If Zurich and Bern impress with the quaint beauty of thousands of years old cities, Geneva city attracts tourists by the gentle and quiet life as the name “peace capital” of the world. Coming to Geneva, you will be immersed in a quiet space and vibrant atmosphere of the city known as the most famous tourist destination – A Mecca of Switzerland. So, is Geneva worth visiting, what to do in Geneva and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Geneva for the first-time? Let’s check out our Geneva travel blog (Geneva blog) with the fullest Geneva travel guide (Geneva guide, Geneva Switzerland travel guide, Geneva Switzerland guide) from how to get there, best time to visit Geneva, where to stay, best places to visit, what to eat and top things to do in Geneva to find out the answer!
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Geneva – one of the most peaceful cities in the world, home of the treaties, is one of those places worth visiting at least once in your life. In addition to the bustling shopping streets, buildings of prestigious international organizations, you can also admire the beautiful nature with the vast Lake Leman, lush greenery parks and the tallest fountain in the world…
Geneva is located in southwestern Switzerland, its south towards the summit of Mount Blanc – the highest mountain in the Alps. Located near Lake Geneva where the poetic Rhône river flows through, this city is divided into two parts with the left bank being the ancient city and the modern city on the right, on the river there are 8 bridges connecting the two sides. Geneva is surrounded by mountains and lakes, so the climate is mild all year round, a picturesque place with green mountains, cool water of lakes, so it is called the “Mecca” of tourists.
Geneva travel blog: Overview of Geneva
The city of Geneva is located in the extreme southwestern of Switzerland, along the shores of Europe’s largest lake, Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), at the mouth of the Rhone, bordered by the Jura Mountains to the west and the Alps in the east. Referring to this beautiful city, there are many unique things such as: Impressive museums, ancient town, home of watches and chocolate… Although only it is a small city but extremely developed and rich. Geneva is the second most populous city in Switzerland (after Zürich) and the most populous city in Romandy, the French-speaking region of Switzerland and it is the capital of the state of Geneva.
Geneva is also the most “cosmopolitan” city in Europe with over 40% of its population coming from outside Switzerland. Geneva is a very important financial and diplomatic center not only of Switzerland but also of entire Europe, with many international organizations in Geneva including the United Nations and the Red Cross. The main industries in this city are banking, technology and tourism. Although Geneva is not as brilliant as Italy’s Rome, not as romantic as the French capital Paris, it is the friendliness of the people and the peaceful, gentle life of this city that attracts tourists to Geneva.
Switzerland has three official languages: French, German and Italian. French is the main language spoken in Geneva, but most people here speak at least one other language. English is spoken by about a quarter of the local population and the majority of foreigners. When dealing with locals, it’s a good idea to start in French, even if it’s just a greeting, before moving on to English.
Geneva blog: When is the best time to visit Geneva?
Geneva has a temperate oceanic climate divided into four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter with cold winters and quite hot summers. Each season brings different beauty for visitors to explore and feel. Winter is not too cold, there is light fog in the evening; autumn has a little more rain than other seasons. Therefore, you can come to Geneva at any time of the year.
Spring (from March to May): Spring with moderately cold, the following months are warmer, the temperature ranges from 15 – 20°C. This is the time when nature shows its brilliant beauty and the landscape comes to life. It is also a very beautiful and romantic season to travel. Spring is the season for Electronic Concerts and the Geneva Marathon in Geneva.
Summer (from June to August): Summer weather is mild, sunny, little rainfall, very comfortable. The weather at this time is hotter but the daytime temperature usually does not exceed 32 degrees Celsius, sometimes at night the temperature can still be quite low due to the wind blowing from the lake. This is the peak tourist season in Geneva. Coming to Geneva in the summer, visitors can experience and participate in famous festivals such as Fêtes de Genève (August) and Lake Parade (July) on Lake Geneva.
Autumn (from September to November): At this time Geneva becomes a bit chilly, windy and drizzly. The temperature will now drop to around 10 – 12°C. Autumn is a time when the natural scenery changes, is romantic and extremely charming, many visitors choose to come to Geneva in the autumn.
Winter (from December to February): Winter temperature starts to drop, the weather is colder. The weather at this time will have rain or snowfall, the temperature can drop as low as -2°C. This is the time when many tourists participate in mountain skiing activities as well as celebrate Christmas and New Year in the city.
