16 Fantastic Things to Do in Geneva On Your Visit

Steve Cummings

Geneva

Geneva isn’t the most frugal of places, and Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live. Therefore, we have tried to include some free activities for you to mix up.

You need at least two days here to see everything and maybe a few more days to explore the mountains.

We will look at 16 of the best things to do when you visit Geneva.

1. Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva
credits: Fenlio/depositphotos

Lake Geneva is one of the most scenic lakes in the world, and when you are in Geneva, you will spend a lot of time around it.

One of the best ways to explore the lake is to take a ferry. The one-hour ride from Geneva to Mont Blanc and back is a great way to get out onto the water. These are not just any old boats, though. They are 19th-century paddle steamers that add a certain charm to the trip.

If boats are not your thing, you could walk along the Montreux promenade. It's an excellent way to take in the fresh air that Switzerland is famous for.

Did you know there's also a mini-train that goes around the lake? This is perfect if you have kids, as what kids don’t love a train ride? Actually, what adults don’t love a train ride?

2. CERN

CERN_diegograndi
credits: diegograndi/depositphotos

If you are interested in science, then you have to visit Cern. You probably already know it's the home of the famous Hadron Collider, which has been used to find new particles and to help us unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Get there early if you can (before 9 a.m.) as it is a popular place. Guided tours are available, but you cannot choose them online. You have to hope you arrive at a time when they are going ahead. It will be worth it, as you will be taken around by scientists who know what they are talking about.

Kids will love it, as there are plenty of interactive exhibitions. It's a good day out for the whole family.

Getting there is easy; take the number 18 tram from central Geneva.

3. Jet d'Eau

Jet d'Eau
Credit: Depositphotos

The Jet’d Eau is one of Geneva's most famous landmarks. It shoots water up to 140 meters/459 feet in the air, and we can guarantee that everyone who visits will have a picture of the fountain on their phone.

It looks different depending on where you are in the city. Sunny days are the best, as you can sometimes see a rainbow effect forming, which makes it even more impressive.

If it's a hot day, stand near it as the mist that comes down afterward will be nice and cool.

Our tip for visiting it would be to go at 10 a.m. when the fountain is turned on. This attracts many people, and if they are right near it, it will make them jump, which is always fun to watch.

After you are done watching it, there are plenty of places to grab some food or drink nearby.

Overall, it's a fantastic attraction different from what you get in other cities.

4. St. Pierre Cathedral

St Pierre
credits: depositphotos

St. Pierre Cathedral is located on the top of a hill in the heart of the old town of Geneva. It requires walking to get there, but it is worth the effort.

What we like about this attraction (as a frugal blog) is that it's free to enter, which is a nice bonus. Our tip, though, would be to pay the small fee to go up to the towers. This also gets you access to an archaeological site beneath the cathedral. If you are a fan of history, you will love this, as there is plenty to see.

The views at the top are worth it, as it's one of the best places to see all of Geneva and get the perfect Instagram photograph. 

As it's small, you won’t need more than an hour here. Arrive early before the queues start, and you may have the view from the top all to yourself.

5. Patek Philippe Museum

You might be wondering why we added a watch museum to the list. Well, let me tell you, even if you aren’t interested in watches, you should still definitely go, as it's exciting. This place isn’t a commercial showroom trying to sell you watches; it's a detailed breakdown showing the craftsmanship of making watches.

When you enter, you have two options: You can have a guided tour, which we recommend. Or, if you are in a hurry, they offer a self-guided tour, which comes with a headset and tablet. Both are recommended, as you will learn so much you didn’t know and will leave with a new appreciation for watches.

The second and third floors are probably the best, and they have a great collection of Patek Philippe watches from over the years. 

It's a great way to spend a few hours outside if it's raining.

6. Palais des Nations

Palais des Nations
credits: edu1971/depositphotos

A visit to the Palais des Nations is well worth it. It will give you an idea of what happens inside the United Nations and how it works.

The tours usually last about an hour; your guide could be from any country within the United Nations. They all have interesting backgrounds and know their stuff. They will tell you about the roles of different countries, how importantdiplomacy is, and what happens within the day-to-day operations of the UN.

As part of your entrance, you are welcome to sit in on a debate and see first-hand how the decision-making process works.

The Avenue of Flags is also lovely. There is a flag from each member state, and it is a great place to take a picture.

Here's a fact that might come up on a quiz for you one day: Over 8,000 meetings are hosted here every year. That's 21 meetings per day!

7. Jardin Anglais

Jardin Anglais, or The English Garden, is an excellent place to escape the city and walk.

