Must-knows about Geneva

  • Geneva is the second largest city of Switzerland after Zurich.
  • It’s situated in the south-west of the country, on Lake Geneva and close to the French border.
  • Geneva is not near the Swiss Alps.
  • The city is known for its United Nations headquarters and the nuclear research center CERN.
  • The historic town center and lakeside location make Geneva attractive for tourists too.
  • The local name in French is “Genève”. In German, it’s “Genf”.
  • The main train station is called “Genève”. “Genève, gare Cornavin” is used too.
Region: Lake Geneva
Recommended season: mid March to late October and late November to late December
Altitude: 375 m (1230 ft)
Town size: Big
This town is on a lake
Local language: French
There is a train station

Sightseeing tips for Geneva Copy link to clipboard

Find your Geneva excursions

Steam boat on Lake Geneva seen from Territet
Boat Lake Geneva
Scenic boat tripMin. time required: 1:00
Plan your trip on the largest lake of Switzerland: Lake Geneva. We explain about the cruises on the western and eastern part of the lake, …
Quai du Mont-Blanc in Geneva
Town walk Geneva
City trip, HikingMin. time required: 1:30
Discover Geneva with our varied walk along the river Rhône and the lake, and in the old town center of Geneva. You'll see the city …
Jet d'Eau with boat in Geneva
Geneva fountain
City tripMin. time required: 0:30
The Jet d'Eau is the huge fountain in Lake Geneva. Find out how to see it from all angles, while also enjoying the parks and …
Geneva (International District) City Sights Self-Guided Tour
GamingIndependent day tour
Discover Geneva from a different perspective on a self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt of the city. Solve riddles and clues that lead to the next location, showing all the city highlights. Solve interesting puzzles, have fun and learn new things about the city. Explore the city and find hidden …

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Geneva: Center Self-Guided City Sightseeing
Geneva: Center Self-Guided City Sightseeing, Scavenger Hunt
Independent day tour
Explore the beautiful old town of Geneva on a self-guided walking tour and a scavenger hunt. Learn fascinating facts about the city, solve puzzles, and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.

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5 things you shouldn't miss in Geneva

The 5 main activities Geneva are:

  1. A city walk to explore the old town center around St. Pierre Cathedral, the lake, and the 140 m high fountain Jet d’Eau. Find out which route we followed here.
  2. A boat trip on the lake.
  3. A watch museum, such as the Patek Philippe Museum (
  4. The nuclear research center CERN (
  5. The United Nations headquarters (

Of course, these aren't necessarily must-sees for everyone. Just pick whatever you're most interested in.

Off the beaten path

If you like less touristy day trips, consider the below options:

A day trip by train from Geneva to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Geneva, and nearby towns on Lake Geneva, are often used as a base for day trips to the French mountain town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Here you can visit the mountain destination Aiguille du Midi, or make a ride on the Montenvers railway to "Mer de Glace" ("Sea of Ice").

You can reach Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in two ways:

  1. By a 2h40 train ride directly into France, via Annemasse and St-Gervais-les-Bains-Le Fayet.
  2. By a 3h35 train ride via Martigny and Le Châtelard-Frontière (Switzerland) and Vallorcine (France). The scenic stretch between Martigny and Chamonix is serviced by regional trains that are called "Mont-Blanc Express".

A day trip by train from Geneva to Annecy

There are direct regional trains connecting Geneva in Switzerland to the medieval town of Annecy in France. A single journey takes approximately 1h30.

Essential travel info and city map Copy link to clipboard

How to reach Geneva by plane

If you're reaching Switzerland by plane, you'll probably arrive at Geneva Airport or Zurich Airport. Some travelers land at Basel Airport. You can then continue your journey by train:

  • It's a 7-minute train ride from Geneva Airport to the city center. You can get a cheap ride into town.
  • It's a 3-hour direct train journey from Zurich Airport to Geneva.
  • It's a 3h10-journey from Basel Airport: first by bus to Basel, then by train to Geneva.

Find more details about the airports here.

How to reach Geneva from France

You'll have quick access to Geneva by train from several cities in France. A single ride Paris-Geneva by TGV takes just 3h15. Learn all about it in our France-Switzerland travel guide.

How to reach Geneva from other Swiss towns

There are quick and frequent trains from several Swiss towns to Geneva. Examples:

Use the timetable to plan your own journey to or from Geneva. Tram and bus rides within the town can be found there too.

How to reach Geneva by car

Geneva can be reached by car too. It's a 3h00-drive from Basel, and a 3h30-journey from Zurich.

We don't recommend this option though. The busy town center can be tough to navigate. Parking options are limited and expensive.

The main rail, bus, and tram stations of Geneva

The name of the main rail station is simply 'Genève'. This is where trains to many Swiss destinations depart, as well as trains to France and Italy.

The tram and bus platform directly outside of the main station is called 'Genève, gare Cornavin'.

From the station, the old town center can be reached on foot in 15 minutes, along with most attractions such as the lakeside promenade and many museums. But there's a dense network of trams, buses, and trolley buses too.

Free public transport

Public transport can be used for free if you book a hotel in Geneva. You will get a Geneva Transport Card while checking in. Note that it is only valid for traveling within the city. The train to the airport is included too.

Many of the rail passes also include free public transport: not only in Geneva, but in a much wider area.

The Geneva City Pass

There's also a Geneva City Pass that you can purchase for 1, 2 or 3 days. It includes free public transport and free or discounted attractions.

