A weekend in Geneva

Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.

Weekend in Geneva one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.

Trip tips: Switzerland's largest Old Town is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains and overlooked by St. Peter's Cathedral. Climb the 157 steps to the top of the tower for a grand view. The world's tallest water fountain, Jet d'Eau in Lake Geneva, is a landmark for exploring the city. Cross the L'Arve River to the Mediterranean-style hamlet of Carouge (Trams 12, 15, 18 or Bus #4), a district far different to the rest of the city with a bohemian vibe, artsy cafes and famous jazz clubs.

Public transport is free for all hotel guests. A Geneva Transport Card is provided at check-in.

When dialing direct, use the prefix 011 followed by 41 (country code) + 22 (city code) + the phone number shown below.

Getting there: Round-trip advance purchase rates from $1,300 to Geneva or Zurich (2.5 hours by train) on departures through May (most airlines). Watch for sale rates closer to $800-$900 for summer.

BUDGET

Stay: Tor Hotel is a short walk to shops and the city central bus station. Rooms can be tight, but feature high ceilings, wood floors and contemporary decor. Spend three nights and pay for only two ($314 for three nights), including breakfast served in-room. Book via Geneve.com, www.geneve.com/en/sleep/special-offers. Rue Ami-Levrier 3, 518 29 40, www.torhotel.com.

Eat: Take a romantic evening walk on Place du Molard, where the square's stone pavers are illuminated to resemble a starry sky. Dine at Fifty-Fifty, a small and friendly Italian restaurant with indoor and outside seating; to $25. Rue Neuve-du-Molard 7, 310 26 98, Facebook: Restaurant Fifty-Fifty.

Experience: Mary Shelley's famous novel, "Frankenstein," includes many references to Geneva and the adjoining Saleve Mountain (visible from town, but in France). It's easy to reach the peak for incredible views of the city, Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc and the surrounding Alps. Take the #8 TPG Bus from Gare Cornavin to Veyrier Douane. The cable car reaches an altitude of 3,600 feet in less than five minutes; $13. Grab a bite at a little snack chalet selling sandwiches and drinks. Then pick a trail to explore (signs guide with hiking duration). www.geneva.info/saleve/#cable-car.

MODERATE

Stay: Hotel Kipling features colonial, Indies-inspired furnishings. A two-night weekend package includes breakfast and a three-course dinner from $542. The train station is less than a 10-minute walk. Book via Geneve.com, www.geneve.com/en/sleep/special-offers. Rue de la Navigation 27, 544 40 40, www.hotelkiplinggeneva.com.

Eat: The open kitchen at La Cantine des Commercants offers five or fewer choices per course (entrees to $45) and the occasional fixed-price three-course dinners from $50. Boulevard Carl-Vogt 29, 328 16 70, www.lacantine.ch.

Experience: Journey at your own pace through Geneva with an MP3 audio guide through Old Town and the international district. Watch for the Palais Wilson, named in memory of Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. president behind the creation of the League of Nations after World War I. $19 at the Geneva Tourist Information Center, Rue Mont-Blanc 18, 909 70 00, www.geneve.com.

SPLURGE

Stay: The luxe Hotel de la Paix features spacious and elegant rooms and an ideal location with Lake Geneva at its doorstep. Built in 1865, the Italianate boutique property has a Michelin-starred restaurant. From $375 per night. Quai du Mont-Blanc 11, 909 60 00, www.ritzcarlton.com.

Eat: Head 10 miles out of town to the tiny medieval village of Hermance. Stroll the lakeside harbor and the old streets before a splurge dining experience. The charming Auberge specialty is the rock-salt-encrusted roast chicken with organic vegetables, pumpkin soup starter and apple strudel ($80 per person; two-person minimum). Also popular is the tempura Lake Geneva perch, $48 per person. Dine in the rustic dining room with a fireplace, the bright conservatory, or on the garden terrace. 12 Rue du Midi, 751 13 68, www.hotel-hermance.ch.

Experience: Take in the stunning landscapes of Switzerland with a full-day train (Golden Panoramic Express) and luxury coach trip from Geneva to the quaint village of Broc (traditional chocolate factory) and then to the lovely mountaintop town of Gruyeres (a local cheese dairy). The tour descends to the hilltops of Montreux and onto a wine tasting session at a Lavaux vineyard, hailed as one of the world's most beautiful by UNESCO. The tour includes free time to explore Gruyeres and its grand castle. $235 per person. Viator.com tour code: 2510KT002. www.viator.com.