On 14 December, the first few Eurostar passengers will whizz from London St. Pancras to Geneva via Lille in a record six hours 18 minutes. Instead of switching stations in Paris (which can be a lengthy process) passengers will quickly transfer onto a TGV Lyria train at Lille, cutting their travel time down by nearly an hour.
The new year-round service to Geneva will operate on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, so a sneaky weekend at the foot of the Alps would not really be possible.
The new route does offer easy onward connections to other Swiss cities including Aigle, Brig, Martigny, Sion, Sierre and Visp, so a longer holiday is probably the better option.
But there’s a reason Eurostar has made Geneva more accessible – their market research has revealed it to be the most desirable destination for travellers from the UK.
Haven’t been to Geneva? Want to know what the fuss is about?
Well the pictures say it all. The city lights bounce off Lake Geneva at night and cafés spill out onto cobblestone streets. The old town is filled with ancient charm, and it is as if some higher being has gently sprinkled icing sugar on the surrounding mountain peaks.
A modern city too, Geneva is filled with upmarket restaurants, lakeside terraces, rooftop cocktail bars and a host of clubs because, believe it or not, Geneva has quite a wild nightlife.
If a holiday in the slopes is what you’re after, Geneva is the obvious choice. Les Carroz, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand are the closest ski resorts from Geneva airport, just less than an hour away.
But for real Christmas spirit, stay put in the Swiss city
The 14 December will see hundreds of people jump into the freezing lake (with fantastic costumes, Santa hats and all) and compete in one of the largest swimming races in open waters. Santa will arrive with gifts for the little squealers.
No matter how old you get, sledding will always make you feel like a child again – complete with pink cheeks and tumbles in the snow. Sledding hills are lit until late and usually free to use. And if you really want to bring the magic to your (or your child’s) Christmas, authentic sleigh rides are a must.
After a long day in the snow, a sauna, hammams or spa session will restore feeling to your bones. L’Usine Opéra and La Mer spas offer both gym facilities and relaxing treatments, while couples can enjoy a “La Vie en Rose” pampering session at After the Rain Urban Day Spa.
If you want to spend a night out on the town, be careful, Geneva is filled with posh, overpriced clubs. For an alternative live music experience try L’Usine, a factory transformed into a club with a bar, restaurant, theatre and cinema. It’s one of those places where anything goes.
This was originally published on The South African.
Photos by Shutterstock