Geneva Tourism Information
Situated along the banks of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps, Geneva is recognised 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, featuring world class entertainment, top rated restaurants and unlimited opportunities for recreation in the beautiful nature that surrounds the city.
If you like a city which is organised, practical, efficient transport and has some of the best views of Europe, then Geneva won't disappoint you! It's an expensive city for many, but luckily it's size is just right to explore for a weekend or few days. For hikers and nature seekers, as well, it's the perfect destinations, all years round for sports.
The climate of Geneva is moderately continental, with cold winters and warm summers. The city is located at 400 meters above sea level, on the shores of the lake of the same name, which makes for colder winters than usual and hot summers with a feeling of more humidity. The daily average temperature ranges from 1 °C in January to 23.5 °C in July. but these temperatures can also reach as low as -8 °C in Winter and 30 °C in the Summer.
The best months to travel to Geneva are May to June and September to October, though Autumn tends to be wetter. If you want good temperatures all day round, and don't mind the busy and high season then July and August are also good months to travel.
Geneva is a great city by its reliable, frequent and easy connections, not only to Geneva city, but many people travel here to travel onwards to France or other cities in Switzerland, thanks to the quick trains and links from the airport and Geneva main station. (Geneva Gare Cornavin).
Arriving at the Airport, the best and cheapest way to travel to the city centre, is by train. All trains departing from / going to Genève-Aéroport station stop in the City Center at Geneva-Gare Cornavin station (7-minutes trip between the two stations).The best thing is that the ticket cost if FREE! Genève Aéroport offers passengers on arrival a free ticket to use public transport in Geneva during 80 minutes, including the journey by train Genève-Aéroport - Geneva-Gare Cornavin. It can be picked-up from the machine in the baggage reclaim area (Arrivals). Note, that after leaving the baggage claim area you won't be able to return to pick a ticket and then need to pay the normal price.
Also, it's possible to take the train from the airport, without a change to most Swiss cities like Bern, Bienne, Fribourg, Lausanne, Lucerne, Montreux, Neuchâtel, Sion, Vevey, Zurich, etc. Additionally, depending on your location, there are many local busses or regional buses operating from the airport to Geneva, France, or outside areas of Geneva. From the airport you can also take bus 5 or 10 to Geneva city centre.
Once in Geneva, the transport is very efficient. Comprises rail, busses, trams which are all integrated into the operating transport system of Geneva and are divided in Zones. Geneva city belongs to Zone 10 for example. (see map below). Single tickets cost CHF 3, valid for 60 minutes. Day unlimited tickets cost CHF 8. For more information on the transport and routes in Geneva check the offical website for transport: Unireso.com
Below you can find the transport maps for Geneva available to download:
Geneva's most famous monument, Jet d'Eau, is the world's tallest water fountain and provides a constant landmark for exploring the city. From there, visit Geneva's ancient Old Town, which offers a living glimpse of the past. If you want to explore further and learn more details about the city, you can visit Geneva's more than thirty museums and art galleries, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO). Later for a change of pace, you can take a cruise on the lake or relax in one of Geneva's main waterfront parks. Whatever your interest, Geneva has a wide range of options to keep you busy in the city, and outside of it, with plenty of trails, countryside scenery and mountain terrain ideal for sport lovers and active tourism.
Below you will find some of the highlights of the city:
- Et d'Eau: It's the biggest and tallest fountain in the world. The word literally means 'water jet'. Originally, in 1886 they built the fountain to control and release the excess pressure of a hydraulic plant at La Coulouvrenière. Shortly it became remarkable symbol of the city and so it was amplified and relocated to the center of the Lake. The Fountain presence gives the power to the place, every time you look on its majesty you are reminded that you are in the powerful and well organized country. Soon after being finished, the fountain became the symbol of strength, ambition and vitality of Geneva and Switzerland. Its strong engines pump 500 liters of water per second to the height of 140 meters. The best thing about the fountain is free to see! Also take advantage and stroll around The Lake, you can take a dip at Bains des Pâquis (entrance is CHF 2, but need to bring your own towel) or just relax in one of the lakeside parks or cafes. For a unique perspective on the city, take a one or two hour boat cruise around the lake. Starting at CHF 18 for an hour loop boat ride!Starting at CHF 18 for an hour loop boat ride!
- Geneva's Old Town: in French called Vieille Ville, is an ancient maze of small streets and picturesque squares, filled with quaint cafés, restaurants, galleries, museums and historical sights, lined by historical buildings adorned with beautiful masonry facades. You’re whisked a thousand years back into the times of ancient Geneva. Apart from famous St. Peter's Cathedral, the must see places are Maison Tavel and the Old Arsenal located in front, Place du Bourg-de-Four and The Treille Promenade. The altitude of Old Town is some 25 meters higher than the lake, so expect a little climb.
