With a lovely mix of the charming old town, modern architecture, and many green spaces Geneva has a lot to offer to its visitors. Let’s go and discover all the best things to do in Geneva, Switzerland during one day stay.
This Swiss city is best known for its wealth, banking, diplomacy, watchmaking, CERN, luxury shops, pretty landscapes, and spectacular water jet. So yeah – a lot! But there is a reason why there is so much in it. The city is recognized as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in (usually ranks at the top5), as well as one of the wealthiest cities in the world. After Zurich, it’s the second most populous city in the country, and the most populous city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of western Switzerland.
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One day in Geneva, Switzerland. 15+ Best things to do
Geneva is located in the canton of Geneva in Switzerland, right next to the French border. The city lies on the southwestern shore of Lake Geneva (fr. Lac Leman) and is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains.
As you will learn in this post, it’s possible to see most of the main Geneva attractions in just one day. We did it without rushing, with many breaks throughout the day. But if you want to get to know the city even better, stay for at least 3 days. If you also want to visit surrounding places like Lausanne, Yvoire, Evian-Les-Bains, or maybe even Annecy or Chamonix, we recommend staying much longer. Something around 7-10 days would be ideal for slow sightseeing.
Well… It’s probably always a good time to visit Geneva. We visited the city in early June and loved it. There were already many tourists around but it wasn’t yet too crowded like we imagine it might be in July and August. The temperature was very pleasant for sightseeing, about 20 degrees. So if you want to experience the city without too many tourists and in (probably) nice weather, we recommend visiting during late spring or early autumn. But if you don’t mind the snow or the huge number of tourists – you can also choose summer or winter. It all really depends on your needs and preferences.
Things to do in Geneva Old Town
One of the best things to do in Geneva is simply strolling around the old town. Geneva Old Town (fr. Genève Vieille Ville) is located on a small hill and is full of cobblestone streets and squares filled with charming old buildings and many corners just asking to explore every nook of them. In the streets of the old town, you’ll find places like St Pierre Cathedral, Treille Promenade, Place du Bourg-de-Four, Bastion Park with Reformation Wall, Tavel House, Calvin High School, and of course many restaurants, cafes, shops, and boutiques.
Fun fact: while exploring the streets pay attention to the street names because you might find interesting ones like Rue d’Enfer (Hell Street), or Rue du Purgatoire (Purgatory Street).
Ok, let’s get to know the nooks and crannies of Geneva Old Town streets better.
St Pierre Cathedral
St Pierre Cathedral (fr. Cathedrale Saint-Pierre de Geneve) was built in the 12th century as a Roman Catholic church and became a Reformed Protestant Church during the time of Reformation, in 1535. The church interior is incredibly beautiful in its simplicity. You can also climb up 157 steps to reach the towers to experience one of the best Geneva views from above.
In the St Pierre Cathedral you’ll also find:
- Maccabee Chapel (fr. Chapelle des Macchabées) filled with Gothic paintings
- Archaeological site (fr. Site archéologique de la Cathédrale Saint-Pierre) located under the Cathedral
Entry to Cathédrale Saint-Pierre is free.
To get into the towers you need to pay: 7CHF for adults and 4CHF for children (7-16). Entry to the archeological site is also paid: 8CHF for adults, 4CHF for children (May 2023).
Place du Bourg-de-Four
Place du Bourg-de-Four is Geneva’s oldest square located near the St Pierre Cathedral. It’s a popular gathering place, where you’ll find many beautiful old buildings, several restaurants, and a fountain.
Promenade de la Treille
Promenade de la Treille is a peaceful place in Geneva Old Town offering some scenic city views. It’s best known for Banc de la Treille – the world’s longest wooden bench (which is 120m long!). Treille Promenade is also where you’ll find Geneva’s official chestnut tree, which each year, with its first leaf, announces the arrival of spring.
Parc des Bastions & Reformation Wall
Parc des Bastions is located at the foot of Geneva Old Town, right under the Promenade de la Treille. It’s a lovely, quite big green space perfect for relaxing and chilling. The park is mainly famous for two things:
- Reformation Wall – a monument built in 1909 in tribute to the major Reformation leaders: Jean Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Beza, and John Knox
- Giant chess and checkers games – available for free to all
Rue du Rhone
Rue du Rhone is a luxurious shopping street in Geneva filled with many high-end stores like Prada, Channel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Versace or Patek Philippe. Head there if you feel like spending a lot of money, or just want to do some window shopping.
Things to do on Lake Geneva shores in Geneva, Switzerland
Jet d’Eau – Geneva Water Fountain
Iconic Geneva’s Jet d’Eau fountain is an unquestionable symbol of the city. Its first version was built in 1886 to control the excess pressure of a hydraulic plant. In 1891 it was relocated to Geneva harbor. Its current version dates back to 1951. Every second, 500 liters of water are shot into the sky, to a maximum height of 140m.
In our opinion, best photo spots of Jet d’Eau are along Pont du Mont-Blanc and promanade on Quai du Mont-Blanc.
Jardin Anglais and the Flower Clock
Jardin Anglais, the English Garden, is a lovely English-inspired park on the Lake Geneva shores featuring a famous Flower Clock, a fountain from 1862, Ferris Wheel, and wonderful views.
Geneva Flower Clock
After Jet d’Eau, Flower Clock (fr. L’horloge fleurie) is probably the second most photographed spot in the city. It was first created in 1955 and commemorates the Geneva watchmaking tradition. The clock consists of up to 12000 flowers that change every season.