The main attraction for visitors is the Flower Clock, a symbol of Geneva's watch-making tradition. It changes throughout the year but is always full of bright flowers, making it a great place to photograph.

From the Jardin Anglais, you get lovely scenic views of the lake with the Jet d’Eau and Mont Blanc in the background.

A giant Ferris wheel called Grand Roue is also perfect for kids.

If you are lucky enough to visit during Christmas, they host the Christmas markets, which people say are one of the best they have ever been to.

8. Maison Tavel

Maison Tavel is a historic house dating back to the 11th century. It has been rebuilt several times and is now a museum dedicated to Geneva’s past.

There are six floors in total, each filled with something different. One of the main attractions is the large 3D model of Geneva. It allows you to look at the city from a different perspective, identify the prominent landmarks, and see how it has developed over time.

Another attraction is the collection of 17th—to 19th-century furniture, which gives you an idea of what everyday life was like back then.

An audio tour is available, which we recommend. You will learn things you won’t know just by reading the plaques in front of items.

9. Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History)

The Natural History Museum is a place the whole family will love. Animals are presented in artistically designed environments with stylish colors and interesting facts. Some of the birds are even wearing glasses, which looks slightly comical.

It's not as big as other natural history museums, but it's an excellent way to break up the day. 

What we also like about it is that it's free!

10. Parc La Grange

Parc La Grange is a great way to spend a few hours, especially in summer. It's the ideal location for picnics, walks, or just spending time with kids who may need to let off some steam, as there is a playground for them.

On a summer's day, it's usually full of locals walking their dogs, having BBQs, or relaxing.

If you are a fan of history, there's a small section of Roman ruins worth exploring.

11. Place du Bourg-de-Four

The Place du Bourg-de-Four is in the heart of the old town of Geneva. It is a lovely square with plenty of cafes andrestaurants and outdoor seating, perfect for watching the world go by.

In the middle of the square is an impressive fountain that adds to the square's charm.

Heading out from the square are cobbled streets, which, when wandering down, make you feel like you are stepping back in time. These are filled with inviting art galleries, antique shops, and bookshops. 

The square is a good starting point for meeting up and heading off to other areas of the city, and it's often where many of the guided tours begin.

12. Reformation Wall

Close up on reformers wall in Geneva, Switzerland, HDR

Built in 1909 and 100 meters/328 feet long, the Reformation Wall commemorates the Protestant Reformation and can be found within Bastion Parc. It showcases key events and figures, and it's interesting even for those with no interest in religion.

It is a testament to the struggles and achievements of the Reformation leaders who championed freedom, progress, and democracy. The design and grandeur of the wall make it a beautiful place for photography.

Most people stumble across this attraction without knowing it exists and are often blown away by its quality.

13. Musée Ariana

If you love glass and ceramics, you should visit the Musée Ariana. The collection includes ancient ceramics, vases, plates, and glass. One highlight is the comparison displays of Chinese, Dutch (Delft), and German (Meissen) China.

The building is also fascinating, but it often doesn't get the appreciation it deserves. It was opened in 1884 by Gustave Revilliod, built to house his collection of art, and designed to be enjoyed by all.

It's one of the least popular museums, which we like because it often means it's not as crowded as some of the more popular museums. It is also another free museum.

You could combine a visit here with the UN building, as it's just around the corner from it.

14. Take a Walking Free Tour

sunset walk
credit: depositphotos

Most cities now offer free walking tours, and that's the same here in Geneva. They are a great way to learn about the city. It's always good to do this at the start of your holiday, as you will get a better idea of where things are.

A quick Google search will show you multiple companies that offer this. We don’t want to recommend one directly as we haven’t used any. 

Despite being free, the guides need to be paid. Tipping at the end is always important, so make sure you have some cash on you.

15. Head Into The Mountains

nature hike
credit: depositphotos

A good idea is to do a multi-location holiday. After a few days in Geneva, why not head off for mountain adventures?

Just under an hour away are the resorts of Samoëns, La Clusaz, and Chamonix, which are great for those into skiing in the winter.

You could go hiking, paragliding, mountain biking, or tobogganing in the summer.

We know we said to do the adventure activities after your city break, but the sensible thing might be to do the physical stuff and then relax in Geneva and enjoy all the excellent food and drink.

16. Chocolate Tasting/Making

Dark Chocolate
Credit: Depositphotos

Switzerland is famous for chocolate, so while you are here, why not take part in eating (or making) some of the best chocolate in the world?

Numerous companies offer these experiences, some lasting an hour and others half a day.

Final Thoughts

Have you spent a day or two in Geneva? We would love to hear any other recommendations you might have to give our readers more ideas. Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

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