Where to Stay in Geneva First Time: Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Geneva for first-timer are the beautiful neighborhoods of Old Town, Paquis, Plainpalais, Carouge, Eaux Vives, Saint-Gervais et des Grottes, and Airport area. In this article, I will hep you to find where to stay in Geneva for the first time, families, budget, and near the airport.

Surrounded by Alpine Lake, the Swiss city of Geneva is located at the western tip of Switzerland, where it pokes out into France. Curling around the west point of Léc Leman (Lake Geneva), and with the sprawling Haute Chaîne du Jura National Reserve to the north, Geneva is as well known for its natural beauty as it is for its political legacy.

Whether you want to bask in the atmosphere of historical architecture, browse the numerous museums, or while away your afternoons exploring the many parks and gardens, Geneva can provide a uniquely relaxing city break. Ideal for families and solo travelers alike, there is plenty to keep you entertained, whether you are just passing through to the Alps for skiing and snowboarding or staying for a longer vacation.

Geneva is safe for tourist, but as in any big city, you should be aware of surrounding in tourist area, keep an eye on your bag in crowded tourist area, airports, railway stations. You should also avoid walking in Paquis area alone at night.

Geneva is also one of the most expensive cities to travel to. Accommodation is one of the largest travel costs with an average hotel room from CHF 100 per night and the cheapest accommodation option is hostels. But don’t worry there are wide range of accommodation options for you to choose from, and if you do some research before you go, you will save some money.

Cité – Old town is the best area to stay in Geneva for first time tourist. Booking hotel in this area, you will be located in the heart of the city, within walking distance to many historical and cultural attractions. There area a wide range of accommodations options, plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops nearby.

If this is your first visit, I recommend spend at least three days in Geneva to explore the city. Three days is enough to see the famous attractions, enjoy local food and drink, and to get the sense of Genevs’s history and culture. If you have more days, you can take day trip to Lausanne, Swiss Riviera, and Annecy.

💖 Best Area for First-Timers:Cité – Old Town
💎 Best luxury hotel:Les Armures 
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:citizenM Geneva 
💰 Best budget hotel:Hôtel Résidence Cité-Verdaine 

Best Areas to Stay in Geneva, Switzerland

1. Old Town, where to stay in Geneva for first-timers

If you are planning your first trip to Geneva, you should definitely consider the Old Town as the place to stay. The area is packed full of things to see and do, with plenty to appeal to everyone, and ideal for getting a taste of everything the city has to offer.

Geneva’s Old Town, or Vieille Ville in French, is a maze of cobblestones streets, charming squares, that is filled with cozy cafés, restaurants, galleries, museums, and beautiful old buildings. This is the historical area of the city that dates back 2000 years.

As the primary hub of the city, there is a wide array of entertainment and hospitality venues here. If you are traveling with a large group, or a family with children, you will benefit from the assortment of dining options available to suit every taste.

Whilst the epicenter of the city’s nightlife scene lies further west in Jonction, there is plenty in the way of casual bars and music and live arts venues, including the Grand Théâtre de Genève, to keep you entertained into the evening.

History and culture lovers will be spoilt for choice by the number of museums and historical sites in the area. The grand 4th century St. Pierre Cathedral stands in the center of the district, on the site of an ancient Roman Temple, directly next door to the International Museum of the Reformation.

Just a few steps west will take you to the L’ancien arsenal Museum, with its displays of military equipment and mosaics, as well as the Maison Tavel House museum of local history, Barbier-Mueller Museum for antiquity lovers, and the Old Arsenal.

If you want to enjoy a spot of shopping during your trip, the area near the waterfront is full of well-known brands, department stores, and a selection of independent boutiques. Make sure to visit Rue du Marche shopping street and the famous Reformation Wall in Bastions Park.

Alternatively, head to the La Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva’s oldest public square. The area is well known for its high-end shopping and has plenty of chic cafes overlooking the beautiful plaza, for when you need a break. The center of the square stands marble medieval fountains.

