What to visit, where to eat, and what to buy in the “Venice of the Alps”.
Visit Geneva for a Weekend as a Local
To keep you busy in Geneva
Walks in town
For a gentle stroll around the city and its history, start at the Parc des Bastions and walk up to the Old Town. There you’ll be able to enjoy one of the calmest area of the city. You can go and visit the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, climbing it up gives you a 360° view of the city (best if it is nice weather). From there you can walk down to the Jardin Anglais through the city, go see the Horloge Fleurie and admire the famous Jet d’eau from up close. Be careful of the wind direction while under to avoid getting soaked.
During the day, there are lots to do in Geneva. However, some are essential to grasp what Geneva is all about.
First is visiting Carouge. Before uniting with Geneva, it was an Italian town and it has kept its Mediterranean vibe. It also has this artsy vibe with small galleries and independent shops, perfect to find some gems no one will have here in Lyon.
A visit to the Botanical Garden is also always a great idea. It is free of charge and offers a perfect escape from the city. The variety of plants is amazing, 14 ooo different species and almost 6 billion botanical sample.
Booking a trip on the lake is not essential. Those are mostly tourism catch and are overpriced. The public transportation in Geneva comprises a boat that connects both side of the city through the lake. It is included in the daily pass. This way you can enjoy the lake without spending unnecessarily.
Locals mostly enjoy the lake at the Bain des Pâquis. It is a public bathing place, where you can not only enjoy the lake but also a great Plat du jour for lunch with a view of the town. If you’re going in winter, we insist you go and eat fondue in the evening. It is an essential point of true experience in Geneva. Note that booking is necessary. The best way to go there are those public boats from the city centre.
Museums in Geneva
For museums, we recommend the MAMCO, the contemporary museum of the city. Constituted of temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection, it is always worth the visit. Note that every first Sunday of the month, a free guided tour is possible. The other noteworthy museum is the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle that showcases the biodiversity of the world. Everyone in town knows about it because of Janus, the double-headed turtle, welcoming visitors since 1997.
Perfect Sunday in Geneva
For an easy Sunday, go to the Marché de Plainpalais and enjoy all the fresh produce of the market and the gems you can find when looking a bit closer. If it is the first Sunday of the month, the market will also have its famous “flea market” part. To finish off your weekend, we recommend a brunch either at Le Pain Quotidien right on the place or Café Coutume which is just behind the place. From there you can then take the tram to grab your train at Gare Cornavin, and come back to Lyon.
To keep you satisfied
Beside from being home of most of the international organizations, the UN, Geneva also represents its internationality with food. Our selection comprises food for every taste
The iconic Relais de l’Entrecôte is the place to start. It keeps a traditional vibe with gold and red details. The sole menu is the wine one. For the food, you only have to choose how your meat should be cooked. You’ll get one wonderful piece of meat, some fries all along with their secret sauce. The only hitch is that you can’t book your table. We recommend you to either go early, around 7-7.30 pm or after the first round around 9.30 pm.
For burger lovers, Inglewood is the place to go to. Created by two local brothers, they wanted to have a burger restaurant without the fast-food feeling. All the products are from carefully chosen producers in the region and then cooked by the order in the kitchen.
For Italian lovers, Da Paolo is a wonderful immersion in Italian cuisine. It brings all the flavors from Italy with different pasta and pizzas. By going there you get the feeling of visiting an Italian village, while still being able to enjoy a walk along the lake afterward.
The best deal in town. Everyone who’s been to Geneva will tell you the same, Les Parfums de Beyrouth is unmissable. It has the best Lebanese food and is quite cheap for Swiss standards. The front isn’t that appealing but don’t let it discourage you, you’ll be in for a treat.
To keep you hydrated in Geneva
Before dinner or afterward, the Genevans always take some time for a drink. The first spot everyone knows and goes to is the Rue de l’École de Médecine. A crowded street from 4 pm to 2 am when all the bars along the street close. It is a happy encounter between all locals, from the youngsters fresh out of high school to the bankers out of work. Each bar has a different vibe, though you chose the one where you spend the night on whether you find a seat rather than personal preferences.
Another great location to have a drink is the Quai Bezanson-Hughes. Although the drinks are a bit on the pricier side, you can enjoy a view on the Rhône and the lake. The rosé at Arthur’s is a great choice. If the weather is nice, you can go to Rooftop 42 on Rue du Rhône to enjoy a drink and a view of the town above all the surrounding buildings.
To bring something back from Geneva
For souvenir, chocolate and cheese are the only two things you need from Switzerland. Or if you want to invest, watches are also good one. The chocolate from Auer, on Rue de Rive, is one of the famous ones. John Kerry, American Secretary of State at the time, always managed to stop there when in Geneva. For original chocolates, go to Philippe Pascoët in Carouge. He carefully mixes cacao with unexpected ingredients such as basilic, mint or even chili flakes.
If you want to recreate the homey feeling of an at-home fondue, the one sold at Migros (the local supermarket) is better than most. A clever mix between Vacherin and Gruyère, every self-respecting Swiss has one in their freezer just in case.
Accommodation and hotels can be quite expensive, so it’s better to look-up on Airbnb and other Internet platforms. The best neighborhoods to stay in are Les Eaux-Vives, Plainpalais and around the train station, Gare Cornavin. Those are the most accessible with public transportation and have a great local life.
The other practical thing is to get a daily pass for public transportation, including bus, train, and boat across the two riversides. It cost 10CHF for a adult, but if you are not an early bird, the daily pass is 8CHF when bought after 9 am. You can get them at the bus stops machines or the agency at the train station.
Also remember that, although, Switzerland is in the Schengen space, they use a different currency. All credit cards are commonly accepted, and euros can also be accepted in bigger shops but it’s always better to have some Swiss Francs (CHF) on hand.