Geneva (French: Genève, German: Genf), Switzerland’s second-most populous city and the largest French-speaking city in Switzerland, is one of the world’s major centers of international diplomacy, having served as the site of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross since its foundation in 1863. Although the United Nations is now headquartered in New York, the organization still retains a large presence in Geneva at the Palais des Nations and many of its sister/child organizations, such as the World Health and International Labour Organizations.
Geneva, in the French speaking side of Switzerland, is the second largest city in the country with Zurich being the largest. Well known for the lake that it stands on, it is considered a global city because of all the international organizations that have their home here. The Geneva Conventions were signed here which deal with treatment of prisoners of war, and the United Nations and the headquarters of the Red Cross can also be found in this beautiful city.
1536, a young man named John Calvin, fleeing the persecution of Protestants in France, spent a night in Geneva. As it turned out, he was to do a lot more there than sleeping. After being expelled from Geneva for nearly three years, Calvin returned triumphantly in 1541 to help elevate the city to the rank of a Protestant Rome. The intellectual influence of the Reformation extended to all realms of Genevan life: politics, economy, and administration.
Geneva was an independent republic from at least the 16th century until it became a Swiss Canton on 31 Dec 1813. This is a point of some pride to the Genevois, who still refer to their Canton as the République et Canton de Genève. A favorite festival is the yearly celebration of the Escalade, which commemorates a failed attempt in 1602 by the forces of the Dukes of Savoy to invade the city by climbing and otherwise breaching the city walls. Having turned aside this invasion attempt at the cost of only 16 lives, Geneva had secured its liberty, since the House of Savoy was never again strong enough on this side of the Alps to attempt such an invasion.
Geneva is still a very proud city. Some find it downright stuffy, although there is quite a bit more life to be found if you look under the surface, especially if you speak some French.
Geneva is officially a French-speaking city, and the vast majority of the population speak French phrasebook (81% in 2014). All advertisements, information, and signs are in French. With the large international presence and a strong diaspora, English and Portuguese (both about 10%) take a close second. Spanish (7%), Italian (6%), and German (5%) speakers abound. You may also occasionally hear Serbian/Croatian, Albanian and Turkish as well as Arabic surprisingly often.
Table of Contents
- 1 History and Geography
- 2 Best time to go to Geneva
- 3 Getting Around in Geneva
- 4 Major attractions and Sights
- 5 What to do in Geneva
- 6 Shopping in Geneva
- 7 Eating Out in Geneva
- 8 Nightlife in Geneva
- 9 Work in Geneva
- 10 Stay safe
- 11 Telecommunications in Geneva
- 12 Cope
- 13 Anything of local interest
- 14 Go next
History and Geography
The city of Geneva is located at the south-west end of the lake, just where it flows into the Rhone. There are two mountain ranges surrounding the area, the Alps and the Jura. In the lake itself, two rocks, the Pierres du Niton, stand out and these are thought to have been here since the ice age. This is the place that was chosen as the reference point for surveying for all of Switzerland. There is also a second river that flows nearby, the Arve River, which itself flows into the Rhone, just as the lake does.
Those who love winter sports are literally spoiled for choice here since Mont Blanc can be seen in the distance and is only about one hour away by road. However, Geneva itself, being at lake level, is usually quite mild in the winter and very warm in the summer.
Best time to go to Geneva
If it is meadows full of wild flowers and the kind of countryside one would imagine that Heidi lived in, summer is definitely the time to visit. However, if it is snow sports in the surrounding mountain ranges, winter is also a fun time.
Rain is adequate and pretty much spread out throughout the year with autumn seeing above average rainfall. In the summer, many visitors go swimming in the lake and there are several beaches to enjoy. June to September sees temperatures around the mid twenties with winter going as low as four degrees.
Getting Around in Geneva
The city is served by no less than two train companies – the Swiss network, SBB-CFF-FFS, and the French SNFC network. People can get here by train from as far away as Paris and Marseille or Montpelier and Lyon. There are also great motorway connections to France and the rest of Switzerland so expect to see European tourists here and there.
There is good public transport in the form of a bus, trolleybus or tram system that covers the city itself and the whole region. Some lines will extend into France too. There are boats which transport passengers across the lake and others that take people further afield.
Taxis are often a problem since they are usually booked in advance. They also tend to not take children or infants because of the stringent seating laws here. Car hire is a must if skiing holidays are being taken since visitors can spend time in the mountains during the day and enjoy the city and its entertainment at night.
Geneva is the transportation hub for the French-speaking Switzerland and the western access point to the Swiss Alps.
- Geneva airport (also called Geneva Cointrin). It is served by almost all European carriers and has good connections from most major Northern African and Middle Eastern airports. From North America there are a couple of daily direct flights from New York, Washington D.C. and Montreal and in addition to that Air China has four weekly non-stop flights from Beijing. Geneva is a hub for the low-cost carrier EasyJet serving a number of destinations in Europe including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Edinburgh, London, Madrid, Manchester and Paris.
The airport has a UBS bank with ATMs and exchange machines in the arrival area. There is an American Express office just beyond passport control in the departure lounge. There are several cafés and duty free shopping as well, open 08:00-23:00.
To get into town from the airport, taxis cost approximately Fr. 30. The quickest way is by train which is the same price/tickets as with the buses. The number 10 bus leaves every 15 minutes from 06:00 to 23:00. Get off at the 22-Cantons stop for train station. Bus 5 also goes to the central railway station but along a different route passing close by the UN building and stopping at rue de Lausanne. Both buses then continue to the southern side of the city. All trains leaving Geneva airport train station stop at the main train/bus station. Train/bus tickets are around Fr. 3.50 (valid for one hour) and can be purchased at machines at the bus stop and in the train station. A free transport ticket to the city of Geneva can be obtained from the Geneva Transport (TPG) machine in the baggage claim area. This ticket is valid for 80 minutes anywhere in Geneva and suburbs, for trains, buses and yellow boats (with this ticket you can go as far as CERN or Anières or Veyrier). There is a change machine next to the UBS ATM. The best alternative is to take the free public transport ticket, hop on any train to Geneva (5 minutes) and either take a taxi from there or continue on the public transport system.
Travel by train to Geneva
The Swiss Federal Railway, abbreviated CFF in French, serves Geneva’s main railway station (simply called Genève, but traditionally also called Gare de Genève-Cornavin, or simply Cornavin) with direct trains to and from Neuchatel, Biel, Lucerne, Winterthur, St. Gallen every hour, and Bern and Zurich every half-hour. Regional trains heading to Nyon, Morges and many other villages along the northern shore of Lake Geneva, and inter-regional trains heading to Lausanne leave every 15 minutes, and further to Vevey, Montreux, Martigny, Sion, and further to the back of the mountainous Valais in Visp and Brig at least every half-hour. Normally they depart from Genève-Aéroport.
The Gare des Eaux-Vives is another public transport station and it is situated on the southeastern side of the lake on the other side of the river Rhône. It has French bus services with the SNCF to and from Evian, Chamonix and Annecy. It’s being renovated, since a new rail line has been built to link Cornavin to this train station.
International trains leaving from Genève include the French (SNCF) and Swiss National Railways (SBB CFF FFS) coorporating high-speed TGV-Lyria service. There is a direct service from Geneva to Paris (570 km) with a journey time of three hours seven times per day, as well as a direct service to Lyon (2 hr), Avignon (3 hr), Marseille (3.5nhr) and Nice (6.5 hr). There is a direct connection between Milan and Geneva, traversing the Alps through the Simplon massif four times a day. Once a day this EuroCity (EC) service directly connects Geneva with Venice via Milan.
For more information:
- Swiss Federal Railway (SBB CFF FFS), telephone +41 900 300 300. Provides a useful on-line travel planner, which includes information about local bus and tram services, as well as rail services and can plan your journey from any address to Geneva. The mobile app can also be used to buy train tickets, an account with a valid credit card has to be set-up beforehand.
