Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Lake Genève region

Lake Geneva - photo courtesy of Mike Edwards/Flickr
Genève (Geneva), located in the predominantly French-speaking southwest corner of Switzerland, is the second-largest city in the country. It is home to many of the United Nation's agencies as well as the headquarters of the Red Cross. It is an important international financial center, and, due to its role in humanitarian peace accords such as the Geneva Conventions, is known as the "Peace Capital". 

The region has over 2,000 years of recorded history, and as a result, it's not surprising to discover that the city is peppered with Swiss heritage sites, a well-preserved Old Town, and many museums. 


The Vaud canton, home to both Genève and nearby Lausanne, is an excellent wine-growing region; be sure to explore its wineries if you have time - or, at the very least, indulge in their wines when dining throughout Switzerland. 




LAKE GENÈVE REGION

Four Swiss league teams are located in the southwestern region of the country. There were five, but one of them - HC Sierre - is undergoing financial restructuring, and has currently been dropped out of the National B league. During the 2012 NHL lockout, four NHL players played in the Lake Genève region.  


Team: Genève- Servette HC
Twitter: @officialGSHC
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: Patinoire des Vernets, Rue Hans Wilsdorf 4, Acacias, Genève 1227
Public transportation stops/stations: Genève-Cornavin is Genève's main train station. Like Zurich, the city has an extensive public transportation system, known as TPG. PdV is 2 km from Genève-Cornavin. Take tram # 15 (direction: Palettes) to "Acacias" stop; will have to walk about 10 minutes to arena. --or-- Take bus # 1 (direction: Petit-Bel-Air) to "École-Médecine" stop; will have to walk about 12 minutes to arena.
NHL players who played here during lockout: Logan Couture (Sharks), Yannick Weber (Canadiens)


Team: Lausanne HC
Twitter: @lausannehc
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: CIG de Malley, Chemin du Viaduc 14, 1008 Prilly (Lausanne)
Public transportation stops/stations: CIG de Malley is less than 3 blocks from the Prilly-Malley train station; this stop is served by commuter trains S1, S3, S4, S11, and SN and R trains from Lausanne's main train station, Gare de Lausanne (Lausanne is 40 minutes from Geneva; 66 minutes from Berne; 2:15 from Zurich)


Team: HC Red Ice
Twitter: @HCRedIce
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Patinoire du Forum d’Octodure Martigny, Sports et Loisirs, Rue du Forum 12, 1920 Martigny
Public transportation stops/stations: Martigny-Bourg train station; the arena is just over half a kilometer from the station, about 10 minutes' walk. (Martigny is 90 minutes from Lausanne; 2 hrs from Genève)
NHL players who played here during lockout: Patric Hornqvist (Predators), Chris Kelly (Bruins)


Team: EHC Visp
Twitter: @ehcvispsportag
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Litternahalle, Litternaweg, CH-3930 Visp
Public transportation stops/stations: Visp train station; the arena is less than half a mile walk (about 10-12 minutes).


TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS 


GENÈVE

Genève has plenty of things to see and do in addition to taking in some hockey. Start with a tour of the European Headquarters of the United Nations, or a cruise on Lake Geneva. Wander around the Old Town; explore Cimetière de Plainpalais, which dates to 1482; check out the funky Les Grottes neighborhood by the main train station or the artsy Carouge hamlet. 

Take a cable car to the top of Mount Saleve for views of the city and lake; discover the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum; imagine yourself behind the wheel of one of the 400+ vehicles on display at the International Automobile MuseumNeed to indulge in some amazing Swiss chocolate? Stop in at Philippe Pascoët. If you're in Genève in early August, take part in the annual Geneva Festival. Take a tour at CERN, home of the world's largest particle physics laboratory. There's something for every taste in Genève.

Where to stay in/around Genève

‡ Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming Hotels".  
˜ Hotels marked with this are in walking distance of the main train station (5 blocks)
Luxury ($225+)
Grand Hotel Kempinski GenevaHôtel Cristal ~ | Hôtel D'Angleterre ‡ | Hôtel Residence Mont-Blanc 
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
Admiral Hôtel | Hôtel Bernina Geneve ~ | Hôtel des Alpes ~ | Hôtel International et Terminus ~ | Hôtel Lido ~ | Hôtel Montana ~ | Hôtel Nash Ville | Hôtel Residence CityZen | Hôtel Tor Sa | Hôtel Windsor 
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
City Hostel Geneva | Geneva Youth Hostel (both hostels less than 1km from main station)

LAUSANNE


Nearby Lausanne, on the northeast shore of Lake Geneva, is a popular sports city. Many international sports organizations have their headquarters located there, most notably the International Olympic Committee, and the city has several professional sports teams.


