Fringed by vast mountain ranges and nestled beside France, Switzerland’s second biggest city is the perfect location for a short city break. With family from Switzerland, I have visited the city numerous times. We usually base ourselves in the mountainous Montreux and take day trips to other places, like Geneva. However, this year we ended up staying in Geneva for the first time.
Although the prices of some of the items in Geneva’s designer boutiques may leave you wanting to run for the alps, there are many affordable things to do in Geneva. You can use public transport for free with the Geneva transport card provided by your hotel.
Get a free ride from the airport
After picking up your luggage there is a machine where you can collect a ticket allowing you to use public transport around Geneva for 20 minutes. A lot of people don’t realise this and walk straight passed it; the machine is easy to miss so make sure you keep an eye out for it in baggage reclaim.
Geneva’s most iconic feature. It’s hard to research anything about Geneva without seeing a photo of this fountain. Unfortunately it wasn’t on when we visited in October. Although it is a year-round attraction, it is sometimes turned off due to high winds. I have, however, seen it on my summer visits to Switzerland and with water shooting 140m into the air, the Jet d’Eau is a fountain like no other.
Walk around the Old Town
A visit to Geneva’s old town will transport you to the past. This higher part of the city is now classed as a national heritage site. Stroll through it’s winding, cobbled streets and enjoy the old buildings, fountains and attractive shops.
Climb the towers of the Cathédrale Saint Pierre.
Get a workout climbing hundreds of steps in the towers of the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, where you can enjoy panoramic views over the city. Inside the grand Church in the Old Town, you will find a ticket booth where you can purchase tickets to climb the tower for 5 francs. I’m sure the views are outstanding year-round, but I particularly liked seeing the different colours of Autumn in October.
Visit this charming tea room and experience the various sweet and savoury flavours on offer. With many canapés to choose from, it is the perfect place to stop for a light lunch or coffee.
Enjoy a free ride on the water taxi
Mouettes, or yellow taxi shuttle boats, are Geneva’s public transport boats operated on the Geneva Lake. They provide convenient way for locals to cross the lake and a wonderful way to experience the Lake and see the Geneva. You can travel on them for free using your Geneva transport card provided by your hotel.
Eat cheese fondue at Avberge de Saviese
This traditional Swiss restaurant was recommended to us and once going there, we never looked back. As soon as you walk through the door you will be welcomed by the irresistible smell of cheese. If you know me, then you’ll know I’m obsessed with the stuff, so much that I had cheese fondue 3 days in a row whilst in Geneva! Opt for the house cheese fondue for a traditional experience.
Stuff your face with chocolate
Swiss chocolate is like no other. I always top up with my favourite kind, Cailler, each time I go. Another great place to get your chocolate fix is Läderach chocolatier. Let the various flavours of chocolate tempt you in to this little shop where you can ponder over the different slabs of chocolate, truffles, mini hearts and many other types of chocolate. My favourite was a slab of white chocolate with raspberry pieces.
Take an excursion to Mont Saleve
Within a few bus stops away from Geneva and a cable car journey you can be on top of a mountain! You will be treated to views which were so glorious that we spent hours and hours hiking around and admiring them. Tip: travel the bus for free using the Geneva transport card.
If you visit in the summer…
… be sure to take a paddle-steamer on the lake. I’m not sure if it is possible to go around the whole lake in one day but you can get the boat to Montreux (around 8 hours) and the train back. There are usually deck-chairs on these boats so it’s a great way to relax. On some of the boats you can even see the paddle-steamers from the bottom of the ship.