Around the square are open-air coffee shops and restaurants, often filled with tourists and locals for their unique historic and authentic atmosphere. Don’t miss out on well-known restaurants and cafes such as Café de Bourg-de-Four, La Clémence and Restaurant au Carnivore. Chocolates Tea Room is a comfy tourist shop with many choices of delightful Swiss chocolates.

Other points of interest area the La Galerie Insolite and 16th-century Promenade de la Treille which is Geneva’s oldest promenade, home to the longest bench in the world, one of the most romantic alleyways in Geneva.

There is a wide range of accommodation on offer here, from hotels and guest houses to self-catered apartments. You can find something to suit any budget in Cité. However, if you have a more generous allowance for accommodation, there are some stunning views of the historical sites or the waterfront from some of the higher-end hotels.

Stay in Cité if This is your first time visiting Geneva, you are staying for a shorter time, you love history and historical architecture, you are traveling with a large group with varying food preferences.

Best places to stay in Geneva in Old Town:

luxury ($$$): Les Armures Five-star hotel is located in the heart of Geneva Old Town, within walking distance from St. Pierre Cathedral, the main museums, Geneva Town Hall, Mont Blanc Bridge, and Shopping Area Geneve – the shopping district. It offers guest rooms with air-conditioned and lavishly furnished, marble bathrooms, thick bathrobes, free wifi, and satellite TVs.

mid-range ($$): citizenM Geneva Four-star hotel is centrally located in Gevena city centre, close proximity to major sights such as Geneva Town Hall, Jet d’Eau, St. Pierre Cathedral, Flower Clock, Mont Blanc Bridge, Victoria Hall, and Palazzo. it has rooms with a desk, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom.

budget ($): Hôtel Résidence Cité-Verdaine This three-star condo-hotel, located just within easy walking distance from main attractions like the Old Town, the Rive Bus, and Tram Stop, Cornavin Main Train Station, and Geneva Lake.

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2. Paquis, where to stay in Geneva for nightlife

Pâquis, where to stay in Geneva for nightlife

Paquis (pâturage in French) is a Geneva’s most eclectic neighborhood, stretching along the west bank of Lac Lamon. One of the neighbourhood’s most distinctive traits is the wide mass of train tracks that stretches through the centre of the district, also name Red Light District.

At the southern end of Pâquis Nations is the main Geneva Train Station, with connections to various locations across Switzerland and neighboring countries. If you are looking for the best place to stay in Geneva near train station, Paquis is the neighborhood for you.

One of the most popular attractions of the area is the Bains des Pâquis public bath, artificial peninsula and a small portion of the lake by the marina, that safe swimming in the summer. In the winter, the area transitions into a public sauna venue with hammams, and Turkish baths.

In the north of the neighborhood are several large parks, two of which host museums and entertainment amenities. The Mon Repos Park, means restful park, is situated up against the lake and hosts a small museum, dedicated to the history of science. 

You can take a stroll along Paquis Lake Promenade which stretches from the Mont Blanc bridge towards the park. Along the way stand lovely flower gardens, monuments of Brunswick and Princess Sissi. You also so have attractions such as Square des Alpes, Square de la Navigation, and the famous street Rue de Lausanne.

At the very northernmost end of Pâquis Nations is the grand Parc de l’Ariana, one of the largest parks in Geneva. The east of the park is home to botanical gardens, several conservatories and greenhouses, a zen garden, and a small zoo.

The west end of the park is most notable for housing the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations. It is also the grounds for the architecturally beautiful Ariana Museum, which hosts a collection of thousands of glass items.

There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs in this area for you to enjoy along Rue de Lausanne road. be sure to check out famous clubs and bars such as Mambo and Scandale. The area attracts lots of young people in summer months gathering to have a drink or dinner along the lake promenade.

The neighborhood has a wide range of accommodation options. Along the waterfront, hotels and apartments demand premium rates for the privilege of both lake views including Hotel President Wilson. Meanwhile, further inland, towards the train station, you can find some of the more affordable options in the city.

