Commentary

Geneva

Updated: May 15, 2008, 7:06 PM ET
By Nick Bidwell | Special to ESPN SportsTravel


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It is appropriate that the cosmopolitan of city of Geneva should figure prominently on the itinerary of Euro 2008.

Sandwiched by the Alps and Jura mountains and boasting a stunning setting on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman to the locals), this French-speaking city is a melting pot in every sense. High-profile, cross-border institutions such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and Red Cross have put down roots here, while almost half of its 170,000 inhabitants are foreigners.

Portuguese, Turkish and Czech supporters – who will compete in Group A ties – plus large numbers of Swiss and all the other nationalities who now call Geneva home, will congregate in the official Fan Zone at Pleinpalais square, a massive open space in the heart of town.

Up to 80,000 football devotees will be able to follow all the tournament action on large screens, lap up daily entertainment on the main stage and have their taste buds tickled by the European Cuisine Village. Public viewing for another 20,000 is scheduled for the Fan Village at the Bout de Monde sport center, about 1 miles southeast of the center, where tented accommodation is available.

Geneva Cointrin International Airport, situated to the northwest of the city, is connected to Cornavin, the city's main railway station, by both rail and bus links; the shuttle bus takes 20 minutes or the direct train, which runs every 12 minutes at rush hour, takes just six minutes.

Cornavin is only a short hike down Rue Mont-Blanc to the lakeside and the city's signature sight, the Jet d'Eau, Europe's highest fountain. Public transport consists of an efficient network of trams, buses and ferry boats around the lake. A ticket for a short journey on any type of transport costs 2 Swiss francs, a 24-hour pass will set you back 10 francs.

It was high time when the city authorities decided early in the new millennium to build a swanky, new stadium, the Stade de Geneve in the plush, southern suburb of Carouge. Its predecessor, the Stade Charmilles, had history on its side; it was a 1954 World Cup venue and for more than 70 years was the stomping ground of top professional side Servette. Yet the rustic and dilapidated venue was far too inadequate for modern needs.

The Stade de Geneve, whose doors opened in 2003, is a different story altogether. It's an airy, well-equipped, comfortable bowl, with a little more than 30,000 prime seats.

One has several options to get to the action.

You can take a train from Cornavin, getting off at Lancy Pont Rouge station, then walk for 15 minutes. Bus route D from Cornavin takes you straight to the stadium. And there are three tram possibilities: tram 13 or 14 alighting at the Bachet stop followed by a five-minute walk; or tram 15 to Park and Ride Etoile, then 10 minutes on foot.

In such a chic, upmarket metropolis, there is a high proportion of gastronomic temples that need a suitably reinforced wallet. For a reasonable price, you can go on a culinary world tour, from sushi to pasta, paella to Brazilian, Chinese to curry. For example, you will not break the bank at some of the fine Italian eateries around the railway station (Le Milan on Rue Chapponiere).

Supermarkets and department stores probably serve the most inexpensive meals in town. Look out for Co-Op on the corner of Rue Commerce and Rue Rhone or get together a picnic at the market on Rue de Coutance.

Should you feel the need to pig out and splash the cash, a good option is Brasserie Lipp on Rue de la Condefeartion, a retro joint full of mirrors that dishes up great sausage and choucroute (pickled cabbage), oysters and steak tartare. Less fancy but equally good on the palate is the Auberge de Saviese tucked away on Rue Paquis, between the station and the lakefront, where cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette rule.

Genevoise food is very much the twin brother of what is produced across the border in the French culinary center of Lyon. The staples are andouillette (chitterling sausage), tripe in all its forms, "petit sale" (salt pork with lentils) and black pudding (boudin).

This is wine-drinking country, but there is at least one good beer made in the vicinity, Calvinus. Summer nightlife centers around the cafes and lakeside quays, and you need to check out Place du Bourg de Four near the St. Pierrre Cathedral in the Old Town. Also, Le Chat Noir in Carouge is a highly popular live-music venue and late-night bar.

Rue du Mont Blanc is the spot for souvenir shopping, with the best department stores being Au Grand Passage on Rue du Rhone and Placette on Rue Rousseau.

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