Unless otherwise announced, most trains arriving in Genève will usually have the Genève-Aéroport as their final destination (if they come from elsewhere in Switzerland), which means you do not have to use the TPG (transport publis genevois, or Geneva’s Public Transport company) tram or bus to get there.
Geneva’s main railway station is well designed, and a key part of Geneva’s public transport network. City tram and bus routes converge at a stop located directly outside the front doors of the station, called Gare Cornavin and making transition from train to public transit extremely easy. If you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or campground, do not buy more than a single ticket. Geneva provides free transit passes to any tourist staying in one of these types of accommodation. Ask the reception if you did not receive it at check-in. The station also features a basement-level shopping concourse, along with an underground passage which connects to the south side of the busy main street, permitting new arrivals to avoid crossing busy roads. The passage also connects to an open-air pedestrianized shopping street, leading down to the lake.
The motorway network brings you right into Geneva, only 40km from Annecy and 80km from Chamonix with customs at Bardonnex – Saint-Julien. You need the compulsory motorway sticker (single annual Fr. 40 fee) to come through this customs office. Purchase of the motorway tax sticker (aka Vignette) at one of the customs is obligatory in order to drive on Swiss motorways.
To avoid the purchase of a vignette, you can enter Geneva through other crossing points at Thônex-Vallard or Moillesulaz, for example. If, however, you decide later to drive on the motorway, you will need to purchase a vignette — you can generally purchase the vignette at Petrol Stations, Post Offices or at Tourist Offices.
Geneva is served by a number of regular international bus routes (Bus station: tel. +41 22 732-0230). Additionally, the TPG (Geneva Public Transport) provide regular services from the neighbouring French towns of Saint-Julien, Archamps, Thoiry, Ferney-Voltaire, Moillesulaz (tel. +41 22 308-3434).
Regular boat services are provided, mainly in paddle steamers built between 1904 and 1927, from ports all around Lake Geneva by Compagnie Générale de Navigation. All boats arrive at the Paquis port after docking briefly at Parc des Eaux Vives and the Jardin Anglais.
- Old Town (vieille ville) and St. Gervais
The old-town can be easily visited on foot starting anywhere around the tour boat dock on Lake Geneva, or if you come from the Cornavin station, walk down to the Bel-Air island and continue straight on uphill to the old town. Crossing the bridge (Pont du Mont Blanc), you’ll get to the English Garden with the famous flower clock and a sculpted bronze water fountain. Then you can cross the street (Quai de General Guisan) and go up the hill (on Place du Port and Rue de la Fontaine) and up the long stairs passage and end up behind Saint Peter’s Cathedral. After visiting the cathedral, which is Geneva’s well-known landmark, you can exit the courtyard and be right in front of Geneva City Hall. From there you can easily walk down to the Bastions Park where you can find the famous Reformation Wall memorial. This park is very quiet and romantic, especially at the beginning of the fall season when the leaves start falling. See this walking route in pictures.
Geneva is fairly walkable but the fact that the name of some streets change frequently as you walk can make navigation difficult. For instance the street from Bel-Air square to Rive roundabout has five different names on a section of less than a kilometre.
Geneva is a great town to get around in by bicycle. Except for the old-town, the city is fairly flat, and though there are some streets that are dangerous to ride, there is almost always a safe, fast route to your destination. If you want to know the best routes, you should get a copy of the beautifully designed Velo-Love plan de ville, which is available at all bike shops in Geneva, or by writing to: email@example.com or calling +41 22 418-4200.
A social organization called Genèveroule lends bicycles free of charge (for four hours and then a fee of Fr. 2 per extra hour), from 30 April through 30 October. A passport or identity card must be shown and a refundable deposit of Fr. 20 is required. Six stations are located along the lake, behind the railway station, in Eaux-Vives (Terrassière) the Plaine de Plainpalais and at Carouge. While this service is quite convenient, be sure to bring ID and contact information, including hotel phone number, to speed up the paperwork.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for a road bike or a trekking bike, then there is a shop very near the train station called “Bike Switzerland”.
By public transportation
Geneva, like most cities in Switzerland, is a marvel of public transportation efficiency. Transports Publics Genevois (TPG) provides frequent bus, tram, ‘mouette’ (boat), and suburban train service to within a block or two of most locations in the city and canton.
Tickets cost Fr. 2 for a short hop (three stops or less, or a one-way crossing of the lake). Fr. 3 for one hour with unlimited changes on tram, bus, boat, and rail within greater Geneva, Fr. 8 for a day pass valid 09:00-23:59, and Fr. 10 for an extended day pass valid from the time it is purchased until 05:00 the next morning. Holders of the SBB Demi-Tarif/Halbtax card get 20-30% off these prices. If you’re staying for more than a few days, consider buying a week ticket for Fr. 38. It’s sold at official TPG offices, located at Cornavin station, Rive roundabout and the suburb of Grand-Lancy (the last one is pretty off the beaten path for most visitors).
If you stay in a hotel, hostel, or on a camping site, you will get free public transport. Typically, you will receive a Unireso Geneva Transport Card at check-in. It will be authorised for use for the length of your stay and like a ticket one gets in the airport upon arrival it is valid for Geneva and suburbs including the Unireso network. You are supposed to carry your passport or identity card with you at the same time, to ensure validity. The ticket is valid on trains as far as the airport. One pass is valid for a maximum of 15 days, and it is valid also on the day you check out from your place of stay, which is handy if you have a late flight and want do some sightseeing or shopping.
Tickets, which cover trams and buses, must be bought from ticket machines (located at every stop) before boarding the transport. Some bus stops do not have a ticket machine, in that case you can indicate to the driver that you need to buy a ticket at the next stop.
You can get pretty much everywhere by bus. Some routes are rather confusing, so it’s good to get a map of the network which can be picked up at the official ticket vending points, or viewed/printed out from their web page. When you are on the bus, however, bus stops are both announced and visible on a screen (on most buses).
Observe that you will need to purchase a separate ticket if you are travelling outside the canton of Geneva, i.e. to or from France or the canton of Vaud. “Ordinary” tickets and day passes are only valid inside Geneva (known as Zone 10). Bus stops in France that are served by the Genevan transport authority do not have ticket vending machines, instead you have to buy the tickets from vending machines on board the bus when traveling from France.
Geneva has a network of four tram lines; 12, 14, 15 and 18. Three of them pass through the major transportation hub at the Cornavin train station, and all of them have a station close to Place Bel-Air on the old-town side of the river. If you did not receive a TPG/Unireso card from your hotel, you will need to buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines located at every stop before boarding the transport. Tickets cover both trams and buses.
The “mouette” service is included in the TPG/Unireso card that tourists receive free of charge from their hotels. This is a nice way to get from the Pâquis station near the Quai du Mont-Blanc in the northwest to the other side of the lake, e.g. to the Eaux-Vives stop near the Jardin Anglais. Boats run every 10 minutes. See the home page of the boat operator for more information.
If you want to explore the mountainous countryside or go skiing in one of the ski resorts in the Alps, getting a car is a better option. Numerous local and international car rental service providers operate from the airport. They provide customized traveling services to the needs of tourists visiting GenevaThe city centre of Geneva is famously congested and as such driving into the city is not a good idea.
Travel by train to Geneva
Suburban trains to outskirts run every half hour during the day and every hour after 20:00. The last train to the eastern terminus, (Coppet), leaves at 00:03. Though these “Regios” mostly serve commuters, at least two of their station stops, Versoix and Coppet, have several good restaurants and historic main streets. There is also another suburban rail line: the RER Genève, which goes from Cornavin to La Plaine, sometimes continuing to France (2 stops from La Plaine). As with buses and trams, tickets must be bought before boarding the train. If you are only travelling with the canton of Geneva, a bus/tram ticket is valid on the train and vice versa; travelling further afield will cost more unless you buy a regional ticket, which also includes parts of Vaud and France.
