Things to do in Geneva

Geneva is located in the westernmost corner of Switzerland on the border of France and is predominantly French speaking. It is known as the center of peace and diplomacy, being home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Geneva is a cosmopolitan city in the heart of Europe with a global reputation for finance, luxury shopping, and diverse ethnicity. Many exciting Swiss tours start and end in Geneva!

Shopping

Geneva has the reputation of luxury shopping and even ranks in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world. Shoppers will find all the latest luxury and international brands, as well as a good number of unusual boutiques and local specialties. Many stores are closed on Sundays except for the train station and the airport.

 
  • Rue du Rhône is a shopping mile in the city center with more elegant shops and luxury boutiques than anywhere else!  Shoppers with a desire for luxury will find watches, fashion, jewelry, and delicious treats from Geneva’s master chocolatiers. Geneva rivals Paris and London as a major shopping destination in Europe.

  • Rue du Mont Blanc isn’t quite as fashionable as the city center but there is a large selection of clothing and jewelry in this part of town. This is the best area to pick up souvenirs such as Swiss pocket knives, chocolates, and other Swiss knick-knacks

  • The Old Town is a great place to look for art and antiques. The Grand Rue is the primary shopping street but there are plenty of other shops on the outlining streets. Many antique shops are like museums filled with relics dating back to Geneva’s medieval days.

  • Outdoor Markets in Geneva there are open air markets that offer a great alternative to the high priced retail shops as well as a chance to mingle with the locals. In addition there is the flea market of Plainpalais which is one of Switzerland’s largest flea markets. If you are looking for local wares, produce, or bargain hunting then outdoor markets and flea markets are a great option.

 

Outdoor Attractions and Recreation

Geneva sits on the shores of Western Europe’s largest lake with a magnificent view of the French Alps and the Mont-Blanc range, which holds the highest peak in the Alps. Enjoying nature while staying in the heart of Geneva is possible, with a variety of outdoor attractions nearby. 

 
  • Geneva Lake is the largest body of water in Switzerland and offers ferryboats and leisure cruises set against a majestic landscape and mountain panoramas. Other water activities on the lake include paddle boating, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing and windsurfing.
  • Jet d'Eau de Genève is the lakeshore’s star attraction that dazzles visitors as it shoots water 140 meters into the sky. On the left bank of Lake Geneva there is the English Garden which is the most popular park in Geneva. The English Garden boasts great views of the Jet d’Eau and the harbor
  • Bains des Pâquis is a beautiful and very popular beach on the man-made jetty from the western bank into the Lake. There is a lighthouse at the end of peninsula and a great beach with plenty of places to sunbathe with good access to the water - through the rocks. It is free during the winter, 2CHF in the summer May 1st -September 14th .  
  • L’Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock) in Geneva is located near the lake at the corner of Jardin Anglais and is one of Switzerland’s most photographed sites. The clock features the world’s longest seconds-hand and was created for the first time in 1955. It contains about 6,500 flowers and plants that change according to the season. The flower clock actually tells time with Swiss precision that is transmitted by satellite and is a beautiful and functional outdoor attraction.
  • Mont-Salève is actually on French terrain but is a quick getaway from Geneva and is a breathtaking experience that no one should miss. It is just a few bus stops from the city center to the French border and a 5 minute ride up in the cable car where you can enjoy an extraordinary 360° view of the region. This is the perfect starting point for hiking, mountain biking, or a paragliding experience!
 

Cultural Attractions

Geneva is a historic city filled with a wide array of cultural attractions and international significance.