In particular, the mountains near Geneva can be covered with snow all year round, which is very suitable for skiing and other snow activities in many world-famous ski resorts such as Verbier and Crans-Montana are less than three hours from the city center by car.
Geneva travel guide: How to get to Geneva?
There is one airport in Geneva, Geneva Cointrin International Airport. If you want to choose a flight to Geneva you can go to Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak to find the best flight routes as well as hunting cheap airfare base on your departure point.
There are many ways to get to Geneva by various different vehicles such as trains or bus. Access here to find more information.
Geneva Switzerland travel guide: Getting around Geneva
Like many other capitals in Europe, Geneva public transport is very developed and convenient. This city is very small and nice, so it does not take you too long to traveling between tourist spots. You can choose bus, tram or boat.
The Geneva public transport network is named UNIRESO. This is a connection system between trams, buses (TPG), trolley buses, mouettes (yellow shuttle boats) and trains (CFF). The entire public transport system in the city uses the same ticket. The convenient and fast transportation system can take locals and tourists alike to anywhere in the city.
There is also another very interesting way to get around in Geneva that is by bicycle. The most popular service for renting bicycles in Geneva is Genève Roule, located at several points across the city, with the main rental location at Gare Cornavin station. You only need to bring your passport to make a car rental contract.
Taxi: Always on the street to serve you, can wave directly or book a car by phone. Drivers are required by law to speak English. Remember to watch out for price increases at night, sundays and holidays.
Tips: You should buy a Geneva Pass, this is a card that allows you to explore Geneva unlimitedly and save maximum costs here, including visiting more than 50 attractions in Geneva, and free public transport service in Geneva. There are passes that can be used for 24, 48, 72 hours depending on the length of your stay here.
Geneva travel blog: Where to go, what to do in Geneva?
The Jet d’Eau Fountain (The Geneva Water Fountain)
Address: Quai Gustave-Ador, 1207 Genève, Switzerland
The Jet d’Eau fountain is definitely an iconic image that is conjured up in many people’s minds when they think of Geneva. This fountain is the tallest fountain in the world at about 140 meters and was originally installed, not for aesthetics, but as a safety valve for the local hydraulic network, but today it is a popular attraction for many visitors.
The Old Town
This neighborhood is famous for its cobblestone slopes and alleys lined with cafes, shops and historical landmarks. The old Roman market is the oldest public square in Geneva and is still in operation today and is surrounded by pubs, bars, terraces…
Geneva’s old town is a “maze” of steep cobblestone streets and alleys filled with cafes, shops and historic landmarks. Walking around the old town, visit famous places such as Bourg-de-Four, Hotel De Ville or Treille walking street…
The 15th-century Hotel De Ville still serves as the seat of government in Geneva and has been the site of many political milestones including the first convening of the Geneva Conventions in 1864 and the founding of the League of Nations in 1920.
The Treille pedestrian street to the south of the Old Town was once an artillery piece and today it offers stunning views of the city.
Saint Peter’s Church
Address: 1891 Kaneville Rd, Geneva, IL 60134, United States
Standing tall in the old town in the heart of the city, Saint Peter’s Church is Geneva’s oldest and most impressive architectural treasure. The construction of the church was started in 1160 and took more than 400 years to complete after going through many changes as well as fires throughout the years. The north tower of the church is where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from above, especially, in the basement of the church there is also an archaeological museum documenting the excavation of artifacts found below the church, some dating from 350 AD.
Over the years, the appearance of the church has changed quite a bit, but it is still considered the oldest and most impressive architectural treasure in Geneva.
United Nations Building
Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Genève, Switzerland
Hours: 10AM–12PM, 2–4PM/Saturday, Sunday: Closed
No trip to Geneva is complete without a visit to the United Nations Headquarters in Europe. This is the United Nations office in Europe. When visiting this site, visitors will gain insight into the activities of the international organization considered the most important in the world. The highlight of the United Nations building is the hall with 2,000 seats, the council room decorated with gold wall paintings depicting the struggles for world peace.
It is a world famous lake because the lake is located in the center of Geneva city. In the middle of the lake is a fountain called Jet d’Eau, in favorable weather conditions, the fountain can spray water up to 140 meters high. This fountain is a prominent symbol of Geneva. Around the lake, there are many interesting things for visitors to explore such as cafes, parks, markets, entertainment areas and especially the giant flower clock on the east bank of the lake.