Major attractions and Sights
Geneva has much to see in the way of sights for those who love history. One such place is St. Peter’s Cathedral. Originally settled by Celtic tribes, the hill that houses the cathedral is the same place that influential reformist Calvin preached.
One thing that should not be missed is the huge water jet known locally as Jet d’Eau, rising to one hundred and fifty meters that sets off the lake beautifully. Be aware in winter though as it is sometimes not operating. This setting was once the opening shot of a famous series in the UK so plenty of people like to photograph it.
There are many parks and public spaces in Geneva with one of the most popular being the Jardin Anglais. Thousands of plants have been used to make up a floral clock and there is part of the park which has deer and flamingos for people to enjoy. The floral clock was made as a compliment to the watch and clock makers of the city and is a good five meters across. There are more than six thousand plants used in the clock and the mix is changed at the beginning of each of the four seasons.
For anyone who is interested in science, Geneva is home to the Large Hadron Collider. Here, they are trying to, in the most simplistic terms, test the Big Bang Theory – when the earth was created; some say that if anything goes wrong, this could be the end of the world instead!
For some leisurely walking, try the pedestrian trail that runs out of the city and along the north and south of the lake. This is a lovely and scenic walk and it allows people to slow down a little from frenetic city life, and is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
For those who love anything old, try out the Barbier-Muller Museum in the old town district. Here find lovely pieces of art from the Asia-Pacific area which includes carvings and jewelry.
Since Geneva is quite expensive, it is refreshing to know that there are some free tours on offer. Many people use the mobile ‘app’ which is available on the free Wi-Fi network that the city offers. This means that people can stroll at their leisure as long as they have a smart phone or iPad or iPod etc and it doesn’t need to be downloaded either. The technology is so good that the embedded GPS system shows the user exactly where they are and also points out all the key attractions and transport facilities among other things.
Sometimes it is great to get out of the city to see the mountains. A trip up the mountain to Chamonix on the Swiss border where there are cable car rides and photo opportunities galore is the chance to breathe fresh clean air. If it is winter, then there are plenty of places to ski or snowboard too.
Or try a trip on the Gruyeres and the Golden Express to see some spectacular scenery. There is a coach ride first and then a train ride from the city to end up in the wonderful meadows and hills of the Swiss Alps. The Alps are sensational as the train descends into the valley down to Montreux.
Another great trip to the mountains which should not be missed is the Gstaad trip. The Cable Car Glacier 3000 takes visitors up and above the peaks of the Alps so that they can hike over the glacier there. Gstaad itself is where winter sports take place but summer vistas are also unforgettable.
If there are kids along on the holiday, Geneva is full of fun parks and zoos etc. The Zoo de Servion houses primates and big cats as well as local animal life. Or, try a visit to the Aquaparc that has both indoor and outdoor pools for water adventures so this is great all year round. At Aquasplash, on top of the usual pools and slides, find trampolines and beach volley ball facilities among other activities.
The Swiss Vapeur Parc is also a great place for the children. It is a host of many different miniature railway tracks and, although the place is quite small, kids can take rides on the trains. This is a really fun place for smaller children and those who love trains. Older kids may well get a little bored but the small ones will love it.
Lastly, for this section, there is a lovely place to visit on Lake Geneva itself. The Ile Rousseau is a beautiful green island at the heart of the water. Some four hundred years ago, this was used as a fortress to stop invading troops. This is why it has the arrow shape. The island is full of swaying trees and willows with great views of the city. The island is a cool place away from the city centre where people go to just chill out, take a stroll or enjoy a picnic. Find a pavilion style restaurant here to have a lunch or snack. The island was named after the local boy made good, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an eighteenth-century philosopher whose statue can also be found on the island; it has been here since 1835. This place can be reached either by foot from either side of the lake, or on the Pont du Mont-Blanc.
- Cathédrale St-Pierre and Calvin’s auditorium, Place St. Pierre (At the highest point in the Old Town). Jun-Sep: M-Sa 09:00-21:00, Su 11:00-19:00; Oct-May: M-Sa 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00, Su 11:00-12:30 and 13:30-17:00. The new Espace Saint Pierre pass includes entrance to all three sites of Cour Saint-Pierre, a worthy space of unique spiritual and cultural importance. The Cathedral and its towers, originally Catholic, both embody the high point of the Reformed tradition and explore the origins of Christianity with an extensive archaeological site and they are now complemented by the International Museum of the Reformation on the ground floor of the Maison Mallet. An underground passage, reopened when the Museum was created, connects the two buildings. The archeological tour beneath the cathedral is excellent for archeology fans it explains the origins not only of the cathedral but the reason for Geneva’s location back to pre-Roman times. Those willing to climb the steps of the Cathedral’s towers will be rewarded with magnificent views of Geneva and the lake. Nearby, the Auditoire, where Calvin taught, completes a complex that is both representative of the past and open to current questions. The new Espace Saint-Pierre thus aims to contribute to our understanding of today’s world – between tradition and modernity, cultural experimentation and spiritual practice. These three buildings invite the visitor to explore the city’s history. Religious denominations aside, Espace Saint Pierre represents a spirit that continues to guide the city and citizens of Geneva today. For schedules and information about free live organ performances in the cathedral, go to the website Concerts cathédrale. Adults Fr. 16 (Seniors, Disabled, Students aged 16-25, and groups of more than 15 qualify for a Fr. 10 pass, children aged 7-16 qualify for an Fr. 8 pass. Entry to the church itself is free, of course, but donations are welcome.).
- Old Town (Vieille Ville). Aside of the cathedral the Old town in general is worth walking around in for an hour or two. Among the highlights are the city hall with the cannons in the little square opposite to it, Rousseau’s birth house and various antique shops with all sorts of interesting stuff in the windows. A word of warning to people with physical disabilities: the Old Town, is situated on a hill with quite steep streets leading up to it.
- Palais des Nations, 14, Avenue de la Paix (Number 8 bus, stop at Appia), , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily Apr-Oct: 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00; Jul-Aug 10AM-5PM; the rest of the year Monday to Friday 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00 (except over the Christmas period). Built to house the League of Nations, the Palais is worth visiting just to take in the magnificent Assembly Hall, in addition to the large collection of public art, the library, and the landscaped grounds. Visits are by guided tours only. For most of the year there are two or four of them per day, in the summer months they are arranged depending on the number of visitors. Enter the complex at the Appia gate, and go through passport and security check. From there you will go to one desk to get a “visitor” badge, then downstairs to purchase the actual ticket. After this you should exit the building, go to the left and slightly downhill to Building E, enter through door E39 and wait in the lobby until the tour starts. There is a quite good souvenir shop from where you can also send post cards with UN stamps, as well as a small “cinema” showing video clips of UN’s work to keep you entertained while waiting. On the tour itself you must follow the guide at all times. Fr. 12 each for adults (groups of 20 adults or more qualify for a 20% discount; private tour of 1-14 adults Fr. 127.50; Fr. 10 each for students, senior citizens, and disabled persons; Fr. 4 for schoolchildren; free for children under six years old).
- Quartier des Grottes, Place des Grottes (north of Gare Cornavin). An area with interesting shops and most importantly, a series of residential buildings called “les Schtroumpfs” (1982-1984), where the architects tried to avoid all straight lines, leading to an unconventional Gaudi-like appearance. Free.
- Monument Brunswick, Quai du Mont-Blanc. An impressive monument, constructed in 1873 as a Mausoleum for the Duke of Brunswick, as a replica of the tomb of the Scaligeri family in Verona (14th century). Also worth visiting for the 5-star hotels and the cars in front of them. Free.
