on a special occasion, make sure to book in advance.
Nightlife in Vernier
Those who stay in Vernier may have to venture nearer to Geneva proper for a night out if they are looking for some excitement. Nightlife seems to cut across all social barriers and one will see older men with odd moustaches, curled up at the end, to the young and upwardly-mobile strutting their stuff. Students will also be in on the mix too so anyone who feels like a night out will fit right in. Look for the Geneve Le Guide to see where the best places are.
In summer, the lake draws people in the evening and one of the favorite spots is the Rive Gauche. Not too pretentious, but the rich and famous do tend to gather here occasionally so it is a great place to spot the stars.
La Clémence is another favorite spot in nearby Geneva and it is popular in summer and winter. It has an outdoor area that overlooks the lake and is yet another place that famous people can be seen.
Ten minutes from the center of Geneva is a nightclub called Macumba. Within its limits are no less than six different nightspots with all different kinds of music on offer. There is a wine bar and an Irish pub too so there is literally something for everyone here.
Anything of local interest
Summer in Geneva and its surroundings is just one long festival, or so it seems. From June to August there is something going on around the lake seemingly every day. There will be fireworks displays, looking great over the lake, concerts and live entertainment as well as outdoor cinemas when the weather is fine.
Although hunting no longer takes place in this part of the world, the period that was traditionally for hunting, September to December, still sees traditional game on offer. The Longeole has to be tasted since it is quite delicious. It is a pork style saucisson with fennel and pistachios aand is available in the local butcher’s shops. Serve it up with potato gratin for a really tasty treat.
In May, 50 wine growers offer a free wine tasting which is a great way to spend the day. Those who want to try out the whites and reds that Geneva is famous for should take the train to La Plaine.
One last odd phenomenon which seems to be peculiar to Geneva and its surroundings is the official squat. Squatters are people who move into empty premises while they are being renovated and the owners have a terrible job trying to get them out. Instead, the owners sometimes hire unofficial squatters to baby sit the homes while the renovations are taking place to stop the unofficial ones moving in. This is a great way for students or back packers to have a wonderfully cheap holiday!