Geneva is the capital of the Swiss Canton of Geneva and the second most populous city in Switzerland after Zurich. Geneva is in the south westernmost part of Switzerland, where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva.
It is also the main French-speaking city of Switzerland, located very close to France and Italy.
Some of the best things to do in Geneva are exploring the Old Town, museums, art galleries, parks, visiting the Jet d’Eau fountain, and the headquarters of the United Nations. There is also shopping, nightlife, local food and chocolate, and take a trip to the nearby Alps for skiing or hiking.
Geneva is famous for its high quality of life, high-end shopping and dining, vibrant nightlife, as well as many parks, gardens, museums, and art galleries.
Geneva is most famous for being the world’s center for diplomacy, financial center, and for being one of most peaceful cities in the world.
Geneva is a very important center of local and international business as it is home to some of the largest organizations in the world including World Health Organisation, the World Trade Organisation, United Nations, World Bank, and Red Cross.
26 Best things to do in Geneva, Switzerland
1. Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Leman in French, is a beautiful lake that is surrounded by the Swiss Alps, in western Switzerland and southeastern France.
Lake Geneva is a popular spot for outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and skiing due to its beautiful lake and natural surroundings.
Lake Geneva is a crescent moon shaped lake that offers stunning views of the Alps from its eastern side. There are numerous wildlife on the lake such as buzzards and the red kite.
The shore of the lake is home to numerous medieval villages, cosmopolitan towns, beaches, and vineyards.
Some of activities to do along the lake are:
- swimming, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving.
- skiing at mountain top in the surroundings
- stroll along the Lake Geneva Riviera Beach
- watch a performance at Tristan Crist Magic Theatre
- take a cruise around the lake
- take a tour of Apple Barn Orchard and Winery
- participate in the Lake Geneva Ghost Walk
2. Jet d’Eau
Jet d’Eau, or water jet, is one of the tallest fountains in the world with 140 m high. It is a very famous tourist attraction and the beautiful background of many photos and selfies.
Originally constructed in 1886 as a 30 m high safety valve to release the overpressure from a hydraulic pumping station at La Coulouvrenière.
Jet d’Eau was moved to the end of the Eaux-vives pier in 1891 and it soon became a symbol of the city for vitality and ambition.
Jet d’Eau fountain reached its current high in 1951. The water jet expels 500 liters of water per second at a rate of 200 km per hour.
You can view the iconic Jet d’eau from the other lake’s Bains des Pâquis, or at the top of Saint-Pierre Cathedral, or walk along the pier to get wet.
Jet d’Eau is illuminated at night, making it a beautiful sight to behold. In the evening, stroll along Quai Gustave-Ador and enjoy the lighting shows of the Jet d’eau.
3. St Pierre Cathedral
St. Pierre Cathedral, or the Cathedral of St. Peter in English, is one of the major attractions of Geneva. It is conveniently situated in the Old Town of the city.
Originally built in the 12th century on the site of the 6th century basilica, in the Romanesque style, the cathedral was reconstructed in the 14th and 15th centuries in the Gothic style. The Cathedral has belonged to the Reformed Church since the 16th century.
The St. Pierre Cathedral has stained glass windows, a tall spire, sculptures and carvings, as well as historical artifacts and art works.
You can climb to the top of the North and South Towers and admire stunning views of the city.
4. Old Town (Vieille Ville)
The Old Town, or Vieille Ville in French, is historical center of the city and a popular place to stay to stay in Geneva for the first time due to its close proximity to the famous attractions such as St. Peter’s Cathedral, Place du Bourg-de-Four, The Treille Promenade, Maison Tavel, and Old Arsenal.
Located on the bank of the Rhône River, Geneva’s Old Town i s a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful squares, art galleries, museums, cafés, and restaurants.
At the center of the Old Town stands the Bourg-de-Four Square, which used to be a Roman marketplace but now a popular meeting place for both locals and tourists. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas.
You can find medieval fountains in the middle of the square and with lots of outdoor cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and shops in its surroundings. Famous cafes and restaurants such as Café La Clémence and Café de Bourg-de-Four, and the Chocolates Tea Room to buy Swiss chocolates.
If you like brow art galleries and museums, you can take a look at the Gallery Jacques de la Béraudière and Insolite, as well as the Musée d’Histoire de Genève, Barbier-Mueller Museum, and International Museum of the Reformation.
CERN stands for the European Organization for Nuclear Research and is one of the unique things to do and see in Geneva if you are interested in technology and science.
Established in 1954, CERN is an international organization that has some of the largest and most complex scientific facilities in the world such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
There are also facilities to do research for particle and nuclear physics, and materials science.
Scientists and researchers from all over the world use the LHC to study the fundamental building blocks of matter and the forces that govern them.
