Diving headlong into the Geneva Arve is a shock for me.
In part because the water has tumbled straight down from the snow-capped peak of nearby Mont Blanc; partly because I wasn’t expecting to be dumped in a river at 11am on a Monday.
Geneva is full of surprises. A far cry from the barren outpost of pea-counting bankers and cuckoo-clock craftsmen that many expect, it’s a vibrant young metropolis on the shores of Europe’s largest alpine lake – and a paradise for adventure sports enthusiasts.
Lake Geneva is at the heart of it all here, with the city clustered around its shoreline and locals loving to swim, paddle and sail in its waters.
Between September and May, Genevans love nothing better than stripping naked and jumping into its cool, crystal-clear depths from the Bains des Pâquis – a popular floating jetty and sauna complex.
But Geneva’s love of aquatic life isn’t limited to its beautiful lake. It also focuses on the two mighty rivers bisecting this ancient city: the Rhone and the Arve.
It’s the latter that I take an impromptu swim in at the end of an epic morning of whitewater rafting for my new TV show Adventure Cities.
The program visits big cities with adrenaline and extreme sports at their hearts, and Geneva is a perfect example.
Where else in the world can you take rapids through an international city center?
And that’s exactly what we did this morning: we slide and hop down countless waterfalls on our way downtown, with larger than life French-speaking guide Gérald Beddiar leading the way.
When we reach the city center itself, Gérald finishes the job with a bang – slipping and jumping me out of the boat for the TV cameras.
Geneva is a true Mecca for adrenaline junkies – not only on the water but also in the mighty mountains that surround the city. The next of these, Mont Salève, is also known as the Swiss city’s “local mountain” because the summit can be reached in just five minutes by cable car.
This accessibility makes the mountain incredibly popular with locals – not only on weekends but also on weekday evenings and even during lunch breaks.
From the top of the Mont Salève cable car at 1,100 metres, there are a multitude of world-class hiking and biking trails to explore through the flower-strewn alpine meadows – as well as incredible paragliding over the city as you gracefully fly back down from the summit to the lake shore.
The ridiculous proximity of Geneva city center to this adventure sports shopping list blew my mind during filming, but the opposite is also true.
After a hard day of rock climbing, cycling or tumbling out of zodiacs, you’re never far from the city’s superb selection of bars and restaurants either. And where better to warm up after an unexpected river dip than in the spiritual home of fondue?
Just make sure you follow the rules when ordering this archetypal Swiss treat: only drink white wine or herbal tea with your fondue (beer is a total no-go); Don’t drop your bread in the communal pot (or you’ll have to buy everyone else a round of drinks); And don’t forget the best: “la religieuse” – the golden, crispy crust at the bottom of the pot.
There are plenty of non-extreme adventures to be had in Geneva’s pretty old town too, from building your own watch at a fascinating little watchmaker called Initium to making your own Swiss Army Knife at global flagship Victorinox.
But sooner rather than later, everything — from casual chats to rooftop bar choices — comes back to the lake in the heart of the city.
Geneva and water, it seems, go together like marshmallows and chocolate. And it’s this seamless, timeless symbiosis with the great outdoors that makes the city such a huge playground for sports lovers – and such a perfect adventure city.
- Adventure Cities Season 1 is now airing on the Discovery Channel. See Discovery.com
https://www.thesun.ie/travel/8564855/geneva-travel-river-arve-water-sports/ Head to Geneva and try cool water sports in the Arve