An undeniably international city, Genève serves as the headquarters many global organizations and tempts visitors with its pristine scenery and high-end attractions. Find your way around this glamorous Swiss city, score the perfect place to stay, and plan your ideal day in Genève.

Your Genève Itinerary

With its compact city center, world-class attractions, and easily accessible nature, Genève is incredibly easy to enjoy. In fact, the hard part is figuring out how to fit it all into a single day. Here’s how to get the most out of your day in Genève.

Brunswick monument
The Brunswick Monument in Geneve.

Morning: Stroll Through Old Town

Start your day in Genève with a stroll through the city’s Old Town. Not only is this the most charming part of Genève, but it’s also home to most of the city’s historic attractions. Start at La Place du Bourg-de-Four, a fantastic courtyard that’s been the center of action for centuries in this part of town. While it may have served as a marketplace in the past, today, it’s a popular spot for sidewalk cafés. Get your morning coffee and croissant here and fuel up for the day.

Next, take the time to stop by the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, which dates back to the late 12th century. You’ll notice its iconic neoclassical design right away, but that’s not the only reason that this church is so important. Inside, you’ll find Christian artifacts that date back many centuries, including a chair that major Protestant figure John Calvin once used between services.

Be sure to pose for a few photos along the Promenade de la Treille, too. This tree-lined avenue is totally adorable and also offers gorgeous views of the city. If you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon a music festival or a historical commemoration here. If you happen to be in Genève in December, don’t miss your chance to visit Le Passage de Monetier, a preserved medieval alleyway that’s open just one day every year.

Be sure to pop into a few shops in Old Town, too. You’ll find tons of high-end boutiques packed with pretty accessories, designer clothes, and gorgeous Swiss watches.

Noon: Visit a Museum or Two

Genève is filled with historical and cultural destinations, so take your pick from among the many enticing options. Want to learn more about ancient history in Genève? Head to the Barbier-Mueller Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of sculptures, masks, textiles, and artifacts from Europe, Africa, North America, and the South Seas. Be sure to check out temporary exhibitions like “Six Thousand Years of Receptacles: Tableware Through the Ages,” which runs through January 2018.

Looking for more of a comprehensive look at art history? Check out the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. This is the biggest art museum in Genève, and it has a collection that dates back 15,000 years. You’ll be blown away by the Mesopotamian artifacts, the Egyptian statue of Pharaoh Ramses II, and the medieval altar painting alongside masterpieces by Picasso and Monet. Don’t miss the sculptures by local superstar Alberto Giacometti. This museum has free entrance, so you can save your francs for a cheeky glass of champagne later in the day.

Want to find out more about the major impact that the International Red Cross has had around the world? Visit the Red Crescent Museum to find out more about this global organization’s humanitarian work. Spend some time in “The Humanitarian Adventure,” which is the museum’s permanent exhibit, and get a new perspective on current health and humanitarian issues through temporary exhibitions like “The Fight Against AIDS in Images.”

It’s not exactly a museum, but a tour of the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory should be at the top of your list. After all, this is the home of the Large Hadron Collider, the largest machine in the world and the basically the biggest experiment ever. Tours fill up quickly at this popular spot, so think about booking ahead to make sure you get a spot in the English tour.

Jet d'eau
The Jet d’Eau in Geneve.

Early Afternoon: Stop and Smell the Flowers

After spending a few hours indoors, it’s time to head outside. After all, Genève is home to some seriously impressive landscapes. Start your outdoor exploration in Bastions park, a chilled-out spot with lots of shade and leafy cover. This is a popular spot year round, with a cute café and terrace in the summer and a fun ice rink in the winter.

Perched beside Lake Geneva, Parc La Grange is another popular spot with gorgeously manicured gardens, pools, pergolas, and a romantic villa. Be sure to stop and smell the roses in the summer, or catch a performance at the Orangerie Theater.

Can’t get enough of the flowers? Head over to the Conservatoire at Jardin Botaniques Genève, where you’ll find seasonal flower displays and tons of local plants and herbs. Take a stroll through the greenhouses in any weather and keep an eye out for the beautiful peacocks strutting their stuff in the summer.