CERN hosts a variety of educational and public outreach programs, as well as lectures and exhibitions. You can take a tour to visit the LHC control room and the underground caverns.
6. Patek Philippe Museum
The Patek Philippe Museum is a great place to learn about the history of watchmaking from the 16th century to present days. This is a museum dedicated to the history of the Patek Philippe company and its role in the development of horology
Located in a beautiful 19th-century building in Plainpalais district and close to MAMCO, the museum has a collection of over 3,000 timepieces, precious clocks and watches of Genevan, Swiss and European origins.
The museum has 4 floors with a watchmaking warehouse and a cinema on the base floor.
7. Palais des Nations
The Palais des Nations is home to the official European headquarters of the United Nations from 1966. The United Nations is the 2nd most important UN after the same one in New York.
Originally built as a home of the League of Nations, in the 46-hectare Ariana Park, the Palais des Nations is now a popular tourist landmark and hosts a number of cultural events and exhibitions in the year.
The Palais offers fascinating guided tours to learn about the United Nations and the work of the United Nations in Geneva.
8. Bains des Pâquis
Bains des Pâquis, or the Pâquis Baths is a public swimming baths, situated within walking distance from the famous Jet d’Eau, on the shore of Lake Geneva in the Pâquis district.
Bains des Pâquis is known for its beautiful setting and relaxing vibe. Originally built in 1872, Bains des Pâquis has been open to the public since 1890.
It is a great place to swim during summer and relax with a sandy beach, outdoor and indoor thermal pools, a sauna, a steam room, and a fitness center.
There is also an on-site restaurant called La Buvette des Bains where you can try fondue cheese.
You can explore attractions nearby such as the Palace of Nations and the Conservatory and Botanical Garden Geneva.
9. Mont Salève
Mont Salève is a popular day trip destination, located just 20 km from Geneva city center, and easily accessible by car. Mont Salève is a mountain of both France and Switzerland, so there is no permit if you are paragliding in France.
The mountain is located 900 meters above the Jet d’Eau, offers stunning views of the surroundings, even the Jura Mountains and Mont Blanc.
You can reach the top of Mont Salève by taking a cable car ride or hiking. The mountain is a popular place for outdoor adventure such as hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing in summer, and sledding and skiing in winter.
Paragliding at Mt. Salève is also a great activity here when the weather is allowed. You can choose to join a Swiss paragliding club which offers 20 min tandem jumps with a trainer for CHF 180, or French paragliding clubs for CHF 120.
10. Conservatory and Botanical Garden
The Botanical Gardens and Conservatory is one of the best things to do and see in Geneva for families with kids and for couples. With 28 hectares, it is home to one of the largest herbariums in the world.
Located close to theLake Geneva, Jardin botanique de Genève provides a peaceful setting and relaxing atmosphere.
This living museum has four different sections including Greenhouses, Rockery, Arboretum and Winter Garden. There are seasonal flowers, Swiss plants, as well as greenhouses, a library, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant.
Jardin botanique de Genève is open to the public all year round. You can access the garden through the main entrance called Place Albert Thomas, on the Rue de Lausanne, and the entrance at Avenue de la Paix.
11. International Museum of the Reformation
The International Museum of the Reformation shows the history of Protestant Reformation from its origin and its impact on Europe and the world.
The Musée international de la Réformation is located in the 18th century building, Maison Mallet, on the former site of St Peter’s Cloister called Cour Saint-Pierre.
The International Museum of the Reformation was established in 2005 and is home to a variety of items including paintings, manuscripts, and rare books that relate to the reformation movement in Christianity. This movement played a significant role in the history of the religion.
If you are interested in the Reformation and its impact on the world, the museum is well worth a visit. The museum offers guided tours, as well as temporary exhibitions occasionally.
12. Art and History Museum
Museum of Art and History is one of the best things to do and see in Geneva to learn more about the history of the western civilization and culture from the medieval period to the current time.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire has a collection of archaeology, applied arts, and fine arts. It offers guided audio tours in different languages, as well as home to an on-site restaurant, and playground for children.
The Museum of Art and History was a part of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Musée Académique.it is one of the largest art museums in the city. You can find ancient paintings, Byzantine art and Roman sculptures.
Located in the center of Geneva, the museum is easily accessible by public transport. Admission fee is different based on the age of the visitor and whether they are a resident of Geneva.
13. Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is Switzerland’s largest natural history museum. It has a wide range of natural history and science topics such as zoology, geology, and paleontology.
The museum has four floors which present the fauna of the region and in the world, and a number of rare and interesting specimens, like a skeleton of a Stegosaurus, minerals and crystals.
The museum was built in 1966, and many new galleries were added in later years. It has a number of temporary exhibits, educational programs and events for the public.
The museum is located in the Eaux-Vives area, and easily gets to by buses and trams. You can get more information about the museum on its website.
