- The second most populous city in Switzerland, Geneva has a population of ~194,000. Another 800,000 people live in the metropolitan area surrounding the city.
- Referred to as the world’s most compact metropolis with a significant international culture, Geneva is one of the world’s major centers of international diplomacy.
- Set around Europe’s largest Alpine lake, Geneva is known for its appealing landscapes.
- One of the world’s most expensive cities to live in (consistently ranks in the top 5).
- Nickname: The Peace Capital.
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF). Euros (EUR) are also accepted, but exchange rates on the Euro tend to be high in the area.
- Spoken languages: French, although you will hear many languages spoken. English is understood and spoken by many.
- Best time to visit: from May to September.
- Arriving from the airport: taxis from the airport will cost you around 30 CHF. Buses leave every 15 minutes (from 6 AM to 11 PM), and cost 3 CHF one way. You can also catch a train from the airport to the main Geneva train station (3 CHF). Tip: a free transport ticket into downtown Geneva can be obtained within the airport baggage claim area, and is valid for up to 80 minutes anywhere in Geneva and its suburbs.
WHERE TO STAY
Geneva can be fairly pricey, with the average hotel rate at around 135 CHF per night. There is certainly no shortage of hotels – the most luxurious places are in the centre of the city. Budget accommodations are few and far between – your best best is to check rates for youth hostels. Hotels near the airport also tend to be cheaper.
- Tip: anyone staying in a Geneva hotel/hostel is entitled to a free daily travel pass for the local Transport TPG.
- Bus/tram tickets will cost you 8 CHF for a day pass, unless you are staying at a Geneva hotel/hostel (where it is free).
- Geneva is relatively small, so walking on foot is always a viable option for most journeys.
- If you want to explore the nearby mountainous countryside, renting a car can be an excellent option.
- Drinking age is 16 for beer/wine/cider, 18 for all else. Last call is 3 AM.
- Plaine de Plainpalais (in the southwest of the Old Town) boasts some of the best bars in Geneva.
- Les Pâquis is known for its multi-ethnic take on nightlife, and has many bars and clubs that range from the trendy/hip to those playing classic 70s tunes.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Jet d’Eau fountain is the monumental postcard picture of Geneva, pumping water 140 meters into the air and visible from the Lac Léman waterfront. The more adventurous can walk up the pathway right up to the jet and get wet!
- Cathédrale St-Pierre – the cathedral is at the highest point in Geneva’s Old Town and is a place of cultural and historical importance; a high point of the Reformation history.
- Palais des Nations – originally built to house the League of Nations, it is worth visiting just to see the stunning Assembly hall, public art and beautiful grounds.
- Old Town (Vieille Ville) makes for a good walk and has many highlights to see including the city hall, Rousseau’s birth house, antique shops and old style architecture.
- You can’t go wrong with a walk along Lake Geneva (Lac Léman).
- Take a walk in Bastions Park, where you can find the Reformation Wall. Continue on to the Geneva city Hall and the English Garden.
- Geneva is set in the beautiful Alps – don’t pass up this opportunity to do some hiking or exploring the natural landscape.
- For the active person, there are many water sports available on the lake. In the winter, great skiing is close to the city.
- Where to find good cheap food: this is tricky! Geneva is the most expensive city in one of the most expensive countries in the world – cheap food is not in abundance. Your best bet for budget eating may be to check out the French markets, just across the border!
- Dangerous areas to avoid: Geneva is a very safe place to visit. As in any major city, keep your eye on your personal belongings – watch out for pickpockets.
RECOMMENDED GENEVA GUIDE BOOKS
- Switzerland: 100 Locals Tell You What to Do, Where to Hike, & How to Fit In
- Fodor’s Switzerland (Full-color Travel Guide)
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days