Geneva is a fascinating city that holds ancient history, cosmopolitan diversity and international charm and status. Switzerland’s most populous city offers beauty around each and every corner. It is consistently ranked as one of the best cities in the world in regards to quality of life, and it has long been a popular destination for expatriates. Geneva is often referred to as the world’s most compact metropolis and the world’s Peace Capital. It’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Geneva is flanked by two mountain chains, the Alps and the Jura. Winters are generally mild, while summers are pleasantly warm and comfortable. The variety of tourist attractions makes Geneva a popular tourist destination, no matter the time of year. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Geneva:
Geneva for Environmentally-Green Travelers
Geneva’s Lac Léman Lakefront
Being situated on one of the most famous lakes in the world, the Lakefront is the city’s greatest landmark. t provides an exceptional view of the lake and surrounding mountains. With its colorful quays full of gorgeous flowers, it’s hard not to fall in love with this idyllic setting.
It is also home to Jet d’Eau, which is known all over the world as a symbol for Geneva. The fountain pumps water 140 meters in the air. It was once used for pressure release for a hydro-power generation on the Rhône River, but it was created as an official fountain in 1891. The fountain is best viewed at a distance since the ground is soaked from the water fountain for a half-kilometer radius.
On the right shore of the lake after crossing the Mont-Blank bridge, you’ll be able to see the 19th century Brunswick Monument. The Pâquis jetty with its lighthouse and beach in the middle of the city is beautiful any time of year. This is where Geneva’s smart set come to swim.
The Flower Clock
Geneva’s botanical flower clock has been emulated worldwide, but there’s nothing like seeing the original botanical timekeeper with your own eyes. The Flower Clock is one of the most photographed sites in Switzerland; it’s also a symbol of Switzerland’s esteemed watch industry.
This renewable living piece of art can be found at the corner of Jardin Anglais, just a few steps from Geneva Lake. The flower clock was created in 1955. Flower arrangements are changed according to the season, and at any given time there are approximately 6,500 flowers and plants planted within the arrangement.
Geneva’s Alpine Garden
Geneva’s Alpine Garden is the perfect place to enjoy nature and learn about Geneva’s plant heritage. It’s also famous for its stunning collections of living plants and unusual rock formations. The one-hectare garden holds 110 rock formations, which contain plants that are based on a geographical basis. Other rock formations are based on various themes, such as collections of various genres and Swiss-protected plants.
Bois de la Bâtie (Bâtie Woods)
A 39-acre forest set in the heart of the city, Bâtie Woods offers beautiful shaded walkways alongside the stunning river Arve. There is also a children’s playground and an animal park there, making this natural attraction a family friendly venue. Created in 1874, the park hosts various sports and leisure facilities, especially in the area of Jonction District, where the rivers Rhône and Arve connect.
Geneva offers nature in the center of the city in Bastions Park. This is where the city’s first botanical garden was created. The world-renowned Reformation Wall and can also be found here. The park offers a stunning promenade that is lined with trees and monuments. One of its most famous attractions is the giant chessboard, which attracts players and spectators alike. The winter ice rink and children’s playground are also free to use.
Geneva for Culture Vultures
A Mediterranean village set in the heart of the city, Carouge is an ancient market town that used to belong to the Kingdom of Sardinia. The village is the Genevan version of la dolce vita and it offers a distinct Italian flare. The food shops, art galleries, and boutiques that line the streets offer a lively ambience and a Bohemian flair, while the architecture is a stunning reflection of its Sardinian origins. The shaded terraces of Carouge are the perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s no wonder that Carouge is often referred to as the Greenwich Village of Geneva.
A veritable architectural jewel, Chillion Castle is just an hour outside of Geneva. This ancient castle is situated on a lake on the Swiss Rivera; the surrounding landscape provides a gorgeous natural setting for the medieval castle. If you like historic monuments, you’ll certainly want to visit this fortress, prison and royal residence. Chillion Castle will take you right back to life during the Middle Ages. Its rooms, halls, towers, ramparts and basements are all there for exploring.
The Patek Philippe Museum
The Patek Philippe Museum takes visitors through 500 years of watchmaking. Located in the heart of the Plainpalais District, the museum opened in 2001 to showcase the most beautiful creations from these world-famous watchmakers. Visitors can admire an incredible collection of watches alongside musical automata and enamel miniatures from the 16th through 19th centuries. There is also a museum library that is dedicated to horology and related subjects.
The highest point of Old Town, St Peter’s Cathedral offers a gorgeous panorama of the city. The cathedral was built in the 12th century, and it has undergone several important transformations through to the 16th century. The walls of the cathedral were started in 1160, but construction continued on them for close to a century.
Adventure seekers might consider scaling the heights of the cathedral. There are 157 stairs in the north tower. Those who climb them are rewarded with a stunning view of the city and lake. The vaults of the cathedral also house the largest archaeological site north of the Alps, with treasures that date back to Antiquity.
Getting There and Around
You can find cheap flights to Geneva at any time of year. Traveling within Europe means that you can also get to Geneva by train, car and by ferry.
In typical Swiss fashion, Geneva is very easy to navigate and visitors staying in a Geneva hotel or hostel are now entitled to a free daily travel pass for local transport. Ask your hotel concierge for more details.
If public transportation isn’t your style, don’t worry. Geneva is an extremely walkable city. The Old Town can easily be visited on foot starting anywhere around the tour boat dock on Lake Geneva.
Seeing the city by bicycle is also a great way to get around the city. The Old Town is hilly, but most of the city is fairly flat. There is also a safe, fast route to wherever you want to go. Genèveroule lends bicycles free of charge from the end of April through to the end of October. You can keep the bicycle for four hours free of charge. After that, a small fee of CHF 2 is added per hour. You must show some form of ID and leave a deposit of CHF 20 to rent your bicycle. City maps are available at all six stations.
Bike Switzerland offers road bikes and trekking bikes. There is a shop near the main train station where you can ask about rental prices.