Are you ready to pack your suitcase and jet set to Geneva, Switzerland? Here is the complete Geneva travel guide of things to do and see once you get there.
Over 10 million tourists visited Switzerland in 2019. While many of those visitors headed to the Alps and Zurich, a growing number each year spend their vacations in Geneva. Geneva has everything you could want from a holiday: culture, history, entertainment, and relaxation. It has some of the finest luxury attractions, hotels, and restaurants. If you and your family want to experience the best that Switzerland has to offer, Geneva is a must-visit. With so many amazing experiences to choose from, it can be a challenge to plan your itinerary. Here, we’ve compiled the top 20 Geneva travel guide ideas for you to consider.
1. Explore Vielle Ville
Also called the “Old Town” of Geneva, Vielle Ville is the center of history and culture. Here you’ll find winding cobblestone streets, stunning Roman and Neoclassical architecture, and old-timey charm. One must-see is St-Pierre Cathedral. This part-Gothic, part-Romanesque building has many fascinating features to explore. Head up the 60 steps of the southern tower for exquisite panoramic views of the city. In the basement sits a tomb and 4th-century mosaic tiles. Then, get lost wandering the streets. Every corner tells you something new about this gorgeous city’s history.
2. Hike Mont Salève
1400 meters above the rest of the city is “Geneva’s balcony.” You can hike or take a cable car up Mont Salève to reach this destination. Besides witnessing epic views of Lake Geneva and the city, you can enjoy coffee and lunch at one of the summit cafes. From the top, there are various trails to explore. However, you can also come to the top for lunch and picture-perfect photo-ops.
3. Meander Through the Art Museum
In the center of the city sits the educational and fascinating Art and History Museum. There are over 1 million pieces to learn about and marvel at. Most of the art focuses on Swiss and German influences, like Konrad Witz. His 15th century Miraculous Draft is at home here in Geneva. Besides European art, you’ll also find Egyptian artifacts and archaeological collections. Entrance into the museum is free and there are plenty of dining options nearby.
4. Learn About Life at the Natural History Museum
If you or your children are fascinated by animals, the Natural History Museum in Geneva can’t be missed. It includes insects and taxidermy from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are also rocks from the moon and two floors dedicated to astronomy. The first three floors feature live animals for guests to observe. One of the most interesting is the tortoise, Janus. He was born in an incubator at the museum in 1997 and has two heads! You can explore the museum on your own, but it’s certainly recommended that you sign up for a tour. There’s so much to learn from the experts here.
5. Visit the UN’s Palais des Nations
The United Nations is a universally respected and renowned institution. One of its most important offices is in Geneva, the Palais des Nations. This is where the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, was first established. You can sign up for tours of the building and learn about the various halls and chambers. If you’re a history buff, this is a crucial stop on your Geneva itinerary. Plus, there are many interesting stops nearby the Palais. Stop by the Broken Chair Sculpture, the Chapel of Maccabees, Musée Ariana. The Spa by Claris is also a short walk from the Palais. Hire a private chauffeur to ensure you see all the places you want to during your stay.
6. Smell the Roses at Parc de la Grange
There are many beautiful parks in Geneva, but the largest is Parc de la Grange. Wealthy Swiss residents settled in the area over 2000 years ago, but today, the park is open to everyone. You can see outdoor plays at the two theaters and explore the 18th-century villas. This is the perfect pitstop for children to play. There’s a playground, water basin, public toilets, and a restaurant. Pack your own picnic or dine in the park. Before you go, make sure you check out the rose garden. It has over 200 varieties of roses and over 10,000 bushes.
7. Taste World-Class Fondue
Did you know that fondue was invented in Switzerland? Specifically, it was born out of the French-speaking regions. You can sample the best fondue you’ve ever had in Geneva. The smell of melting gruyère will have your mouth watering the moment you walk in. Some popular restaurants to sample fondue at include:
- Cave Valaisanne Chalet Suisse
- Café du Soleil
Make sure you enjoy your fondue with fresh bread and a glass of wine! And, remember to also sample the chocolate fondue in Geneva.
8. Pamper Yourself at the Baths
Bains des Paquis is a popular beach and outdoor space in Geneva. One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the baths on the property. Here, you can enjoy the Turkish steam room or the pitch-black hammam. In the hammam, you can exfoliate your skin with black soap. They only allow women in the baths on Tuesdays and keep a private section for women only all week. There’s also a sauna, massages, and shiatsu available. If you’re looking for rest and rejuvenation on your vacation, you must come to Bains des Paquis.
9. Hit the Slopes
There are plenty of ski resorts near Geneva that are worth the visit. Some are less than an hour away! Try your hand at skiing or snowboarding or enjoy the views as you sip wine in the chalet. You can also go ice-skating, snowshoeing, and sledding. In the summer, go paragliding, summer tobogganing, and mountain biking. You can enjoy the slopes however you like, with adventure or with relaxation.
