I went to Geneva the first time to visit some friends that live close by, and to be honest, my expectations weren't high. However, it didn't take me long to fall in love with the city and the beautiful surrounding areas. And now I can easily say, that this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and definitely the one that surprised me the most.
I have put together a list of the 10 best things to do in and around Geneva so that you can get the most out of your stay.
Bonus info: All hotels in Geneva offer a free public transport pass for your entire stay, so getting around is cheap and convenient.
1. Lake Geneva: Jet d’Eau and the Pâquis Baths
Most cities have that one main tourist attraction which you will see in all the postcards. For Geneva, that attraction is the Jet d’Eau. It is basically a massive fountain shooting water up in the air, located in Lake Geneva.
It is visible from most parts of the city as it shoots the water to an altitude of 140 metres (460 ft).
It is possible to walk almost all the way out to the jet, but watch out, you will get wet! 🙂
At the other side of the lake is the Pâquis Baths. It is a man-made "beach" were locals and tourists cool down and go for a swim.
The first time I went to Geneva, we got to the city around 11 at night and people were still swimming in the lake and enjoying some food or drinks on the pier.
It has a lovely atmosphere, and even when it's too cold to swim, it is still a great place to enjoy the view of the Jet and the city.
2. The Old Town and the St. Pierre Cathedral
The Old Town is characterised by its cobblestone streets, historic buildings, sidewalk cafes and many restaurants. But it is also home to the beautiful St. Pierre Cathedral.
The Cathedral is free and open to the public every day, but if you want to climb the towers you will have to buy a ticket (CHF 5). From the top, you get an amazing 360° view of the city and the lake.
Warning: The stairs are very steep and narrow, so if you're not good with tight spaces, maybe skip this one.
3. The Flower Clock
The Swiss are very famous for their watches, so it should come as no surprise that they even built them out of flowers. The L'horloge Fleurie, also known as the flower clock, is located on the western side of Jardin Anglais, next to Lake Geneva.
The clock always looks different, as it is made of various flowers which bloom at different times of the year, and the watch actually works!
4. Eat fondue
When it comes to food there are two things you can't visit Switzerland without trying. Their chocolate and their cheese!
The first time I went, my Swiss friend made me homemade raclette and the second time he took me out for fondue. Fondue isn't foreign to me, as it was very big in Denmark in the 90's (mostly the oil version), but I had definitely never had it the Swiss way before.
You basically break out pieces of bread or potatoes and dip them in the hot melted cheese. The cheese then comes with a ton of different flavours, but I kept it traditional and ordered the plain one.
I don't think fondue is something I would ever eat outside of Switzerland, but you should definitely give it a try if you are visiting.
5. The United Nations and The International Red Cross
Before visiting Geneva, I had mostly heard about the city when people were talking about the United Nations. Because of its central location in Europe, the city is home to many international organisations. Two of these are the United Nations and the International Red Cross (they are located right across from each other).
If you are interested, you can visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum for CHF 15 or take a guided tour of the Palace of Nations for CHF 12.
6. Mont Saléve
When you are tired of walking around the city or just need another perspective, take the bus to Veyrier and ride the cable car to the top of Mont Saléve (CHP 13.6).
From there you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Geneva and the lake, go for a hike, paraglide over the lake, bird-spot, or just grab a bite to eat at the café.
If you have more than just a couple of days I definitely recommend renting a car and driving around the lake. Geneva is beautiful, but my favourite part about visiting has been the day trips exploring the small towns and amazing nature.
Yvoire is a small French medieval town located on the French shore of the lake, between Geneva and Evian. If you are driving on the Swiss side, take the boat from Nyon and enjoy seeing this beautiful town from the water.
Yvoire was built in the early 14th century and some of the original buildings still stand today. In the summer months, the town is filled with flowers and just walking around the narrow streets will keep you entertained for hours.
8. Château de Chillon
Château de Chillon or the Chillon Castle is a medieval castle located south of Veytaux on a little island in Lake Geneva.
The castle is open to the public every day of the year and a ticket cost CHF 12.50.
If you don't care to go inside, you can simply enjoy the view from the outside.
9. Lavaux vineyards
Continue your drive along the shore of Lake Geneva and arrive at the beautiful Lavaux vineyards. The vineyards stretch for about 30 km (18.6 mi) and cover 830 hectares.
In 2007, the steep hills were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. The view of the vineyards, mountains, and Lake Geneva is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
The city of Montreux is located at the foot of the Alps at the far east side of Lake Geneva.
It is home to a 3.5 km (2.2 mi) colourful lakeside promenade where hundreds of different flowers create the perfect contrast to the mountains.
Fun fact: The city is mostly famous for the Montreux Jazz Festival, where a burning building in 1971 was the inspiration for Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”.
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