A locale that’s unique in many ways
Those of us who enjoy shopping in Geneva are well acquainted with the charming and spoiled-for-choice areas of the Rue du Marché, the Old Town, and the lovely enclave of Carouge.
Yet there’s another budding hotspot that also offers — if perhaps in less concentrated abundance, but just as much heart and creativity — equally enticing shops, restaurant-cafés, and a smartly renovated boutique hotel, all of which makes it well worth your time exploring.
Let me introduce you to the corner of rue Jean-Violette at rue Prévost-Martin, easily accessible by foot from downtown Geneva or via Tram 12 or 18, stop Pont-d’Arve.
One good thing leads to another
I first fell in love with this unassuming corner of Geneva last year in May when I went in search of the high-quality Canadian-made yoga and sportswear brand Lolë. I found it at a delightful boutique called the Yoga Shop, which I’ve just blogged about.
Located smack on rue Jean-Violette, the Yoga Shop enticed me to explore more of this, to me anyway, largely unknown area that I’d only ever passed through while on my way somewhere else.
What I felt while mosey-ing around was a cozy ambience and community feeling, with shop owners asking, “have you visited (insert name of nearby boutique)? I’ll show you the way.” An unusual and mutually supportive attitude. Quite unique, really.
Likewise, the merchandise proferred; no ‘standard issue’ labels here. The desire to offer goods and services that are unattainable elsewhere clearly factors highly with local entrepreneurs.
So let me help you get to know this area a little better. Then if you’re so inclined, you can put in your own footwork, preferably on a sunny day (now that they are finally arriving with some reliability) when you can sit outdoors for lunch or a drink at one of the local restaurant-cafés in between exploring the nearby shops.
Sauntering up Rue Jean-Violette
Presuming you’ll arrive by tram and alight at Pont d’Arve, as you walk up Jean-Violette first thing you’ll notice are the tables outside the restaurant Au Chat Gourmand, (14, rue Jean-Violette). A popular eatery whose selection celebrates seasonal, local terroir, it offers a plat du jour for CHF19 (which includes a little entrée). Pride of menu, however, are its gourmet burgers, including classic beef; Tandoori chicken; goat cheese and tapenade; and Norwegian salmon variations. Reservation recommended. *****
If, before lunch, you’re in the mood for a little shopping, first turn right at Au Chat Gourmand and follow the restaurant’s frontage till you round a corner on the left. There you’ll behold the cobblestoned courtyard of the wonderful leather goods shop Ma Vie Sur Mars (also 14, rue Jean-Violette and on Facebook).
Winner of the 2012 “Coup de Coeur” prize awarded by the Commerce de l’Economie Genevoise, owner Sabrina Berreghis selects shoes, boots and handbags whose Italian craftsmanship is evident in their lustrous handworked appearance. The Numero 10 bags are wearable works of art, the Shoto boots feel like a second skin and the artisanal GOTI jewellery manages to be both delicate and sturdy looking at the same time. The boutique’s motto is: Free your feet, your mind will follow. I think that should read: Free your feet, your heart will follow. *****
Back on the main street, and just past Au Chat Gourmand on your right, you’ll find the elegant vintage clothing boutique Julia’s Dressing, (18, rue Jean-Violette, and on Facebook). Owner Julia Peynes has been collecting vintage apparel since childhood and her finds from the past 15 years are among her enticing, ever-evolving collection. Her exquisite selection of haute couture outfits by fashion’s most revered designers — Dior, Versace, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent — some dating from the 1930s, matches any found in Europe, Asia, and America, where she has loyal clients (and who can shop online via 1stdibs). This boutique is proof that little girls should follow their obsessions! *****
Opposite Julia’s Dressing you’ll come across the contemporary hair salon f.r. Coiffeur, (11, rue Jean-Violette) which has been offering personalized service to its clientele since 2000. Though I can’t speak from experience, any hair salon that’s lasted this long in the very competitive Geneva marketplace must have something going for it. I can vouch for the friendly and informative service, and their hair care products are top notch. *****
Continuing a few steps up on the left you cannot miss the entrance to one of the city’s most unique and visually stunning hotels, La Cour des Augustins (15, rue Jean-Violette). Its charm lies in its combining old architectural features (wooden beams and flooring, skylights) with modern, colourful furnishings, Pop Art pieces, and items from the owner’s African art collection. (No wonder it’s called a “boutique, gallery, and design” hotel. )