Lake Geneva is also worth a visit, especially on a warm summer day. Grab your sunglasses and practice your most glamorous look, because you’re going to want to recreate Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren’s classic poses. Hang out on the shore by the impressive Jet d’Eau, go for a swim at the Pâquis Baths, or take a tour of this lovely lake.

If you have a couple hours to spare and want to see some of the gorgeous countryside, head over to Mont Salève. It’s about 25 kilometers from Genève, and it’s definitely worth the trip. While you can hike or mountain bike here, you can also hop on the cable car to get to the top quickly. If you’re really feeling adventurous, sign up for a paragliding tour of the mountains.

Late Afternoon: Toast to Happy Hour

Genève is known for its upscale cocktails, so don’t miss your chance to toast to an amazing trip. Leopard Room Bar & Lounge, tucked away in the Hotel D’Angleterre, is a great place to sip a flute or two of champagne. With live music and lovely views of Lake Geneva, this sumptuous bar doesn’t disappoint.

Nurse a custom cocktail at L’Atelier Cocktail Club, which pours both classic drinks and innovative libations. Order from the cocktail menu or ask the bartender to mix something totally fresh based on what you love.

Dig on the speakeasy vibe at La Verre à Monique, a Prohibition-style bar that will quickly transport you to another era. Sip one of the signature cocktails, like a Malice in Wonderland, and feel ultra glamorous.

jardin anglais
The Jardin Anglais (English Garden) in Geneve.

Evening: Enjoy an Incredible Meal

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Swiss cuisine? If it’s fondue, head straight for Café du Soleil, one of the top spots for this classic cheese-based dish. Pair your pot of bubbling fondue with a local wine, and save room for a meringue with double cream from Gruyère for dessert. If you’re a little late to the table, don’t worry. This spot is open till midnight most nights of the week.

Spring for one of the best meals in Genève at Bayview, a Michelin-starred spot by Chef Michel Roth. Treat yourself to the tasting menu, which typically includes a taste of foie gras, perfectly prepared fish and veal, a cheese plate, and an unforgettable dessert. Don’t miss the Lake Geneva views from the gorgeous dining room, either.

Nearby, Auberge du Lion d’Or is known for its innovative takes on Swiss classics. Sit down on the beautiful terrace overlooking Lake Geneva and get ready for a culinary surprise.

Late Night: Catch a Performance

Put on your chicest dress and your fanciest pearls and make your way to the Grand Théâtre de Genève. Currently located in the Opera des Nations, on the right bank of Lake Geneva, this is where you’ll find opera, ballet, and other highbrow arts. Every season brings a series of amazing performances to Genève, and the 2017-2018 season is no exception.

Get tickets to see “Fantasio” in November 2017, or plan your night around a performance of “Faust” in February 2018. If you’re planning a summertime visit, don’t miss Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which runs through mid-June 2018. If dance is more your speed, mark your calendar for “Vertige Romantique” from late June to early July 2018.

Geneva Airport Guide

It’s super easy to get to Genève from the Geneva Airport (GVA), which is located right on the border between Switzerland and France. Only 5 kilometers north of the city, GVA is one of the most convenient urban airports in Europe.

GVA boasts two terminals, but most passengers only ever use Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is reserved for those lucky enough to arrive on charter jets during ski season, while Terminal 1 is for all other passengers. Inside Terminal 1, you’ll find Piers A through F, most of which serve European destinations.

The airport hosts dozens of airlines, including easyJet, Jet2.com, Swiss International Air Lines, Adria Airways Switzerland, Air Canada, and many more. From GVA, you can access European destinations like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Porto along with faraway destinations like Tunis, Doha, Newark, and Montreal.

pont du mont blanc
The Pont du Mont Blanc (The Bridge of Mont Blanc) in Geneve.

How to Get to and From Geneva Airport

One of the coolest things about GVA is that you can walk there from the city. In fact, airport authorities encourage you to walk or bike to your destination, as there are plenty of safe routes to the city. If you’re traveling with a ton of luggage, biking or walking may not be an option, but if you’re traveling light, this could be an easy and affordable way to catch your flight.

If you’d rather catch a ride, take the bus, train, tram, or boat to town. Take the train if you’re in a hurry, as it’ll have you in the center of Genève in six minutes. The bus takes a little longer but may be just as convenient, depending on where you’re headed. All of the public transit options in the area are part of the unireso network, so you only need one ticket to ride.

