Despite its many charms, tranquil Geneva is no tourist hotspot. Still, the United Nations, the financial industry, and trade fairs such as the International Motor Show keep the city’s hotels busy throughout the year. Blogger Emilie Salvaridis knows all secrets for a great day in town.

Try to steer clear of clichés when you meet Emilie Salvaridis. Sure, Geneva might be well-known for priceless watches, the jet d’eau, and private banks whose clients speed along the lakefront in high-powered sports cars. Yet Emilie, who knows her own city inside out and runs the city platform My Big Geneva, takes a very different view. To her, the Swiss metropolis is – most of all – hip, affordable, and brimming with excellent people. Our tour of Geneva in a smart BRABUS forfour starts in Emilie’s own neighborhood, the picturesque suburb of Carouge.

 smart BRABUS forfour on a street of Geneva

Hi Emilie – Carouge is also known as Little Sardinia; it has a pretty laid-back feel.
Emilie Salvaridis:
That’s right, we hardly ever get any tourists, but it’s well worth a visit, if only for the Krisal gallery, which specializes in affordable art. And there’s also a secret passage: Geneva’s Old Town is full of hidden stairs leading to underground safe deposit boxes …

Emilie Salvaridis driving a red smart forfour

red smart forfour in front of the Krisal gallery

… with access restricted to a chosen few?
Emilie Salvaridis: Exactly. It’s in the Calvinist tradition to hide your own wealth. This also keeps it safer from thieves. I still have access to this passage because I used to work at a bank. And my mentor, Bernard Letu, has his bookshop nearby, Letu Books. It’s a true treasure trove for art book lovers. Bernard has taught me more about art than my time at college.

smart BRABUS parking in front of a bookstore
Emilie Salvaridis in the Letu Books store in Geneva
Letu Books in Geneva
Emilie Salvaridis driving a smart BRABUS

So, what brought you from banking to an arts degree – and then later to blogging?
Emilie Salvaridis: Art defines everything I do. My Big Geneva is dedicated to my late brother Jason. We came to Geneva as kids and soon made the city our own. Not a single day was boring. From Jason, I got my carefree spirit and the desire to explore and enjoy the city. What’s more, the blog is my contribution to setting the record straight on the usual Geneva clichés. I’m sick of the way that my city is always just associated with jewelry and watches.

Emilie Salvaridis wearing sunglasses

And now the blog has become your main occupation.
Emilie Salvaridis: Indeed. Right now, Geneva is starting to get really interesting again. Back in the 1980s, we already had a sizeable alternative scene. And since the 2008 financial crisis, people have noticeably stopped throwing as much money around. In a way, life has become harder, but in another, it has led to more creative products and ideas.

Emilie Salvaridis driving across a bridge in Geneva
Emilie Salvaridis in the sunshine
The "bird's nest" bridge in Geneva
Emilie Salvarides gets on the red smart BRABUS forfour

For example?
Emilie Salvaridis: We finally have food trucks here – we were a bit late to the party on that one. My friend George Bowring of The Hamburger Foundation introduced them to Geneva. It was a minor revolution. The current times challenge businesses – they need to get creative to attract customers. The crisis has given them the necessary kick to try something new. Take the Bijouterie Grégoire; it’s close by – let’s drive there.

Our cadmium-red smart BRABUS forfour is the perfect car for navigating the winding alleyways of Geneva’s Old Town. The sun smiles through the glazed panorama roof, the powerful engine is a perfect match for Emilie’s radiant spirit and the rear seats with their flexible seating layout offer storage room for purchases. At Bijouterie Grégoire, we are welcomed by in-house jeweler Grégoire and Sonia, the collection’s designer.

smart BRABUS forfour parking in Geneva
closeup of the red smart BRABUS forfour
jeweller at Bijouterie Grégoire
Emilie Salvaridis in front of the Bijouterie Grégoire
insider tip: watches at the Bijouterie Grégoire

Ah, jewelry after all?
Emilie Salvaridis: Yeah. (Emilie laughs.) But Grégoire and Sonia are not your average jewelers. Their pieces are discreet, timeless, and minimalist – yet exude their inimitable design language. I’m currently wearing one of their necklaces; a tiny ship from the croisière line. Just a few streets away, at Maximilian Büsser’s M.A.D. Gallery, a very different style rules. Expect the craziest collections blending art and mechanics.

blogger Salvaridis laughing
bijouterie Grégoire
smart BRABUS forfour in Geneva
Emilie Salvaridis standing next to the red smart BRABUS forfour
M.A:D. gallery in Geneva
smart on a street of Geneva

Time for a quick energy boost?
Emilie Salvaridis: For me, there’s only one option: brunch at the Tiffany Hotel. It’s in Quartier des Bains, a hip district unlikely to attract business travelers.

Emilie Salvaridis has parked next to the Tiffany Hotel in Geneva

Emilie Salvaridis at the Tiffany Hotel

What’s your take on this hood?
Emilie Salvaridis: I used to live here. There used to be plenty of galleries, but many of them had to close, unfortunately. I still love coming back, though, especially to do interviews at the Tiffany Hotel. It’s just around the corner from my favorite Chinese, Le Thé. The entire restaurant is hardly the size of a living room, but serves truly excellent food – for little money.

architecture in Geneva
red smart from the back
insider tip: Le Thé restaurant in Vienna
red smart BRABUS forfour in the sunshine
Rue Henri-Blanvalet in the sun

What’s our next stop?
Emilie Salvaridis: We’re off to Rue Henri-Blanvalet, one of Geneva’s most interesting streets. Le Labo sells the most unusual selection of sunglasses – many designed by the owner herself, Leila Krir. My own current pair is from her collection.

Emilie Salvaridis wearing sunglasses and driving a smart BRABUS forfour
Leila Krir at Le Labo
insider tip: glasses boutique Le Labo in Geneva

Okay, time to end the night in style. Where shall we go?
Emilie Salvaridis: Little Barrel is a must! It might sound unbelievable, but cocktail bars are a fairly recent addition to Geneva – until a few years ago, we didn’t really have any. But now, at Little Barrel, Quentin Beurgaud shakes up a crazy number of creations – with a firm focus on rum. My recommendation: the Wasabitini is one-of-a-kind.

insider tip: cocktail bar Little Barrel
barkeeper at the bar Little Barrel in Geneva
cocktails at Little Barrel

Sounds dangerous …?
Emilie Salvaridis: That’s what makes it interesting, right?

Born in Greece, Emilie Salvaridis was six years old when her family moved from Athens to Geneva. To this day, she loves to explore her own city with a childlike sense of joy and wonder. After a stint in private banking, she soon turned to her true passions – art and blogging. She has been running the blog mybiggeneva.com since 2012, now supported by a team of ten.

smart BRABUS forfour in Geneva by night

Local Secrets Geneva:

Le Jardin Anglais
1204 Geneva

Letu Books
Rue Calvin 2
1204 Geneva
www.letubooks.com

Bijouterie Grégoire
Rue Étienne-Dumont 8
1204 Geneva
www.gregoire.ch

Tiffany Hotel
Rue de l’Arquebuse 20
1204 Geneva
www.tiffanyhotel.ch/

Hans Wilsdorf Bridge
Rue Hans Wilsdorf,
1227 Geneva

M.A.D. Gallery
Rue Verdaine 11
1204 Geneva
www.madgallery.net/geneva/en

Le Labo
Rue Henri-Blanvalet 14
1207 Geneva

Le Thé
Rue des Bains 65
1205 Geneva

Little Barrel
Rue du lac 15
1207 Geneva
www.littlebarrel.ch