Five Retro and Vintage Places to Visit in Geneva

by | Nov 12, 2022

By: Jessie Baxter, Lama Hajjar, Dominik Sefaj

Before delving into this article, two key words need to be defined which are vintage and retro. Vintage will defined as anything “of age”, something which is produced 40 years before. In this case, it will be referred to as an appearance, something which is more wooden and has vintage attributes such as antiques.

Retro will be defined as something modern, yet nostalgic. An example of retro would be an American diner which is modern but has nostalgic elements of American culture such as neon lights and red seats.

Black tap, a retro American experience

Black tap is located in the centre of Geneva, at Cr de Rive 6. The retro style of the restaurant is clear to anyone passing by, as its black doors and tables contrasted to the neon colours of the sign immediately strikes anyone with the image of an American themed diner with retro and punk attributes.

Walking into the restaurant you are immediately enthralled by the 2000’s American themed ambience. Its retro and r&b style is reflected in the spray painted artworks surrounding the restaustaurant. The music is a playlist of R&B and 2000’s rap songs, with artists such as Eminem, 2Pac, and Alicia Keys.

The waiters mirror the same laid-back impression of the diner. They welcomed us and when they took our orders, joked around and gave us recommendations on what to take. The menu itself featured American staples such as mac and cheese, fried foods, and various burger options. The options were diverse and suitable for anyone, such as vegan and vegetarian selections and a selectibility on the level of spiciness. The main attraction of this restaurant is milkshakes. The crazy shakes are like nothing I’ve seen before. The milkshake itself is either a basic vanilla, chocolate, or starberry flavor, but its decorated with the most eye appealing mix of colours and sweets. The one I got

was the Cake Shake, which featured a large slice of vanilla cake on top of a funfetti milkshake and a rim of sprinkles.

In terms of taste, the milkshake was hard to finish and was sweetly sickening. My friend ordered the truffle burger, which tasted standard with a hint of notes of truffle. The presentation was poor, as the salad and condiments were falling from the sides. The average burger price was 25CHF, with the shakes being 19CHF. For the price, the food was decent as the portions were large, but the quality and taste was lacking.

I was recommended by friends from Lausanne to try out this restaurant, with an overall positive feedback from their experience. From my friends experience, the ambience and food was satisfactory, with plenty of good opportunities for instagram pictures of the food and the location itself. For Webster students, this restaurant is a great place for anyone to eat, as its vibrance and overall ambience is perfect for discussions over tall, cake milkshakes and American themed food. For anyone who enjoys the 2000’s American culture and wants a step back in time, this is the perfect place for you.

Le Chat Noir, a retro bar

Chat Noir is a bar located in Carouge, Rue vautier 13. From the outside, it looks like any standard bar within Geneva. However, this bar has a unique element to it, as it features an underground club in which live music and indie bands perform.

The bar itself displays retro elements, for example, the red and black constrasts gives off an old-style, vintage apperance. The dim lighting and emerging ventilation makes the bar relaxing; a place to kick back and enjoy a drink with friends.

The drinks itself are inexpensive, with a wide selections of classics to specials created by the bartenders at Chat Noir. The bar also has its own menu, featuring burger and salad options at an average price. Although the selection is thin, the food itself was of high quality and in large portions. The menu itself has a vintage feel to it as the meals are displayed on a black board with chalk, giving it an old feeling.

Another key aspect of this location was the diversity of the menu. In a section labeled “food of the world”, a variety of meals from across the globe is listed in this selection, for example, sashimi to samoussas. Overall, the prices were decent for the

amount of food served, yet the quality and seasoning within this selection was poor.

After finishing your drink, you are invited to the underground area of the club. The area is elevated with various lights and blasting music. The style is mainly a mix of hip hop, funk and other related genres often played by amateur musiciens. We each paid 20CHF at the door, and during the night that we went, the music and players were lackluster with the overall crowd being less lively than expected. Overall the experience was dull, as although we enjoyed the ambience of the jazz music and flashing coloured lights, it quickly became mundane.

I had a discussion with a member of one of the bands who was getting ready to perform within the club. He told me that the area was a great place for novel bands to get recognition and find a starting ground within the live performance scene. Him and his band performed there previously and admitted that the club feels dull and spiritless, yet this depends on the day you go, who performs, and your overall preference in music genre.

Overall, being inexpensive, this bar is suitable for university students to grab a quick drink with friends. The club offered at Chat Noir is recommended for anyone who enjoys jazz, and supports indie bands. However, considering the distance, the Chat Noir may deter people from taking the long bus ride there, and would rather prefer a closer bar within central Geneva.

Boreal cafe: A vintage hideaway

This cafe is located in Rue du Stand 60, 1204 Genève, which right in the center of geneva. It is right next to the tram, number 4 and 14, and will takes you right to the cafe which is beneficial as you dont have to walk for a long distance.

