I recently had a fantastic opportunity to travel to Geneva to visit family who helped explore areas only known to the locals. The city of Geneva is located on the southern tip of Lake Geneva, surrounded by the Alps and Jura’s cascade mountains. One of the highest mountains, Mont Blanc, can be seen wherever you are in Geneva. The scenic landscape will surely have you saying the word “gorgeous” many times.
So much to see and do in Geneva, it is hard to figure out where to begin. Depending on what type of vacation you enjoy, you can find outdoor activities, museums to visit, historical churches, and beautiful gardens to stroll through while sightseeing.
Geneva is a mixture of cultures which provides for a large spectrum of restaurant options. One of my favorite experiences was eating at a fondu restaurant. Switzerland is known for its delicious cheeses and the finest chocolates. Go and explore a few of the local cheese shops and create a picnic basket of sweet red grapes and fresh bread for a late afternoon lunch in one of the many lush green parks.
Most people do not visit Switzerland to shop, but in Geneva, you will find some unique local street markets to find that perfect treasure to take home. I recommend a few local markets that occur throughout the week. You will discover handmade items, something special to remember your experience.
PLACES TO SEE
Visit Geneva’s Old Town 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.
Bourg du Four
Holy Trinity Church
- 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 the art during the 20th century.
Basilica Notre Dame of Geneva
Evangelical Lutheran Church
- Evangelical Lutheran Church was the first non-Calvinist church founded in the city after the Reformation and quickly grew in size mainly of German merchants living in the region during the 1700s. For over 250 years, this church had been a place of refuge for those travelers and immigrants worldwide.
- Temple de la Fusterie Protestant Church is the first specifically Calvinist church built to accommodate French Protestants’ migration that followed the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Temple de la Fusterie
Beth Yaakov Synagogue
- Beth Yaakov Synagogue, located in the heart of Geneva, is known as Grande Synagogue. This temple was built for the Ashkenazi Jewish community in 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) After Grand Duchess Ann Fyodorovna separated from Grand Duke Constantine, and she funded to build the church in 1863. In 1966 the church went through restoration and revived its striped arches and gold onion domes.
Islamic Culture Foundation
English-Russian Orthodox Church
Visit the United Nations housed at the Palais des Nations, which provides critical infrastructure and support to maintain international peace and security, advance disarmament, protect and promote human rights, and eradicate poverty, to mention a few.
- Outside the UN is the Broken Chair sculpture, symbolizing fragility and strength, imbalance, and stability, which is a reminder that it is our responsibility to refuse the unacceptable and act.
- On the outside wall of the UN is a beautiful mural painting worth seeing if you are in the area.
- International Red Cross Headquarters
PARKS & GARDENS
- The Conservatory and Botanical of the city of Geneva have roughly six million samples of different vegetation- one of the world’s most extensive 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, which is a tribute to creating the most giant clock in the world made from flowers. Around 6,500 flowering plants and shrubs are used for the clock’s face
The Conservatory and Botanical Garden
Jardin Anglais Park
- 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 city government’s seat, and the University of Geneva. A playground, ice-skating rink in the winter, and near the gate entrance, you will find giant checkers game and chessboard, attracting players and spectators of all ages.
Park of Bastions (Playing Checkers)
Park of Bastions (Playing Checkers)
If shopping is on your list, Geneva offers some of the finest Swiss watch brands, luxury designer boutiques as well as some fantastic chocolate stores. You may also discover several flea markets and farmer’s markets taking place throughout the city.
- Rue du Rhone is the city’s most glamorous shopping street with world-famous fashion designers 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 brands under one roof.
- If you search for more items such as 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 find the Frankenstein Statue along with a massive skate park. Also, you will see stalls selling second-hand clothes, antiques, books, as well as food truck vendors. Worth the trip to check out!
- Take the tram to Carouge, 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 made a picnic in Place du Marche.
Shopping at the Market
- 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, and 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 happen to be in the area on Tuesday, which had bookstalls, prints, and comic book stands. Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can enjoy organic fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and spices. On Thursdays, local craftsmen and artists display 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 and specialties from the Swiss canton of Valais. This market is open six days a week and boasts a range of gourmet bistros and a variety of delicious, local food.
Market Days Place de la Fusterie
Halle de Rive
WHERE TO STAY
- Le Richemond Hotel – $$$$ Le Richemond is a legend in Geneva; built-in 1875, it is one of the five-star hotels located along Lake Geneva’s shores. When you step out the front door, you will see the famous Monument Brunswick across the street. Directly across the lake, you will have a breath-taking view of the Jet d’Eau. This hotel is close to the city center, making it easy to see so many of the Geneva sites.
- Movenpick Hotel and Casino – $$$ is a moderate option for a convenient location near the Geneva International Airport, which offers complimentary airport shuttle service. A city tram station is nearby that can take you to all the major attractions in the city.
WHERE TO EAT
Geneva has the blends of two worlds. It is the international headquarters for global resolutions and banking, and a quaint old town with bustling cafes, tranquil countryside nestled between breathtaking mountains. Geneva is a mix of old-world architecture and modern trends of fashion and design.
Click here to read about places to eat.
- Although the native language is German, most people in this area speak French, but 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, buses, and trams.
- Check out the resources I offer that will help you with air, hotel, and tours.