Stay in Pâquis Nations if you want good nightlife; you want to stay near the train station; you travel on a budget

Best places to stay in Pâquis:

Luxury ($$$): The Woodward – an Oetker Collection Hotel This 5-star hotel is in the Paquis district, it offers a bar, as well as an indoor pool and a sauna. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, room service and luggage storage for guests. You can enjoy the meal at a à la carte or American breakfast.

Mid-range ($$): Eastwest Hôtel Located a few minute walk from the beach, a few steps from the lake and close to the shopping and business area. It offers elegant and comfortable rooms with air-conditioning/heating and free wifi.

Budget ($): Geneva Hostel located in a central location in Geneva in a historic building from the 19th century. It offers free Wi-Fi and a restaurant serving Swiss cuisine in the evenings. Lake Geneva is only 250 m away. The Geneva Transport Card, offering free public transport, is already included in the rate.

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3. Plainpalais, where to stay in Geneva on budget

Plainpalais, where to stay in Geneva on budget
Plainpalais flea market

Located southwest of Geneva’s Old Town, the Plainpalais district of Geneva is popular both with first-time visitors and also those familiar with the city. It is because of its walkable streets and friendly atmosphere that travelers return time and again.

The central hub of Plainpalais is Plaine de Plainpalais, a huge public square that houses the biggest flea market and farmers market in Geneva. It also hosts Circus and Roller Coasters several times during the year.

On Sunday, it hosts the Plainpalais Farmers Market, the biggest farmers market in Geneva, that sells fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Meanwhile, on Saturday and Wednesday, there is the Plainpalais Flea Market, largest flea market in Europe, that sells everything second-hand, from books, clothing, smartphone accessories to home decorations at cheap prices.

Plainpalais is a popular meeting point for students, ex-pats, tourists, and locals going out at night or skating at a skate park. The Zombie statue in the skatepark will come as no surprise to those who have seen mention of Plainpalais in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Plainpalais is also known as the university district because it is near the Université de Genève and several academy buildings. Within the student area, you will find cheap bars and restaurants, and affordable accommodations.

Other points of interest in this neighborhood are the headquarters of the Red Cross, the Ethnographic Museum, the International Clock Museum, Rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine, and Bains district is where the center of the nightlife.

Stay in Plainpalais if you’re looking for budget-friendly area; You want a central location; You are happy with the calm atmosphere.

Best places to stay in Plainpalais:

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4. Carouge, coolest neighborhood to stay in Geneva

Carouge is located right over river l’Arve, to the south of the Old town and Plainpalais. It is commonly referred to as Geneva’s small Italy, or Geneva’s hippest suburb. During the Roman time, it was on the trading route between south of France and north to Italy. In late 18th century, it was controlled by the King of Sardinia, Victor Amideus III.

If you did not know better, you might think you were in Greenwich Village, New York, when you are walking around Carouge. It is a trendy place with equally trendy boutiques. This neighborhood has been controlled by the French and the Italians at different times in its history. 

Its style will remind you of another city, Nice in France, designed in typically Mediterranean style. Its location next to the River Arve adds to the appeal of Caroque where you will find interesting shops and skilled artisans. Whether your interest is books or antiques, you will find something here.

There are plenty of small Frech and Italian cafes and restaurants to stop for food and drink while exploring places like the Théâtre de Carouge or the Musée de Carouge. At nightfall, the bars and restaurants are appealing, with late nights possible in a local nightclub.

For more shopping experience, visit the huge shopping center Centre Commercial de Carouge. For more independent shops, go to Rue St-Joseph and Place du Marché. And make sure to visit the weekly market on the Place du Marché every Wednesday for fresh fruits and vegs.

Piscine de la Fontenette is an outdoor Olympic swimming pool, a great place for refreshing in summer, and for winter, you can visit the indoor swimming pool, Piscine des Pervenches.

Accommodation here is good and fairly priced, staying in this area, you can enjoy slow-paced life in a more calming atmosphere of Italian and Frech cafes, delightful restaurants, and an energetic cultural scene.

