I recently had an amazing opportunity to travel to Geneva in September where I visited family there. With our family members, we were able to explore areas of Geneva only known by the locals. Geneva is located on the southern tip of Lake Geneva, surrounded by the cascade mounts of the Alps and Jura. One of the highest mountains, Mont Blanc, can be seen wherever you are in Geneva.
Here is a simplified guide to explore the magnificent city of Geneva!
- Although the native language is German, most people in this area speak French. English is also widely spoken.
- Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
- If you stay in a hotel, more than likely you’ll be provided a free card to ride all forms of public transportation including buses and trams.
WHERE TO STAY
Le Richemond Hotel – $$$$
Le Richemond is a legend in Geneva. Built in 1875, it is one of the five-star hotels located along the shores of Lake Geneva. When you step out the front door, you will see the famous Monument Brunswick across the street and directly across the lake you will have a breath-taking view of the Jet d’Eau. This hotel is close to the city center which makes it easy to see many of the sites in Geneva.
The Movenpick Hotel and Casino is a moderate option for a convenient location near the Geneva International Airport. It also offers complimentary airport shuttle service. A city tram station is nearby that can take you to all the major attractions in the city.
WHAT TO DO
Visit Geneva’s Old Town
The area is made of small cobblestone streets with a picturesque square, filled with quaint cafes, restaurants, galleries, churches, and museums. Walk to the Bourg du Four and enjoy a refreshing beverage at La Clemence. Visit the Saint Pierre Cathedral or the Old Arsenal, located in front of the church.
Almost every religion is represented in Geneva. It is the melting pot of cultures from all around the world.
Emmanuel Church was founded in 1873 by a group of Americans. Over the years, Emmanuel has established a rich tapestry of cultures and encouraged the exchange of cultures among its members.
Holy Trinity Church proudly traces its origins back to the Marian exiles, a group of Protestant refugees fleeing persecution during the reign of Mary the Tudor Catholic Queen of England in the mid-16th century.
Basilica Notre-Dame of Geneva (Our Lady of Geneva) was built between 1852-1857 in this neo-Gothic style with remarkable stained-glass windows that show the evolution of art during the 20th century.
Evangelical Lutheran Church was the first non-Calvinist church founded in the city after the Reformation and quickly grew in size ,mainly from German merchants living in the region during the 1700s. For over 250 years, this church had been a place of refuge for travelers and immigrants from around the world.
Temple de la Fusterie Protestant Church is the first Calvinist church built to accommodate the migration of French Protestants that followed the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Beth Yaakov Synagogue is located in the heart of Geneva and is known as Grande Synagogue. This temple was built for the Ashkenazi Jewish community during 1858. The striking exterior features a giant dome over an octagonal base and walls painted in plain gray and pink and white strips. It has Moorish-style horseshoe arches and Hebrew inscriptions over the double doors.
Islamic Culture Foundation Geneva was inaugurated in 1978 and is the largest mosque in Switzerland.
Eglise Russe (Russian Orthodox Church) came about after Grand Duchess Ann Fyodorovna separated from Grand Duke Constantine. She funded to build the church in 1863. In 1966, the church went through restoration and revived its striped arches and gold onion domes.
Tour the International District
Visit the United Nations. Housed at the Palais des Nations, which provides critical infrastructure and support to maintain international peace and security, to advance disarmament, to protect and promote human rights, to eradicate poverty, and more.
Stroll the Botanical Gardens and National Monuments.
The Conservatory and Botanical Garden of the city of Geneva has roughly six million samples of different vegetation and is one of the world’s largest herbarium gardens. The branches of the enormous trees shade the trails as you wander from garden to garden. While admiring Japan’s bonsai trees, you may encounter beekeepers working the beehives.
Make your way over to the park by the lake to the Jardin Anglais (the English Garden), which is home to L’horloge Fleurie (the Flower Clock). The Flower Clock was created in 1955, due to the high-end watchmaking there, which is a tribute to creating the biggest clock in the world made from flowers. Around 6,500 flowering plants and shrubs are make up the clock’s face.
Located in Old Town, Promenade des Bastions (Park of Bastions) is the city’s first botanical garden. Within the enclosure is the Reformation Wall, which represents the personalities of the Reformation. The park is nestled between the Palais Eynard, the seat of the city government, and the University of Geneva. You’ll find a playground, ice-skating rink, and a giant checkers game and chessboard which attracts players and spectators of all ages.
Shop luxury brands and souvenirs.
Rue du Rhone is the city’s most glamorous shopping street with world famous designers, fashion, and jewelry such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and much more. Globus department store is also located on Rue du Rhone where you can find all the leading labels under one roof.
If you are in search of souvenirs, Swiss chocolates, or things native to Geneva, visit Rue du Mont-Blanc. Here you will find Swatch boutique, the Manor department store and other independent boutiques.
Plainpalais is one of Geneva’s biggest flea markets. Here you will also see the Frankenstein Statue, along with a massive skate park. You will find a stall selling second-hand clothes, antiques, and books, as well as food truck vendors. Worth the trip to check out!
Take the tram to Carouge, which is an Italian-influenced area of Geneva. In a lovely square overlooked by the beautiful Eglise Sainte-Croix is a regional produce market. After visiting the various stalls, we picked up some cheese, olives, and bread and had a picnic in Place du Marche.
Located right in the center of Geneva is Place de la Navigation. Here you will find fruit and vegetable stands along with colorful flower stalls. If you are hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at a rotisserie chicken stand and other food vendors.
Place de la Fusterie is in front of the Temple de la Fusterie. Each day of the week a different type of market sets up stalls for locals to browse. We happened to be in the area on Tuesday which had book stalls, prints, and comic book stands. Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can enjoy organic fruit, vegetables, cheeses and spices. Thursdays, local craftsmen and artists display items such as candles, dolls, clothes and other unique items.
Because my husband loves fresh food markets we headed over to Halle de Rive, the biggest food market in Geneva. Some unusual things you will find here are local honey as well as specialties from the Swiss canton of Valais. This market is open six days a week and boasts a range of gourmet bistros, as well as variety of delicious, local food stalls.
Geneva blends two worlds. It is the international headquarters for global resolutions and banking, as well as a quaint old town with bustling cafes and tranquil countryside nestled between breathtaking mountains. Geneva is a mix of old-world architecture and modern trends of fashion and design.
I am looking forward to my next visit to Geneva.