16 must-do things to do in Geneva

Le quartier carouge

Visiting Geneva: what are the best things to see and do in Switzerland’s second-largest city?

Geneva is renowned for its quality of life, its incredible natural setting with Lake Geneva and the snow-capped peaks of the Alps in the background. Geneva is the city par excellence where everything seems to exude well-being and luxury: just look at the number of jewelry stores, luxury hotels and banks.

But Geneva also has a completely different face. Far from the clichés of the past, Geneva can be discovered for its old town, its houses with 18th-century facades, its Saint-Pierre cathedral and its museum in Old Geneva.

For a simpler way to visit Geneva, you can take the Geneva pass, which gives you free access to the city’s main attractions! Let’s take a look at the main things to see and do in Geneva.

1. Lake Geneva and the jet d’eau

Lac Léman

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Samuel Borges Photography

Is it really necessary to evoke this magical, tranquil place? Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman, is an immense natural lake located between France and Switzerland.

A real tourist attraction, the Jet d’Eau is the emblem of the city of Geneva. From its 140-metre height, we recommend that you visit the Quai Gustave-Ador in the evening. We guarantee a magical atmosphere thanks to the sophisticated lighting that illuminates it.

2. A boat trip on the lake

Balade en bateau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – lunamarina

When the weather’s nice, a boat trip on Lake Geneva offers breathtaking views of the Swiss and French Alps. You’ll also enjoy panoramic views of the lake’s coastal towns.

With or without a skipper, you can choose to rent a boat in Geneva. This allows you to sail at your leisure for an afternoon or a full day.

3. Place Neuve

La place Neuve Genève

Photo credit: Shutterstock – trabantos

Located in the very heart of Geneva, this square is surrounded by important buildings such as the Grand Théâtre (the Opera House), the Musée Rath, renowned for its exhibitions and collections, and the Parc des Bastions.

In the center of Place Neuve, you can admire the bronze statue of General Henri Dufour, the first Swiss geographer and cartographer.

4. The art and history museum

Le musée d’art et d’histoire

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Roman Babakin

The Museum of Art and History was inaugurated in 1910, but its construction was not completed until 1940. It is a multidisciplinary art museum, which is why it is possible to view exhibitions and collections of paintings, architecture, archaeology, sculpture and applied arts.

Don’t forget to visit the museum’s most famous work, Witz’s « La pêche miraculeuse », one of the two panels of the altarpiece at Geneva Cathedral.

5. The Flower Clock

L’Horloge fleurie Genève

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Yuri Turkov

Probably the most photographed clock in the country, the Flower Clock is made up of 6,500 plants and flowers. It is the city’s most famous clock. It is located in an English garden. Don’t miss its fountain!

6. St Peter’s Cathedral

cathédrale saint pierre geneve

Photo credit: Shutterstock – silverfox999

At the top of the Old Town, St. Peter’s Cathedral, a Protestant cathedral, is the city’s oldest religious building. With 157 steps up to the north tower, you can enjoy a fantastic panorama of Lake Geneva and the whole city.

The cathedral was built from 1160 onwards, and is still being restored so that everyone can enjoy this gigantic monument (just look at the Clémence bell, which weighs over 6 tonnes). Underneath the cathedral is an archaeological site with a number of finds that can be visited.

7. The Palais des Nations

Le Palais des Nations

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Vladimir Sazonov

A symbol of Geneva, but also of world peace, this palace leaves no one indifferent! Come and discover the formidable ceiling of the Salle des Droits de l’Homme and the Alliance of Civilizations. You can also experience the vocation of great men by discovering the « Broken Chair ».

The Palais des Nations, headquarters of the United Nations since 1946, offers a splendid panorama of Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc.

Today, it is the UN’s second-largest headquarters, after New York of course. The Assembly Hall can accommodate up to 25,000 delegates every year, in order to organize world peace. The surface area of this palace is roughly equivalent to that of the Paris Opera House.

Finally, the Palais des Nations boasts a park housing gigantic monuments, including the famous « Armillary Sphere », an international symbol of astronomy and, above all, of Knowledge.

