Geneva (Genève) is a bustling city on the banks of Lake Geneva. The medieval history of Old Town with its winding streets and back alleys sits in contrast to the urban center for international cooperation and mediation, housing diplomats and representatives from around the globe. Geneva is a young, vibrant city. The wide promenades are filled with pedestrians on their way to work and tourists strolling past shops and beautiful architectural buildings. The sharp contrast between old and new is evident in Geneva. Since it was neutral during the war, it did not have buildings destroyed by air-raid bombings like many other major European cities.
Visiting Geneva should be on your bucket list. Spend 2 or 3 days in Geneva to explore the city, enjoy delectable Swiss chocolate, shop, and find your favorite restaurant. You will be charmed by her gracious presence.
1. Old Town
Old Town is filled with winding cobbled streets lined with shops and cafés. It is a wonderful place to wander and the perfect spot to begin your Geneva visit. Open plazas and hidden courtyards offer a glimpse into the daily lives of Geneva residents past and present.
2. Palais Des Nations
The United Nations Headquarters brings throngs of diplomats and politicians to Geneva every year. The UN is housed in the impressive Palais des Nations which was built for the League of Nations in the 1930s.
3. CERN (European Organization For Nuclear Research)
The CERN research laboratory in Geneva was established in 1954. CERN provides particle accelerator facilities for international research and collaboration.
Science nerds will love taking a tour of this facility where, in 2012, the Higgs boson particle was discovered.
4. Promenade De La Treille
The Promenade de la Treille is a walkway in Old Town Geneva. The promenade is home to one of the longest benches in the world, running almost the full length of the walkway. It is the perfect spot to sit, enjoy the scenery, and people watch.
5. Bains Des Pâquis
If you visit Geneva during the hot summer months, you will want to visit the Bains des Pâquis. Along the major promenade close to the water, you will find a pier that leads to a beach in the middle of the lake. Popular all year round, they offer concerts and exhibitions in addition to the swim facilities.
Pro Tip: There is a nominal entry fee required.
6. Chocolate Tasting Tour
And then there was chocolate, famously delicious Swiss chocolate. You can explore the streets and alleys of Geneva to suss out the best chocolate shops, which would be a fun adventure. However, if you are in a time crunch, and want to take at least one food tour, chocolate is the way to go.
A guided chocolate tour with Local Flavours is delectably sweet. You will sample everything chocolate: truffles, hot chocolate, pastries, and more. Between each fabulous shop, you will learn a little bit about Swiss chocolate and Geneva’s history.
7. Parc Des Bastions
The Parc des Bastions is a green space in the center of Geneva. Filled with wide lawns and beautiful mature trees, the park is a popular spot to relax for a few hours. Anchoring the park is the Reformation Wall, a monumental wall with a collection of statues dedicated to the major players in the Reformation: John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Beza, John Knox, and others.
8. Jet D’Eau
The emblem of Geneva, Jet d’Eau (“water fountain”) spouts 140 meters (459 feet) high and is a fixture in the harbor. Originally built to release the water pressure from the hydraulic plant, it became a symbol of the city. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the Jet d’Eau pumps 500 liters of water per second. It is mesmerizing to watch the water powerfully soar to the sky and gently float back to Lake Geneva.
9. Patek Philippe Museum
The Patek Philippe Museum houses a magnificent collection of watches. It is a museum dedicated to the fine craft of watchmaking and a chronology of 500 years of horological heritage. More than simply a watch museum, the Patek Philippe Museum highlights the craftsmanship, technology, aesthetics, and the historical role of watchmaking.
10. Boat Tour Of Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, aka Lac Léman, dominates the Geneva cityscape. It is the center of all recreational activities.
When you are split by water, getting from one part of the city to the other requires walking over a bridge or taking a Geneva Mouettes (water taxi). Of course, at least once, a water taxi should be the preferred mode of transportation because it is there. A nominal fee is required to ride the bright-yellow boats; alternatively, it is included in the public transport pass for Zone 10.
To view the lake as a tourist, you can take a narrated boat tour around Lac Léman. From a 2-hour, full lake cruise to a cocktail cruise or an ice cream social, there is a wide array of choices that will get you out on the water.
11. Musée D’Art Et D’Histoire
The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (“Art And History Museum”) offers guests a variety of changing exhibits, workshops, and demonstrations. If you are an art aficionado and have extra time to spend in Geneva, this is a great way to spend an afternoon.
12. Flower Clock
In a city known for its timepieces, the Flower Clock has been a popular attraction since it was created in 1955. It anchors one corner of the beautiful Jardin Anglais (“English Garden”). The Flower Clock’s plantings are renewed four times a year to reflect the seasons and keep the clock looking picture-perfect.
The clock has an electronic satellite timing setting and the sweeping second hand is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long. It is definitely a showstopper.
Where To Eat
As with any thriving urban area, there are plenty of great spots to eat. On a sunny day, the locals prefer to enjoy a quick bite and beer along the water. Small kitchens — like La Vauge de Lac along the Quai du Mont Blanc — are the perfect spots to grab a table, enjoy a nosh, and watch the world walk by.
When you venture slightly off the main roads, you can find hidden gems that serve neighborhood locals and very few tourists. Sometimes, there may be a slight language barrier — but that just adds to the adventurous ambiance. Dinner at La Gondola Pizzeria Ristorante is filled with delicious Italian cuisine served in an unhurried atmosphere. Perfectly prepared pizza, lasagna, gnocchi, and other classic Italian dishes grace the menu; there are so many goodies it is difficult to decide what to order. Bring friends and share plates!
Where To Stay
The most spectacular five-star hotel in Geneva is Beau Rivage. Located on Quai du Mont Blanc in the city center, you are connected to everything. Rooms offer beautiful views of Lake Geneva, Jet d’Eau, and Old Town immersing you in all the wonders of Geneva. If you are in need of a luxurious escape, Beau Rivage is sublime.
A little off the main drag (two blocks) is the Hotel Rotary Geneva – MGallery. It’s a boutique four-star hotel that is walking distance of everything you want to see in Geneva’s city center. The hotel bar is the perfect spot for gathering with friends to plan out your upcoming escapades.
As you set your next European vacation plans, add a few days in Geneva. You will love the hip vibe that mixes seamlessly with centuries of history, café culture, and chocolate obsessions, as well as the intriguing museums and beautiful parks.