Lake Geneva has been pulling in the crowds for centuries, from the Romans who gave it its name, to the 19th-century British aristocrats who passed through on their Grand Tour. Mary Shelly got her inspiration for Frankenstein while holidaying on its shores, and Lord Byron wrote a poem about the Château de Chillon, causing a flood of romantics to follow in his wake. In the second half of the 20th century, it became home to movie stars, musicians and racing drivers, even minor European royals and high-ranking businessmen, all of whom liked the attractive tax rates, the peaceful way of life, the proximity of great skiing, and the excellent wines of the Lavaux.
Today, it’s a European crossroads. Encircled by Alpine peaks, the lake marks the border between France and Switzerland, with a chain of elegant towns and cities preening on its shores - Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux on the Swiss side, Evian and Thonon-les-Bains on the French. Ferries nip from one side to the other, making lunch ‘overseas’ an easy treat, and the presence of international organisations such as the UN, International Olympic Committee and Red Cross means the population is distinctly global. It’s also a conduit for the Rhône, which rises in the Swiss Alps, pours into the lake near Martigny and then escapes at Geneva, moving at a speed you don’t expect.