✔️Tip: take a walking tour: Taking one of the many "free" walking tours is a good way to explore the city and learn first hand from locals, about the rich culture and history of Geneva. The most popular tours are the one for the old town, which depart every day at 11.00am below the Tour de l'Île in the centre of the Square of Bel-Air. There is also another tour at 3pm for those interested in the United Nations headquarters and the international history of the city. For more info check with Freewalk.ch
- The United Nations Building and Red Cross Museum: Take a tour of the European Headquarters of the United Nations followed up by a visit to the Red Cross Museum across the street. Be sure to take note of the many sculptures as you wander the grounds in between including the “Broken Chair” monument to landmine victims at Place des Nations. The visitor entrance is 15 CHF for both the UN and the Red Cross Museum. To get there take bus number 5, 8, 2, F from Gare Cornavin to Nations bus stop, right next to the UN and famous square with Broken Chair). For the Red Cross Museum walk 5 min uphill from Nations bus stop or take bus 8, 20 or F to Appia stop.
- Carouge: Travelling across the L'Arve River, you will find the Bohemian burg of Carouge, modeled after Nice, France. It's filled with quaint boutiques where you can actually observe the artisans at work in their studios. Relax in one of Carouge's arty cafes or hang around until after dark to party in one the neighborhood’s famous jazz clubs. Getting there is easy by tram 12 or 18.
- Plainpalais Flea Market: Mingle with the locals at Geneva’s largest outdoor flea market. It opens every day except Monday and Thursdays, from 8am till 17.00pm. Antiques, records, vintage clothing and other curiosities await bargain hunters. Get there by tram number 12, 18 and bus 1.
- Salève: Mont Salève (in France) is an immense playground for sports lovers. It's the big mountain elevation you can see behind Geneva city. You can go paragliding, climbing, mountain biking, hiking… or cross-country skiing in winter. Nature lovers will enjoy the fresh air, the fauna and flora and the stunning vista of Geneva. On the south-east side, you can enjoy a view of the Alps with the Mont-Blanc in the background! To get there, take bus 8 to the last stop and walk 10 minutes to the entrance of the cable car. (cost is CHF 14.50 return). The cable car of Mont Salève carries you to an altitude of 1,100 metres in less than five minutes. Once up the top admire the views, have lunch at the restaurant at the top or hike around the many trails sign posted.
❗Attention: Hiking Salève takes a little physical exercise and time. There are numerous hiking trails from 30 min to more complex 3 hours round the top of the mountain. Take comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, sun lotion, water and cameras fully charged for the many pics you will take here there!
Geneva is home to more than thirty museums and galleries presenting a wide array of cultural and historical offerings. From the ultra modern Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to the ancient Maison Tavel. Geneva’s museums capture the full spectrum of the city’s history and major cultural influences. Free admission is offered the first Sunday of every month at most city sponsored museums and new exhibits are constantly updated throughout the year. Despite there being over 30 museums, the best and most interesting ones are listed below:
- Natural History Museum: This museum presents an educational look at the world of nature with special emphasis on the ecological history of Switzerland. Included is a life size model menagerie of bears, foxes, alligators, aardvarks and other animals from around the globe, as well as a complete collection of every mineral and plant indigenous to Switzerland. Free admission but Closed Mondays.
- Art and History Museum: It's the largest museum in Geneva, it's catalogue of western culture with over one million pieces in its collection organized in three different wings. The Archeology wing contains relics from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The Fine Arts wing houses paintings from the Renaissance onward including works by Van Gogh and Renoir. Finally, the Applied Arts wing features furniture, weapons and other articles of daily life from the Middle Ages. Free admission, but closed on Mondays. Free admission but Closed Mondays.
- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO): Located in an old factory building just away from Patek Philippe Museum, is a dynamic museum on the cutting edge of modern art in Europe. MAMCO constantly reinvents itself, updating not only its exhibits, but also its interior construction three times per year. The works of Marcel Duchamp, the inspiration for the museum, are on display year round. Admission 8 CHF, closed Mondays.
- Botanical Gardens and Conservatory: Open year round, the Botanical Gardens and Conservatory offers an escape from the winter blues or, in summer, a chance to experience one of the most comprehensive botanic collections in the world. The conservatory contains over 16,000 different plant species. There are many areas to discover on the grounds including a rock garden, an animal park and a garden of scent and touch. Free admission.
- Patek Philippe Museum: The Patek Philippe Museum traces the evolution of watch making in Geneva from its humble origins through to its current apogee as the world leader in the industry. The museum presents an evocative collection of timepieces dating back as far as the early 16th century, demonstrating the artistic and engineering prowess of Geneva’s past and present masters. Modern masterpieces from Patek Philippe’s latest collections are also on display as well as music boxes, pistols and other historic bibelots spread over the museum’s four floors. Admission 10 CHF.
