tThe stature of the legendary Pavé Stettler chocolate has me enthusiastically impressed within minutes of landing in Geneva. “This town is full of chocolatiers who claim the Pavé as their property, but Stettler did it first,” my newfound acquaintance whispers fervently when she learns of my sweet mission.
These small cubes of chocolate – literally translated as “the cobblestones” – are sprinkled with the finest cocoa powder to create an unforgettable decadent flavor bomb. Stettler & Castrischer’s flagship product, kept in refrigerated conditions, designed to hold its shape, melts in the mouth and makes collective eyes roll to the sky. When it comes to chocolate, it’s far from my first rodeo, but this exquisite fudge creation has continued to haunt me since it first passed my lips.
“Chocolate is both an industry and a sensation.” So said a wise man – American economist Herman A. Berliner, to be precise – and nowhere is this truer than in Switzerland. While the delectable treat originated in ancient Mexico, the revered food is now as synonymous with this central European country as luxury timepieces and fondue. The Swiss product we know and love today has its roots in the 17th century, with the country’s alpine cows producing the creamiest milk for its chocolate.
Now Geneva Tourism has developed a new “Choco Pass”, which allows visitors to taste some of the best chocolate from the most respected chocolatiers. It’s only valid for a 24-hour period – so I put on my loose-fitting pants and get to work.
The first stop is Favarger. Founded in Geneva in 1826, the company is one of the city’s longest-standing chocolate factories. Our tasting plate is predictably mouth-watering, but it’s their signature Avelines that really hit the spot. Created in 1922, this delicate brick combines milk and dark chocolate with praline, almonds and Madagascar vanilla.
Next up is Du Rhone Chocolatier. As we compete for elbow room with the locals stocking up on their sweet treats for the weekend, we’re presented with a selection of mouth-watering pralines and truffles at this boutique retailer.
Limiting your chocolate passion to its pure form is for amateurs. Fortunately, La Bonbonnière Chocolaterie et Chocolate Bar takes our infatuation to the next level. This 101-year-old institution not only produces a dizzying array of chocolates, but also offers a menu of over 30 different hot chocolates, one of which is included with our chocolate tasting board.
Our commitment to the cocoa bean is starting to waver a bit, but luckily all participating outlets are within walking distance of each other. Greater minds than ours may choose to spread their chocolate feast over two days, but we’re on a tight schedule and discover that most shops in Geneva are closed on Sundays. We push through.
Zeller’s states that its main goal is to “satisfy your sweet tooth”. I’m happy to report that this little outlet got the job done. Founded in 1959, Zeller serves a selection of treats including a Florentine milk chocolate, chocolate almonds, an orange candied confection and a delicious shell-shaped specialty studded with nougat and filled with mousse. Divine.
Our final stop at Stettler & Castrischer is a truly wonderful conclusion to our saccharine banquet. But at this stage, our inevitable sugar crash is imminent.
Satisfied, we wiggle along the Prom du Lac to gaze at the Geneva Water Fountain, a historic water jet on the lake, and reflect on our voracious existence. We continue northeast around the lake, which is populated by an abundance of sailing ships, large and small. Sandy “beaches” are filled with all ages enjoying the mild weather. Forget fending off the march of hungry seagulls – here you share real beach space with the flock of swans that have made the lake their home.
Our beneficial walk continues in Parc de La Grange, where we admire the rose and alpine gardens, the 18th-century villa and admire the views of the mountains surrounding this international city. In the distance, the imposing Cathédrale Saint-Pierre can be seen in the heart of the old town, whose neoclassical facade belies the austere interior.
Tightening the waistbands, we put them to the test again by finishing with a plate of risotto at the Restaurant de la Plage, housed in an airy, contemporary glass structure popular with locals and offering stunning views across the lake, before we take a dip in the designated swimming spot next door and sleep it all in on the beach. Our work here is done.
Are you trying to fly less?
Geneva is easily accessible by train from the UK: travel from London to Paris on the Eurostar, before taking the high speed train TGV-Lyria from Gare de Lyon in Paris.
Good with flying?
British Airways, Swiss and easyJet all fly direct from the UK to Geneva.
The Geneva Choco Pass costs 30 CHF (£25) for adults or 6 CHF (£5) for children.