Located in the middle of the waters of the Le Rhone River, this island has a very small area but attracts tourists by its bird sanctuary and a restaurant with a beautiful space.
Pointe De La Jonction
Address: Sent. des Saules 3, 1205 Genève, Switzerland
Pointe de la Jonction is where the Rhone and Arve rivers meet in Geneva. The waters of the rivers come in two different colors (brown and green), and when they come together at the junction, their waters blend together beautifully and enchantingly.
Geneva Ferris Wheel
This is an extremely enjoyable experience to be able to admire the whole beautiful landscape of Geneva from the air in 5 minutes. Ticket price: adults 6 CHF, children 3 CHF and free for children under 1 year old. Open from noon until evening every day.
Located just 20km from the center of Geneva and one of the most popular attractions in Geneva and Switzerland, the majestic Mont Saleve mountain is a popular day trip destination for many visitors. Coming here, you will have great experiences such as climbing mountains, enjoying the fresh air and watching the majestic and beautiful natural scenery…
Geneva has more than thirty different museums and galleries. From the ultra-modern Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art to the ancient Maison Tavel, Geneva’s museums are like books that capture the entirety of history and major cultural influences of the city.
In addition to the two museums mentioned above, other famous museums must be mentioned such as: Natural History Museum, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, Art and History Museum, Botanical Gardens and Conservatory, Patek Philippe Museum, Barbier-Mueller Museum, Marionette Museum…
Patek Philippe Museum
Address: Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, 1205 Genève, Switzerland
Hours: 2–6PM/Saturday, Sunday: 10AM–6PM/Monday: Closed
Switzerland is a home to luxury and high-end watch brands and Patek Philippe is a famous Swiss watch brand. Visiting the Patek Philippe museum, visitors will learn about the history of Swiss watches. The museum was founded in 1845, it is home to the collections of antique Swiss watches and Patek Philippe watches over the past 175 years.
International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Address: Av. de la Paix 17, 1202 Genève, Switzerland
Hours: 10AM–6PM/Monday: Closed
The International Museum of the Red Cross was first opened in 1988 and is one of the top museums in Geneva. Modern-style exhibitions have brought unique experiences to viewers about the history of this organization as well as its mission, milestones…
Address: Espl. des Particules 1, 1211 Meyrin, Switzerland
Hours: 8AM–6PM/Sunday: Closed
The physical museums in Geneva have many exhibitions with miniature models that bring extremely interesting experiences.
Clock Flower (L’horloge Fleurie)
Address: Quai du Général-Guisan 28, 1204 Genève, Switzerland
Surely you know that Swiss wristwatches are among the most luxurious, best and most expensive in the world, right? That is why the flower watch was created in 1955 as a symbol of the watchmakers of the city of Geneva. This clock is located on the west side of the Jardin Anglais park. In particular, the decorative flowers for the clock are real flowers and will be changed according to the season, every few months will be decorated again.
Plainpalais Flea Market
Plainpalais Flea Market located in South Geneva. Come here every Sunday, you’ll find dried fruit, nuts, cheese, jam, and more. And if you come on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you’ll find everything from books, clothes, decorations and tools…
Attend a festival in Geneva
Geneva is home to many unique Swiss festivals. One of the biggest festivals is the Fete de la Musique, held at the end of June every year, with musicians from all over the world attending. In winter, the festival of giants is held in memory of the Geneva’s fight against the army of the Duke of Savoy, held in December.
Geneva blog: What to eat?
Famous dishes and specialties in Geneva that you should enjoy when visiting this city include: fondue (cheese hot pot), bircherműesli (cereal mixed with fruit), bundnernusstorte (a type of Swiss biscuit) ), rosti (chips), smoked sausages and casseroles… Not only the local food, being a cosmopolitan city, Geneva also offers visitors the chance to taste the food from all over the world.
Cheese fondue hotpot: Cheese is melted with ingredients such as garlic, wine, cornstarch,… When enjoying, you can use sliced bread to dip into the cheese pot to feel the delicious taste of the dish.
