Did you know that Geneva is the second most expensive city in Switzerland and among the ten most expensive cities in the world? This may give a wrong impression that exploring Geneva without breaking the bank is an almost impossible task. However, you can rest assured that there are plenty of places to visit in Geneva free of charge. For some inspiration, please see our list for some of the best free things to do in Geneva for free.
1. Go for a walk
We firmly believe that the best way to explore Geneva is on foot. It’s free, easy, and gives plenty of opportunities to see and experience it all along the way. So, our number one recommendation is to put your best sneakers and enjoy the walk. You can get a free map at the Geneva Tourist Information Office. We suggest you start in the Old Town, then head towards the Reformation Wall overlooking the Parc des Bastions, continue to one of the main squares of Geneva – Place de Neuve, which used to be an execution place in the past, then do some window shopping at Rue du Rhône, and finally finish your tour by soaking up the sweeping views at the waterfront of Lake Geneva.
Photo by Jack Ward
2. Discover Geneva on bike
Genève roule is a wonderful initiative offering free bikes for cycling in the city (up to 4 hours!) Check their website for the nearest location and enjoy a hassle-free bike ride in Geneva.
Photo by Soroush Karimi
3. Marvel at the Jet d’Eau and admire the beauty of Lake Geneva
Take a leisurely stroll along the Lake Geneva and you will find a vast treasure-trove of surprises – Jet d’Eau Fountain, L’horloge fleurie, or the Flower Clock, just to name a few. Are you visiting Geneva during the summer time? The best, most refreshing summer activity is free. Do some sunbathing at the Baby Plage on the east side of Lake Geneva, just opposite the Park La Grange, followed by a refreshing dive into the lake.
4. Relax in a park
From picnics during the summer time, to energizing walks during the winter months, there are plenty of reasons to visit one of Geneva’s parks. They offer a perfect place to relax, stroll, cycle, enjoy free music concerts, have fun with kids at one of the many playgrounds, not to mention some stunning views over the Lake Geneva. We suggest you stop and smell some exotic flowers in Geneva’s lovely Botanical Gardens; take a romantic walk at Perle du Lac park; see the reformation wall at Parc des Bastions; admire the breathtaking view over the lake at Jardin Anglais and watch the sun set over the city at Park La Grange.
Photo by Samuel Zeller
5. Visit a Museum
Geneva is a city full of museums, but did you know that all city-run museums offer entry to permanent collections free of charge? In addition, entry to temporary exhibitions is also free on the first Sunday of every month. Here is the list of some of our favorite free museums in Geneva:
· Art and History Museum (Musées d’art et d’histoire) – one of the largest, if not the largest museum in Geneva;
· Rath Museum (Musée Rath) – the oldest purpose-built art museum in Switzerland;
· Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (Musée d’ethnographie de Genève) – elected the 2017 European Museum of the Year!
· International Red Cross Museum (Musée international de la Croix‑Rouge) – situated just opposite the Palace of Nations;
· Museum of Natural History (Muséum d’histoire naturelle) – a MUST if you are travelling with children!
· Ariana Museum (Musée Ariana) – museum dedicated to ceramics and glass;
· Tavel House (Maison Tavel) – the oldest house in Geneva;
· Botanical Gardens of Geneva (Jardin botaniques de Genève) – contains a living collection of 14,000 species from all around the world, and a historical herbarium of nearly 6 million botanical specimens.
Photo by Samuel Zeller
6. Do some window shopping
Geneva is renowned for its top end chic boutiques so why not go on a luxury window-shopping tour and check out the latest fashion trends. Rue du Rhône is Geneva’s most exclusive shopping street, home to big names, including Chanel, Hermès, Gucci, Dior and others.
Photo by Jarred Grabois
7. Enjoy some sun at Bain de Paquis
Bains des Pâquis (Baths of Paquis) located at the right bank of Lake Geneva, directly opposite the Jet d’Eau Fountain is a true jewel of Geneva. They offer saunas, hammams, a small beach, docks to enjoy the view and a decently priced restaurant. Definitely worth your visit!
8. Visit a flea market
True, visiting a flea market generally includes spending some money, but if you are there to wander around and do some people watching, this is the best place to be on Saturday morning, AND, it is absolutely free! Plainpalais flea market is one of the largest flea markets in Switzerland and the best place to meet locals.
Photo by Samuel Zeller
9. Climb to Mont Salève
Mont Salève can be reached by car, cable car (EUR 7.30 one way) or on foot, which is a 2-hours hike up (but yeah, it’s free!). So, get into your best hiking boots, grab a picnic basket and head off for some fun.
Photo by Janis Oppliger
10. Attend an open air concert
If a cheap vacation in Geneva is what you’re after, summer months are the best choice. Each summer, the city hosts a number of outdoor cultural events, including open-air cinema (Ciné Transat), outdoor summer concerts (Musiques en été), not to mention the highlight of the summer – Fêtes de Genève (Geneva Festival) which includes the grand fireworks show over the Lake Geneva.
Photo by Andy Lee