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            Back to Open Skies

Travel to Geneva


Carouge, Geneva

23 December 2015

Words: Adrian Mourby / Images: Kate Tadman-Mourby

Carouge today is a suburb of Geneva, but it was once a rival to its wealthy Swiss neighbour. In 1786 the Sardinian king Victor Amadeus III finally gave up his attempts to seize Geneva and make it the capital of his dukedom of Savoy. Instead he started a new city immediately across the River Arve in Savoy. Carouge was born and designed to rival the city in wealth and, by rejecting Calvinism, be a lot more fun too. The new city appealed to Genevans for its eating and dancing establishments, but ultimately, less than half of it was ever built.

Today it has acquired a rather trendy reputation, and with artisan shops, delicatessens, small restaurants, jazz clubs and a retro cinema, comparisons are readily drawn to New York’s Greenwich Village. But life is quieter, slower and friendlier here, offering a welcome break for those across the water in the big city.


The one ‘modern’ building in the centre of Carouge is an old midwest style cinema on the corner of Rue Saint-Joseph and Place Marché. It was built in 1928 and was known as Cinema Vox until 1972, when the owners decided they wanted their programme to appear first on the alphabetical listings page.

Cinema Bio became something of a cause celebre in 2004 when purists wanted to tear it down and build something more appropriate to Carouge’s 18th century original plan. But conservative voices prevailed and the cinema was saved. Today it offers a busy programme that mixes mainstream French cinema with art cinema from around the world and even the latest Woody Allen film (with subtitles). There are also live transmissions from l’Opéra national in Paris and a 1950s US-style cafe, which is very popular on market days.

Rue Saint-Joseph 47

Tel: +41 22 301 5443



Now aged 84, Jean Kazes trained as a mechanic and only took up clock making as a hobby. Operating out of a very small studio in Carouge, he affects a modest demeanour to the point that it might come something of a surprise to discover him a man who designed timepieces for the likes of Patek Philippe, Cartier and Chopard.

He’s also in the book of Guinness World Records for making a wall clock with the longest pendulum in the world – it’s 30 metres long and can be found in the open lift shaft of Hotel Cornavin near Geneva’s main station. Kazes welcomes visitors to his studio and if your French is up to it, you can discuss the design for a bespoke clock, although beware: his starting price is around the US$8,000 mark.

Rue St Joseph

Tel: +41 22 343 3091



Operating behind a single arched shop front, like so many artisans in Carouge, Isabelle Hoffmann makes her hats from piles of material stacked in a riot of colours from floor to ceiling. Called “Zabo” after her own nickname, many Zabo hats are designed specifically for clients but some – costing from US$80- US$150 – can be bought off the peg.

Not content with her work as a milliner, in front of Zabo she often displays vegetables for sale from her boyfriend’s garden. She also plasters the window with photos that people have sent in of themselves in her hats and updates on her own travels. All of which makes Zabo much more than a place to buy headgear. It’s an opportunity to check out the relaxed and creative Caregeois lifestyle.

Rue Saint-Joseph 31

Tel: +41 22 301 7576



There is only one hotel in Carouge and it stands on Rue Ancienne, the only road to break up the grid pattern on which Carouge was built in 1786. It has barely expanded since it was constructed at the end of the 18th century but the interior has been remodelled to create a very large dining area where once horses were stabled. Luca Alloro, the young Sicilian patron, is always in enthusiastic evidence.

Be sure to try his personal favourite dish: Galician octopus with mashed potato. Upstairs there are 20 plain bedrooms on the first and attic floors which, Luca says, are about to be transformed by some arresting designs. Very often, the rooms are taken by actors working at the French-speaking theatre – Théâtre Carouge – next door, so if you’re thinking of staying book early.

Rue Ancienne 39

Tel:+41 22 338 0710


“For women, a bag is like the house she always carries with her,” says Christiane Mürner, who runs this leather workshop on Carouge’s Rue Ancien. Mürner says her range of bags, belts and wallets have taken their inspiration from the work of Cubists such as Mondrian and the Bauhaus guru Wassily Kandinsky. Her success lies in designs that are both innovative and timeless.

Mürner is the only person teaching leather work in Switzerland’s French cantons, and behind the shop in one of Carouge’s typical courtyards her team of young women work by hand assembling her designs. “Each bag is unique,” says Mürner. “You are attracted to it by its form, its material and its movement. Once it becomes worn it’s not only functional but a way of living every day.”

Rue Ancienne 43

Tel: +41 22 342 7225



Founded in 2011 by Giuseppe Cusumano from Sicily, Mizzica began as a small Italian delicatessen behind a restaurant on Rue Pont-Neuf. While Pierangela, Cusumano’s wife, worked in a bank her husband expanded the business, which grew in size and popularity until it took over the whole building. Now Mizzica is a quiet, upmarket cafe selling Sicilian patés, pestos and salsas as well as artisanal panettone and olive oils.

In the mornings you’ll find middle-aged ladies sitting here, juggling a novel and glass of Sicilian wine, while bearded young men siphon off the Wi-Fi. The walls are lined with old Milanese newspapers and jazz gently plays in the background. The most contemplative of Carouge’s cafes, Mizzica benefits from being the first you reach on crossing the Arve from Geneva.

Rue du Pont-Neuf 5

Tel: +41 22 321 2478


This new cheese shop in Carouge occupies part of Maison Perrier, one the most beautiful houses in Carouge and one of the few to be built with steps up to its main entrance. It stands in what would have been the main square of the city had it been completed. In 2014 Valérie Piot, who had fallen in love with a Swiss cheese-maker, decided that she wanted to sell cheeses. She and her boyfriend had travelled all around the world and realised how special and rare cheese was outside Europe. It is very difficult to find cheese, especially good cheese.

You can’t miss the shop because it has a model of a very contented looking cow in the window. Here you can buy fondue and Raclette cheese plus Swiss cheeses like Mont d’Or, Gruyeres, Emmental, Fribuurg, Belper Knolle. Valerie also sells French classics like Morbier, Rochebar, Comte and St Nectaire as well as Tomme, the one cheese that Geneva produces. The Tomme with truffles is a highlight.

Rue du Marché 2

Tel: +41 22 301 8400