A nice alternative to pubs is the more Bavarian-style Les Brasseurs, just opposite to the railway station. They brew their own beer, and if you buy it with friends (or alone, we won’t judge) a “colonne” of 3.5 or 10 litres offers a good alternative to “per pint” pricing. You find the same type of establishment down in the city centre (Brasseurs du Molard) or in the “Les Grottes” district. Lady Godiva, just opposite Uni Mail building is a nicely strange mix of a modern and fashion pub, boasts an impressive list of beer on tap, and has been the site of many impromptu Graduate Institute weekend gatherings.
La Terrasse is an outdoor bar at the lakeside that is open during spring and summer. It draws a variety of students and professionals looking to relax by the lake after a long day. It’s not cheap, but it is definitely a beautiful place to sit beside the lake, enjoy the sunshine and have a drink or coffee. Tropical Corner is also a nice place to spend a summer afternoon on the lake shore (open only during the summer season), drinking rosé or home-made green tea. Walk there from Rive following the lake, direction France (10-15 minutes).
Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine in Plainpalais (near Uni Mail) is the place where you’ll find a few student-friendly bars (Ferblanterie, Café Metis, Café du Lys, etc.) which are comparatively cheap, and where UNIGE students normally hang out.
Café de la Pointe is a favorite of Genevois students, near the Hôpital Cantonal (Boulevard du Pont d’Arve). You will find 2 or 3 dozen varieties of shooters that are prepared on the spot. You never know what’s inside and you’d better not try to understand their names, but if you get lucky, one or two shots are enough to shake your blood (5 CHF per shot).
Brasserie des Halles de l’ile is another cool spot on an “island” (a platform in the middle of the river) which can be accessed via stairs from Pont de la Coulouvreniere or via the tram stop Bel-Air or Stand. It’s a restaurant on one side but also a lounge-bar which fills up every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It is definitely a place to go for a quick drink or to pre-drink before heading to other clubs. The terrace area outside is really nice in the summer and overlooks the water.
Place du Bourg de Four in the Old Town is the epicentre of the medieval district and offers many bars and nice “terrasses” during the summer: La Clémence, Demi Lune, Le Studio. From there, if you walk up the Grand Rue, you get to the Roi Ubu, a more alternative and underground-style bar with good beer and low prices.
In the Plainpalais area, you can head over to Circus for a glass of wine or Café Cuba for a mojito. These places can get pretty packed during the weekend. Le Chat Noir, located in Carouge, is an institution in Geneva for the underground music scene.
The downtown shopping district, known as the “rues basses”, used to offer a vast selection of trendy cafés and bars. Only a few have not yet been transformed into luxury watch shops. Alhambar, rue de la Rotisserie, is a funny place, serving cocktails and often proposing live DJ sessions. L’Antidote, located in the same street, is the gathering place for dynamic young bankers, maybe slightly too posh, but worth giving a try. You can also pop in to BBM 2 and L’Armoire for a glass of wine. On the way towards Old Town from the Bel-Air fountain, you will find “La théière qui rit” serving a selection of teas and hot chocolate and, a little further, Les Salons de Théophile features a good selection of spirits in a dark and warm atmosphere.
What about clubbing? One has to understand that Geneva is primarily a city for bankers and diplomats, people with children and a quiet life; finding a nice clubbing spot can therefore prove to be a slightly challenging endeavour. Good news is that for the bravest among you, here’s a short list.
Monte Christo will suit those looking for Latin vibes; ladies, be prepared to face audacious (i.e. sticky) salsa-dancing young men. The MaD de Genève (not to be confused with the Mad de Lausanne) also proposes salsa nights, which are quite nice.
On the high end of the spectrum is the Java Club, located in the basement of the Grand Kempinski Hotel. It’s the preferred choice of Geneva’s golden young crowd. However, there is a dressing code for entering.
There is also La Sip, a bar on Rue de Vieux-Grenadiers which doesn’t usually charge cover, plays hip-hop/top 40 music, and has a dangerous cocktail (“la sip cocktail”) for 10 franc. You can also go to Shakers at the end of rue du Mont-Blanc area, most of the crowd are either international students or expats.
La Pirogue is a hip-hop and R&B spot. Le Trois Huit, pretty far from the city centre and on the way to near-by France, is a cheaper alternative, and mixes bankers with French farmers. Moa, in Vernier, and Bypass, in the Acacias-Praille district, are more affordable places (except for the cover, about 20 CHF), have good music, good parties, but are farther away. You might need patience or a car to get there.
You will surely discover many other places that suit you. A must-do is partying at least once in Lausanne. The smaller city is full of students, so prices are much cheaper and the atmosphere is more relaxed. You don’t need to suit-up to get in a club. Here are just a few names of bars and clubs you may enjoy in Lausanne: Bleu Lézard, Lapin vert, King’s pub, Cult, Amnesia, Mad, and Atelier Volant.