10 Best Things to Do in Geneva

What is Geneva Most Famous For?

    Geneva is a luxurious city on the banks of the lake of the same name. Switzerland’s second largest city is home to extravagant hotels, independent boutiques and high-end jewelers, not to mention the superb restaurants and mouth-wateringly good chocolatiers.

    Geneva is the base for some of the world’s largest organization, such as the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Bank and, of course, the United Nations. That said, there’s a quaint and historical side to the city too, with its picturesque Old Town and many galleries and museums to explore.

    With so much to see and do in this fascinating city, we thought we’d help you tick off some of the main attractions with this list of 10 things to do in Geneva in a day.

    What are the best things to do in Geneva?

    1

    Start the day in Place du Bourg-de-Four

    In the heart of Geneva’s Old Town

    Not just the main focal point of the Old Town, but one of the oldest crowning jewels of the city itself, Place du Bourg-de-Four is a quaint but lively spot. This split-level square is lined with laid-back cafés and bistros; perfect for grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat and watching the world go by, as you fuel yourself for the day.

    You can explore much of the city using Place du Bourg-de-Four as your starting point, beginning with the square’s beautiful 18th century fountain, adorned with colorful flowers.

    Location: Place du Bourg-de-Four, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland

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    photo by Guilhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0) modified

    2

    Wander around Geneva Old Town

    Step back in time as you explore the quaint cobbled streets

    Lose yourself in a maze of intertwining cobbled streets as you discover the treasures and charms of Geneva’s Old Town. Showcasing ancient Geneva and all that the city stands for, the Old Town is home to countless museums, galleries and fascinating historical sights for you to explore.

    Visit the iconic Hôtel de Ville (Geneva’s government headquarters); delve into the city’s past at the oldest house in Geneva, the 12th century Maison Tavel; and see the remarkable stained-glass windows inside the Cathedrale de St-Pierre.

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    photo by Laurie Nevay (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    3

    Must-See: Lake Geneva and Jet d’Eau

    Europe’s largest Alpine lake

    The city of Geneva is situated on the banks of the glistening Lake Geneva, the largest alpine lake in Europe. It’s set to the breathtaking background of the snow-dusted Swiss Alps. Have your camera at the ready as you stroll along lakeside promenades, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere as you go.

    Without a doubt, the thing that’ll stand out most on the landscape is the impressive Jet d’Eau – the tallest fountain in the world, shooting water 140 meters into the sky.

    Location: Jet d’Eau, Quai Gustave-Ador, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland

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    4

    Take a dip at Bains des Pâquis

    Geneva’s popular beach and outdoor baths

    Just a short walk from the Pâquis District are the hugely popular public baths and beach of Bains des Pâquis. The public baths are built on a man-made peninsula on the western promenade of Lake Geneva, surrounded by a lively beach where locals and tourists alike can bask in the sun on warm, summer days.

    Boasting incredible views of the lake and Jet d’Eau, there’s no better place to take to the water for an afternoon of relaxation. But don’t worry if you’re visiting in winter as the baths are turned into saunas throughout the colder months, so there’s no need to catch a chill.

    Location: Bains des Pâquis, Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, 1201 Genève, Switzerland

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 8pm, weather permitting

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    photo by Guilhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Must-See: Cathedrale de St-Pierre

    Visit the church where John Calvin once preached

    Dominating a hill in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, the Cathedrale de St-Pierre is well worth the climb to experience it. The cathedral was built between 1160 and 1252 as a Roman Catholic church, but became a Reformed Protestant Church and was made famous when French theologist and reformer John Calvin preached there in the mid-16th century.

    Today, you can still see his wooden chair inside, as well as the beautifully ornate décor and stained-glass windows. Make your visit extra-special by climbing the tower steps and taking in the views from the top.

    Location: Cathedrale de St-Pierre, Place du Bourg-de-Four 24, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland

    Open: May–October: Monday–Saturday from 9am to 6.30pm, Sundays from 12pm to 6.30pm. October–May: Monday–Saturday from 10am to 5.30pm, Sundays from 12pm to 5.30pm

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    photo by Fenliokao (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    6

    See the world at the Palais des Nations

    Home of the United Nations Office at Geneva

    Situated in the heart of the Parc de l’Ariana, along the Avenue de la Paix, is the prestigious Palais des Nations. Housing the European headquarters of the United Nations, it’s the second largest UN center in the world, behind New York.

    Open daily for guided tours, you can explore the grounds and building, visiting the large Assembly Hall and the impressive Council Chamber with its stunning ceiling murals.

    Location: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm (closed on Sundays)

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    photo by andi475 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Enjoy the view from Mont Salève

    The Balcony of Geneva

    Known as the ‘Balcony of Geneva’, Mont Salève is part of the French Prealps mountain range and boasts spectacular views across Lake Geneva and the city. Located just 20 km from the center of Geneva, it’s easily accessible by car or public transportation and makes for a great outdoor adventure for the energetic ones among you.

    There are several hiking trails up the 1,379-meter peak, but you don’t have to be an intrepid trekker to enjoy the views. There’s a cable car that’ll save your legs and fast-track you to the top as well.

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    photo by Guilhem Vellut (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Feast on Swiss cheese and chocolate

    The age-old, delicious local delicacies

    You can’t possibly visit Geneva without sampling some of the delicious delicacies that the city is so famous for. Swiss cheese (with its distinctive holes) and Swiss chocolate (think Lindt, Toblerone and Milka) are some of the best varieties you could ever wish to taste.

    Head to Fromagerie Bruand on Boulevard Helvétique to sample some of the best cheese in the city. Then for afters, take a guided tour of Favarger, the only place to perform the entire chocolate-making process in house from start to finish. You can even craft your own chocolatey creation at one of the workshops there.

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    9

    Take your time at the Patek Philippe Museum

    An insight into the history of watchmaking

    In a beautifully restored Art Deco building in the Plainpalais area of the city is the Patek Philippe Museum. The Swiss are the world leaders in watchmaking and this fascinating museum takes you on a journey through time, from the earliest creations in the 16th century to the modern-day watches that the luxurious brand manufactures today. Plan ahead and book a guided tour to get the most out of your visit.

    Location: Patek Philippe Museum, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, 1205 Geneva, Switzerland

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 9.30am to 8pm, Saturday from 10am to 6pm (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

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    10

    End the day in the Pâquis District

    Geneva’s nightlife hub

    This relatively small area of Geneva certainly has a large reputation when it comes to atmosphere and nightlife. On the city’s western banks of Lake Geneva, the Pâquis District is bursting with vibrant bars, lively clubs and a whole host of South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants and fast-food options.

    Somewhat seedy and pristine in equal measure, the area is home to the city’s red-light district, as well as up-market hotels and chic cocktail bars. Start your evening with a carafe of wine in the easy-going Les Cinq Portres before heading out into the night.

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    photo by Romano1246 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Sadie Geoghegan-Dann | Contributing Writer

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