Switzerland's only metro system makes it easy to explore Lausanne; and like Basel, the city offers the Lausanne Transport Card to all hotel guests, which allows travelers free transport within certain zones. You can start in the Old Town, visit the city's many parks, explore museums such as the Olympic Museum, or enjoy in a variety of cultural offerings. Listen to the night watchman call out the hour from the tower of Lausanne Cathedral. 


If you're visiting in late October, take in the annual Jazzonze+ Festival; if you're there in July, you can enjoy the renowned Montreaux Jazz Festival.

Where to stay in Lausanne

Below suggested hotels all within a few blocks' walk of Lausanne's main station (Gare du Lausanne). Price categories: (L) = luxury $225+; (T) = business/tourist $100-225+; (B) = budget $99 or less
Hôtel Agora Swiss Night (T) | Hôtel AlaGare (T) | Hôtel Continental (L) | Hôtel du Boulevard (T) | Hôtel Victoria (L) Lausanne Guesthouse & Backpacker (B) 


Martigny - photo courtesy of Kate Wellington / Flickr

MARTIGNY

Valais canton, a tourism and sports enthusiast paradise in the heart of the Swiss Alps, is home to HC Red Ice (Martigny) and EHC Visp. 

Located at a pass between Italy, France, and Switzerland, Martigny may feel more Mediterranean than Swiss. Like the Geneva region, Valais is agriculturally blessed, and home to many orchards and vineyards. You can explore a museum dedicated to the famous Swiss St. Bernard dogs, get lost in the world's biggest labyrinth, explore Roman ruins, or take a scenic tour to nearby Mont Blanc (90 minutes away). 

A more unusual attraction is the Foire du Valais (cow fighting), which runs for ten days in late September/early October. Are you a bacon enthusiast and visiting on the first Monday in December? You won't want to miss the Foire du Lard (Bacon Fair), a tradition since 1801 in the suburb of Bourg, close to where the hockey arena is located. 

The region is also known for its beautiful scenery and holiday resorts. If taking in all that Martigny has to offer has worn you out, it is possible to indulge in the natural thermal baths at several spas in the area like the ancient Romans once did.

Where to stay in Martigny
* within walking distance (3 blocks) of arena; other three are within walking distance of main Martigny train station
Hôtel Alpes & Rhone * | Hôtel du Grand Quai Martigny | Hotel Forclaz Touring | Hotel VatelMotel des Sports *

VISP

Visp is also in the heart of a wine-growing area which includes the highest-elevation vineyard in Switzerland (and arguably, Europe), St. Jodern Kellerei in the nearby village of Visperterminen. But the area may be best-known for its scenery and being a year-round center for sports enthusiasts.

If you're a winter sports enthusiast (skiing, etc) on hockey holiday tour, you may want to include a side trip to the village of Saas-Fee  or to Zermatt. Zermatt is also notable for being a combustion-engine car-free town, in order to prevent pollution which might degrade views of the Matterhorn.  

Where to stay in Visp
Hotel-Restaurant EliteHotel VisperhofCenterpark Apartments (all within 4 blocks of train station)
* * *

As illustrated in this series on Swiss hockey, Swiss Rail makes it incredibly easy to travel around the country, and see games throughout both the National-A and National-B leagues. Swiss Rail will quickly connect you to every hockey city in the country; multi-day passes will make traveling easy. If you're traveling with somebody, in a group, or under 26, you can get additional discounts; families can get the "Family Card" which will allow children 6 to under 16 travel free with at least one paying parent.

The Swiss hockey pre-season starts in August; teams play for the European Trophy against other European-league teams. Swiss hockey's regular schedule starts in September, when North American teams are just starting to gear up for their camps. 

Genève and Zurich may be your two best cities to start your Swiss hockey tour, as both are home to major international airports. No matter what time of year you choose to visit Switzerland, you'll find plenty of interesting things to see and do! 



Swiss tourism video - "More than just mountains"

Swiss tourism video - "Summer"

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