WHAT TO DO IN GENEVA (SWITZERLAND🇨🇭)?
The second most populated city in Switzerland, Geneva is a very cosmopolitan city (half of its population of foreign origin), with a rich history. Located in a magnificent setting with snow-covered mountains in the background, the quality of life is excellent, and for cuisine lovers there are an impressive number of gourmet restaurants.
Note: French is spoken, and the cost of living is very high. So plan a big budget, especially if you want to do a lot of activities and eat out.
Where is Geneva? Geneva is located on the shores of Lake Geneva, at the western end of Switzerland. It shares a border with France.
How many days to stay in Geneva? The city is not particularly large and can be visited in one day. It can also be used as a base to visit the neighbouring Alps or to explore the shores of Lake Geneva, even if staying in France will cost you much less.
Apart from chocolate and watches, there is a lot to discover, as you will see in this selection of the best things to do in Geneva.
Here are 10 best things to do and see during a trip to Geneva:
1. THE OLD TOWN OF GENEVA
The most picturesque place in Geneva, based on the heights of the city and ideal for walks. You can discover the Place du Bourg-de-Four, a great place to sit and have a drink outside. Don’t miss either the promenade de la treille (the longest bench in the world!), the town hall and the museum of the Tavel house which traces the medieval history of the city (free admission).
2. SEE THE ‘JET D’EAU’ FROM A BOAT
It’s impossible to miss this huge fountain that projects water at a height of 140 metres, creating an extraordinary spectacle. To get closer, take one of the taxi boats “Mouette” for a short trip from the right bank to the left bank. Lake Geneva is also an ideal setting for paddling enthusiasts.
3. THE QUARTIER DES NATIONS
It includes the Palais des Nations, which is the headquarters of the United Nations. It’s one of Geneva’s major attractions with its alleyway where the flags of all countries. After New York, it’s now the second largest UN headquarters. The place can only be visited with a guide on reservation (about an hour of visit) and allows you to discover beautiful conference rooms. Just opposite is the impressive sculpture of the broken chair, which symbolizes the damage caused by anti-personnel mines.
4. THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Located in the south-eastern part of the Eaux-Vives district, a few steps from Lake Geneva and St. Pierre Cathedral, it’s a huge and very interesting museum, especially if you have children who will be impressed by fossils and stuffed animals. In addition, children can participate in free interactive workshops (some Wednesdays) and excursions to discover certain animal species. Admission is free.
5. THE BAINS DE PÂQUIS
A jetty built in 1872 on the right bank of Lake Geneva, where Geneva residents come to sunbathe, relax and swim. The place is very popular. In August there is a music festival at sunrise (between 6am and 7am). The ideal place to start your day.
6. THE CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDEN OF GENEVA
Nestled next to Geneva’s northern border between the Palais des Nations and Lake Geneva, the Geneva Conservatory and Botanical Garden offer a pleasant setting for strolling. This living museum presents a wide variety of flowers, magnificent trees, a beautiful rose garden… There are also several tropical greenhouses, a library, a gift shop, a carousel, a restaurant and a wildlife park. Free admission.
7. THE PARC DE LA GRANGE
Overlooking Lake Geneva on the water jet side, this large, well-kept park provides plenty of fresh air and relaxation away from the city’s noise. There is a superb rose garden and century-old trees. In addition, an 18th century villa renovated and transformed into a hotel-restaurant is present in this area, where many free concerts are organised every summer. Theatre lovers can attend a variety of paid performances at the Théâtre de l’Orangerie.
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8. THE PATEK PHILIPPE MUSEUM
Watchmaking and enamelling are the hallmarks of Switzerland’s reputation. One of the most beautiful collections is the Patek Philippe Museum, an exciting and very complete museum that presents a fabulous collection of antique watches and enamelled pieces. Even if you are not a fan of watchmaking, it is a must in Geneva. Admission fee (10 Swiss Francs). Pictures are not allowed inside.
9. THE SAINT-PIERRE CATHEDRAL
A Protestant cathedral with an imposing facade but quite sober inside. Don’t miss the visit of the archaeological site of the cathedral, very well done and that we can walk along thanks to footbridges arranged on the ruins. Also worth a visit: admire the panoramic view from the top of the cathedral’s north tower. Admission fee (5 Swiss Francs).
10. THE CERN
Founded in 1954, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research is one of the largest and most prestigious scientific laboratories in the world, dedicated to the study of fundamental particles using state-of-the-art instruments. You can discover two permanent exhibitions (free of charge) or take part in a guided tour giving access to experimental sites on the surface (booking required).
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MORE THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN GENEVA
If you have some time in Geneva, here are some other places to visit and activities to do:
- Tasting a fondue
- Visit the Museum of Art and History, one of the largest museums in Switzerland
- Visit the MEG (Geneva Museum of Ethnography)
- Go to the top of Mont Salève: the summit can be reached by cable car from the village of Veyrier (accessible by bus from Geneva – direction Veyrier-customs). You can do paragliding and jump in tandem from the summit, thrills are guaranteed!
- Have a drink in Carouge: a district with Mediterranean architecture and a very friendly atmosphere (many bars to go to in the evening)
- Go play a giant chess game at Bastions Park
- Make an excursion to Chamonix, the Aiguille du Midi and the Mer de Glace.