By its nature, Geneva is a particular place, as you’ll discover a fascinating array of things to do in Geneva, from the international hotspot to the exclusive local one. The town is currently suffering from its own success as a world-renowned and wealthy business center. By day, the city is filled with businesspeople, international young professionals who flow in for a day’s meeting and last but not the least frontaliers who work in Geneva but live over the border in France. In the evenings and weekends, you can’t surprised to see the city be quiet. Nevertheless, live music can be heard in offbeat clubs like L’Usine, or strolled by vintage shops and Plainpalais’ flea market, the city’s burgeoning cocktail scene and the artisan workshops in Carouge.
1. Take a hike to the Salève Mountain
One great thing about Geneva is how easy it is to escape from the city and disappear into the wild. Did you know that Frankenstein’s monster also thought the same? The creature in Mary Shelley’s thriller portrayed his escape to the nearby mountain: Salève. There is a cable car base station at Veyrier which can take you for a short ride up to 1,379m, for a superlative view of the city and lake – the jet d’eau looks pretty small from up here. On the summit, you can indulge all sort of activities: hiking, paragliding, bird-spot, picnic or just sit in one of its cafés and contemplate the view.If you have any luck, you can have a clear view on the Mont Blanc.
2. Take an iconic selfie at the Water Fountain
It’s hardly the iconic stature of the Eiffel Tower of Paris, but Geneva’s Jet d’eau is impressive in its own way. Visible from the air as you fly into Geneva airport, this enormous water fountain in Lake Geneva spouts its froth 140m into the air. The best spots for a photo are from the Pont du Mont-Blanc and the Promenade du Lac alongside the lake’s left bank. You can get closer still by riding a boat on the lake – jump on a Mouette taxi-boat for a short hop from right bank to left bank or take your snap from a CGN ferry as part of a day trip to any number of destinations around the lake.
3. Explore the Old Town
The most traditional part of the city is Geneva’s Old Town, clustered on a hill around the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre and the pedestrian Place du Bourg-de-Four. It’s well worth a location for its independent boutiques including La Muse, Jill Wolf Jewels and Septième Etag, its numerous cafés and restaurants and the chance to people-watch over a coffee at La Clémence. You can take a dive into Geneva’s history by visiting the archaeological remains beneath the cathedral, before wandering along the promenade for views of the Bastions Park.
4. Take a walk in “Parc des Bastions”
The Bastions Park is the perfect spot to stretch your legs, especially in Summer. The place is popular for students, whose university buildings sit nearby. In summer, you must stop for coffee at the pretty Café Restaurant du Parc des Bastions, while in winter the outdoor terrace of the same café is transformed into an ice rink popular with families. The park is also home to the Reformation wall, a giant sculpture depicting the forefathers of the Reformation movement which transformed Geneva into a Protestant heartland in the 16th century.
5. Explore Geneva’s International role
For various reasons and its famed Switzerland’s neutrality, Geneva is the seat of several international organizations, some of which are open to visitors. First, you can head up to Nations to visit two of the best. The magnificent International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum is unmissable for its moving and shocking permanent exhibition which displays the vital humanitarian work carried out by the organization for the past 150 years. Combine this with a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, the European seat of the United Nations.
6. Learn about particle physics at CERN
Most of the time, Geneva makes the news for more than just tax evasion and skiing accidents. It’s also the place for the 27-mile ring of superconducting magnets somewhere beneath the French and Swiss border, there is accelerating particles at the speed of light. A tram ride from downtown, the CERN is open for guided tours, and while you can see the Large Hadron Collider itself (it’s closed to the public when working).
7. Get a taste of Italy in Carouge
Just a short tram ride from downtown, you’ll step into a different country.You’ll arrive in Carouge.The district was modeled by Italians who came from Turin in the 18th century. So you won’t be surprised to see Italian architecture such as stone archways, painted shutters, and red roofs. While wandering around Carouge, you can shop in second-hand bookshops, watchmakers, markets, antique restorers, glass blowers, and clothes designers.
8. Wander in the Plainpalais Flea Market
On Saturday mornings there’s no better place to be at than the Plaine de Plainpalais. Your first stop is at the Café Remor, a vintage 1930s café and ice-cream parlor. Then you can wander around in one and best flea markets in Switzerland. You can buy from vintage clothes to second-hand toys and sometimes pieces of furniture.
9. Explore Geneva’s shops
If you want to window shop, you need to head for the flashy Rue du Rhône to browse from high-end clothing boutiques, watchmakers and jewelry shops including designer emporium.If you are looking for a more realistic shopping experience in downtown, you must make a stop at the department store Globus, where you can spend hours looking at clothes, homeware, and cosmetics. If you’re really not into shopping, the mall is worth visiting for the exquisite food hall, which offers gourmet focaccia, a noodle bar, sushi, freshly flipped crêpes.
10. Relax at the Bains des Pâquis
We might say Geneva has tons of luxurious spas but the Bains des Pâquis is an affordable public swimming bath. The place is open year-round and you can go there for a dip, a sauna, a massage, and why not try the excellent Swiss cheese fondue. In summer, there are plenty of events including early-morning music and poetry readings. Best of all, you can have a nice a view on the jet d’eau.
Updated: July 13, 2017