The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions of Geneva Switzerland are the United Nations and numerous other international organizations like the Red Cross, WHO, etc. The Swiss city Geneva has a prominent place in the political map of the world but the global city with its compelling landmarks, charming old town, and intriguing museums is no less when it comes to adding it to the tourist map. Zurich, Bern, Basel are few cities in Switzerland which fall on tourist map without much contemplation, this post will convince you to add Geneva to this list of must visit cities in Switzerland.
Things to do in Geneva Switzerland
1. Geneva Old Town
The Geneva Old Town exuding an old world charm in the center of the city is a respite from the traffic and buzzing cityscape. A quiet cobblestone alley up from the bustling shopping streets will walk you back in time with its medieval buildings and quaint cafes. If you are there on Saturdays pick some mouth watering yummy churros or hot chocolate crepes from the food trucks and start your walk through the serene aura of the Geneva old town.
The most prominent landmark of the old town is the imposing 12th century Saint Peter’s Cathedral and a climb up the tower offers a panoramic view of the city. The old town also has some interesting museums like Maison Tavel, Barbier-Mueller Museum and the International Museum of the Reformation. The narrow alleys of the old town crisscross at small pretty squares which are dotted with medieval fountains adorned with vivid flower plants.
Geneva boasts of more than 30 museums offering an intriguing insight into culture and history of Geneva as well as modern and contemporary Art. A varied display of life-size models of majestic animals and exotic birds and the impressive collection of rare stones and minerals in historical museum to Patek Philippe museum offering an insight into the history and evolution of watch making in Geneva and the exhibitions of art and Antiquity in Barbier-Mueller Museum and Maison Tavel Geneva has something to offer to its visitors of all ages be it kids or a grown up history buff.
Do not miss the fascinating collection of timepieces dating back to as old as the 16th century in the as Patek Philippe museum, over 16,000 different plant species at the Botanical Gardens and over 20,000 remarkable pieces of porcelain and pottery in the Ariana Museum some of which date back to 14th century.
The Place des Nations or United Nations is invariably the top Geneva attractions. Everyone wants a picture with the UN building with a backdrop of the alley leading to entrance dotted with flags of 192 member nations of UN. The UN also offers 90 minutes guided tour offering an insight into the various missions and activities of the UN in Geneva.
The magnificent structure standing opposite to the UN is the broken chair, a gigantic chair with its one leg broken. The monumental sculpture symbolizes a stand against the landmines.
The small square of Place des Nations in which the broken chair stands is a center of activity and is often bustling with protestors from all over the world who gather to express their opinions on social or religious issues.
4. Parks and Gardens
With over one-quarter of the city covered in the green scape Geneva can aptly be monikered as the ‘City of Parks’. The lush parks with stroller friendly paths winding through the garden have kids play area, kids pools and benches to sit and breathe fresh air. There are numerous small and large parks spread across the city few of which are a must visit. The Jardin Anglais or the English garden home to the popular ‘flower clock’ and the ‘National Monument’ is located on the banks of Lake Geneva and offers wonderful views of the iconic Jet D’Eau. Parc des Bastions near Geneva old town is the site of Geneva university and houses international monument of the Reformation which has statues of the four great preachers: Guillaume Farel, Jean Calvin, Theodore de Beze and John Knox.
Another attraction of the park always buzzing with enthusiasts is the giant chess board. Also not miss the Botanical garden which is home to around 16,000 species of plants with animal park and a carousel for the kids. The parks and the gardens are venues for cultural events and festivals during the summer time.
Chhavi chasing a peacock in the botanical garden of Geneva.
5. Flea Markets
The flea markets of Geneva are a center of bustling activities and a great way to experience the local traditions and culture of the city from close quarters. One of the largest and oldest flea markets of Switzerland is the market at Plainpalais. The colorful market selling almost everything from paintings, furniture, antiques, second-hand clothes and other bric-a-brac has in action since 1970.
The flea markets offer some amazing deals and surprising antiques instore which will spoil you for the choices. On Sundays next to this market is a colorful food market selling vegetables, cheese, flowers and fruits alongside some of the scrumptious street foods like waffles, pancakes, and churros. The outdoor market is open Wednesdays and Sundays from 08:00 to 17:00 all through the year.
The neighborhood of Carouge in Geneva is popularly known as ‘Little Italy’ by the locals for the architecture of the buildings and restaurants designed by architects from the Italian city of Turin which seem to have inspired by the unique architecture of Sardinian heritage.
Carouge is teeming with numerous boutiques, cafes, and nightclubs which are always bustling with locals and tourists alike looking to unwind and indulge in some shopping spree. Carouge hosts a huge food market selling fruits, cheese, honey, flowers, wine and local produces every Wednesdays and Saturdays which is worth a visit to this Italian district in the Swiss City of Geneva.
7 Go Cruising
Lake Geneva or Lac Leman as the French call it is one of the largest lakes in Switzerland with around 40% of the lake lies in France. Sailing on one of the several sightseeing cruise boats or dinner and lunch cruises and relishing the perpetual blue waters is one of the top things to do in Lake Geneva during the summer. There are even passenger ferries that run between the smaller towns of Switzerland and France located on the shore of Lake Geneva with frequent departures from Geneve. So hop onto one of these cruise boats and enjoy the scenic vistas of the Alps, vineyards, small villages or just soak up the sun for a laid back day-out.
Geneva presents a plenitude of options for shopping from boutique shops, flea markets, and shopping malls. Your trip to Switzerland is incomplete without shopping for the delectable Swiss chocolates and the world famous Swiss watches. Geneva has several high-end watch brands to choose from like Patek Phillipe, Swatch, Omega and many more. And Geneva is a chocolate lovers paradise almost every mall and shop sells a wide range of delectable Swiss made chocolates. These shops also offer a wide range of Swiss souvenirs like cowbells, chocolate collector boxes, and other interesting gift options. The malls and shops close by 6 in the evening though some grocery shops remain open until 7 or 8 pm. Thursdays are great for family shopping when the malls are open up to 9 pm. All the shops and malls are closed on Sunday so you will need to plan accordingly.
9 Day trips from Geneva
The fairytale land of Switzerland has a bounty of surreal picturesque locations around Interlaken and Bernese Oberland. Though these places can be easily visited from Bern or Zurich these locations can also be visited on a day trip from Geneva owing to the well connected and frequent trains from Geneva to Bern. The famous Chillon Castle in Montreux, the sprawling Lavaux Vineyards or beautiful towns of Laussane, Lucerne or the cities of Bern, Zurich, and Basel all can be easily done in a day from Geneva.
10 Visit other countries
Geneva has a great service of well-connected rail lines. The high-speed TGV connects Geneva to the city of Paris in France with a journey time of little more than 3 hours. There are frequent bus services from Geneva to Annecy a small medieval town in France and one can hop onto a boat to Nyon and take a boat from here to the medieval village of Yvoire in France. One can also visit the tiny country of Liechtenstein on a day trip from Geneva even though it requires a couple of train changes it is possible to visit in on a day trip if you have less time on hand.
Bonus Tip: If you are visiting Geneva during the month of March do not miss the International Geneva Motor Show which has a wide range of new models, luxury and sports cars and even prototypes displayed for the visitors. And if you are visiting in July there is a huge display of fireworks on August 1 to celebrate the Swiss national day over the Lake Geneva near Mont Blanc road which is something not to miss.
Geneva Switzerland Weather
Geneva receives snowfall during the winters months from mid-November to February and temperature in Geneva during the summer months of April and May can be high so the best time to visit the city would be from June until October.
Have you been to Geneva? What do you like the most about this city? Do share with us in comments.