- Île Rousseau, Pont des Bergues. Small island where the lake ends and river Rhône begins named after the famous philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau – of course there’s a statue of him there too. Free.
- L’Ile. Worth visiting for the old Tour de L’Ile, the remains of a fortified castle erected in the 13th century. Free.
- Place Neuve. See the impressive Grand Theatre (1879, renovated after a fire in 1951), the Conservatoire de musique, and the Musée Rath. Also visit the Parc des Bastions, which includes a large wall (“Mur des Réformateurs”) showing some of the famous people of the Reformation movement.
- Eaux-Vives. While many of Geneva’s buildings are similar in style to what you would find in French cities, the Mairie of Eaux-Vives is a great example of the typical Swiss architecture you would find in cities like Zürich. If you’re interested in modern architecture, also visit Rue Saint-Laurent for “La Clarté”, an avant-garde building designed by Le Corbusier in 1931/32 — one of 17 Le Corbusier buildings to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Another interesting attraction here is the Russian Orthodox Church built 1859-1866 with its golden cupolas.
- Carouge. A district of Geneva that once belonged to the Kingdom of Sardinia and hence retains a distinct Italian flavour.
- Jardin botanique (Main entrance: corner of Rue de Lausanne and Avenue de la Paix, take bus 8, 11, or 25). At the botanical garden you can see flowers, plants and trees both from the Alps and from other parts of the world. The palm house also hosts tropical vegetation. In the northern part of the park there is a zoo spread over a quite large area with birds and some Alpine mammals such as goats and deer. free.
Museums and galleries in Geneva
- International Museum of the Reformation, 4, rue du Cloître (Bus n° 36 to Cathédrale/ Bus n° 2, 7, 20, stop Molard/ Tram 12, 16, stop Molard), , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Closed on 24, 25 and 31 December and on 1 January. Open Easter, Pentecost, and Jeune Federal Mondays. Access for disabled visitors.. Installed on the ground floor of the magnificent Maison Mallet (next to Saint-Pierre Cathedral), this new Museum presents the main spiritual and cultural elements of the Reformation. Unique objects, manuscripts, rare books, engravings, and paintings illustrate the close ties between Geneva and the Reformation. State-of-the-art technology welcomes a modern audience: films, a music room, and demonstrations, including many for children, invite visitors to both rediscover the past and imagine the future. Fr. 10 for Adults; Seniors, Disabled, Students from 16-25 years old qualify for a Fr. 7 admission fee; Children age 7-16 years old and groups of 15 or more qualify for a Fr. 5 admission fee; Children under 7 are free. For another Fr. 3, you can explore the archaeological site beneath the cathedral and climb the tower inside the cathedral, which has some amazing views of the city.
- Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 17, Avenue de la Paix (8, F, V, or Z bus to Appia from the central station), , fax: . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Closed on 24, 25 and 31 December and on 1 January. Access for disabled visitors.. The Museum of the I.C.R.C. is located in the basement of the headquarters and shows photos and objects related to the organization’s service to humanity during countless wars and natural disasters, and presents stories of victims. However much of the permanent exhibition is not an ordinary museum, but probably supposed to be more of an “experience”, one might even call it a theme park – not really appropriate for such a serious topic. You will be given an audio guide that is activated when going through different rooms and touching screens – these are malfunctioning quite frequently. There are also educative tasks/games for the visitors to play as well as postmodern works of art. Overall, the museum is largely a rather confusing experience and given the offhand expectations you probably have, this museum will probably not be the high point of your visit to Geneva. Fr. 15 for Adults. Children, I.C.R.C. members, the elderly, and others qualify for a Fr. 7 admission fee.
- Musée Ariana, Avenue de la Paix 10 (About midway between Place des Nations and the entrances to the Palais and the I.C.R.C), . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Occupying a big chunk of what would otherwise be the UN campus, the Ariana Museum offers a huge collection (16,000 pieces) of ceramics from around Europe and the Far East. Fr. 8.
- Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10 (Number 1 bus to Ecole des Medécins), . Tu-F 12:00-18:00, Saturday to Sunday 11:00-18:00. Late modern, post-modern, and contemporary works by internationally known artists, as well as a special collection of Swiss conceptual work. Fr. 8.
- Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, Route de Malagnou 1 (Bus 1-8 (arrêts Tranchées & Muséum) 20-27 (arrêt Muséum), trams 12-16 (arrêt Villereuse)), . Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. Geneva has a nice museum which is worth a visit, especially if you have youth and children. Free.
- Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Rue Charles-Galland 2, . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Extensive art and archaeological-historical collections. Painting gallery extends back to the early Renaissance, but is most extensive in Swiss-French and Impressionist works. Free, except special exhibits.
- Fondation Baur, Musée des Arts d’Extrême-Orient, 8 rue Munier-Romilly, . Tu-Su 14:00-18:00. The largest collections of Far Eastern art open to the public in Switzerland. Temporary exhibitions are regularly organized several times a year. Fr. 10.
- Patek Philippe Museum, 7 Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, . Tu-F 14:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-18:00. Four floors of stunningly beautiful watches and clocks from the last centuries, both Patek Philippe and other brands. There is also a section presenting watchmaking in practice. Bags (even shopping bags) are banned in the museum so leave them in your hotel room or somewhere else! Adults Fr. 10, Seniors/people with disabilities/unemployed/students Fr. 7, under 18 years old free.
- CERN’s exhibitions, 385 Route de Meyrin. The nuclear research center CERN has two free exhibitions, both presenting the history of the complex, its equipment, scientific breakthroughs and the scientists behind them. The one behind the reception is called Microcosm and the one opposite the road in the big “Globe of Science and Innovation” bears the name Universe of Particles. There are also guided tours at the premises but they need to be booked in advance. The reception has a small souvenir shop; this is your opportunity to get yourself a CERN helmet! Free.
- Musée d’histoire des sciences, Villa Bartholoni, 128 rue de Lausanne (buses 8 and 25, located in the Perle du Lac park.). Museum dedicated to scientists who’ve lived and worked in Geneva. You can see old equipment from telescopes to galvanometers and glass eyes. free.
- Maison Tavel, 6 Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre (in the old town, near the city hall and the cathedral). Tu-Su 11:00-18:00. Three floors presenting the history of Geneva from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. There’s an entrance fee to the temporary exhibitions in the basement. free.
What to do in Geneva
- Salève cable car (Téléphérique du Salève), Veyrier, France (Number 8 Bus to either Veyrier Douane or Veyrier Tournettes. Or line 41 to Veyrier-École). Just over the French border, this high alpine ridge has a stunning view of Mt. Blanc and the Lake Geneva area and miles of walking trails. A cute little corner shop in Pas de l’Échelle Village (France) sells about 100 varieties of French cheeses and is open on Sundays. Don’t forget your passport. The Association Genevoise des Amis du Salève (AGAS, +41 22 796 41 33 or ) organizes free hikes around Geneva every Sunday. Start at 10:00 (sharp) at terminus (End station) of bus number 8 at Veyrier-Douane.
- Genève Plage (buses 2 and 6). There are many smaller places where to swim in either the rivers or the lake, but the largest one is Genève Plage (literally “Geneva Beach”) at the eastern bank of the lake. It’s a nice place to swim, enjoy the sun, play, barbecue, or just hang out.
Shopping in Geneva
Geneva has a wealthy population so visitors should expect to find high end shops and designer wear outlets at every corner. There are also many little tourist style shops for souvenirs dotted here and there. Some would say that these are a little on the tacky side but the tourists seem to like them. Look in the Old Town and the Bourg-de-Four district for watches, T shirts, army knives et al. For the personal touch, get a name engraved on the handle of this most iconic of Swiss products.
