Things To Do In Geneva, Switzerland

June 10, 2019

by Racheal Koh

Beautiful Swiss cruise ship at Lake Geneva
©Photo by Erich Westendarp on Pixabay

Believe us, Switzerland is far beyond wealth, watches and chocolate. While it’s undeniably true that Switzerland is the origin to your favourite cheese fondue and Swiss army knives. Let’s not forget Switzerland, in general, is also blessed with the breathtaking Alps and diverse culture. Surrounded by its mighty neighbours, you’ll notice many influences being adapted to form this unique Swiss culture.

 

Unlike its capital city, Geneva is mostly encompassed by France. While many fixes their eye that Geneva is practically France, this city has greatly proven them wrong. Geneva set itself apart from the stereotype through its triumph of human rather than geographies and factors. Known to be Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities, Geneva is the pinnacle of the Swiss economy. This city also houses the headquarter of many international organisations like the United Nations and Red Cross convene.

 

Let’s dig deeper to explore some of the amazing things you can do here in Geneva.

 

1.

Marvel the view of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)

Sailing at Lake Geneva during summer over the snow-capped Swiss Alps

©Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

 

Lake Geneva, or ‘Lac Léman’ in French, is the largest lake in Central Europe. Featuring the calmest and mildest climate throughout the year in Geneva. Although it is named Lake Geneva, however, this lake still shares its border with France. This lake has been an iconic attraction for many tourists and even for the locals. During a visible day, you’ll see the spectacular Jura Mountains while across the border in France, you can catch a sight of the snow-capped Mont Blanc effortlessly.

 

Gear up and brace yourself for a wide variety of activities to do here at Lake Geneva. From stand up paddling, canoe paddling to yacht sailings, this lake is everything you can imagine. If not, take a stroll along the shores to the junction where the lake meets the Rhône River. Here, you’ll see the vibrant turquoise glaciers water meet the deep blue water in the River, forming a marble swirl like effect. In the evening, gather some of your friends to enjoy the sun with some Swiss wine and cheeses at the promenade around the shore to catch the sunset over the Alps.

 

Pro Tips: The best spot to catch the water joining is at the bridge situated just 40 meters after the junction. The bridge is not too far from Cafe de la Tour.

 

2.

Admire the Jet d’Eau

Powerful hydraulic water jet at Lake Geneva

©Photo by Luis Francisco Pizarro Ruiz from Pixabay

 

One of the most iconic landmarks in Geneva, Jet d’Eau’s charm continues to attract tourist from all over the world. As majestic as it may seem, Jet d’Eau wasn’t built for the intention for tourism and neither a fountain. In fact, this jet was built intentionally with a hydraulic pump to power up the pieces of machinery during the trading acme. Over times, this fountain that was formed by mistake has earned its place and now has been the key part of Geneva’s skyline. And now, this landmark carries the symbol of strength, vitality and ambition all across Geneva, Switzerland. 

 

Located just in front of the promenade of Geneva, Jet d’Eau releases its pressure at a certain period of time. As the water emerges from the nozzle with a speed of 200km/h at 140m high. However, these majestic sights operate only at a certain period of time.

 

Jet d'Eau fireworks festival at Lake Geneva

©Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash

 

Pro Tips: We recommend watching this jet fountain during the night when it’s illuminated with colourful lights. Otherwise, take a boat tour around the lake. Please take note that the operating times may be varied depending on the season of the year.

 

3.

Tour the St Pierre Cathedral

Turquoise dome at St Pierre Cathedral Geneva, Switzerland

©Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

 

Without a doubt, the reformation of Switzerland is a key element in shaping the city. Gracefully sitting at the peak of the hill of Geneva Old Town, St Pierre Cathedral is a key witness to all these prime events. Built in the 12th century, St Pierre Cathedral underwent a series of significant transformations throughout history. Although the exterior architecture of St Pierre cathedral may differ from many architectures around the city, this gothic Neoclassical and Roman-inspired architecture simply holds a candle in the dark. 

 

Take your time to tour around this pre-eminent cathedral to uncover some of the pivotal events happened during the reformation. Hike the 157 steps of stairs and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic of the city over the calm blue lake of Geneva. And, don’t forget to traverse the archaeological site beneath the cathedral. Also, you’ll find artefacts dated as old as the 11th century.

 

Pro Tips: St Pierre Cathedral opens for all daily. Geneva Pass user enjoys a free entry both to the cathedral and also the crypt underneath. Otherwise, expect to pay 10USD (10CHF) per person.

 

4.

