Probably you’ve heard many different stereotypes about Geneva. Some positive ones, like good quality of living, awesome chocolate, fine watchmaking, diversity and multiculturalism. But most likely some negative too, like Geneva being a bit dull, not having too many tourist attractions, lacking the bustle and buzz of bigger cities, etc. We would suggest ignoring anyone saying Geneva is boring. True, it is fairly quiet compared to London, Paris or Barcelona, but there are a ton of sightseeing attractions, remarkable landmarks, museums, concerts and many other things to discover. We will start form offering you the list of top 10 things to see and do in Geneva.
Beautiful quays and promenades of Geneva extend along the shores of Lac Léman inviting you for an afternoon stroll. Here you can admire the breathtaking views of Jet d’Eau and the surrounding mountains, set your watch by the Flower Clock or take a pause from walking at the beautiful lakeside parks – Jardin Anglais, Parc de La Grange or Parc de La Perle du Lac.
Photo by Patrick Nouhaille
Geneva’s Old Town (Vieille Ville) is just a short walk from the lakeside. It is the largest historic town in Switzerland, characterized by its cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, local boutiques and smart restaurants. It is very much a place of walking, especially during the summertime, when you can take a break from sightseeing at one the relaxed terraced cafés at Place du Bourg-de-Four – the oldest square in Geneva, which was originally a Roman forum. Vieille Ville is largely dominated by Cathédrale St-Pierre where spiritual farther of the city – John Calvin, one of the most prominent figures in the history of Protestantism – preached between 1536 and 1564. Other must-see places in the Old Town include Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva, built in the 12th century by the Maison family, Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville), the political heart of Geneva, and Ancient Arsenal.
3. Palace of Nations
Home to the European headquarters of the United Nations Organization since 1946, the Palace of Nations (Palais des Nations) was built between 1929 and 1936 as the headquarters for the League of Nations, created in 1920 to preserve the world peace after the WWI. Today over 9000 people work for the United Nations in Geneva, which is the largest concentration of UN personnel in the world. Parts of the Palace of Nations, including Salle du Conseil, where many important historical negotiations have taken place, and Salles des Assemblées, are accessible to the public with guided tours available in more than 15 languages. Don’t miss a chance to experience international diplomacy in action within the halls and corridors of the Palais des Nations!
4. Bains de Paquis
Some time ago Bains de Paquis used to be sort of a secret place in Geneva – today it is quite well-known place among locals and tourists. But even though there are days when this place becomes excessively over-crowded, it is still worth a visit. Loved for baths, sunbathing and swimming during the summer time; sauna and hammam during the winter time; good and moderately priced food all year round, Bains de Paquis offers magnificent views over the Lake Geneva, Jet d’Eau and surrounding mountains. One more reason to love this place – the wonderful crowd it gathers – a mix of generations, genders, backgrounds and fashion preferences. A great and unique place.
Photo by Samuel Zeller
5. MEG (Geneva Ethnography Museum)
The European Museum of the Year Award – the most prestigious museum award in Europe – is given each year to a European museum in acknowledgement of the exceptional quality of its cultural program, unique atmosphere, innovative presentation, original approach to education and its significant influence in the museum field on a national and international level. Do you know who won this important award in 2017? Correct. It’s MEG (Musée d’ethnographie de Genève). Geneva Ethnography Museum has one of the largest ethnographic collections in Switzerland which consists of more than 80,000 items. Come and discover the fascinating diversity of cultures at MEG!
Planpalais is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Geneva: young, diverse and pulsing with life. Some of the best coffee shops, art galleries and museums are located here. Places not to be missed include: MAMCO, the contemporary art museum of Geneva, Birdie, best coffee in Geneva!, SKOPIA, a regular exhibitor at major international contemporary art fairs such as Art Basel and the Armory Show NY, Planpalais flea market on Saturday mornings and many more. Highly recommended!
Carouge has a look and feel different from that of Geneva. It was designed by Italian architects in the late 1700s, but has kept its Mediterranean character and charm to this day. Narrow streets and nice squares with cafes and bars dotted around, small artists’ workshops and stylish boutiques, beautiful gardens and pastel-coloured buildings… Bohemia and Italianate ambiance strike in Carouge. Stroll around here on Sunday morning and you will find yourself wondering: “Am I still in Geneva?”.
8. Mont Salève
Geneva’s home mountain is located just 20km from the center of Geneva and can be accessed by a cable car (Téléphérique du Salève), bike, car or on foot – the latter option is the hardest one since it is a challenging 5 hours hike up. However, the views up the top are just stunning – Geneva lake and Jura Mountains on one side, Mont Blanc and the Alps on the other! Beyond many different trails for hiking, Mont Salève offers mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, cross-country skiing and many other activities for nature and adventure lovers. And remember… in summer time a sunset picnic with a view upon Geneva is a must!
Visit the world’s largest and most complex science experiment, where physicists and engineers seek answers to vital questions about life and universe. Established in 1952, CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) laboratory is located on French-Swiss border near Geneva. Did you know that Internet was invented there? The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator is the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex? Find this and many more by booking a 2 hour guided tour. Be sure to reserve online well in advance – at least 2 weeks – and don’t forget your passport or ID.
10. Take the boat tour
Discover all the beauty of Geneva and the magnificent surrounding region by boat – be it a gourmet meal or sunset cruise on the boat dating from the pre-First World War Belle Epoque, a passenger ferry departing for Lausanne, Montreux or other towns in Switzerland and France, a little yellow shuttle boat called mouette regularly crisscrossing the lake and transporting locals from one side of the lake to the other, or even a pedal-boat tour. The choices are almost endless!
Photo by Chris Slupski