10. Shop the Rodeo Drive of Geneva
Rue de Rhône is the most glamorous, high-end shopping street in Geneva. Simply strolling down the street makes you feel like a celebrity. Here, you’ll find designers with collections coming straight off the runways of Paris. You’ll see familiar brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Versace. This is the perfect place to buy an authentic Swiss watch. You’ll find timepieces from all the staple brands: Bulgari, Omega, Cartier, and Tiffany. When you need to rest your feet, stop by one of the many nearby restaurants and cafes. There’s nothing like sipping bubbly after a trip to Tiffany’s.
11. Go Yachting on Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva is an obvious destination during your visit. However, the best way to see the lake is from the deck of a private yacht. You need to book your chartered yacht in advance and let the captain know of any dining requests. You can also stay on land at the beach and sip cocktails under the palm trees. You’ll find water sports like stand up paddle boarding, wakeboarding, and windsurfing. A fun spot to watch the sunset at Lake Geneva is called Tropical Corner. There are often popular DJs performing here and a fun party atmosphere.
12. Catch an Eagles Game
The biggest sport in Switzerland is hockey, and the Swiss in Geneva are very proud of their team, the Geneva-Servette Hockey Club. They’re also known as the Eagles. If you can score tickets, seeing an Eagles game would make your Geneva vacation perfect. You can experience the patriotic spirit of the Swiss as they cheer on their teams. The atmosphere is wild and lively, so prepare yourself for an exciting night.
13. Sip the Best Coffee in Geneva
Like other European cities, coffee is a refined staple in Geneva. Locals generally prefer European-style brews and espressos. However, you’ll also find American style coffee shops here as well. To experience the true Genevan way of life, pick a quintessential local café. Remor is a beautiful Italian café and ice cream shop that was built in 1921. Cottage Café looks like a, well, cottage. It’s nestled along the right bank at Lake Geneva and feels like a cabin in the woods.
14. Dine at Michelin-Star Restaurants
Foodies will eat their hearts out in Geneva. There are 90 Michelin-star restaurants and cafes to choose from, each with their own unique traits. For Mediterranean cuisine with a contemporary vibe, check out Café Calla. If you prefer organic, locally sourced dishes, then Le Neptune is for you. For an authentic Italian meal amidst classic décor, you must check out Il Lago. It sits on the bank of Lake Geneva which provides excellent views while you dine.
15. Take a Day Trip to Chillon Castle
The most popular monument in Switzerland is Chillon Castle, along Lake Geneva in Vaud. This castle has been around for centuries, with first historic mentions of it in 1150. Since then, it has gone through different owners and phases. The Bernese Period was from 1536 to 1798. Since 1798, it’s been part of The Vaudois Period. It’s definitely recommended to sign up for a tour of the castle so you don’t miss anything. There are many different chambers, courtyards, chapels, and halls to explore. There are lots of day trips you can take from Geneva. While you could drive, the fastest way to get around is with a private jet.
16. Make Your Own Swiss Chocolate
Swiss chocolate is world-renowned for its quality and taste. When in Geneva, a chocolate-making experience is a must! The best place to learn how to make chocolate is at Favarger. This chocolate manufacturer has been running since 1826 and has perfected every stage of the process. You can sign up for a tour of the facility or a private chocolate-making experience with the chef chocolatier.
17. Sip Wine at Lavaux Vineyard Terraces
Lavaux Vineyard Terraces is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with stunning landscapes and views. Most come for the wine, but also to witness the beauty of the villages. You can see the Alps in the distance and the coast of Lake Geneva. Even the wine here is historic, as the vines were first grown during the Roman times. The terraces date back to the 11th century. This is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
18. Listen to Classic Music at Victoria Hall
Your jaw will drop to the floor when you step inside Victoria Hall. It’s easily the most magnificent concert theater in Geneva. It was built in 1891 as a tribute to Queen Victoria and has legendary acoustics. You can’t book a tour to see it, but you can buy tickets to a concert. Even if you aren’t a fan of classical music, in this setting you won’t mind.
19. Get Splashed at the Jet d’Eau of Geneva
One of the common tourist destinations printed on Geneva postcards is the Jet d’Eau. This is more than just a fountain; every second, 500 liters of water gets shot 140 meters into the air. It was originally created to be a safety valve for the city and only shot 30 meters high. In 1891, it was deemed a decorative feature and was redesigned to be more aesthetic. It’s definitely worth seeing at least once during your holiday.
20. Celebrate with the Swiss
There are two major festivals that happen in Geneva each year. The first is the Escalade which happens the second weekend in December. Escalade celebrates a failed siege on the city in the 17th century. There’s a massive parade through the Old Town and plenty of fondue and vin chaud. On the second weekend in August is the Summer Festival. In addition to parades and parties, there’s the city’s largest fireworks display. You can experience street parties, live concerts, and lots of dancing. Switzerland has more than banks and hedge funds- it has amazing celebrations!
Interested in Learning More About Geneva Travel?
One visit to Geneva and it will steal your heart. It has everything you could want from a quality European vacation. Whether you’re traveling for business, a weekend getaway, or a family vacation, nothing says ‘traveling in style’ like private transportation. We provide airport transport, chauffeur and limousine services, and luxury vehicle rentals. Learn more about our Geneva travel guide options here.