The open-plan suites contain kitchenettes, making them extremely popular with long-stay guests who must also appreciate the hotel’s convenient location near the Plainpalais parking complex, and its proximity to the Old Town and Carouge (ten minutes’ walk in either direction.) Tip: Check out room 401, a large suite under the eaves with an open bath/shower area, a 60s ‘hanging pod’ chair and a handy kitchenette. Breakfast is available on site, but lunch, evening meals and snacks are ordered in from local restaurants — unless of course you choose to cook for yourself. *****
Et voila! Rue Prévost-Martin
Here we are at the corner of Jean-Violette and Prévost-Martin and if you haven’t yet had a bite to eat you might want to slip into the popular local eatery the Jules Verne, (20, rue Jean-Violette), with it’s warm Meditteranean bistro-style ambience, or sit outside on its wooden deck. Enjoy a plat du jour for around CHF19 or choose from a seasonal à la carte menu. There’s also the “around the world in 80 flavours” menu that at present focuses on a Norwegian theme (roasted cod with potatoes and new vegetables and a dill foam) for CHF32. Best to reserve. *****
Next stop, L’Arsenal (31, rue Prévost-Martin) a welcoming little boutique that offers clothes and accessories in urban, relaxed styles for both men and women. I’m a big fan of their soft and colorful scarves. *****
If you love home decor, you will thoroughly enjoy exploring the former car body-shop turned housewares emporium les enfants terribles (24, rue Prévost-Martin and on Facebook). The merchandise is presented in such a fun, unconventional way at times it resembles an art installation. Which is suitable given that many items are design classics. Style does not trump quality, though, and everything right down to the retro light bulbs is functional and well made as well as pleasing to the eye. There’s a bar and café with desserts, salads, sandwiches and a casual sitting area that’s roomy enough for strollers. *****
Don’t stop there, keep going!
I don’t want to let you go before I give you some more must-visit addresses to round out your trip to this up-and-coming shopping area. To the left of rue Jean-Violette (direction Old Town), be sure to stop in at Etat Brut (4, Passage Saint-Francois and on Facebook) to check out the supple leather handbags and wallets in soft metallic and pastel shades, the reversible cotton/cellulose carry bags from Tuscany, woven baskets from Madagascar, as well as eye-catching jewellery, soft shawls and summer sandals. This is shopping with diversity and treaceability in mind. *****
Nearby at 19, Blvd du Pont d’Arve, Les 3 Pinces, offers an ecletic mix of decorative items, soaps and creams, greeting cards, toys, leather goods, and hats and scarves…lots of potential gifts for yourself or someone special. The owners (Catambo) are guided by fair trade ethics and a recycling ethos so your conscience can feel good along with the rest of you. *****
Before we change direction and head on over to the opposite side of rue Jean-Violette, check out the kitchen store and designer/architects Grain de Sel (11, blvd du Pont d’Arve) for the latest in high-quality kitchen appliances, dishes, and must-have doodads. While there, ask about their gourmet cooking classes offered at a nearby address throughout the year. *****
Last but not in any way least
Kutcha, based on the Italian word cuccia, meaning “niche”, reflects the feeling you get on entering this bright, welcoming boutique owned by former professional ballet dancer Karina Silverio Perrenoud. It also mirrors the sought-after dance, pilates and yoga lines she stocks, including the eco-friendly, super-soft Wellicious brand. Equally desirable are the one-of-a-kind yoga bags and small purses in vintage and contemporary fabrics by Geneva-based designer Magali Riom. You can find Kutcha at 2, rue Pré-Jérôme and also on Facebook. *****
A few streets over (direction Carouge) and up one, you may feel as I did when I entered the back room of the vintage clothes shop Flair No. 3 at 3, rue John Grasset (and on Facebook). Which is to say, like I’d stepped into an elegant from frantic lady’s boudoir from a bygone era. Owner and passionate vintage collector Marisa Da Silva opened her boutique ten years ago and prides herself on helping clients find exactly what they’re looking for, whatever the occasion, whether that’s haute couture or prêt-à-porter. To be honest, I hadn’t really been bitten by the vintage bug till I visited this shop and fell for a few frocks…maybe it will do the same thing for you. *****
There are many reasons why you would enjoy exploring this spirited, eclectic corner of Geneva. Whatever your inspiration, if you make your way over I hope you enjoy yourself and if you come up with any shopping or eating tips of your own, please let us know about them.
Another tip for you…
At Pont d’Arve, keep your eyes open for Boutique Opéra Danse (40, rue de Carouge and on Facebook). Owner Anne-Marie Sommer drew the adorable characters adorning its window (as well as the drawing at the top of this blog post). She stocks top brands to kit out dancers of ballet to salsa to cha-cha-cha from head to (pointy) toe. Dance runs in this family because sister Lucienne runs the popular Ballet Studio 9 nearby at 12, rue Louis Masbou (also on Facebook). Seems this corner of Geneva is the go-to locale for dance aficionados!