Where the beautiful Lake Geneva meets the majestic peaks of the Alps and Jura mountains, you’ll find Geneva. Offering a mix of natural beauty and cosmopolitan sophistication, things to do in Geneva are plentiful, including historic landmarks, museums, lake adventures, luxurious shopping, and world-class dining.
Geneva is known as a global hub for diplomacy, housing the headquarters of numerous major international organizations, including the United Nations and the Red Cross.
Almost half of Geneva’s residents were born outside of Switzerland, reflecting the city’s global character and diverse cultural influences. Seventy-two percent of the population speaks French, while only 4% speak English.
How to Get to Geneva, Switzerland
There are several different ways to get to Geneva. If traveling from outside Europe, flying into the Geneva Airport is the best way to get to the city. The airport is about 10 minutes from the heart of Geneva, making it a quick car, bus, or train ride to the city center.
If you plan to travel to Geneva from within Europe or the country of Switzerland, you have transportation options, such as flying, driving, taking the train, or opting for a bus. Taking the train is incredibly convenient, with a stop at the Geneva Cornavin Station in the city’s heart.
For those inclined to take the bus, the recommended stop is Place De Neuve. Another option is to rent a car as Switzerland has some of the most scenic roads that are well-maintained.
Best Time to Visit Geneva, Switzerland
Peak Season (June-August): Geneva’s prime tourism months are summer. It’s an excellent season to visit the city, offering the perfect opportunity to experience Lake Geneva. It’s also an ideal time for hiking in the nearby Swiss Alps. The weather is lovely in the summer; you can generally expect temperatures to range between the low 50s and upper 70s°F.
Shoulder Season (September-November and March-May): Geneva experiences its shoulder seasons in spring and autumn, each offering a unique charm. During spring, temperatures typically range from the mid-40s to mid-60s°F. It’s the perfect time to wander through the city, witness the blossoming flowers, and stroll through its numerous parks. In autumn, temperatures typically span from the mid-30s and low 70s°F, offering an excellent setting for hiking and experiencing fall foliage. Both seasons present a unique and enjoyable experience in Switzerland with mild weather and fewer crowds.
Off Season (December-February): Winter in Geneva signifies the off-season, bringing chilly weather with temperatures ranging from the upper 20s to the mid-40s°F. The city often experiences snowfall during these months, creating a picturesque winter landscape. This time of year is perfect for wandering around Christmas markets and savoring Switzerland’s renowned hot chocolate. It also provides an ideal opportunity to venture to the mountains and partake in winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Where to Stay in Geneva, Switzerland
Eaux-Vives: Known for its beautiful parks, including the famous Parc La Grange, Eaux-Vives is ideal for those who enjoy nature and serene environments. It’s also close to Lake Geneva, providing easy access to the iconic Jet d’Eau fountain.
Les Pâquis: This vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhood is perfect for foodies and nightlife enthusiasts. It’s close to the main train station and offers a range of dining options, from street food to high-end restaurants.
Carouge: Offering a bohemian and artistic vibe, Carouge is like stepping into a Mediterranean town. Its Italian-influenced architecture, charming cafes, and boutique shops make it a delightful area for a more laid-back and culturally rich experience.
Plainpalais: Ideal for younger travelers or those interested in the arts, Plainpalais is known for its flea markets, hip cafes, and proximity to the University of Geneva. It’s a lively area with a more local feel.
Things to Do in Geneva, Switzerland
Things to do in Geneva, Switzerland, are plentiful, from leisurely lakeside walks to many landmarks, museums, and galleries. The city’s vibrant atmosphere is complemented by its calendar of events and festivals, which celebrate everything from international cinema to local cuisine.
Visit The Geneva Water Fountain
Jet d’Eau is one of Geneva’s most iconic landmarks, a fountain that propels water to an astonishing height of 460 feet, which can be seen from many vantage points across the city. Located at the point where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone River, it’s a favorite spot for locals and tourists to stroll along the lakefront and take photos, especially at sunset.
Cruise Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva presents a canvas of activities where vacationers can take scenic cruises to soak in the panoramic views of the surrounding Alps and vineyard-covered hillsides. The lake’s clear waters offer water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, providing a refreshing escape during the warmer months. Along its shores, you can enjoy leisurely pursuits like picnics in the park, visiting lakeside vineyards, or peaceful strolls.
Go Up Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre
Visiting the Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre in Geneva offers a journey through history, where you can marvel at its blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Its stained glass windows captivate visitors, while its rich history, dating back to the 12th century, offers a deep dive into Geneva’s religious and cultural evolution. Climbing the tower’s narrow staircase rewards with a breathtaking panorama of Geneva, providing a unique perspective of the city and Lake Geneva.