For traffic free shopping, try the Rue de la Confederation. Prices are obviously a little on the high side but the quality is excellent. Comparison shopping is recommended to save some money as prices do tend to fluctuate.
To shop where the locals do, try the outdoor market at Plaine de Plainpalais which is open on several days during the week. On Sundays, very few shops are open. One part of Geneva that is great for shopping is Quai du Mont Blanc since it is right on the waterfront. Here too find plenty of cafes for a quick lunch or break.
Switzerland is famed as a land of banks and financial institutions, so getting local cash from ATMs at banks, train station and within shopping malls should pose no problem. Also, Euros are accepted at many larger stores and places that cater to international visitors.
- Chocolate can be bought at any number of specialty stores, but the stuff at the grocery is just as good for a fraction of the price (Fr. 1-3 a bar). Meanwhile, if you have a place to prepare meals the grocery stores in Switzerland offer the best possible dining deal for your money. For many fresh foods you’ll pay a lot more than you are accustomed to paying in the U.S. or Britain.
- Wine and spirits cost much less than in Anglophone countries, and the local stuff is particularly cheap, and not just drinkable but quite good. Some say that the only reason Swiss wines are not well known internationally is that the Swiss drink all of it.
- Shopping for clothing and accessories can be disappointing in Geneva. Most offerings are usually expensive and uninteresting, unless you’re really after that floor-length purple fur coat with the rhinestone trim. Geneva is home to several watch manufacturers, and there are many jewelers and horologers with a great selection.
- If you are interested in taking back some Swiss souvenirs for your relatives you can find them on the main street, Rue de la Croix d’Or, and also along the main streets leading down to the lake from Gare Cornavin. You should be able to easily find at reasonable prices:
- Watches & Pocket watches. Most people will only know the most advertised brands but in switzerland there are probably more than a hundred brands. Don’t worry, if it is written Swiss Made on it, it’s a top quality watch.
- Cuckoo clocks. Either mechanical the most traditionnal one and now also battery operated. Made in Germany.
- Swiss Army Knives. Swiza and Victorinox being the two most well-known brands (Prices are same throughout switzerland).
- Music Boxes. Related to watchmaking, music boxes are a very traditional swiss made product. The brand Reuge is the most famous one but there are some cheaper ones.
- Almost any sort of object with a cow or a Swiss flag printed on it.
- Want more? La Rue du Marché. , a 10-minute walk southwards from the train station, has just about everything. From the traditional to the modern, from souvenirs to household appliances to libraries to prescription glasses. This is one of Geneva’s busiest streets (And don’t get confused because this main street has 4 different names. From East to West: Rue de Rive – Rue de la Croix d’Or – Rue du Marché and Rue de la Confédération), and is kept clean and appealing. Prices are fair for the most part, but checking several stores before buying, or asking a friendly-looking passer-by for shopping tips can’t hurt.
- If you are looking for Louis Vuitton-fashion and golden wristwatches, Rue du Rhône. on the south side of the river (running parallel to Marché) is a good place. Of course you can easily find them elsewhere in the city – this is Switzerland!
- Manor, 6 rue de Cornavin (a few minute’s walk from the central railway station). M-W 09:00-21:00, Th 09:00-21:00, F 09:00-19:30, Sa 08:30-18:00. A department store in the city center where you can buy clothes, food, electronics, souvenirs, clocks etc. There is a self service restaurant on the top floor.
- Centre Commercial Cygnes, 16-20 rue de Lausanne (near the central railway station). A variety of smaller shops and eateries under one roof a short walk along Rue de Lausanne from the railway station.
- Flea market at Plainpalais. each Saturday. If you like flea markets and shuffling through old stuff like vinyl records, books, chinaware etc., especially stuff with a Swiss and French background and happen to be in Geneva on a Saturday (or some Wednesdays), Plainpalais square is definitely where you should head.
Eating Out in Geneva
When in Rome, as they say, eat somewhere where the locals eat. In Geneva that would be at the Buvette des Bains des Paquis. This is a simple wooden building on the right bank of the city and this is where locals come to bathe in summer, take a sauna in the winter and enjoy a fine lunch too. Favorite local dishes include pig’s trotters, pork sausage with caraway seeds and lamb, fish or meat dishes.
Or try a place called U Bobba which is known to serve the elite and the smart set. Particularly tasty are the veal medallions served up with pistachio nuts or gorgonzola gnocchi.
Geneva has a huge number of restaurants for a city its size, and the international community means there’s more variety than you’ll find in most Swiss cities. On the downside, Geneva is possibly the most expensive city in an expensive country. Additionally, it can be quite difficult to find food on Sunday night, so it might be worth planning ahead or just visiting the more touristy region near the train station. If you have the possibility to cook your own food, self catering is a good idea to save money. If you are staying for a longer period, it’s a good idea to make shopping trips to supermarkets in France where many foods cost less than half of what they do in Geneva.
There are many budget spots located around the train station and in the nearby Paquis district, or near rue de l’Ecole de Médecine off Plaine de Plainpalais.
- Buvette des Bains (Bains des Paquis), 30, quai du Mont-Blanc (jetée des Bains des Pâquis), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Wonderful place in the middle of the lake. Beach in Summer, fondue restaurant in Winter. Good “plat du jour” all day for Fr. 12 Fr. 12-20.
- Espresso Club, rue des Pâquis 25 (just off of Place de Navigation), . Monday to Friday until 02:00. A tiny bar and three tables means this little local spot is usually packed with a very international crowd of people who know where to get the best pizza, salads, and pasta dishes in town, with many vegetarian selections. Espresso club keeps the ovens going late for late working customers and it’s a nice spot for a café and newspaper afternoon as well. Unfortunately the quality of its customer service does not mirror that of its pizzas. Fr. 1-20.
- Café Art’s, rue des Pâquis 17, . Monday to Friday 17:00-02:00, Sa Su 11:00-02:00. Café Art’s (sic) has a limited menu of salads and pasta dishes, but all around or under Fr. 15 and service is non-stop all day. Fr. 8-20.
- Sing Fa la maison du Ravioli (Sing Fa dumpling house), Rue de la Calle 42, . morning-midnight (closed on Monday lunch), opened 7 days a week. Serves fairly authentic Chinese dumplings and noodles. Fr. 14-20.
- Boky, Rue des Alpes 21 (also Rue Neuve du Molard 19), . 18:00-23:59. Large selection of Chinese and Japanese dishes. Fast, but impolite service. Quality Chinese food (it’s always full of Chinese customers) but no fancy atmosphere. Fr. 14-20.
- Piment Vert, 4 place Grenus (the small plaza behind the Manor department store), . Indian and Sri Lankan fast food in a charmingly appointed space. There’s also a terrace during warm climate. Fr. 14-20.
- Chez Ma Cousine. A chain with a simple menu: chicken, chicken, or chicken. The roasted chicken is what they’re famous for, and two chicken salads make the rest of the regular menu, each under Fr. 14.90.
- pl. du Bourg-de-Four 6, .
- ch. du Petit-Saconnex 2, .
- rue Lissignol 5, .
- Mike Wong. Inauthentic Thai, but not terrible.
- bd James-Fazy 11, .
- rue du Conseil-Général 20, .
- Ali Haydar, 26 Rue de Lausanne (On the same road as Gare Cornavin towards Mr. Pickwick pub.). Serves kebabs of lamb, chicken, or both, dolma. Baklava too.
- Cafe Istanbul, Rue du Mont Blanc (Directly across from Gare Cornavin (the train station) on the pedestrian street Rue du Mont Blanc). Turkish kebab house.
- Manora, Rue de Cornavin 6 (Just west of the Gare Cornavin. It’s the top floor of the mega-store Manor), . Cafeteria like serving area with everything and anything including (but not inclusive): chicken, pasta, pizza, desserts, entree of the day, salads, and coffee. Great view of the Geneva skyline from the balcony eating area.