Interesting fact: a flower clock isn’t only decorative, it also tells the right time.
Geneva Ferris Wheel
If you want to admire Geneva and its surroundings from about 50m high – go on a ride on the Ferris Wheel. It’s located right next to the Flower Clock and is a great attraction to people of all ages. The wheel is open only during summer months, the ride lasts about 5 minutes, and costs 7.5 CHF (May 2023).
Parc de La Grange
Parc de La Grange is located only about a 10min walk from Jet d’Eau. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most beautiful parks in Geneva, perfect to relax with beautiful Lake Geneva views in the background. In the park, you’ll also find a Rose Garden (fr. Roseraie) and an 18th-century Villa La Grange.
Parc de La Perle du Lac & Mon Repos Park
From Jet d’Eau you can take a lovely walk up to Parc de La Perle du Lac and Parc Mon Repos on the promenade along Lake Geneva shores. These two parks form one big green and peaceful area, full of stunning views over the French coast and the Alps. It’s a perfect spot to come for a walk, relax, or have a picnic.
Geneva Botanical Garden and Greenhouse
About a 10min walk from Parc de La Perle du Lac one more amazing green area is located – Geneva Botanical Garden and Greenhouse (fr. Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève). The garden is full of a wide variety of plants, trees, flowers, and herbs from all over the world – there are more than 12000!
Entrance to Geneva Botanical Garden is free. You can check out opening hours on cjbg.ch website.
Brunswick Monument is a mausoleum built in 1879 for Charles II, Duke of Brunswick. He decided to leave his fortune to the city of Geneva in exchange for a monument built in his name. Duke also specified that the mausoleum must be a replica of the Scaliger Tombs from Verona in Italy. And so it is.
Other things to do in Geneva, Switzerland
Do you need more ideas for things to do in Geneva? Here are some of them:
- Palais des Nations – located in Parc de l’Ariana, is the second most important United Nations office, after New York
- CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest and most respected scientific research centers
- Musée d’Art et d’Histoire – the largest museum in Geneva that houses a great collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day as well as a rich collection of archaeological artifacts
- Maison Tavel – the oldest private house in Geneva dating to the 14th century, currently it’s a Museum of Urban History and Daily Life
- Patek Philippe Museum – a watchmaking museum that traces the history of watchmaking from the 16th century to the present day, with some of the world’s most iconic watches on displays
- Musée Ariana – Museum of Ceramics and Glass featuring an amazing collection of over 25.000 items from Switzerland, Europe, the Middle and Far East.
You can also go on a cruise on one of the famous steamboats to places like Lausanne, Yvoire, Vevey, or Evian-Les-Bains. During the cruise, you’ll be enjoying Geneva Lake, views of the mountains, and the towns. For more information, routes, timetables, and prices visit CGN official website.
How to get to Geneva, Switzerland?
Where to park in Geneva?
We left our car in this parking lot, 15min from Jet d’Eau. We paid 3CHF for about 10h.
Airports near Geneva
The closest airport to Geneva is in Geneva… A trip from Geneva Airport to the city center will take about 10min by train (€10-19), 20min by bus (€1-8), or 10min by taxi (€30-40)
To Geneva by train
Switzerland has really great train infrastructure so it’s very easy to reach Geneva by train. For example, the journey from Lausanne to Geneva lasts about 50min (€20-60), from Zurich 2h45min (€85-150), and from Annecy in France it’s 1h15min (€9-23). To learn more about train connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Geneva by bus
You can also easily get to Geneva by bus. For example, the journey from Lausanne will take about 1h (€2-10), from Bern 3h (€6-14) and 1h10min from Chamonix (€7-10). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Geneva by ferry
One day in Geneva, Switzerland. 15+ best things to do – Summary
Now you can clearly see that there is a lot to discover in Geneva in one day. This incredible mix of nearly everything is one of a kind and in our opinion, Geneva in Switzerland is definitely worth visiting. Even if it looks like a place for rich people only there is something for everyone over there and we encourage you to see it with your own eyes.
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Geneva?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Geneva:
Where to sleep in Geneva?
Hotel Montbrillant is a charming hotel situated in the heart of Geneva, Switzerland, just a short walk from the train station. With its comfortable and stylish rooms, excellent dining options, and convenient location, it's the perfect choice for both business and leisure travelers.
The Edelweiss Manotel is a charming hotel in the heart of Geneva, Switzerland, that offers cozy and comfortable rooms for travelers. The hotel is located close to the city center, making it a convenient option for visitors who want to explore the city's attractions, including the famous Jet d'Eau fountain and the Old Town.
Hotel Sagitta is a cozy and affordable hotel located in the heart of Geneva, just a short walk from the lake and the Old Town. With comfortable rooms and friendly staff, it's a great option for budget-conscious travelers.
ibis Genève Centre Gare
Located in the heart of Geneva, ibis Genève Centre Gare is an affordable yet comfortable accommodation option, featuring modern amenities and a convenient location for exploring the city. The hotel is just a few minutes' walk from the central train station and the Lake Geneva promenade.
Hotel Pax is a charming family-owned hotel located in the heart of Geneva. With its convenient location, friendly staff, and comfortable rooms, it offers a great value for travelers on a budget. The hotel also provides free public transportation passes and offers a complimentary breakfast buffet to start your day off right.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com