The first thing you notice about the cafe is how colorful it is, as the tables and chairs outside are all in various different colors. The vibrant display and the olfactory burst of roasted coffee beans invites any lucky pedestrian to be invited into the coffee shop. Upon entering, the coffee shop expresses its vintage feeling through the many different couches and wooden tables mixed with the brown and copper colours of the cafe. The decoration and detail to color

makes the place feel calming; a quiet location in which you can study and have a isolated moment of peace from the outside world.

In terms of the coffee itself, Boreal cafe offers high quality coffees made from various different beans, such as brazilian and arabic. I ordered a cappuccino, which personally was the finest I’ve ever had. The coffee was 6CHF and was served in a relatively quick manner. The overall excellent service and tasty coffee made for a memorable experience.

Boreal cafe also offers food choices such as cakes, muffins, and cookies. These are all made the morning of, and created within the café itself. The selection offers gluten-free choices and vegan options.

I would recommend this cafe for any students who indulge in coffee, as Boreal’s cafe serves coffee which is smooth, bitter, and leaves one with a pleasant lingering aftertaste. This place is also a favorable for anyone who is seeks gluten free choices. Overall, I would describe this place as a vintage starbucks, as it has very similar elements to the popular coffee shop. However, this place feels more comfy and at home due to the numerous couches, colours, and dim copper lighting. 

We interviewed the barista and asked which drinks he preferred, and he stated that the brazilian bean matcha latte was a personal, and customer favorite. Overall, the coffees within the shop are all bitter and rich, and will leave you wanting more.

Patisserie Sofia: Vintage Sweetness

Patisseria Sofia is located at the heart of geneva, Bd Georges-Favon 6, 1204 Genève. The entrance of the patisserie can be described as bubbly and warm, as the entrance is flooded in pink and light colours. Various cakes and pastries are displayed next to the window; an eye-eating image in which anyone passing by will stop and awe at the tasty looking desserts.

Upon entering the patisserie, the retro aspects are noticeable at first glance. The chairs seem like they come out of a 1950’s movie, as they burst with vibrant colours and pink tones. The lighting, specifically the chandeliers, offer a welcoming ambience of warmth and also provide a vintage ambience. Overall, the simplistic yet perky decorations and marble tables make the location unique.

We ordered a carac cake, a swiss dessert featuring a chocolate tarte with green icing and a button chocolate piece. The patisserie was close to perfection as it had extraordinary quality, taste, and a high attention to detail. However, the prices are a bit overpriced, as the small cake was 5CHF.

I would not advise university students, specifically those who are on a budget to come here. However, the luxurious experience which is provided by the decorations, quick service, and overall mood of the atmosphere is definitely worth a visit. We asked another customer for their preferences on which paterssiers were the best, which was the chocolate cakes and large macaroons.

Bongo Joe Records: A vintage music lovers dream

Bongo Joe is a record store located at the place de l’île, 1, Association, 1204 Genève. The place is located on the outskirts of central geneva, and is hidden from the sights of the pedestrians. This place is therefore a hidden vintage gem of Geneva.

The front of the store is plain, but when entering, you are transported into a different world. It feels like a time machine as the music, decorations, and albums surrounding the store make it feel as if you are within the 20th century. The place is surrounded by vintage vinyl records, and incorperates a nature environment as plants protrude the area from the ceiling and walls. There is also a vinyl player to listen to the music with the

workers helping you pick out new options. Overall, the service provided was excellent.

We interviewed the customers in bongo joe and mostly the feedback was positive. People sitting on the couches informed us that the vinyls within the store have some rare gems and is perfect for anyone who is into vintage and retro styles.

Wooden hut: a vintage restaurant

The location can be found at Bd Georges-Favon 19, 1204 Genève. It’s located near the Patisserie Sofia. The place intrigued us as the decorative pieces displayed outside the window gave off a vintage appearance, but it also make it look out of the ordinary as there was various animals in various shapes around the store.

Wooden hut offers authentic Thai food. We went together and the service was fast as the food and drinks came quickly, and it wasn’t too expensive for Geneva. We ordered the fried fish, which was 10CHF for three fish.

The restaurant itself attempts to connect to the original roots of Thai culture. We sat on cushions on the floor and awed at the architecture of the traditional Thai house; a temple like structure with wooden pillars

supporting the building. This itself gave a vintage feeling, but was mostly due to the original Thai culture that the owners were attempting to portray.

We talked with another customer sitting near us. She had ordered the rice rolls with pork, and gave a very positive reaction towards to her food. She stated that this restaurant was one of the only truly authentic Thai restaurants within Geneva, and its food reflectsyears of experience within Thai cuisine from its chefs. When asked about the vintage aspect of the restaurant, she stated that the vintage appearance is derived from the wooden attributes and dim lighting, which gives the restaurant an authentic Thai vibrance.

Overall, these five locations should be placed on the buket list of any vintage and retro admirer, and are all of walking distance from each other. Most are student friendly, and are all pleasant places to enjoy your time with friends.