Stay in Carouge if You enjoy a bohemian, arty atmosphere; Local amenities are important to you; you love shopping;

Best places to stay in Carouge:

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5. Eaux Vives, best place stay in Geneva for families

Eaux Vives, the best area to stay in Geneva for families

The bohemian neighborhood of Eaux Vives is located along the southernmost banks of Lac Lamon, directly east of the Old Town and Plainpalais. The neighborhood is particularly ideal for families who want to stay close to the city center, whilst also taking in some stunning views out across the lake.

The most famous attraction in the Eaux-Vives district is the 19th century Jet D’Eau fountain, the symbol of the city. This water jet up to 140 m/460 ft high is a real eye-catcher.

Along the lake stands The Pierres du Niton (Neptune’s Stones), two unusual rocks that are visible from Quai Gustave-Ador in the harbor of Lake Geneva. The Les Scala Cinema and a bathing complex of Bain Bleu are also worth visiting!

If you want to head out onto the water, there are several water ferry terminals operating along the marina, to various destinations around the lake. Aside from the wonderful views across the water, Eaux Vives is also home to some of Geneva’s loveliest parks.

In the west, where the Rhone River meets Lac Lamon, is the beautiful Jardin Anglais. This leafy public garden features fountains, statues, cafes, and a vibrant clock made of flowers. 

In the northeast corner is Parc de la Grange Park, one of the largest parks in Geneva. In addition to a number of vast lawns, the park boasts a rose garden, cafes, restaurants, a theatre, and space for open-air performances in the summer. Plage des Eaux-Vives (Eaux-Vives Beach) is also just a stone’s throw away.

Malagnou Park, towards the city center, is small but notable for being home to Geneva’s Natural History Museum. The museum hosts multiple fascinating exhibitions, covering the history and science of the natural world. With activities and displays designed to educate and entertain visitors of all ages, this is a great place to visit if you are traveling with family and children.

There is a wide variety of accommodation available here, suitable for a range of budgets. Being slightly outside of the primary city center, you can generally get a little more for your money here. However, if you plan to stay close to the waterfront, you should expect to pay a bit more for the premium lake views.

Stay in Eaux Vives if you want to stay somewhere overlooking the lake, you love parks and green space, you want to stay close to the city center but with less of the urban claustrophobia, you are traveling with children.

Best places to stay in Geneva in Eaux Vives:

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6. Saint-Gervais et des Grottes, historical district of Geneva

Saint-Gervais et des Grottes is one of the 8 main districts in Genva, located between Saint-Jean Charmilles and Pâquis Sécheron, on the northern shore of the lake.

Few districts in Geneva provide such a contrast to the city’s financial center than Saint-Gervais et des Grottes. There are no suits here, just craftsmen and artists. You will enjoy walking its streets just to soak up the atmosphere. 

Saint-Gervais is a popular district steeped in history. There have been times when parts of the neighborhood have been scheduled for demolition but its narrow streets and village-like environment have survived. It is not typical of the Swiss and their reputation for uniform structure. Quaint, colorful houses still stand in those streets.

The Cornavin railway station in the heart of this area guarantees that it is easily accessed, and the nearby shopping mall, Mont-Blanc attracts visitors not staying in this district. There is no longer any industrial activity locally, but as you walk around, you will see signs of the past. 

There are numerous of green parks in this neigborhood including the Parc des Cropettes and Parc Beaulieu. This lively district is packed bistros, the Théâtre de Saint-Gervais, and the Center for Contemporary Image, and Les Halles de l’Île.

Bars, cafes, and restaurants are casual and increasingly popular as visitor numbers are increasing. Apartments are available for rent, and there are some hotels, but nothing is cheap.

Stay in Saint-Gervais et des Grottes if you like the idea of the village feel within a city, your budget allows you to pay the district’s prices, you want good transport links.

Best places to stay in Saint-Gervais et des Grottes:

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7. Jonction, famous for its arts and nightlife scene

Located directly to the west of Old Town, Jonction is the meeting point of the Arve river and Rhone river. The river separates the neighborhood into two sections, the urban east side, known for its arts and nightlife scene, and the leafier west, with its prominent green spaces.