Explore the Geneva Old Town (Vieille Ville Geneva)

Cobble-stone street at Old Town Geneva, Switzerland

©Photo by Wiki Commons

 

As a popular tourist attraction in Geneva— Vielle Ville is home to many well-known landmarks. Capped between the St Pierre Cathedral and Maison Tavel Geneva, this cobble-stone town is densely packed with enthralling discoveries. Let’s traverse across the steep passageways and narrow alleys to unravel Geneva’s historical stories throughout the centuries.

 

While you’re around Geneva old town, don’t miss the secret passageway ’67 Steps’ that will lead you right back to the St Pierre Cathedral. Located somewhere within the Old Town, Café du Bourg du Four opened since 1874 serves some of the most amazing Swiss ‘rosti’.

 

Pro Tips: Don’t bother to climb the steep passageways if you’re not physically fit for it. Try the tram instead. I won’t cost much but definitely relaxing to travel around the Geneva Old Town.

 

5.

Visit the International Museum of Reformation (Maison Mallet)

Historical International Museum of Geneva, Switzerland

©Photo by Wiki Commons

 

The international museum of reformation presents the history of Geneva’s Protestantism. Intertwine the past and present, this museum channels its bits of knowledge through an interesting connection with visitors. One of the highlights for this museum is by learning its unique history through the Reformation story in theme and chronology mode. Featuring manuscripts, books, pictures, and small scale objects to connect the dots of religion and culture simultaneously. Besides, the museum also presents cultural activities like workshops and lectures to suit everyone’s taste.

 

6.

Art meets Science at CERN

Brown dome at physics CERN Geneva

©Photo by Wiki Commons

 

CERN Geneva more commonly known as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research is the largest particle physics laboratory on the planet. Founded by the leading physicists across Europe, CERN’s intention is to foster a strong political correlation through science and arts. Located west of Geneva in the suburb of Meyrin, CERN houses some of the important scientific researches and development. These include the renowned Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest particle accelerator on the planet. If you’re into science, physics in particular, here’s where you need to be.

 

Pro Tips: Here at CERN, everyone can enjoy a two-hour guided tour. However, a reservation is required and is often fully booked. We recommend making a reservation in advance with CERN through their online website at least a month earlier to secure your spot.

 

7.

Sunbathing at Bains des pâquis Geneva

sea coast ocean horizon sunrise sunset 988330 pxhere.com  - Things To Do In Geneva, Switzerland

©Photo by Pxhere

 

Rather scratching your head thinking what to eat or things to do in Geneva, Bains des pâquis is a sunbathing paradise both in summer and also during the chilly winter. Located not too far from Jet d’Eau, Bains des pâquis attracts locals to lay out your gingham by the shore and get ready to soak up the sun. On a clear day, take a dip in the refreshing water and enjoy some free live classical music concert. In winter, enjoy a Turkish bath and sauna instead while enjoying the glistering view of the lake over the Alps. More than just any other ordinary beach, visitors can also enjoy the fondue night to warm up during the frosty winter.

 

Pro Tips: This is a public area and some locals enjoy sunbathing in nude. If you’re not comfortable with it, feel free to wear your favourite swimsuit to the beach. Ain’t no one have time to judge you.

 

8.

Wander around the Carouge

Carouge view by the lake at Geneva

©Photo by Pxhere

 

Carouge ‘Le Vieux Carouge’ is commonly referred to as the mini-Italy in Geneva. Located behind the Arve river slightly away from the main attractions, Carouge is a cut above the line. Unlike many streets around Geneva, Carouge’s unique architecture is an expression of its Sardinian heritage. Its historical streets somewhat resemble passageways of its neighbour country, Italy.

 

While many travellers would travel here for the beautiful cottages and galleries, you wouldn’t believe the highlight here is shopping. Known for its colourful streets and blooming flowers, ‘Rue St Joseph’ is where you should begin your shopping spree. From here, you can walk down to Place du Marché and alongside, you’ll find many lovely Italian inspired shops. Including the luxury watch stores, boutiques, antique shops, bistro and cosy café that tucks away in the corner of the alleyways. Come here during the Wednesday where the farmer’s market held. And don’t bother going home empty-handed.

 

Pro Tips: Although credit cards are mostly accepted all over Switzerland, the locals prefer cash transaction. We recommend carrying some cash with you for small purchases for cabs and especially at a market.

 

9.

Plainpalais Flea Market (Marché de Plainpalais)

Vintage old flea market at Plainpalais Geneva

©Photo by Nicolas Nova on Flickr

 

Almost everyone agrees that Geneva is an expensive place to shop. However, if you go to the right place, your wallet will for sure stay in great shape. Started back in 1970, Plainpalais Flea Market is now the biggest flea market in Geneva. Held twice every week at Geneva, along the sprawling Plainpalais Square, you’ll find many interesting stalls lining up with bit and pieces of items that you’ve never seen before. Ranging from second-hand clothing, peculiar pieces of antiques to decorative ornaments that jumble together in a pile.

