Bains des Pâquis: Public Bath for the People, by the People in Geneva

Forget the UN buildings, private banks and fancy boutiques, the best place in Geneva is the city’s beloved public lido: Bains des Pâquis.

Originally founded in 1872, but reconstructed in modernist style in 1932, Bain des Pâquis are not only a great place to get a dip in Lake Geneva, but a spa centre, restaurant and a positive social experiment all rolled into one.

The large chunk of its charm (besides being located on one of Europe’s most stunning lakes and looking towards Mont Blanc) is due to the fact that the whole operations is run by its users since 1987.

The governing body, Association of users of Bains des Paquis, formed when local residents rejected the planned update to their facilities which foresaw a radical change to its modernist, egalitarian aesthetic, and went on to run their beloved baths themselves. To make them profitable, they decided to make them open the whole year around, by adding a spa centre (including saunas and hammams), as well as a wonderful restaurant, allegedly selling the best (and affordable) fondue in Geneva. To top this off, there are also quirky art installations and of course, a wonderful view onto Geneva’s glittering skyline.

As a sauna-fiend, I can only hope that more places like BdP would open, maybe in Belgrade’s defunct hammam in Dušanova?

What else in Geneva?

  • Botanical Garden – wonderful place to chill: with beautiful old glass houses and a small zoo including flamingos
  • Parfums de Beyrouth – fantastic, reasonably priced Lebanese eatery
  • MEG – Geneva’s fantastic (and beautifully designed) ethnographic museum
  • Cremerie Vegane – for good reasons it is impossible to escape dairy in Geneva. However vegans (and lactose) intolerant rejoice – there is a fantastic place selling cashew-based “cheese” which should be on any foodies map
  • Hans Wilsdorf Bridge – viriginous bridge designed by Brodbeck and Roulet
  • Russian Church – This jewel box of a church was built in 1866 to accommodate the Russian aristocrats lounging by Lake Geneva and is still active (it earns extra points for having an icon on St Sava of Serbia)
  • Pierre et Jean – allegedly one of Switzerland’s best bakeries, and worth the reputation
  • La Jonction – a rare place to experience some grunginess in Geneva and see some great street art

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