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.
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 …
… 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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Local Secrets Geneva:
Le Jardin Anglais
Rue Calvin 2
Rue Étienne-Dumont 8
Rue de l’Arquebuse 20
Hans Wilsdorf Bridge
Rue Hans Wilsdorf,
Rue Verdaine 11
Rue Henri-Blanvalet 14
Rue des Bains 65
Rue du lac 15