 

If you’re into vintage shopping, close to the tram side of the Plane de Plainpalais, there are few stalls offering quite a good selection of collectables, particularly jewellery and ethnic offerings like incenses. While for bulky items like the furniture, head to the university side of the market. Although Sunday is not technically a flea market day, you’ll find many locals here to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables. Food trucks are famous here too and you’ll find different cuisine from all over the world. Pick up some falafel or a Sunday roast during your stroll, you’re going to love it.

 

Pro Tips: The flea market opens only on Wednesday and Saturday. Visit Marché de Plainpalais on Saturday if you’re hoping for more upscale items. Haggling is common sights here. So, don’t be shy to bargain for your favourite item at the prices that suit your budget.

 

10.

Patek Philippe Museum

Vintage watches at Patek Philippe Museum Geneva

©Photo by Wiki Commons

 

There’s no need to state the obvious when it comes to the intricate timepieces in Switzerland. Established since 1839 in Geneva, Patek Phillipe’s vision of producing the best watches persist until today. If you’re into watches, you must visit this museum located in the heart of the Plainpalais district.

 

Here you’ll get the chance to admire an extraordinary collection of watches, musical automata, enamel miniatures created in Geneva that dated as old as from the 16th centuries. Although Patek Philippe museum was just established in the early 20th, your curiosity of Swiss watchmaking technology can be deciphered at ease through the meticulous craftsmanship. Besides that, this multi-story building also houses a library that dedicates purely to all horology related subjects.

 

Pro Tips: Photography is not allowed in the museum unless you’re granted with a special tour with photography permission. The free tour is available in both English and French at no charge. However, the entrance free cost 10.00USD (10 CHF) for adults and free for children under 18.

 

11.

Day trip to Mont-Salève

Beautiful view of Mont Blanc from Mont Salève Geneva

©Photo by Laurie Nevay on Flickr

 

No one leaves Geneva without taking a day trip to hike the Mont-Salève. Slightly outside of the Swiss town Geneva, Mont-Salève can be your perfect escape from the bustling city centre. Easily accessible by car or public transports, this French-Alps is a friendly day hike for all ages. If you don’t fancy stopping for every five minutes of the hike, there’s a cable car available to bring you up and down the mountain. Although most shops close on Sunday, you’ll still find a few restaurants and café available for you to fuel up your tummy.

 

While the most rewarding part of this hike is the scenic view from the peak of the mountains. On a visible day, you’ll see Mont Blanc from the summit. And don’t forget to catch the sunset accompanied by the vista of Geneva city.

 

Pro Tips: Bring your passport along for the border control at France. However, the border control is not open on Sunday, so, it’s always a hit or miss. However, we recommend you to bring your passport to be safe.

 

12.

Visit the Lavaux Vineyard and Fondue

Golden coloured leaves at . Lavaux Vineyard Geneva

©Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

 

Unlike any vineyards in France, you’ll find most vineyards here are family owned and on a smaller scale. As one of the largest wine producer in the world, Switzerland is a paradise for wine lovers. Since you’re already in Geneva, you can not miss visiting Lavaux Vineyards. Located between Lausanne and Vevey on the northern shores of Lake Geneva, this UNESCO protected a stretch of the vineyard is a pleasure for a stroll or just to enjoy a few glasses of wine.

 

Depending on the season you’re here, Lavaux vineyards put on a spectacular show at its natural state. In summer, it’s lush-green and in autumn it is transformed into a golden palace and in winter it’s covered with a blanket of snows. Hire a tour guide to unwind the beauty of the terrace while enjoying the stunning view of Lake Geneva accompanied by the majestic Swiss Alps. Don’t forget about the traditional fondue, it goes super well with the glass of wine.

 

Pro Tips: You can get here by train or boat. While in the summer, we recommend taking the Lavaux Panoramic scenic trains as it’s more relaxing and the scenery is amazing.

 

Tourist Secrets

  • Switzerland has the most official languages in a country, consisting of German, French, Italian and Romansh.
  • No matter where you stay in Geneva— a hotel, hostel or a campsite, you’ll receive a Geneva Transport Card to access the public transport for free.
  • Travel on a budget? Geneva Pass allows travellers to access over 50 attractions within the city and it won’t cost a dent for the pass.
  • Local here prefer to use local currency for all trades— Swiss Franc(CHF). However, the Euro is widely accepted too.
  • Geneva is a gateway to the many Alps which is perfect for skiing, hiking and breath-taking scenery. So, plan your itinerary well as it can get crowded at times.