Bordering the University of Geneva to the east, the region of Jonction is known for boasting the best of the city’s nightlife. From a wide variety of bars, cafes, and restaurants, to a selection of late-night clubs, you’re sure to find something to keep you entertained, no matter how late you like to stay out.

Additionally, the district is a hotbed of art and theatre. The Geneva Centre of Contemporary Art is located at the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by smaller art galleries and exhibition spaces. A number of small theatres, auditoriums, and dance halls are peppered across the area, whilst the Grand Theatre of Geneva is just a short distance to the east.

There are also often fairground rides and street food stalls across the plaza, making this a great place for families to spend the day. Fans of Frankenstein will know that part of the novel was set in Geneva and will appreciate the statue of Frankenstein’s monster that stands as a tribute at the northern end of the plaza.

If you are traveling with children, Bâtie Woods on the west bank of the river Arve is a delightful space to keep the whole family entertained for an afternoon.

The forest itself is a wonderful place to take a walk and let the kids run off some energy, particularly in summer when the trees provide cool shade from the hot sun. In the west of the park is a small zoo, which also boasts a café and toilets, so visitors can explore the park without having to worry about finding amenities.

South along the Arve, you can find more family entertainment venues, including a swimming pool, ice rink, and an escape room venue.

Further west is the Saint-Georges Cemetery. Whilst this may seem like a morbid spot to mention, the beautifully manicured grounds, complete with decorative ponds, and sweeping pathways lined with trees, are a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city.

Stay in Jonction if you want to stay near the city’s nightlife hub, you love art and theatre, you want to stay close to the city center, you are traveling with family.

Best places to stay in Geneva Junction:

Home Swiss Hotel This midrange, 4-star hotel is situated within easy walking distance from the center of Geneva, Geneva University, the Musée Rath, Cornavin Train Station. You can also easily reach Palexpo fairgrounds and the UN by tram.

Tiffany Hotel Located in the heart of the Geneva city center, on a quiet street, close to many shops and boutiques. Close proximity to Grand Theatre, Lake Geneva, and Cornavin Train Station. It features rooms with an Art Nouveau style, individual air conditioning, double-glazed windows, and an interactive flat-screen TV. It provides a wellness area with a fitness room, a sauna, and a hammam.

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8. Saint-Jean Charmilles, for local vibe

Saint Jean – Charmilles is the neighborhood across the Rhone from Jonction. Primarily a residential area, the neighborhood is a convenient location for anyone who wants to stay within a short distance of the main city center whilst avoiding the higher prices for accommodation found in the more tourist-heavy areas. 

A number of bridges connect the area directly to the main districts of Cité and Jonction, meaning the major attractions of the city are just a short journey away.

The hospitality available here is less adventurous than you may find in the trendier neighborhoods, but there is still a wide variety on offer to cater to the local residents.

Likewise, the shops and cafes in the area have more of a local town vibe. Whilst it may lack the vibrant variety of the city center, the area is ideal for anyone looking to get a feel for local, everyday life in Geneva.

Being less densely urban than the city center, the streets here are particularly leafy, lending the neighborhood a relaxed, suburban charm, that can provide a calm relief from the bustle of the crowded tourist hubs.

There are several parks in the area, with play facilities for young children, making this neighborhood ideal for anyone traveling with family, who would benefit from safe spaces to let children run off some energy.

Stay in Saint Jean if you want to stay near to the city center but avoid the higher cost of accommodation, you want a neighborhood with a more local vibe, you are traveling with family and young children.

Best places to stay in Saint Jean:

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9. Champel, affluent neighborhood in Geneva

Directly south of the city center is the affluent neighborhood of Champel. A leafy suburb that borders the main district of Cité, Champel is ideal for anyone that wants to stay close to the city center, whilst remaining away from the crowds and other travelers.

Dining in the neighborhood is more limited than the variety on offer in the city center, but establishments here are generally higher-end, catering to the wealthy local residents.

Likewise, accommodation here mostly conforms to the upscale reputation of the district. Despite being outside of the city center, this is not the best place to search for bargain accommodation. 