- Wasabi Sushi, 21 rue du Mont Blanc, 32 Boulevard Helvetique. M-Sa 10:00-22:00. As the name suggests, Japanese food to eat in the restaurant or to take away.
- Boulangerie Tea-Room Deux-Ponts, 27 rue des Deux-Ponts (near the major bus and tram stop Jonction in the southwestern part of Geneva), . Portuguese “tea room” serving sandwiches, bifanas (hot sandwiches) and pastries that are fresh, delicious, large and don’t cost very much. The catch: they don’t have very much on display so you can’t just point at stuff but need to explain what you would like to order and how you’d like it – in French or Portuguese!
- La feuille de banane, rue de Carouge 29 (Plainpalais). One of the best ratios of food quality to price in Geneva for Asiatic food. For around Fr. 10, you can have a tasty meal with chicken, beef or fish, and a various choices of sauces. The service is ultra fast since everything is already cooked, but yet fresh and tasty. Fr. 10-20.
- Restaurant La Romana, Rue de Vermont 37 ☎ +41 22 734 82 86, e-mail: email@example.com, Beautiful place in the heart of the International Organizations with a terrace. Restaurant, pizzeria, bar, karaoké, cocktail and private party.
- Café de Paris, 26 Rue du Mont-Blanc. Vegetarians beware, this Genevois favorite serves one dish only: steak with the butter sauce that bears the name of the restaurant, French fries, and salad. But apparently they do it very well. You can buy the butter in 250 g (0.5 lb) for Fr. 18. The menu costs Fr. 42 per person..
- Café du Soleil, Place du Petit-Saconnex (in Petit-Saconnex, take bus 3), . This ancient Petit Saconnex roadhouse claims to be possibly the oldest restaurant in Geneva and to have probably the best fondue in Switzerland. They have a nice large patio in front that is overlooked by a 2nd floor balcony with a few small tables and also inside seating. Surprisingly popular even if it’s in a mostly residential part of Geneva, even among international guests. mains Fr. 10-35.
- Café Gourmand, 35 Rue des Bains, . Great friendly atmosphere specializing in East-West fusion dishes. Open weekdays.
- Le Comptoir, Rue de Richemont 9. Easy-Listener-chic Asian/fusion restaurant and bar sporting white leather sofas and the occasional local DJ. Not a cheap choice, but the food is unusually interesting and the crowd friendly.
- L’Europa, Rue du Valais 16, . A little hard to find, but worth it for the fresh, hand made pasta dishes and generous portions. A favorite for lunch among the UN crowd.
- Hashimoto, 6 Rue de Villereuse, , fax: . Hashimoto Sushi is a favorite spot for Japanese diplomats and international civil servants in Geneva, which should tell you enough.
- L’Adresse, 32 Rue du 31 décembre (close to Eaux-Vives), . Tu-Sa 11:00-19:00. Self-consciously hip but decent food. Occasionally snooty service.
- L’Entrecôte Couronnée, 5 Rue des Pâquis (close to rue de Alpes), . M-Sa 10:00-14:15 & 19:00-22:45. Excellent steak restaurant with fast and efficient staff. The wine card is limited but has good Swiss wines. Just 40 seats so better reserve a table
- La Table du 9, 9 Rue Verdaine (close to rue de Rhône), . 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-22:00, closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and for dinner on Monday and Tuesday. Relaxed, modern and justifiably busy.
- Edward’s The fine art of sandwiches, 1 rue de la Cité (in the northwestern edge of the old town). Packed with locals at lunchtime and for a reason – delicious warm sandwiches and cakes. On the downside it is a bit hectic and it might be difficult to find a seat. sandwich and coffee around Fr. 10.
- Brasserie Bagatelle, Place des 22 cantons (near Gare Cornavin), . A centrally located restaurant with a varied menu and moderate prices for being in the middle of Geneva. Really good tartar with French fries. main course and glass of wine Fr. 30.
- Le Montparnasse, 58 Avenue Wendt (close to the Servette tram stop, 1km northwest of Gare Cornavin). French and Swiss cuisine and a healthy “antidote” to the extremely touristy restaurants serving Swiss food. Most of the visitors are older locals who drop in for a few glasses of wine and a chat with the owner. Try the menu of the day and a good local wine! mains Fr. 20-40, but has lunch specials and the three-course “Menu of the day” for Fr. 30.
- La Cuccagna, 33 Rue St-Joseph (in Carouge district), . open also on Sundays. Cosy Italian restaurant in Carouge with a wide variety of well known and lesser known Italian dishes and even occasionally live music. The service is a bit slow but the ambience so you won’t probably mind sitting there for a little bit longer. mains Fr. 15-30.
- Brasserie Lipp, 8 Rue de la Confederation, . Good brasserie, lots of seafood.
- Café des Négociants, 29 rue de la Filature (Carouge). Wonderful hip restaurant with wonderful hip food and a wonderful hip wine cellar where you can wander around and choose from all the wonderful hip wine on the racks. You can guess what the desserts are like. Everyone wants a piece of this place, so plan to reserve up to a week or so in advance.
- Da Renato, Rue Jacques-Dalphin 14, , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Italian-style restaurant.
- Edelweiss Manotel, Place de la Navigation 2. This is a must if you want to taste the Swiss culture. You will get the cheese fondue, of course, but also some other local delicacies. But you get there for the show: you can hear and see folklore music and yodelling singers, as well as many other instruments. It is however a very touristic restaurant and you are not likely to see many Swiss people eating there.
- Perle du Lac, 126 rue de Lausanne, , fax: . The only restaurant located adjacent to the Lake Geneva footpath. Food and service are excellent. The view of the Lake is excellent and the ambiance is outstanding. Fr. 65 (lunch), from Fr. 88 for set menu.
- Le Triporteur, 33 rue de Carouge, . This little place fills a nice niche at the low end of the high end, where it is likely to impress the heck out of a date without overly denting the bank account. The room is cosy and romantic. The service is attentive, but not at all pushy or snobbish. The Triporteur has the feel of a lot of the better restaurants in say, San Francisco. Expect to spend around Fr. 50 per person if you’re drinking the house wine.
- La Veranda, 20 rue des Alpes. A pleasant restaurant with Italian flair in the Hotel International-Terminus.
Nightlife in Geneva
For the younger element, the Bar du Nord is the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays. It used to have its own beach feature, but now it has been revamped for the young and trendy set. Full of Bauhaus style furniture and with the best selection of whiskies in town, this is the place to see and be seen.
For the over thirties, Le Palais Mascotte is a great place. It is a restaurant cabaret bar which is rather select. It plays seventies and eighties music, but also has a basement bar that plays more modern music.
For something a little more up-market, try the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices which is a converted pumping station. Now, cultural events take place here which includes ballet and classical music.
- Les Brasseurs, 20 Place de Cornavin (directly across from the train station), . Tuesday to Saturday until 02:00, Sunday and Monday until 00:00. One of the few brew pubs in Geneva, Les Brass serves three flavours of home brew in the usual half pints, pints, and litre glasses or you can go for one of the giant plastic tubes filled with three to five litres. A small menu of pub food and a full restaurant in the back makes it a good spot to waste an evening. Beer: Fr. 3.40-7.40.
- Café de la Gare, 2 Rue de Montbrillant (directly outside of the TGV arrival area of the Gare Cornavin). Open until 23:00 daily. Of the two restaurants attached to the Hotel Montbrillant this is the pick. The beautifully decorated but unpretentious Café de la Gare captures the laid-back feel of some of the best sidewalk cafés in Paris. It’s a great place for dinner as well, with excellent Swiss, French, and Italian offerings. Beer and wine: Fr. 3-4.
