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Sweet like chocolate: On a confectionary tour of Geneva with the Swiss city’s new Choco Pass

Joanna Whitehead gets an unparalleled taste of Switzerland’s second city

Friday 17 June 2022 17:18 BST
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On the chocolate trail in Geneva
On the chocolate trail in Geneva (Geneva Tourism)

The stature of the legendary Pavé Stettler chocolate is enthusiastically impressed upon me within minutes of landing in Geneva. “This city is full of chocolatiers claiming the pavé as their own, but Stettler did it first,” my new acquaintance whispers fervently upon learning of my sweet mission.

These small cubes of chocolate – literally translated as “cobblestones” – are dusted with the most refined cocoa powder to create an unforgettably decadent flavour bomb. Kept in refrigerated conditions designed to retain its shape, Stettler & Castrischer’s flagship confection melts in the mouth and makes collective eyes roll to the heavens. When it comes to chocolate, it’s far from my first rodeo, but this exquisitely fudgey creation has continued to torment me since it first passed my lips.

“Chocolate is both an industry and a sensation.” So said a wise man – American economist Herman Berliner, to be exact – and nowhere is this truer than in Switzerland. While the delectable treat has its origins in ancient Mexico, the revered food stuff is now as synonymous with this central European country as luxury timepieces and fondue. The Swiss product that we know and love today has its roots as far back as the 17th century, with the country’s Alpine cows producing the creamiest milk for its chocolate.

Sweetzerland, one of the chocolate shops on the trail (Pic Geneva Tourism)

Now, Geneva Tourism has developed a new “Choco Pass”, enabling visitors to sample some of the best chocolate from its most respected chocolatiers. It’s valid for a 24-hour period only – so I pull on my loosest fitting trousers and get to work.

The first stop is Favarger. Founded in Geneva in 1826, the company is one of the city’s longest-established chocolate factories. Our tasting plate is predictably mouth-watering, but it’s their signature Avelines which really hit the spot. Created in 1922, this delicate brick combines milk and dark chocolate with praline, almonds and Madagascan vanilla.

Next up is Du Rhone Chocolaterie. Jostling for elbow space with locals sourcing their sweet treats for the weekend, we’re presented with a selection of thoroughly delightful pralines and truffles in this boutique retailer.

Confining one’s chocolate passion to the mere solid form is for amateurs. Fortunately, La Bonbonniere Chocolaterie et Chocolate Bar takes our infatuation to the next level

Confining one’s chocolate passion to the mere solid form is for amateurs. Fortunately, La Bonbonniere Chocolaterie et Chocolate Bar takes our infatuation to the next level. As well as producing a dazzling array of chocolates, this 101-year-old institution also boasts a menu featuring more than 30 hot chocolates, one of which is included with our chocolate tasting plate.

Our commitment to the cocoa bean is beginning to waver slightly, but fortunately all of the participating outlets can be found in easy walking distance from one another. Greater minds than ours may choose to stagger their chocolate feast over two days, but we’re on a tight schedule and discover that most shops in Geneva are shut on a Sunday. We press on.

Zeller’s states that its main objective is “to satisfy your sweet tooth”. I’m happy to report that this diminutive outlet understood the assignment. Established in 1959, Zeller serves up a selection of treats including a milk-chocolate Florentine, chocolate almonds, a candied-orange confection and a delicious shell-shaped speciality studded with nougat and filled with mousse. Divine.

Did someone say truffle? (Joanna Whitehead)

Our last stop at Stettler & Castrischer is a frankly magnificent conclusion to our saccharine banquet. But, at this stage, our inevitable sugar crash is looming.

Satiated, we wobble along the Prom du Lac to look at the Geneva water fountain, a landmark water jet on the lake, and ponder our gluttonous existence. We continue in a northeasterly direction around the lake, which is populated by a profusion of sailing vessels, large and small. Sandy “beaches” are filled with all ages enjoying the clement weather. Forget fighting off the advances of hungry seagulls – here you’ll be sharing actual beach-space with the flock of swans that have made the lake their home.

Our salubrious stroll continues in Parc de La Grange, where we admire the rose and alpine gardens, 18th-century villa and gaze at the view of the mountains surrounding this international city. In the distance, the city’s imposing Cathedrale Saint-Pierre can be seen in the heart of the old town, whose neoclassical facade belies its austere interior.

Du Rhone Chocolaterie (Joanna Whitehead)

Waistbands straining, we put them to the test once more by finishing up with a plate of risotto at Restaurant de la Plage, housed in an airy, contemporary glass structure popular with the locals that offers wonderful views over the lake, before taking a dip in the designated swimming spot adjacent and sleeping it all off on the beach. Our work here is done.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Trying to fly less?

Geneva is easily accessible from the UK by train: travel from London to Paris on the Eurostar, before catching the TGV-Lyria high-speed train from Paris’s Gare de Lyon.

Fine with flying?

British Airways, Swiss and easyJet all fly direct from the UK to Geneva.

More information

The Geneva Choco Pass costs 30 CHF (£25) for adults or 6 CHF (£5) for children.

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