14. Ariana Museum
Ariana Museum, also known as Musée Ariana, is the Swiss Museum of Ceramics and Glass. The museum is located on Avenue de la Paix, close to Place des Nations, and easy to reach by public transport.
The museum was founded by Gustave Revilliod, at the end of the 19th Century. The museum was named after Revilliod’s mother who gave him an inheritance to build the museum.
Musée Ariana features neo-classical and neo-baroque features. It has a collection of ceramic and glass artwork, as well as paintings, sculptures, and other art works from Switzerland, Europe and the Middle East.
15. Parc de la Grange
Parc La Grange is one of the most beautiful parks in the city of Geneva that is famous for its rose garden. The park is set within close proximity to both Parc des Eaux-Vives and les Eaux-Vives.
You can find the ruins of a Roman settlement in the park because it was the place of a rich Roman in the 50-60 AD. Later the park was donated to the city by the Favre family.
During the summer month, the park hosts the Théâtre de Verdure, or Ella Fitzgerald Scene, that offers live music. The rose garden has more than 200 varieties of roses, which was built after WWII.
The park is also home to numerous cultural attractions Centre de Découverte des Sciences, Conservatoire de Musique, and Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève, as well as walking paths and a children playground.
16. Maison Tavel
Maison Tavel, also known as the Tavel House because it was built by the Maison family, an influential family in Geneva during the Middle Ages. Originally built in the 12th century, making it the oldest house in the city of Geneva.
The house was rebuilt in 1334 and it was transformed into the Museum of Urban History and Daily Life in 1963.
Maison Tavel is conveniently situated in the Old Town, within easy walking distance from the famous St. Peter’s Cathedral and Rue du Marche shopping street.
The Tavel House has several floors and an underground exhibit of the artifacts and historical objects of the history of the city from the Middle Ages.
You can find a 3D map of Geneva from 1850 from the top floor of the house that is home to the big, as well as an information center at the ground floor.
17. Jardin Anglais
Jardin Anglais is a 25,000 square meters English Garden, located close to the Pont du Mont-Blanc and Quai Gustave Ador. The garden was constructed ressemble English landscape gardens in the 19th century.
The garden is home to Monument National which was created in 1869 to celebrate the incorporation of Geneva into the Swiss Confederation, and the Flower Clock, which was created in 1955 in honor of its watchmaking tradition.
There are also sculptors of famous people such as Alexandre Calame, François Diday, and Auguste Rodo de Niederhausen.
The garden is also home to La Potinière cafe, also known as The Gossips, and the Bateau Genève boat, are great places to enjoy lunch or dinner. The Fêtes de Genève was hosted in the garden between July and August.
18. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum will show you the history of humanitarian action. Located near the Palais des Nations, this museum covers the history and work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The museum hosts several exhibitions and events about the situation of humanitarian action, and a range of educational programs and activities for visitors of all ages.
The museum has three different sections that display reducing natural risks, defending human dignity, and restoring family links.
19. Parc des Bastions
Parc des Bastions, also known as Bastions Park, is a lovely park located right next to Place de Neuve, in the center of Geneva.
Bastions Park is the location of the Reformation Wall, , which is a monument dedicated to the Protestant Reformation and features statues of key figures such as John Calvin and Theodore Beza.
There are also chess boards, an on-site restaurant,a children’s playground, a building and a library of the University of Geneva.
With big green lawns and shady avenues, the park is a popular place to lay down on the grass or have a picnic. It also hosts several summer musical festivals, events throughout the year.
20. Quartier des Grottes
Quartier des Grottes is a young and bohemian neighborhood and quarter of the city. The area is known for its diverse population and vibrant atmosphere that dates back to the 20th century when immigrants came to live.
It is home to many shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters and cinemas. Quartier des Grottes is easily accessible by public transport.
It is also home to the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, Centre d’Art Contemporain, and Parc des Cropettes, which is the location of the annual AMR Jazz Festival.
21. Carouge, Italian Quarter of Geneva
Carouge town is an Italian suburb of Carouge of Geneva, located close to the river l’Arve and Plainpalais. Formerly a trading town, Carouge now is considered the Greenwich Village of Geneva.
The town is filled with many boutiques, French & Italian cafes, jazz bars and nightclubs.
Carouge district is known for its old town called Le Vieux Carouge, with French-Italian architecture style. It features narrow streets, colorful houses, and numerous artisanal shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Carouge can be accessed from the city center by trams. Carouge is often referred to as the small Italy with Sardinia heritage architecture.
Carouge offers everything you need from shopping, dining, and nightlife. There is outdoor swimming for summer days such as Piscine de la Fontenette, as well as an indoor Piscine des Pervenches for both winter and summer.
The town is also home to museums, art galleries, theaters such as the Musée de Carouge and Théâtre de Carouge.