- Marionette Museum: This joyful museum contains over 200 marionettes from 25 different countries. The museum hosts seminars on marionette construction and puts on weekly spectacles for children in its own Theatre du Reve. The shows are in French but quickly transcend all language barriers through their lively play. Admission 1.50 CHF.
- Olympic Museum: A short distance away from Geneva by car or bike, this Museum is a tribute to the history of the Olympic Games and the spirit which they embody. The museum is housed in a modern facility on the shores of Lake Geneva surrounded by panoramic views of the nearby Alps. Admission 14 CHF.
- Geneva Museum of Photography: Located in proximity to MAMCO, it's photography exhibitions are changing every time and are of more modern background.
- Tavel House, Maison Tavel: This old Geneva residence was destroyed by fire in 1334, but has since been restored by the city. The house contains artifacts of daily life in Geneva from the Middle Ages through the late 1800’s. The attic contains a scale model of pre-1850’s Geneva when walls still surrounded the city. Medieval graffiti in the basement of the house is a highlight for many visitors. Free admission.
- Rath Museum: Nicknamed "The Temple of the Muses", the Rath Museum was the first museum dedicated solely to the fine arts in Geneva in 1826. The building itself is an architectural triumph located at the seat of high culture in Geneva at Place Neuve near the city’s only remaining rampart walls. It contains classic examples of Swiss art, as well as an ongoing rotation of exhibits from all over Europe. Admission varies in price.
Geneva is the perfect home base for exploring the surrounding countryside. Whether you enjoy boating, hiking, biking, wine tasting or are looking for the ultimate Switzerland ski vacation, Geneva offers easy access to paradise as well as numerous organized tours. Day trips to the nearby towns of Montreux, Chamonix and Lausanne are also popular taking the train or the bus.
But if you are looking for something closer and less expensive, why not take the bus to the town of Hermance. It's 30 min away by bus from the bus stop of Rive. Take bus E to the last stop. Once there, walk around the traditional swiss town, sample some restaurants or simply walk along the lake side, admiring some impressive views.
Geneva does not have a big nightlife scene, which younger travellers might get disappointed for. The youth of the city tend to go to Lausanne, while the wealthy expats and local bankers frequent expensive restaurants and gentlemen's clubs in the city.
Having said that, the city's most lively area is the Plaine de Plainpalais, which features many student bars due to its proximity to the University of Geneva; and the Place du Bourgde Four, near the old Town Hall. The city certainly does have excellent classical music, opera and dance, particularly during the Fêtes de Genève arts festival in early August. Other entertainment options include gambling at the Casino de Divonne and Movenpick Casino on the outskirts of town.
For local listings, visitors should check out the free publication Genève-Agenda, available at the tourist office and hotels, and the quarterly La Clef magazine.
Tickets for concerts and shows can be bought from City-Disc at the train station or the UBS Ticket Corner. For a full listing of venues visit www.geneva.info/entertainment.
Shopping in Geneva is generally for Swiss jewellery, Swiss Army knives , watches, wine and chocolate being the most popular tourist buys. But among all the shopping malls and boutique-lined streets there are wonderful flea markets to discover, such as the Kane County Flea Market, which is held on the first weekend of each month. The clothes and book market on the Place de la Madeleine is also great for bargain hunting.
The main area for shopping in Geneva is the Rues Basses, which is made up of Rue du Rhône, Rue de la Confédération and Rue du Marché, where all the best clothing and jewellery can be found. Head down to the Place du Mulard and enjoy browsing in some of the city's most glamorous and expensive shops or, for antique lovers, head to the old town, the best area to shop for antiques and art.
A shopping trip in Geneva wouldn't be complete without the obligatory purchase of the world-renowned chocolates which can be bought from one of the many confectioneries all across the city, but for a real Swiss chocolate decadence head to La Chocolaterie Rohr on Rue du Rhône and Place du Molard.
The same as all Switzerland, staying in Hotels is not cheap or affordable for many pockets. Hotels are good standard all around and even basic hotels can have small rooms starting at €80 per night! Central hotels to the city centre are around €100-150.
For a more budget conscious traveller, consider staying in France, close to the border with Switzerland which will bring the prices down substantially, despite you need to take transport every day. Also Airbnb will offer better prices if you don't mind having a private room with shared bathroom. Hostels are not that popular in Geneva, but dorms can be found for around €30 a night.
Despite the cost associated with Switzerland, Geneva is not a big city where you need to stay very long to discover it. Walking around the city, seeing it's main sites and old town can be done in a day, with the help of the public transport. Can't miss a trip to Salève, which requires half day trip! Going to the many museums and galleries will take additional time to take in all the history and culture. In all, a 3 night stay in Geneva to take in most of the highlights and not break the budget would be enough.
Geneva Photo Slide 📷