Rösti: Potatoes are fried or baked with fried eggs, spinach or sausages. The dish is used potatoes as the main ingredient, fried or baked to bring up the aroma of the dish. When enjoying, you can serve with fried eggs, spinach or sausages to enhance the rich flavor.
Bűndnernusstorte: This is a traditional pastry of Geneva made from simple ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, butter, walnuts… but has an extremely attractive taste because of its unique processing. You can serve the Bűndnernusstorte cake with a cup of tea or coffee to enjoy the fullest flavor.
Berner platte: The dish is a mixed meat dish with many types of meat such as: sausage, smoked meat, pork tongue, beef… creating a variety of flavors for the dish.
Besides, Geneva is famous for many typical street food truck dishes such as: The Hamburger Foundation (American burger), Truck F (bread), Funky BBQ (smoked ribs, pork bread and craft beer), Elsalad (salads and rolls) and Debi’s Kitchen…
Geneva is also a paradise of cakes and cocktails with impeccable taste, the decoration is also very pretty. Don’t forget to enjoy chocolate or buy it as a gift for relatives and friends.
Geneva travel blog: Where to eat?
Café du Soleil
As a good place to eat in Geneva always attracts a lot of diners to dine. The menu at the restaurant is very diverse and rich, but the most prominent is still the traditional fondue hot pot (with cheese from Roche village) and the fruit wines that have made the restaurant’s name. However, because the restaurant area is quite modest, and the diners come to it is crowded, to avoid the situation of running out of seats, you should go to the restaurant a little early and avoid holidays and weekends.
Address: Pl. du Petit-Saconnex 6, 1209 Genève, Switzerland
Les Armures Restaurant
With a unique design, the restaurant was built in the style of 17th century Italian architecture, creating an impressive highlight for visitors. Most especially, it is an extensive menu, with many delicious dishes and famous specialties in Switzerland, so you can easily discover the cuisine of this land. Some dishes at the restaurant you can refer to such as: Raclette, optional fondue hotpots with soup, pasta or with meat and fish dishes…
Address: Rue du Soleil-Levant, 1204 Genève, Switzerland
Bayview by Michel Roth – Hôtel Président
The restaurant has advantages such as: beautiful view, simple but luxurious design, affordable price and rich menu, so it has attracted a large number of diners. The dishes at the restaurant are made from local ingredients, so you can be assured of the quality. Some outstanding dishes at the restaurant such as: Sea snails, traditional pork sausages, wines, etc.
Address: Quai Wilson 47, 1201 Genève, Switzerland
Hours: 12–1:30PM, 7–9:30PM/Monday, Sunday: Closed
With a diverse menu, along with creative dishes from Indian cuisine, the restaurant has made a difference. More specifically, the dishes here are all prepared by the famous chef Vineet Bhatia, who has won many awards in cooking. Some outstanding dishes at the restaurant must be mentioned such as: salmon tandoori, salmon chutney, chicken with black pepper sauce…
Address: Rue Jacques-Dalphin 54, 1227 Carouge, Switzerland
Hours: 12–2PM, 6:30–10:30PM/Monday, Sunday: Closed
Geneva travel guide: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel Bristol Geneve – Boutique & Design Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Eastwest Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Eden Geneve (Agoda, Booking)
- NH Geneva Airport (Agoda, Booking)
- InterContinental Geneve, an IHG Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Beau-Rivage Geneve (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel d’Angleterre (Agoda, Booking)
- Warwick Geneva (Agoda, Booking)
Geneva blog: Some notes before traveling to Geneva
- Geneva is an expensive tourist city, so to save money, visitors need to book early flight tickets, book hotel rooms in advance.
- The public transport system in Geneva has no conductors, no staff to check tickets, but it all depends on people’s sense of self-discipline. You can buy bus tickets at ticket vending machines.
- The main currency in Geneva is the Swiss Franc. Besides, most restaurants, bars, cafes… accept Euros but you will most likely have to pay a premium. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are everywhere.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Geneva you can refer to
- Sightseeing Cruise in Geneva
- Panoramic Winery Private Tour from Geneva
- Glacier 3000 and Montreux Day Tour from Geneva
- Chamonix Mont Blanc Day Tour from Geneva
- Geneva City Tour with Optional Boat Cruise and/or Annecy Tour
- Geneva Pass
- Annecy Half Day Tour from Geneva
- Geneva Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Read more Switzerland guide here.