 

 
  • St. Pierre Cathedral – is a cathedral in Geneva Switzerland that is over 850 years old located in the Old Town. It is owned by the Reformed Protestant Church of Geneva and is well known for being the hone church of John Calvin. Entrance into the cathedral is free but you can pay a minimal fee to climb the north tower of the basilica which offers up an unique vista over the city and lake.
  • International Museum of the Red Cross – Geneva is the birthplace of the International Red Cross and houses the only museum dedicated to the history and work of this organization.
  • Palace of the United Nations –No trip to Geneva is complete without a visit to the European Headquarters of the United Nations. The extensive complex offers guided tours with unique insight into the workings of the world’s most important international body. Your tour guide will also inform you about current activities of the United Nations.
  • CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The building is 27 meters high and 40 meters in diameter and is about the size of the dome of Saint Peter’s in Rome! The Globe of Science and Innovation is a unique visual landmark by day and by night and is a symbol of the planet earth. Visitors can enjoy free admission to the world’s largest scientific center for research. Special tours are available on request.
  • Reformation Wallis built into the old city walls of Geneva, and overlooks the Parc des Bastions. It is close to the magnificent Place de Neuve in an exceptionally beautiful setting and the major figures of the Protestant Reformation are depicted as giant statues.
  • Patek Philippe Museum traces the evolution of watch making in Geneva as the world leader in the industry. The museum presents a vast 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.
 

Geneva Festivals

Festivals in Geneva are a fun way to enjoy local culture and festivities. Here is a sampling of some of the most well-known festivals during the year.

 
  • Geneva Marathon is a prestigious sporting event being held in Geneva every spring for UNICEF. Top runners from all over the world run side by side with local sports enthusiasts. But everyone who takes place is a winner. Come cheer for the racers or run in the race. (May)

  • Fete De La Musique  is Geneva’s largest music festival that features over 100 performances on display at more than 30 different outdoor venues spread throughout the city. There is something for everyone from jazz to reggae to trip-hop. There are a wide variety of food stalls and most of the concerts are free of charge. Feel free to dance your way through the streets from dusk until dawn and beyond. (June)

  • Lake Sailing Regatta on Lake Geneva is called The Rolex Bol d’Or and is Europe’s largest and most important sailing regatta with over 500 boats in competition annually. Hosted by the Societe Nautique de Geneve, the regatta has received increased attention on the world stage. (June)

  • Swiss national day — Celebrations are carried out in many cities in the evenings and fireworks are launched at night and you can watch them over the lake. (August 1st ) 

  • Fêtes De Genève - is the highlight of the summer and draws over 2 million visitors annually. For ten days the party rocks on along the shores of Lake Geneva with carnival rides, concerts, food stalls, variety shows and parades. Fireworks in the evenings are sponsored by a different firework company each night. The finale of the festival is the thrilling Techno Parade where each float is decked out with costumed dancers and blasting music that always gets the crowd going. (August)

  • L’Escalade in The Old Town commemorates the successful defense of the city against invasion in 1602 when the people of Geneva rallied to repel the Duke of Savoy and his mercenary gang. The festivities kick off on Sunday with a 5 mile race through the Old Town and culminate the following weekend with a torchlight procession of over 1000 marchers dressed in period costumes through the city to the steps of Saint Peter’s Cathedral. During the week there are exhibitions, concerts and shows celebrating different aspects of Geneva’s most triumphant victory. (December)

 
 

Cuisine

Some of Switzerland’s finest restaurants are found in Geneva. The city has over a 1000 restaurants representing 5 continents and more than 30 ethnic cuisines. Local specialties include fondue, raclette, lake fish dishes, smoked sausage, and a variety of international inspired dishes. Although many of Geneva’s most refined gourmet restaurants are quite pricey and formal, diners can still enjoy Geneva’s café culture at more reasonable prices. Geneva is truly a city with exceptional cuisine in addition to providing a sampling of many foods from around the world.  

     
 

Geneva Transport Card

Guests of a hotel, a youth hostel or a Geneva campsite receive the Geneva Transport Card. It entitles them to free public transportation. On the arrival floor at the airport, visitors can retrieve their free 80-minute ticket from a ticket machine in the luggage retrieval hall. During your stay in Geneva, you can use the entire Geneva transport network (UNIRESO: bus and tram (TPG), train (CFF) and taxi-boats (Mouettes Genevoises).  

 

Enjoy the contemporary city of Geneva for a pre- or post-trip stay, in addition to your Switzerland tour.