Most of the city’s tourist attractions are based in the city center, but there are a few things worth taking a look at if you happen to be in this area. In the west, close to the river, is the Tour de Champel, a small castle constructed in the 1800s, a monument to the supposed healing properties of the Arve River.

At the heart of the neighborhood is Alfred Bertrand Park, a sprawling green area with plenty of space to run around or relax. The park has numerous facilities catering to children, such as play areas and splash pools. This makes it an ideal place to visit if you are traveling with children who need to burn off some energy.

Stay in Champel if you want to stay close to the city center but away from the crowds, you are working with a larger budget, you are travelling with children.

Best places to stay in Geneva Champel:

LUX Apartment with private garden  This apartment is located in the Champel, close to St. Pierre Cathedral, offers a garden, free WiFi, and private parking. It is equipped with 1 bedroom, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a fridge, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and 1 bathroom equipped with a shower.

Residence Luxurious Genève Offering a self-catering studio with a balcony, and located in central of geneva, within walking distance from the lake, the tram stop; You can reach the famous Jet d’Eau by food. It features a self-catering studio with a balcony, free WiFi access, a flat-screen TV, a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and microwave, a seating area, a washing machine, a tumble dryer, and a private bathroom with a shower, a bathtub, and a hairdryer.

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10. Grand Saconnex, where to stay in Geneva airport

Grand Saconnex, where to stay in Geneva near the airport

Geneva International Airport, also known as Cointrin Airport, is the second largest city in Switzerland. Located in the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland, but the northern side of the airport extends to the Swiss-French border.

It only located 5 km from the city center, and easily reachable by public transport: bus, train, taxi and hotel shuttles. The train ride from airport to Gare Cornavin Central Railway Station in the city is only 6 minutes. Gare Cornavin is the transport hub of the city, from here ou can catch a bus/tram to everywhere.

The district of Grand Saconnex is located on the western edge of Geneva, very close to Geneva International Airport. If you want to stay near the airport, or are just passing through for a layover, this neighborhood is ideal. 

Aside from the airport, the district is also home to the Palexpo Convention center, which hosts a variety of other events throughout the year, including the internationally popular annual Geneva Motor Show. Additionally, the Geneva Arena is another popular event venue drawing tourists to the area.

Several major roads connect Grand Saconnex to the city center, providing convenient access to the major sights and attractions such as Palais de Nations, Mont Blanc Bridge, Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, and the Jardin Botanique – Villa le Chene. Depending on your preference, a taxi or bus ride can have you in the heart of the city in just a few minutes.

If you have time to spare but don’t fancy venturing into the city, there are several attractive parks you can relax in. The Sarasin Park is directly next to the Palexpo Exhibition Centre, so is ideal for anyone attending an event and looking for somewhere to get away from the excitement for a moment.

Stay in Grand Saconnex if you want to stay near to the airport, you are attending an event at the Palexpo Exhibition Centre, you are in town for the Geneva Motor Show, you are attending an event at the Geneva Arena.

Best places to stay in Geneva Airport area:

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Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Geneva in this video:

Where should I stay in Geneva for the first time?

Cité – Old Town is the best area to stay in Geneva for first-timers because it is the most convenient location and it has a widest range of accommodations for all budget travelers. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of action, within walking to many tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.

How long should I stay in Geneva?

If you are first-timers, I recommend spend at least 3 days in Geneva to explore the city. Three days is enough to see major landmarks, try some food, and get the sense of the local culture and history. If you have more days, consider day trip to Lausanne, Swiss Riviera, and Annecy.

See Also:  

Overall, Old Town – Cité, which is the best area to stay in Geneva due to its central location. Booking hotel here, you will be located in the heart of action within walking distance to some of the best shopping, dining, and nighlife in the city. It also offers widest range of accommodation options for all budget.

Geneva is a beautiful city, both in its natural landscape and its human architecture. If you are looking for a city break with all the excitement and convenience of a modern metropolitan centre, combined with the opportunity to relax in nature, this is the destination for you. Now as you know the best areas to stay in Geneva, all you need to do is to book your accommodations and ready to go!

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