- Pickwicks, 80 Rue de Lausanne (Take the number 13 Tram from Cornavin toward Nations), , ✉ email@example.com. W-Sa until 02:00, Su-Tu until 00:00. One of the half-dozen or so British pubs, Pickwicks claims to be the largest pub in Switzerland. Usually full of football watching expats eating fish and chips while sipping Guinness. Friday and Saturday night usually features live music. A laid-back, friendly spot. One of the best in Geneva for burgers and a dozen draft beers!
- Alhambar, 10, rue de la Rôtisserie (Enter in back off of Parc Pélisserie), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M 12:00-14:00, Tu-F 12:00-14:00 and 18:00-02:00, Sa 17:00-02:00, Su 11:00-00:00. A swanky cocktail bar above the Alhambra Theater. Pretty people in a pretty room, usually with a DJ. A small tapas menu early in the evening and a nice brunch on weekends until 14:00.
- La Clémence, Place Bourg-de-Four. 11:00-00:00, every day. This cozy little bar on the central square of Geneva’s old town more than quintuples in size from April until October when it is able to use a huge swath of the place as its terrace. During warm weather it’s packed, but is such a lovely and central stopping point that it’s worth the wait for a table – check out the gallery on their website. In the winter they have the best vin chaud in town.
- Café Demi-Lune, 3, rue Etienne-Dumont. M-W 08:45-16:00, Th F 08:45AM-02:00, Sa Su 16:00-02:00. Located in a small street connecting to Place du Bourg-de-Four (Old town), this little café has a very charming attitude and atmosphere. A good place for after dinner drinks with good friends.
- Saveurs & Couleurs Café, 24 rue des Grottes, , fax: . The Grottes neighborhood of Geneva has long been a center for creative types, many of whom can be found of an evening enjoying a glass of wine at this comfy little bistro.
- Boréal Coffee Shop, 60 rue du Stand, . This cozy coffee shop is in the bank district. Espressos, Cappuccinos, Lattes, Renversés, Macchiatos, Mochacinos, ice coffees and teas can be consumed there or take-away. The coffee is great, there is a free WIFI connection. This is the kind of places where you feel like staying hours, lovely!
- Les Enfants Terribles, rue Prévost-Martin 24, . A café bar bicycle-workshop hair salon and wine shop, with a nice lunch tapas buffet and Thursday night jazz in a beautiful post-industrial space with atrium roofs and an olive tree. What is there not to like?
- Grand Duke Pub, Rue de Monthoux,8 (near the lake, behind Hotel Kempinski), . 11:00-02:00. One of the oldest English pubs in Geneva. Live sports, wide selection of draught and bottled beers, ciders. More than 5 big television screens are there to watch different sports as well as a good area to play darts. You can enjoy watching sports such as NFL, NBA, Masters Tennis, Football League, Boxing, MLB, NHL, Premier League, and International Rugby union. Also serves lunch specials, burgers, steaks, salads and chips.
- Mulligans Irish Pub, Rue de-Grenus, . 17:00-02:00. You will be guaranteed a great time at this centrally located pub. Good music most nights. Bands often play on Thurs-Fri evenings. A good lively crowd who know how to party. Guinness, Bulmers, Staropramen, Boddingtons, spirits, shots.
Plain de Plainpalais
Around a dozen of the best bars in town are located around this diamond shaped parade and circus ground in the area southwest of the old town. This shouldn’t be surprising since the many buildings of the Université de Genève are ranged around it as well.
- Remor, Place de Cirque 1, . Really the best Parisien style grande café in Geneva. Artwork by University Students and sometimes the Proprietor hang on the wall. They also offer two salads of the day, and a range of ice-cream treats. They screen the best of Swiss film, for free. Fr. 3.50/5.00 draft/bottle beers. Free Wi-fi available.
- Le Ferblanterie, 8, rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine. The Ferblanterie, or Tinsmith would be one of the coolest bars in just about any town, and it happens to be on a street loaded with cool bars. This is very much a student haunt, and a grungy one in all the right ways. Some of the cds in the rack above the cd player are by Paulo Conté, Tom Waits, Fugazi, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Charles Mingus, if that tells you anything. Fr. 3/6 draft/bottle beers. A glass of wine is about the same..
- L’Etabli, 5, rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine. L’Etabli is a great place to go when the Ferblanterie is packed, or perhaps it’s the other way around. This super-friendly little café/bar/wine bar is a great place to meet grad students to help with your French, or to help with their English, or just to argue politics or whatever. Fr. 3/6 draft/bottle beers. A glass of wine is about the same..
- Bypass, Carrefour de l’Etoile 1, Carouge, . One of the most modern clubs in Geneva, the Bypass is, for lack of a better word, bling-bling. The dance floor swarms with young professionals and, on occasion, corporate parties and the rooms pound with clean house music, hip-hop and R’n’B. This club is not near the city center, but still just a short taxi ride from it.
- Java Club, 19, Quai du Mont – Blanc. Inside the Grand Hotel Kempinski
- Shakers, rue Winkelried 4, . This club is known for the wild nights within, thanks to its very strong cocktails served in shaker glasses. The dance floor is imposing, but once on it, well known for romantic encounters. Very popular with English speakers.
- Weetamix, 37 Chemin Jacques Philbert. Although it’s not the easiest place to get to, Weetamix is able to attract good, mostly local crowds by consistently booking some of the best cutting-edge talent in electronic music from France, Britain, and the U.S..
- The Zoo at l’Usine. See Moloko Bar under Drink or their homepage.
Work in Geneva
Many foreign professionals working in Geneva are employed by one of the United Nations agencies or international banks. Non-Swiss UN employees get a special visa to live and work in Switzerland, but the jobs can be hard to find unless you are already in Geneva. If you are a EU citizen, you can accept a job offer by any other employer since the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU allow you to work here as anywhere else on the continent – whether you are a blue or white collar worker. Unemployment is on a rather stable level but the uncertainties during the financial crisis led to higher competition for jobs.
For temporary or student jobs such as work as an au pair, a housekeeper, or at one of the many bars, you do not necessarily need to be very proficient in French. You ideally should be in town to set this sort of thing up. If you want to do household work, you will probably want to advertise on the bulletin boards which can be found at the entrances of most grocery stores, at the English and American churches, and at the American Women’s Club, and join the respective groups online, such as on Facebook. For a bar tending job, talk to the manager (you should know enough French to serve drinks).
Geneva is by and large a very safe place. Violent crime was almost unheard of, although it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings in public, as petty theft is a fairly common occurrence. Do report any such activity to the police, you will probably find them much more interested and helpful than police in many other western cities, especially if you speak a little French.
Since 2013 an increase in violent crime was reported, especially during the nighttime and near party areas. Alcohol & aggressive behaviour led to fights between the multicultural mix in the city. Also burglary is increasing due to organised crime groups, keep your hotel/apartment doors always well locked and close windows etc. when you leave your place.
There is a huge amount of vandalism in the city. On every street you can see bicycles with stolen seats, wheels, everything not locked. Many bicycles are vandalised and destroyed.
A rigged street game “hiding the ball” used to be commonplace near the bridges south of the railway station. As of 2015, police have (according to local reports) systematically rounded up the con-men behind these shell games; hopefully you won’t run into them any longer.
Telecommunications in Geneva
Local cellphone service is mainly provided by Swisscom, Salt, and Sunrise. Yallo, Migros and Coop have their own mobile offers. Don’t be surprised if you find your phone using a cell in neighbouring France however. If you buy one in Switzerland you will have to either just accept the occasional roaming fee, or be prepared to set the phone manually.
If you are staying for a while you should consider getting a SIM card/and or a phone since it’s much cheaper and easier than dealing with payphones. These days you do have to register your name and an address to get a SIM card to avoid fraud.
