A Swiss holiday by the lake while staying at Geneva’s first all-suite hotel
With two Michelin-starred restaurants and a Guerlain Spa, The Woodward situated on Lake Geneva is a splendid base from which to explore the watchmaking capital of the world.
If you're planning your first overseas trip in two years and you’ve got your sights set on Switzerland, a luxurious stay at The Woodward in Geneva is well worth the indulgence.
Having opened its doors just last September, the Swiss city’s first all-suite hotel sits on the shores of Lake Geneva and on a clear day, you could see the peak of the majestic Mont Blanc across the water.
Alas, I was not so fortunate on this fog-filled day, but more than thrilled to spend more time indoors instead in this new jewel on the lake.
Originally built in 1901 by French architect Francois Durel in a post-Haussmann style, the hotel has now been gloriously transformed by world-renowned architect Pierre-Yves Rochon.
“I would sooner call it a prestigious residence than a boutique hotel,” said Rochon, of the new hotel which is now part of the exclusive Oetker Collection. Other iconic hotels in the portfolio include Le Bristol in Paris and The Lanesborough in London.
Indeed, The Woodward exudes an inviting sense of elegance far more evocative of a posh home in which one might find the likes of a Dame Judi Dench, for instance. An haute home on the lake, if you will.
Step past the wrought iron entrance covered in hand-laid gold leaf and take the elevator up to the lobby where the main lounge is an occasion unto itself.
Velvet Pierre-Yves Rochon sofas sit atop a plush hand-knotted Nepalese carpet while a bronze table by Herve Van der Straeten and armchairs by Ralph Lauren proffer more modern appeal.
The interplay of French gilded mirrors and exquisite objets d’arts all artfully arranged against a canvas of handcrafted wallpaper and walls fashioned from Macassar ebony wood speak of sophistication at every turn.
In this exquisite environment, it is not difficult for the mind to travel back to the property’s stately past where heads of state, aristocrats and artists around the world once gathered behind the neo-classical facade of this historic building – and imagine how the reimagined space is likely to welcome more of the same for a new era to come.
Luxury is always about the finer details and at The Woodward, these reach beyond the tangible, of which are plentiful in each of its 26 suites spread over five floors.
In the living room of my Suite Leman, cast your eyes heavenwards and there a Baccarat crystal chandelier claims its place as the piece de resistance, enthralling all who gaze upon its suspended brilliance.
Saunter into the full marble bathroom and Guerlain amenities and beautiful Medusa head door handles crafted from Lalique crystal make a sumptuous statement.
Haute living is not complete without haute cuisine and at The Woodward, there are two fine dining options to tease and pamper your palate.
My gastronomical journey began at the Michelin-starred L’Atelier Robuchon by Joel Robuchon – its first Swiss outpost here in Geneva.
From start to finish, every dish is a masterpiece for those who appreciate a little bit of theatre. It was a symphony of textures and flavours at lunch, beginning with the visually stunning entree. The moment the glass dome was lifted, the smoke dispersed to reveal Sologne caviar and crab garnished with gold leaf, encircled by a film of shellfish jelly dotted with cauliflower cream in exquisite symmetry.
At Le Jardinier by Michelin-starred Chef Alain Verzeroli, vegetables play a starring role, requiring a certain creative genius that is likely to also captivate this city in the restaurant’s first foray into Europe, just the way it did in New York City and Miami.
SOOTHING THE SPIRIT
Relaxation is likewise elevated into an artform at The Woodward, with a Guerlain Spa located within the hotel in partnership with the French cosmetic brand.
The 1,200 sqm spa uses only the finest products from its beauty collections and I was thoroughly pampered by the Tailor-Made Treatment comprising a hydrating facial and mask customised using a mix of products from Guerlain’s Orchidee Imperiale and Abeille Royale collections.
Following which, tensions faded away as the signature Spirit of Lake Geneva treatment lulled me into sweet slumber with gentle motions reflecting the tranquillity of the placid lake fronting the hotel. The deeply restorative massage was curiously soothing yet wonderfully energising; the perfect antidote for a weary soul having travelled halfway across the world, and leaving me refreshed and ready to explore the city.
WATCHMAKING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
The best time to visit Geneva is between June and August, they say. In the summertime, the weather is mild and breezy; perfect for exploring the city’s attractions on foot, many of which are all within walking distance.
Start at the Palais des Nations – International Geneva, home to the European headquarters of the United Nations. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the hotel, half of which is a scenic stroll along the lake. It is open to the public and there are guided tours to take you through the rich cultural history as you also peruse the numerous works of art on display.
While in the vicinity, do also walk over to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, just about eight minutes away. Discover how the International Red Cross came to be and delve deeper into its humanitarian mission through a series of exhibitions, art installations, symposiums and masterclasses. This is one cultural institution you can’t miss.
And when in the watchmaking capital of the world, you absolutely must try your hand at assembling your own Swiss timepiece. Geneva is the birthplace of watchmaking starting from the 16th century, and activities abound for watch lovers here. Trace the history of the first Swiss wristwatch ever created at the Patek Philippe Museum, or assemble your own Swiss timepiece at Initium.
And, of course, Switzerland is also world-famous for its chocolate (technically, it’s the second chocolate capital of the world after Belgium) so you can play Willy Wonka for a day and make your own chocolate bars in a gourmet workshop with Du Rhone Chocolatier.
Other must-sees in this cultural mecca include St Peter’s Cathedral in the Old Town, a historical jewel awash with medieval charm. Climb the 157 steps to the top of the tower and be rewarded with a beautiful 360-degree panoramic view of the city and the lake.
Another of the city's most famous landmarks is the Jet d'Eau, a large fountain that spurts water up 140m high. It’s tres Instagrammable and an iconic landmark in this French-speaking region of Switzerland.
Speaking of Instagram, the app would never have seen the light of day if not for one Tim Berners-Lee, at CERN, the European Nuclear Research Organisation. He’s the scientist who, in March 1989, proposed a revolutionary idea to develop a then-radical method for linking and sharing information via the Internet. Et voila, the World Wide Web was born, and you can now Instagram from the very spot it all began.