8. Carouge district

Le quartier carouge

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Tatyana Soares

For those who enjoy a slightly bohemian atmosphere, Carouge is surely Geneva’s « Greenwich Village ».

As the quintessential crafts district, you’ll meet artists, craftsmen and other colorful characters who add to the charm of this small Geneva neighborhood.

Enjoy a good cup of coffee in one of the many restaurants and cafés, day or night.

9. CERN

CERN Genève

Photo credit: Shutterstock – nexus 7

Around 20 years ago, the Internet was born, and CERN was the birthplace of this incredible phenomenon that has turned our European habits upside down.

Today, some 10,000 physicists work here every day to unravel the secrets of the universe and the Big Bang. It is the world’s largest physics laboratory, recognizable by its impressive emblem, the « Globe of Science and Innovation ».

10. The botanical garden

Jardin botanique de Genève

Photo credit: Flickr – Guilhem Vellut

It’s an immense green space covering almost 28 hectares, a haven of peace like Geneva knows how to offer, in the middle of the city jungle. Between beauty and tranquillity, this park boasts an incredible variety of flowers, with almost 16,000 species from all over the world.

And don’t hesitate to discover the secrets of this unique garden, with its arboretum, animal park, greenhouses and herbarium containing 5 million specimens, not to mention the Conservatoire du Jardin’s public library of almost 220,000 books.

11. The Grottes district

Le quartier des grottes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Kiev.Victor

Behind Cornavin station, there’s a district that’s not quite like the others: the Grottes district, also known as the Smurfs district. But why?

In fact, this district is made up of small dwellings whose architecture is both complex and extremely colorful, with, shall we say… innovative lines.

If you take a closer look, you’ll see a balcony that resembles a butterfly, a wrought-iron balustrade with plant motifs and posts straight out of a fairy tale. A kind of miniature construction that would have pleased Gaudi!

12. The Philippe Patek Museum

Musée Philippe Patek

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Bascar

This atypical museum is spread over 4 levels. It traces the history of Geneva’s watchmaking and enameling industries from the 16th to the 20th century.

You’ll be able to discover exhibits featuring musical automata, watches, miniature portraits on enamel…

13. The Baths district

Quartier des bains, Genève

Photo credit: Facebook – Quartier des Bains Genève

This district is synonymous with a certain art of living. In fact, it’s home to Switzerland’s largest museum of modern and contemporary art, the MAMCO (Musée d’Art Moderne et COntemporain).

An avant-garde place that invites you to consider art from a slightly different angle. Don’t forget to have a drink in one of the lively local bistros!

14. Rafting on the Arve

Rafting

Photo credit: Genève Tourisme – Loris von Siebenthal

For water sports enthusiasts, opt for a rafting trip on the Arve, which comes straight from the Mont Blanc glacier and flows through Geneva for around 7 km. After a full briefing, enjoy the thrills and adrenalin of rafting, the ideal activity for families and friends.

15. Tuk-tuk tour and wine tasting

La campagne de Genève

Photo credit: Genève Tourisme – Olivier Miche

If you’re a wine lover, why not take a Taxibike tuk-tuk tour of the city’s vineyards? Along the way, you’ll taste local wines under the expert guidance of wine producers and professionals.

16. Nightlife

La vie nocturne

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Elenarts

Geneva is full of places to go out and is a lively city at night. Discover the best places to go out in Geneva.

Geneva: How to get there? Where to sleep?

Geneva lies on the French border, not far fromAnnecy, on the shores of Lake Geneva. It is easily reached by car from Lyon, Grenoble or Dijon. Geneva can also be reached by train from Paris and other French cities.

There are also direct flights from Nice, Bordeaux, Lille, Toulouse, Paris and Nantes with low-cost airlines such as easyJet. To find the best flight to Geneva, use the Ulysse price comparison service.

Geneva is a business city, and hotels are often fully booked on weekdays. It’s important to choose the right area in which to stay.

On weekends, however, hotels offer price promotions. So there are regularly good deals to be had. Do a search on this hotel comparator.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Genève,ch