Payphones are still fairly common here, but very few of them accept coins, so be prepared to buy a prepaid card or to use a credit card (no extra charge).
Internet cafés have just begun to really take off in Geneva, and there are now several that stay open fairly late.
- (inside the Cornavin train station near the west entrance). Until 22:00 every day. This convenient and friendly place offers printing, and laptop stations. If you do plan to use your laptop you need to be able to demonstrate that you have anti-virus software Fr. 6 per hour. (specials for regulars and students)..
- Point6, 12 rue Jean Violette, . Primarily a gamer internet cafe, but becoming quite popular with casual internet users. Scanning/photocopying/printing, diskettes/CD burning, faxing services available. Staffed by young people who are very friendly. Free for first five minutes, then Fr. 5 per hour..
The city of Geneva provides a very good coverage of Free WiFi network in almost all public parks. Just look for the “ville-de-geneve” network. Other locations include:
- Cafe de la Gare. Café de la Gare (see Drink) is a Swisscom hotspot. To use the service you need to either be a Swisscom Mobile customer (see Phone) or buy access cards sold at any Swisscom office, and at the Montbrillant reception desk. The cards have timed values ranging from a half-hour to 1 month of continuous use.
- Parc des Bastions and its library (To get there by bus take Bus 3, 5, 36, Tram 12, 17 (stop at Place Neuve); Bus 1, 32, Tram 12, 13, 15, 17 (stop at Plainpalais).). Monday to Friday 09:00-22:00; Sa 09:00-17:00. In the Parc des Bastions, there is free Wi-Fi internet access available. Just log on to the ville-de-geneve or Bastions network. The public library of the city is located inside the same park, and the same network listed above is available inside. Search for the reading room (Salle de lecture), on the 1st floor. There is even electricity to plug your notebook.
- La Sphere, 80-82 rue de Lausanne. This cosy pool/billiard place has free Wi-Fi, as well as pool tables, darts and delicious pizza.
The Swiss are beyond punctual when it comes to closing hours. So if a museum is supposed to close at 17:00, expect that at 16:47 you will be asked to leave and if you point out that closing hours are still 13 minutes away you might get expelled. If you arrive after 16:31, you’ll more than likely be denied entrance. The same applies to shops and pretty much every public activity with a schedule. Lunch hour at most restaurants ends at 14:00 (and last orders at 13:45 for the more strict ones) with dinner service starting again at 18:00.
Anything of local interest
Christmas is a lovely time to be in Geneva as it has the Tree and Lights Festival between November and January. Some people will balk at prices in general in the city but since the festival is free, it is good to come in and experience something just a little bit different. Expect to find sumptuous food on offer, like the famous Swiss Fondue, or join in the many street parties.
Another local event is the Fete de L’Escalade which literally means ‘scaling the city walls’. This traditional celebration marks the attack by the Duke of Savoy and in commemoration the city’s people carry torches through the streets. It is said that a mother emptied a hot cauldron of boiling soup on the intruders and this is the reason why there will al so be soup served up during the celebrations.
Confectionary has its place in the celebrations so look for the famous Swiss chocolate on sale. As a centerpiece for the festivities, townsfolk fill a chocolate cauldron with marzipan vegetables, again depicting the soup story, and the carnival atmosphere is rounded off with people dressed in period costume and beating drums. This festival occurs between the 10th and 12th December every year.
- International Geneva Motor Show, in the Palexpo center next to the airport.
- Caves Ouvertes. Free annual event. Sample wine at Geneva’s wineries while exploring the canton’s rural side.
- Bol d’Or. Yacht Race (biggest in Europe).
- Fête de la Musique, . For three days in June, the whole City of Geneva is a stage. Actually, there are on the order of 40 of them. The musical offerings include children’s choirs, punk rock, chamber orchestras, jam bands, avant-guard jazz, klezmer, and drum and bass DJs. The venues are as diverse as the music, with stages inside and out of l’Usine, Parc des Bastions, and even Cathédral St. Pierre. There is also a wide assortment of international food and drink for sale, which can be a bit pricey, but highly worth it. The easiest way to get information is to just head to one of the parks listed above and find one of the free newspaper-style festival guides. It includes time-tables and maps. Additionally, be sure to wander around, as the festival is full of many excellent unofficial performances, including drums, juggling, and dance. Free.
- Fêtes de Genève. Week-long party, including best fireworks display in Europe.
- Fêtes de la Batie. A 16-day arts festival (usually starts the last weekend of July and through most of August) with installations and live shows in over 20 venues across the city. Very similar in feel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
- L’Escalade. Running and walking competitions open to everybody.
Geneva is almost completely surrounded by France; the nearest major town is Annemasse (southeast of Geneva) and presents little interest. East of Geneva, Switzerland extends into the neighbouring canton of Vaud, which offers many attractions; the world heritage Lavaux region is forty minutes away by train, and has spectacular views of the vineyards, Western Switzerland and the French Alps. On the same riviera, both cities of Montreux (with its 12th century Chillon Caste) and Lausanne (with its Olympic Museum) have beautiful lake-side promenades and are very lively in the summer.
In winter, many mountain resorts in the Swiss, French and Italian Alps are readily accessible from Geneva by car or public transport.
Small towns in neighbouring France that can also be visited as a half-day trip are Saint-Julien en Genevois south of Geneva and Ferney-Voltaire (with the small castle once owned by the philosopher Voltaire) just north of the airport.
You can also take city bus E along the eastern shore of Lake Geneva to the village of Hermance, which has a beach, a tower that can be visited and old houses typical for the region.
Swiss destinations are almost all served by the CFF from the central train station (Gare Cornavin) while ski resorts in the French alps and the Jura can be reached by bus from the central bus station off of Rue de Mont Blanc or from SNCF’s Gare des Eaux Vives. The price of the bus ticket often covers ski lift tickets as well, be sure to ask.
Here are just a few places which make a good day trip from Geneva:
Hitchhiking is relatively safe and more common in Switzerland than France, for example, but almost as difficult if you’re not a woman. The A1 motorway surrounds the city, with connections to the rest of Switzerland and neighbouring France.
To hitchhike to the direction of Lausanne (North) take bus number 29 towards Gare Zimeysa and step out at stop Blandonnet. Walk back 200m Route de Meyrin towards the center, across the bridge over the highway and you´ll find an on-ramp to highway towards Lausanne. (Another, even better possibility is to take tram 14 or 16 in direction of Meyrin and step out at the Avanchet. Then walk forward 200 m.) Walk down 100 m along the on-ramp and hitchhike before the speed gets high. The position is very good, speed of the cars low, visibility good and there’s plenty of space for cars to stop. You should accept a ride at least to Nyon, where you can continue hitchhiking on the on-ramp. (Hitchhiking on the on-ramp is illegal. Your best bet is usually to try and get a ride at one of the gas station/restaurants on the autoroute itself.)
To hitchhike to the direction of Chamonix and Turin (South-East) take bus 27 towards Thônex-Vallard-Douane and go to the end of the line. Walk through customs to France and stand at the end of the customs just before the cars speed up for the highway. Be sure to have your passport with you when crossing the border. The position is very good, the customs officers are nice, speed is low, there’s space for cars to stop, all the traffic is passing through.
To hitchhike to the direction of Lyon and Paris (South-West, West, North-West) take the bus 29 to stop Blandonnet. Walk about 600m to the next on-ramp in direction of South, the one leading to the highway in the direction of South from Route de Vernier. The position is not very good because the cars speed up and visibility is not really good but there’s place for cars to stop. Take a ride at least 10km South to the Swiss-French border, where there’s a decent spot to continue. Walk through the customs and hitchhike – preferably with a sign – before the cars speed up. There’s not much space for cars to stop but they can, speed is low and all the traffic is passing through the customs.