Along the Arve river, you can walk and cycle. The town also has a free bicycle rental station at Place de l’Octroi.
There is a shopping experience at the Centre Commercial de Carouge, or on Rue St-Joseph, with numerous antique dealers, clothes stores and boutiques, as well as the fruits and vegs street market on the Place du Marché on Wednesday.
Valmandin is one of the best coffeeshops in Geneva, so if you love cafes, you should check out the shop, located at 46 rue Ancienne, Carouge in Carouge, Italian Quarter of Geneva.
22. Plainpalais Market
Plaine de Plainpalais, also known as Plainpalais, is a big open space in Plainpalais district. It is known for being the location of the biggest flea market and farmers market in Geneva.
Plainpalais is a popular meeting place for young people as the University of Geneva is located nearby, and has also hosted the Circus or Roller Coasters in recent years, as well as a skate park for cycling, skating.
Plainpalais Farmers Market is the largest farmers market in the city, selling cheap and quality fresh fruits, vegetables, and most of the farmers are from France. The market opens on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday.
Along with fruits and veggie stalls, you can find fast foods from all over the world, as well as a Starbucks and McDonalds near the Plainpalais tram stop.
At the Saturday and Wednesday Plainpalais Flea Market, you can find second hand books, clothing at cheap pieces.
Plainpalais surrounding offers lively nightlife, especially at the Rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine and Bains district. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs, and cafes nearby.
23. Museum of Far Eastern Art
The Museum of Far Eastern Art has the most important collections of unique Chinese and Japanese art such as the Foundation Baur, imperial ceramic ware, jades, lacquer, and sword fittings.
The Museum of Far Eastern Art is located in a mansion close to the Russian Church and the Old Town. In addition to permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
The Escalade is a popular festival in Geneva that is hosted every December in the city center to celebrate the defense of Genevans from the Duke of Savoy’s attack.
The Duke of Savoy’s army attacked Geneva at night in 1602. The soldiers climb to the city’s fortification walls to take control of the gate and open for the troops in. Escalade in French is escalade means climb.
According to legend, a woman called Catherine Cheynel was cooking soup, and notice the attack,she poured hot soup on the soldiers, waking up the city and defending the attackers.
L’Escalade is hosted in the Old Town, at the Place du Bourg-de-Four, Parc des Bastions, and St. Peter’s Cathedral.
25. Tropical Corner
Tropical Corner is a great place to watch sunset on the shore of Lake Geneva, as well as enjoy windsurfing, paddleboarding, and foil boarding.
Tropical Corner is one of Switzerland’s largest stand-up paddle boarding centers and Geneva region’s windsurfing clubs.
Tropical Corner has an open air cafe, and terrace, palm trees, a great place to enjoy food,wine or beer and admire the sunset.
26. Cheese fondue
Fondue is a Swiss dish that consists of a pot of melted cheese that is placed over a portable stove. It is meant to be shared and eaten by dipping small pieces of bread into the cheese using long-stemmed forks.
Fondue is one of the most popular Swiss trademarks. Some of the best places to try fondue are:
- Buvette Bains des Pâquis
- Edelweiss Hotel
- Le Gruyerien
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Geneva best known for?
Geneva is best known for its high quality of life, high-end dining and shopping, and beautiful lake and mountain in the surroundings including Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. It is also known for being a global center for diplomacy, and home to international organizations such as the World Health Organization, Red Cross, and United Nations.
Is Geneva worth visiting?
Geneva is well worth a visit because it has stunning natural surroundings of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps, as well as fine dining and upscale shopping, and world-class museums and art galleries.
Is 1 day in Geneva enough?
You can see and do a lot in one day in Geneva, but it may not be enough time to fully experience all that the city has to offer. To make the most of your time, it is recommended to prioritize your activities and plan carefully.
What to do in Geneva for a day?
Some of the best things to do in Geneva in a day is exploring the Old Town, Jet d’Eau fountain, and Geneva Clock Tower. You can also choose to visit beautiful parks, gardens, museums, and art galleries, as well as do shopping, and enjoy local food and drinks.
What are the free things to do in Geneva?
Some of the free things to do in Geneva are visiting the old town and its many historical attractions, museums and art galleries, and the beautiful parks and gardens. There are also free cultural events and performances held throughout the city.
What are the best things to do in Geneva, Switzerland in winter?
Some of the best things to do in Geneva in winter are skiing in the nearby Alps, visiting the Old Town and tourist attractions such as the Jet d’Eau ,and trying some traditional Swiss cuisine and the festive holiday markets.
What are the unique things to do in Geneva?
Some of the range of unique activities to do are touring the United Nations headquarters, exploring the beautiful natural surroundings by hiking in the nearby mountains or visiting the charming Lake Geneva. You can also visit the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and try Swiss chocolate.
So there you have it, the best things to do in Geneva, Switzerland for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.