Since the airport offers free public transit tickets, getting to the city won’t cost you a dime. Be sure to pick up your ticket from the machine in the baggage claim area, and note that the ticket is only good for 80 minutes of use.

If you’d rather get a private car, look for the taxi stand outside the arrivals area. Many local hotels also offer shuttles, making it super easy to find your accommodations.

What to Do at Geneva Airport

Genève knows how to shop, and you’ll find tons of opportunities to pick up souvenirs or essentials at the airport. From fine chocolates and snacks to watches and jewelry to newspapers and duty-free items, GVA has whatever you’re looking for.

Looking for a bite to eat before your flight? Grab a coffee at Breaktime, a veggie wrap at Goodie Health Food, or a cup of tea at Tekoe. Sit down to a classic Swiss meal at Bistrot Genève, indulge in some caviar at the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, or get your favorite Thai dishes at Tuk Thai Urban Kitchen.

Watch for special events and exhibitions in GVA, too. You’re likely to find free concerts, performances, and cultural displays throughout the airport, making travel a little more fun.

Alternatives to Geneva Airport

GVA is the most convenient airport to Genève, but it definitely isn’t your only option. You might find cheaper or better-timed flights into Bern Airport (BRN), which is right outside the Swiss capital city. BRN serves three major airlines: Helvetic Airways, SkyWork Airlines, and Germania Flug. Destinations include strictly European cities, such as Amsterdam, Cologne, Hamburg, London, Munich, Menorca, Vienna, and Ibiza.

From the airport, you can hop on the AirportBus Bern, which connects BRN with the Belp railway station. Keep in mind Bern is about two and a half hours from Genève by train and about two hours away by car. With nothing but mountains, valleys, and tiny towns in between the two, at least you can look forward to some pretty scenery as you make your way to Genève.

Reformation wall
The Reformation Wall in Geneve.

Where to Stay in Genève

Genève is relatively compact, and you’ll find tons of great places to stay in the city center, along the waterfront, and in the city’s best neighborhoods. From high-end hotels to budget-friendly hostels, here’s where to stay in the city.

Top Boutique Hotels in Genève

Luxury is the name of the game in Genève, and you’ll find tons of upscale boutique hotels for a plush stay. Go for a classic and book a room at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva, which has plenty of art deco design details that complement the luxurious rooms. The Mandarin Oriental is in the perfect location, as it’s right on the banks of the River Rhône, just steps from Old Town. If you feel like staying in, grab a table at Rasoi by Vineet, the highly rated hotel restaurant.

Right on Lake Geneva, Le Richemond is one of the oldest and most glamorous hotels in town. You’ll love the marble and gold lobby, which is a luxe foil to the contemporary rooms, some of which have stunning views of the lake. Be sure to book a treatment at the on-site Sisley Spa, which features a sauna and a Thai masseuse.

The Eastwest Hotel, which is conveniently located between the city’s central train station and Lake Geneva, beautifully combines Eastern and Western aesthetics. You’ll love the impeccably designed rooms, the Asian fusion restaurant, and the design touches throughout the hotel.

Best Hostels in Genève

Not all accommodations in Genève are overly pricey. Less than a 10-minute walk from the city’s main train station, City Hostel Geneva offers both basic dorm rooms and small private rooms at the fraction of the cost of a standard hotel room. When you book this spot, you’ll get free Wi-Fi, access to a full kitchen where you can prepare your meals, and a free public transit card to use in the city. City Hostel Geneva also offers laundry service and movie nights to make your stay more homelike.

On the north side of town, the Geneva Hostel is just minutes from Lake Geneva and steps from several historic attractions. The rooms here are basic, but the hostel offers great views of the city, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, a picnic area, and a public transit card.

Coolest Private Rentals in Genève

Snag a private apartment in Genève and feel like a local for a few days. You’ll find tons of well-appointed spots in the Hollande and Les Savoises neighborhoods, along with tons of more affordable spots just south of the city center in Les Philosophes. If you really want to splash out, however, look for an apartment around the corner from the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, where you’ll be right in the middle of everything.

From accommodations to tours to attractions, you can plan every step of your Genève getaway right here on GoDoTrip. Organize every little detail in one convenient spot and start looking forward to the trip of a lifetime.