Geneva has many faces: it is known as the “capital of the world” – this name came from the headquarters of the UN and the Red Cross, as a scientific center – because of the nuclear physics laboratory with the Large Hadron Collider, as a resort around Lake Leman. The second largest city in Switzerland is home to just under 200,000 people, more than 40% of whom are foreigners. The symbol of the smallest metropolis is the 140-meter Jet d’Eau fountain, which spouts directly from the lake. Among travelers, Geneva is considered too regular and calm, but in reality it is not inferior to the average European city: there are many modern and archaic museums, old streets, nightclubs and shopping centers. Check TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA to learn more about Switzerland.
The Tourist Office of Geneva is open at Rue du Mont-Blanc, 18 and is waiting for its guests every day from about 9:00 to 16:00-18:00, depending on the day of the week.
Districts of Geneva
Geneva is divided into 8 districts. The medieval historical center is split in half by the Rhone River: the Saint-Gervais quarter is located on the right bank, the Cité on the left. The latter houses an iconic religious site – St. Peter’s Cathedral. The old city is considered one of the most expensive places, similarly priced accommodation and fine restaurants are also found in the Paquis area, along the shores of Lake Geneva and on the Mont Blanc embankment. It is better to stay here for those who are willing to pay more in order to have constant access to attractions, walk through green squares and feel safe. Cornavin Station is a 15-minute walk from historic Saint-Gervais. This area was chosen by emigrants from Africa and the Middle East. You should be prepared to meet with representatives of ethnic communities, traditional restaurants, hookah cafes, as well as offers to buy smoking mixtures. A simple “no” is enough for this case.
Geneva hotels cannot be classified as cheap – the eternal golden flair of Switzerland is expressed in an additional mark-up for generally ordinary accommodation options. Those who want to save money will have a hard time here – the cost of even hostels significantly exceeds the pan-European prices. For a night you will have to pay from 40 CHF. But lovers of luxury in Geneva will certainly like it – the local “five” have established themselves as one of the best hotels in Europe – at the appropriate cost, of course: you can book an apartment for 300-600 CHF. A high-quality “three” or “four” will cost 100-140 CHF per day.
The beaches of Geneva
Lake Geneva, or Lake Leman is the largest in Europe. On its shores there are 5 beaches, the most popular is Bon des Paquis. Here it is customary to jump into the water from the pier and sunbathe right on the wooden surface, there are no sunbeds. But the place is equipped with a shower, toilets, changing cabins. There is even free Wi-Fi. From May to September, visitors over 16 will cost 2 CHF, children – half the price. The local year-round bath complex, which includes two saunas, a Turkish bath and a massage room, deserves special attention.
The ticket will cost 20 CHF. Nearby there is a free “Baby Beach”: it got its name due to the fact that at the beginning of the last century this place was chosen by couples with small children. The largest beach is Geneva. But people come here not to take a dip in the lake, but to swim in the pool. The cost of a single visit is 7 CHF. Another unusual place for swimming is L’amarr@GE. This is a platform-pool in the shape of the Swiss flag, floating on the lake. Prices are democratic: 2 CHF for adults and half as much for children.
Most shops are concentrated on the left bank of the Rhone. Grand Rue is home to antique dealers and artists, with many shops and galleries open there. And a couple of steps from it there is a shopping district, literally “stuffed” with arcades. On Confederation Street, Rue du Rive and its parallel Rue du Rone, there are boutiques of all famous European brands and bookstores. An art bookstore on an island in the middle of the Rhone next to the Papiers Gras gallery and the Aux Halles de l’Ile restaurant is worth a visit.
“Local” purchases include jewelry, watches and chocolate. By the way, Switzerland is one of the few countries that allow the export of gold bullion. And according to this, one of the most common Swiss souvenirs is chocolate in the form of an ingot, wrapped in gold paper.
There is a large selection of duty-free shops at the airport and everything is traditionally a little cheaper. For example, a chocolate bar costs from 3 CHF, a Swiss knife – from 20 CHF.
Anyone who believes that it is better to buy Swiss watches in Switzerland should look into the shops of Cartier, Bucherer and Piaget, which will meet more than once in the city. Relatively inexpensive collectible watches from Swatch are sold almost everywhere, the fashion for which has been constantly growing in the last decade. This is a classic souvenir – no worse than an army Swiss knife or chocolate. Read more: shopping in Geneva.
What to try
The cuisine of Geneva is similar to French: the same products and sauces, and locals like to drink a glass of wine with lunch and dinner. Of the famous Swiss dishes traditionally served for breakfast, reshti is notable. It is reminiscent of the French “gratin”: it is made from boiled potatoes, chopped on a grater and fried with bacon, tomatoes, paprika and Gruyère cheese. Hundreds of years ago, it was believed that the best bride is the one who cooks “reshti” deliciously. In October-November, cardon, or the Spanish artichoke, becomes one of the main ingredients of the casserole. Be sure to try the “longjole” – fatty pork sausage with fennel, cumin and pistachios, cooked in white wine.