Explore Old Town Geneva
Old Town Geneva is a treasure trove of history, where you can meander through narrow cobblestone streets, exploring quaint boutiques and charming cafes. The Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva’s oldest square, is a must-visit, pulsating with vibrant markets and surrounded by bistros offering a taste of local cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to see the Maison Tavel, Geneva’s oldest house turned museum, which provides a unique glimpse into the city’s medieval past.
Tour the Palais des Nations
The Palais des Nations stands as a symbol of diplomacy, serving as the European headquarters of the United Nations and playing host to important international affairs. You can take a guided tour to experience the grandeur of its assembly halls and the extensive collection of art donated by member countries, encapsulating the spirit of international cooperation. The surrounding Parc de l’Ariana offers a peaceful escape, with its peacocks and views of Lake Geneva and Mont-Blanc.
Marvel Over the Broken Chair
The Broken Chair is a monumental sculpture in Geneva that stands boldly in front of the United Nations headquarters, a poignant symbol for peace and a reminder of the victims of landmines and cluster bombs. Towering at a height of nearly 40 feet, this imposing wooden chair with a broken leg commands the attention of passersby, urging them to consider the consequences of armed conflict. Created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset and commissioned by the NGO Handicap International, it’s not just a work of art but also a powerful political statement advocating for disarmament and peace.
Stroll Through the Geneva Botanical Gardens
The Conservatory and Botanical Garden offer an oasis in the heart of the city, featuring a collection of over 12,000 plant species from around the world on beautifully landscaped grounds. You can explore thematic gardens, such as the rock and winter gardens and greenhouses with tropical and Mediterranean climates. The gardens also feature a small zoo and aviary, hosting flamingos and other bird species.
Visit the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
Visiting the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum provides profound insight into these international organizations’ humanitarian efforts and history. The museum’s exhibits engage visitors with personal stories, artifacts, and displays that trace the evolution of humanitarian aid. It’s an emotionally impactful experience that highlights the importance of human dignity and the relentless efforts to provide relief in times of disaster and conflict.
Go for a Dip at Bains des Pâquis
Bains des Pâquis, set on a jetty projecting into Lake Geneva, are public bathhouses that serve as a social hub for locals and vacationers. In the summer, it transforms into a sunbather’s paradise with swimming areas. It offers a unique experience in the winter with its steamy saunas, hammams, and fondue dining by the lake. Bains des Pâquis is also home to the Phare des Pâquis lighthouse.
Take a Trip to Geneva’s Wine Region
Geneva, Switzerland, is known for its viticulture, with vineyards between the Jura mountains and Lake Geneva offering award-winning wines amidst the region’s stunning landscapes. Recommended wineries include Cave de Geneve (Satigny), Domaine du Paradis (Satigny), Clos de Gondettes (Satigny), Domaine de Trois Etoiles (Satigny), Domaine des Curiades (Lully), Domaine des Molards (Russin), and Chateau du Crest (Jussy).
Experience Swiss Cuisine
Geneva’s cuisine offers a delightful exploration of Swiss culinary traditions with a touch of French elegance. When visiting, savor the distinct taste of Longeole, a fennel-seasoned pork sausage, and indulge in a slice of Tarte aux pruneaux, a sweet plum tart that is a local favorite. Another must-try is the Rissoles aux poires, delicate pastries filled with cooked pear, showcasing the finesse of Geneva’s dessert offerings.
Fondue, the Swiss comfort food, is a must-try, with cheese fondue a particular favorite. For the best fondue experience, check out Les Armures in the Old Town. Swiss chocolate, recognized worldwide for its superior quality, can be found in shops and cafes around the city.
Enjoy Winter Sports in the Alps
A day trip from Geneva to the Alps offers the perfect blend of convenience and alpine adventure, with several ski resorts within easy reach for a day on the slopes. Samoëns, just one hour from Geneva, is part of the Grand Massif ski area and appeals to many skiing abilities, from beginner to advanced. La Clusaz, also an hour away, is known for its snow-sure slopes and is ideal for new skiers and those seeking an adrenaline rush with its black runs and snow parks. A little further at one hour and 15 minutes, Avoriaz stands out with its sun-soaked, high-altitude skiing within the extensive Portes du Soleil ski area, making it a family-friendly destination with slopes for all skill levels.
Your Geneva, Switzerland Vacation
Geneva stands out as the capital of Switzerland, famous for its outstanding lake, sweeping mountain views, activities to discover, and Swiss cuisine. Whether you’re drawn to water sports on Lake Geneva in the summer, hiking the surrounding mountains during the fall or spring, or seeking a snowy winter escape, Geneva offers a city rich with endless experiences. Don’t miss the chance to explore it for yourself.
Abby and Sam Price are the founders and storytellers behind Trekking Prices, a couple's travel and outdoor adventure blog. They are passionate about sharing their travels, tips, and recommendations with others.