https://d3bh42nbn61wza.cloudfront.net/DestinationBanner/2ab0f20e.jpg

Geneva

What's Popular In Geneva

  • Currency: Euro(EUR)
  • Language: Français-Switzerland

Geneva is a city in Switzerland that lies at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Geneva at the foot of the Alps, Geneva sparkles as one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Home to the European headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva has a long history of diversity and tolerance dating back to the Protestant Reformation. Today, the city of Geneva is a cultural center second to none featuring world class entertainment, top rated restaurants and unlimited opportunities for recreation.

Best Time to Travel

June to August: The best time to visit Geneva is during the summer months when the weather is mild and breezy. Summers in Switzerland usually boast plenty of sun, though rain is just as common. Although this is also the most crowded season, it is the best time to enjoy a cruise on Lake Geneva. Plan your Geneva summer vacation around two key festivals - Lake Parade (July) and Fêtes de Genève (August). 

September to November: If you are in for pleasant winters in Geneva, then this period will suit you just fine. The temperature dips to an average of 10 to 12 degrees Celcius. You will be spared from the tourist rush and the prices will also seem lighter on your pocket!

December to April: Two things happen in Geneva during winters - Bone-chilling winds blow in from Lake Geneva and the snow-blanketed Alps draw in mountain fans. The temperature can go as low as -2 degrees Celsius. That said, skiing enthusiasts throng the region to indulge in adventure activities near the Jungfraujoch region. So be sure to book your hotel at least three months in advance.

May to June: Spring season is pleasant in Geneva and the temperature ranges from 15 to 20 degrees Celcius. Geneva’s springtime weather is generally agreeable, if not slightly chilly, with the exception of stiflingly hot winds that occasionally blow through low-lying valleys. 

Transportation

The best ways to get around Geneva are on foot and by tram – the city is a small 6 square miles and is easily navigated. In addition to covering tram services, the city's free Geneva Transport Card for tourists can also be used on water taxis, trains and buses, but these services are often slower or less convenient than walking or taking the tram. Taxis can be hailed as well, though you'll pay a premium to use them. Driving in the city center is not necessary and will generally be more of a nuisance than a convenience due to limited parking and rush hour traffic.

If you're getting to Geneva via Genève Aéroport (GVA), plan on grabbing a free 80-minute train ticket from baggage claim's Transports publics genevois (TPG) vending machine. The journey to downtown's Genève train station will take you approximately 10 minutes.

On Foot 

Geneva is very pedestrian-friendly. When you take into account the beautiful scenery, the cost (free!) and all the exercise you'll get, it really is the best way to get around. Keep in mind, though, that traveling across the Rhône River to reach attractions not near your hotel will require using public transportation or another mode of transportation.

Tram

Transports publics genevois, Geneva's public transportation provider, offers multiple tram lines that run throughout the city. Popular routes include No. 15 (which stops by the Palace of Nations, the Pâquis Baths and the Conservatory and Botanical Garden Geneva on the Rive Droite) and the No. 12 (which is convenient for reaching Rive Gauche sights like the Museum of Natural History and St-Pierre Cathedral Geneva). Fares start at 2 Swiss francs (about $2) per person, but if you stay at a hotel, hostel or campsite in Geneva, you will be given a Geneva Transport Card at check-in. 

Train

Though TPG's trains don't make as many stops in the city center as trams, they are the best way to get to and from the airport. Free tickets, valid for up to 80 minutes, are available at the airport's baggage claim; train rides within zone 10 are also complimentary when you present a Geneva Transport Card. 

Water Taxi

Les Mouettes – which means "seagulls" in French – are yellow water taxis that scuttle across Lake Geneva, from the Rive Droite to the Rive Gauche. Operated by Mouettes genevoises, these boats depart every 10 minutes and are available for four routes; water taxi terminals tourists would most likely use include Genève-Jardin-Anglais (which sits near Old Town and the Jet d'Eau) and Genève-Eaux-Vives (which is across the street from The Grange Park). One-way trips cost 2 Swiss francs ($2) per person, while rides lasting up to 60 minutes cost 3 Swiss francs ($3) per person. 