Of the local varieties of wines, Chasselas and Gamay are especially popular – it is better to taste them in the fall, after the fresh harvest. They are served with perch dishes, which are considered a symbol of the region. The fish is caught in Lake Leman, so it is always fresh.
Treat yourself to a cheese fondue, and for dessert, order Khukhli and Krepfli, sweets reminiscent of cheesecake and pancakes.
Cafes and restaurants in Geneva
Remembering that Geneva is one of the most multinational cities in Europe, it is worth preparing for the same variety of restaurants. The most democratic ones are located near the Kornaven station: most of the cafes are owned by immigrants from India and Southeast Asia and offer to treat themselves to national cuisine. For example, for rice with chicken or meat, they will ask for 20 CHF.
On the right bank of the Rhone, in the business district, at every step you can find coffee houses, small bakeries and establishments with business lunches. A set lunch will cost about 50 CHF, a cake with coffee – 15 CHF. The historic center also attracts fans of traditional Swiss cuisine: sausages, baked perch and fondue. The average price tag for a lunch with a glass of wine is 50-70 CHF. Fashionable restaurants are located on the Mont Blanc embankment; most of them work at hotels and receive guests at lunchtime and in the evening. It is more expensive here: 50-70 CHF for a main course and from 20 CHF for a dessert. And in the establishments included in the Michelin guide, you will have to pay from 100 CHF for a tasting set.
Entertainment and attractions
The main symbol of Geneva – the Jet d’Eau fountain – is visible from almost anywhere in the city. The 140-meter jet of water spouting directly from Lake Leman is impressive both day and night when the colored lights are turned on. After enjoying the scenery, most tourists go to the Old Town, where the main attractions are compactly located.
Self-guided tours start from Bourg de Four Square, which existed in the era of Ancient Rome. There are antique shops and numerous cafes in this area. You can catch your breath on the longest bench in the world, stretching for 120 m. From Bastion Park, the road leads to Place Plainpalais, where a circus tent and amusement park are often set up, and on Saturdays from 7:00 to lunch a flea market unfolds. Walking around the neighborhood, it is worth seeing the famous St. Peter ‘s Cathedral, founded in the 12th century. The building was rebuilt several times, and now it is a mixture of Gothic, Baroque and Classicism.
One of the most revered Protestant relics, the throne of John Calvin, is kept in St. Peter’s Cathedral.
By the way, those interested in the history of religion can cross the road and visit the International Reformation Museum. Another place of worship – the Catholic Basilica of Notre Dame – is located on the other side of the Rhone, near the railway station. The main temple shrine is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary made of white stone.
In front of the Mont Blanc bridge, travelers pay attention to the flower clock. The exact time is shown not only by the arrows, but also by the plants themselves, planted in the order in which they bloom. Having crossed to the right bank of the Rhone, the traveler will get to know Geneva as the “capital of the world”. The offices of international organizations are located here: the headquarters of the Red Cross and the UN Palace.
5 things to do in Geneva
- Walk around the colorful historical center and see many sights.
- Feel the fine splashes on your face as you watch the vigorous activity of the Jet d’Eau fountain.
- See the world’s largest second hand on the flower clock at the Promenade du Lac.
- Pay tribute to the memory of Jorge Luis Borges at the Plainpalais cemetery.
- Lose count of the steps in the Hall of Lost Steps in the UN Palace.
Not far from the city, on the shores of Lake Geneva, lies the “pearl of the Swiss Riviera” – Montreux. The city is known throughout the world for its closed private schools and beauty institutes, nightclubs, bars and casinos, jazz and classical festivals. Many great writers and musicians lived here, including Vladimir Nabokov, who is buried in the local cemetery. On a small rocky islet off the coast of Montreux stands the famous Chillon Castle.
Geneva for children
Unforgettable entertainment with a child in Geneva is a trip to one of the famous chocolate factories. Excursions with master classes are offered by Stettler and Cell (the latter, by the way, is over 200 years old). With your own hands, you can mold a traditional chocolate pot – “bain-marie”.
When Genevans say they go to a museum, they mean the Museum of Natural History. Going there is a standard item on the family weekend program.
There are more than 3,500 exhibits on the territory that you can touch: these are stuffed animals, birds and inhabitants of the ocean. The museum even has a copy of the mummy of the mammoth Dima, found in Chukotka. Of the minuses – all the inscriptions in French.
A 1.5 hour drive from Geneva is the giant Le Bouvre water park (off site in English). It includes 4 zones: slides, a pirate ship, a spa area and a beach.
Geneva has a maritime temperate climate, which means that the weather here is favorable to tourists and locals all year round. Summers are mild and warm, but not stuffy, the temperature of Lake Leman allows you to swim throughout the season, lasting from May to September. Autumn is rainy but sunny, this is the time travelers often choose for sightseeing and excursions. Winter in Geneva passes without frost, snow does not fall every year, but in the mountains it is enough to ski or snowboard. In addition, freezing rains can periodically fall in the lake area.