Bus

Multiple buses are available in the city center, but Geneva's congested roads during rush hour make using them more of a headache than a convenience. Plus, many share routes with trams, which are a faster way of getting around. If you do decide to use the bus system, you can show your Geneva Transport Card to qualify for free rides. Travelers without these cards will be charged at least 2 Swiss francs ($2) per ride.

Taxi

The drivers are polite and keep their vehicles clean, but the prices are exorbitant. Cab meters start at 6.30 Swiss francs (or less than $7), with an additional 7.40 Swiss francs charged for every kilometer (or about $12 per mile) traveled. For rides between midnight and 6 a.m., expect to pay roughly $0.60 Swiss francs (70 cents) more for each kilometer. Extra charges apply for pieces of luggage. Keep in mind that rates are often rounded up to the nearest franc. Reserving a taxi can be done by phone or by hailing one at a taxi stand. The Uber ride-hailing service is also available in Geneva.

Attractions

Lake Geneva

The largest lake in Central Europe brings the drama and awe-inspiring natural splendour of the Alps to the centre of the city. Nobody could blame you for wanting to get out and experience it, and the easiest way to do that is to catch a boat from the quay at Genève-Mt-Blanc.

These shoot off to a host of places on the shores of the lake: You could keep it local on a “mouette”, shuttling to the other side of the city, or go long distance and cruise to Lausanne in three hours. The lake’s beauty has affected the design of the city itself, as a promenade was built around the shore in the mid-19th century. Next to the water are tree-lined promenades with palatial townhouses or serene parks like Eaux-Vives, Jardin Anglais, Perle du Lac or Mon Repos.

Jet D’Eau

At the city centre, where the Rhône continues on its course into France is La Rade (The Roadstead). Here, at the end of a long jetty, is a much-imitated monument known the world over. The Jet d’Eau is five hundred litres of water per second propelled to a height of 140 metres.

If you do want to get a closer look, take care as the plume is susceptible to the wind and you may get wet. The jet has been at its present spot since 1951, and originally had an important practical use: It started in 1886 as a safety valve for the hydraulic power plant, and became a permanent monument as the city loved the way it looked.

Vielle Ville

Allow a couple of hours to satisfy your curiosity in the largest historic centre in Switzerland. The Vielle Ville twists around the hill capped by the cathedral and was once enveloped by defensive walls.

Getting around on these steep cobblestone streets and stairways is tiring but worthwhile: The old centre is densely packed with intriguing little corners, fountains, terraces with lookouts, as well as places of real historic value. The 18th-century polymath Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born here, while Bourg-de-Four has a row of evocative historic houses on a friendly square where cattle markets traded in medieval times.

CERN

West of the centre of Geneva, in the suburb of Meyrin, you’ll come to the headquarters for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Needless to say, this is where historic scientific experiments are being conducted at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

The visitor centre offers tours of parts of the facility explaining the mind-bending science in more digestible terms. There are also two museum exhibitions about the facility and its research. One explains the current practical applications of CERN’s work, in the field of medical imaging for instance. And the other goes into detail on the particle accelerator and the hunt for the Higgs boson.

Patek Philippe Museum

An early 20th-century factory is the stage for a museum delving into five centuries of watchmaking. The star is the amazing exhibition of musical automata, watches and portrait miniatures from the 1500s to the 1900s, mostly assembled in Geneva and Switzerland.

But you can also track the origins of Patek Philippe, set up in 1845 by a partnership between the watchmakers Antoni Patek from Poland and Frenchman Adrien Philippe. On the ground floor are reconstructions of workbenches with all of the instruments needed to make a timepiece, and you can even see a watch-maker on the job in a workshop.

Palais Des Nations

After New York, Geneva has the second most important United Nations office. The Palais des Nations dates to the 1930s and was the headquarters for the League of Nations, the UN’s predecessor.

The complex is in constant use, hosting thousands of intergovernmental meetings each year, but is open for hour-long guided tours in 15 different languages. Your level of access is contingent on the meeting schedule, but typically will involve the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, the immense Assembly Hall, the Salle des Pas Perdus and the Council Chamber, where epoch-making negotiations have taken place between nations.

Art And History Museum

At Les Tranchées in the centre of the city, this attraction has vast exhibitions of fine arts, applied arts and archaeology. The museum’s forte is Swiss and Genevan art, and you can immerse yourself in the work of the portraitist Jean-Étienne Liotard or caricaturist Rodolphe Töpffe.

The work that must not be missed is the 15th-century Miraculous Draft of Fishes by Konrad Witz. This was on an altarpiece at St Pierre Cathedral and is credited as being the first ever faithful depiction of a landscape in European art. Byzantine icons, textiles, silverware and musical instruments are in the applied arts section, while the archaeology collection stands out for its 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy.

What to Do

Explore the Old Town

The most traditionally scenic part of the city is Geneva’s Old Town, clustered on a hill around the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre and the pretty pedestrian Place du Bourg-de-Four. It’s well worth a potter for its independent boutiques including La Muse, Jill Wolf Jewels and Septième Etage, its pretty architecture, its numerous cafés and restaurants, and the chance to people-watch over a coffee at La Clémence. Delve into Geneva’s history with a visit to the archaeological remains beneath the cathedral, before wandering along the promenade for lovely views of the Bastions park below and the Jura mountain range in the distance.

Rummage in the Plainpalais fleamarket

On Saturday mornings there’s no better place to be than the Plaine de Plainpalais, which hosts one of Switzerland’s biggest and best flea markets. From bric-a-brac to vintage clothes, second-hand toys to ethnic jewellery, plus larger pieces of furniture, a regular rummage among the hundreds of stalls could rustle you up a real one-off. When you’ve worn yourself out, prolong the vintage vibe by heading to 1930s café and ice-cream parlour Remor to watch the world go by from its outdoor terrace.

See Geneva’s Italian side in Carouge

Just a short tram ride from the centre of Geneva it feels as though you’ve stepped into a different country – and you kind of have. This area was developed by Italians from Turin in the 18th century, and as such is architecturally Italian in style, all stone archways, painted shutters and red roofs. Its outsider status attracts artisans and bohemians in droves, and a wander around its streets will throw up second-hand bookshops, markets, antique restorers, glass blowers, watchmakers and indie clothes designers. Hunt out vintage designer togs at posh second-hand shop Numéro 6, get interior design ideas at Teo Jakob and find classy children’s clothes and treats at Boutique O-Little-Top. When you’re all shopped out, the area has a vast number of bistros, cafés and restaurants offering a much more relaxed vibe than the centre of town, including tapas and cocktail bar Le Cheval Blanc.

Pamper yourself at the Bains des Pâquis

Geneva has tons of spas way more luxurious than the Bains des Pâquis, but none are as interesting, kitsch or reasonably-priced as this 1930s public swimming baths, set on Lake Geneva. Open year-round, it’s great for a dip, sauna, massage, fondue or a cheap lunch in friendly, casual surroundings. Plenty of events take place year-round, including early-morning music and poetry readings in summer. 

Head into the mountains

Geneva’s proximity to numerous ski resorts in Switzerland and France is one of its main selling points, but you don’t need to neglect the city altogether on a skiing break, as it’s entirely possible to head off for a day’s skiing and be back in town by the evening. The pretty French resorts of Samoëns, La Clusaz and Chamonix are just an hour away, while St Cergue, in the Swiss Jura, is even closer. And they’re not just good for skiing. Head off in summer to sample hiking, paragliding, summer tobogganing and mountain biking, or cast off your downhill skis in winter in favour of snowshoeing, sledging, cross-country skiing or ice skating on the frozen Lac de Joux, just 90 minutes drive away.

Go spoilt-for-choice shopping

It’s not hard to flex your plastic in Geneva’s shops, even if it may be safer to stick to window shopping. If you’ve got the reddies, head for the flashy Rue du Rhône to browse the high-end clothes boutiques, watchmakers and jewellery shops, including designer emporium L’Apollinaire, or head to Bon Génie, the Harvey Nicks of Geneva, which is crammed with labels. A more realistic shopping experience in the city centre is department store Globus, where you could spend hours browsing the clothes, homeware and cosmetics.