The city of Geneva on a map

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Best time to visit Geneva Copy link to clipboard

We recommend visiting Geneva from mid March to late October and late November to late December.

Geneva in spring, summer and fall

To us, Geneva is most appealing from mid-March to late October. The parks and surrounding green hills are prettiest during this season.

Geneva is at a low altitude and in a relatively warm area of Switzerland. This means it can get quite hot during summer, especially in July and August.

Geneva for a winter holiday

Geneva is not suitable for snow holidays. It’s far from the snowy Swiss Alps, and ski areas are too far away for a day trip. The Chamonix-Mont Blanc area in France can be visited, but a single journey still takes 2,5 to 3 hours.

Geneva is attractive in late November and December for its Christmas atmosphere. The old town has beautiful decorations. Several Christmas markets are held. By mid-December, visitors can enjoy the large “l’Escalade” festival with music, cannon fires, demonstrations and food.

Weather in Geneva: info and forecast Copy link to clipboard

What is weather in Geneva like?

Geneva is in one of Switzerland's warmest regions. The climate is mild, even during winter. Snow in or near the city isn't likely. In summer, temperatures can rise up to 30°C or well above.

Rain can occur year-long. Showers are more common than hours or days of continuous rain.

The 5-day weather forecast for Geneva

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Weather forecast

Geneva hotel guides Copy link to clipboard

Many hotels in Geneva are at walking distance from the main rail station in Geneva. If you arrive or depart by plane, a hotel near the airport is convenient.

Aerial view of Geneva and airport from plane

Geneva Airport hotels - quick access by train, bus or hotel shuttle

The best hotels for a convenient arrival to or departure from Geneva Airport. Some hotels offer a free transfer from …
Four Seasons Hotel on Quai des Bergues in Geneva

Find your hotel in Geneva, Switzerland

Our Geneva hotel recommendations and insider tips for the best location: in the old town for direct access to the …

Geneva’s international orientation

Geneva is an internationally oriented city in Switzerland, a few kilometers from France. Geneva attracts tourists, politicians and scientists from many countries.

It’s a city where life is very comfortable but expensive. The price should not put you off though. As a tourist, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy Geneva in a day or two without spending that much. The average price of hotels isn’t that different from other Swiss towns, and there’s budget accommodation too.

The town attracts many visitors from around the globe, so there’s a wealth of choice when dining out. Do you like Swiss, French, Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese or Japanese food? All of that and more is available.

Location and scenery

Geneva is situated on the beautiful Lake Geneva, in between the Jura mountain range and the Alps. You can make day trips into France, e.g. to the Mont Blanc.

Reasons to stay in Geneva

If you are planning a long vacation in Switzerland (for example two weeks or more), you can start with a day or two in Geneva. This is especially recommended if you’re interested in culture, museums and city visits in general. Then proceed to the Alps to see the mountains.

If you have booked a late flight to Geneva or an early flight from Geneva, it makes sense to stay the night and explore the city for a couple of hours. You can find airport hotels here.

Reasons to skip Geneva

Geneva is not situated in the mountains and it’s located in one of the utmost corners of Switzerland. So we think it’s not an ideal base if you want to make day trips all over Switzerland.

If you have limited time to see Switzerland, we recommend going straight to the Alps. Examples are the eastern part of Lake Geneva near Lausanne and Montreux, Brig or Zermatt in the Valais, or the Bernese Oberland.

Geneva FAQ

  1. Where is Geneva located?

    Geneva is situated in the south-western corner of Switzerland. It’s on Lake Geneva and close to the French border. The city is at a 2h45-train ride from Zurich and a 7-minute train ride from Geneva Airport.

  2. Is Geneva in the mountains?

    No, Geneva is not in the Swiss mountains. You can reach mountain areas for your day trips: from the Swiss towns of Montreux (1h by train) and Martigny (1h35) for example, or the French town Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (2h40).

  3. Which languages are spoken in Geneva?

    The official language in Geneva is French. English is spoken a lot too, as there are many international offices and institutions in Geneva.

  4. In which time zone is Geneva?

    Geneva is in the UTC/GMT +1 hour zone. This is also called CET (Central European Time). Between mid-March and late October, CET (Central European Summer Time) applies.

  5. Why is Geneva famous?

    Geneva is famous because it is home to the United Nations headquarters and the nuclear research center CERN. This is why it attracts many politicians and scientists from all over the world.

    Geneva is well-known to tourists too. The famous fountain Jet d’Eau, the vibrant atmosphere and Geneva’s location on the large Lake Geneva are attractive.

  6. How many days should I spend in Geneva?

    1 in Geneva is enough to superficially explore the town, see the highlights of the old town center and make a short boat trip.

    If you want to join guided tours in the CERN or the United Nations headquarters, we recommend staying 2 to 3 days.

    For additional trips into France (for example to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) and to explore the western part of Lake Geneva, count on 4 or 5 days.

    If you mainly want to explore the Swiss mountains, we recommend choosing another base town instead of Geneva.

  7. What to do in Geneva for one day?

    Explore the old town of Geneva, the lake promenades and the Jet d’Eau fountain. Our city walk includes all of it. In addition, make a short boat tour.

  8. Why is Geneva expensive?

    Politicians and scientists from all over the world visit Geneva because of the UN headquarters and the research center CERN. This international orientation ensures high service levels, but also drives up prices.

    If you plan well, a stay in Geneva doesn’t have to be more expensive than in other Swiss cities though.

  9. How to get from Geneva Airport to the city center?

    You can take a direct train from the rail station of Geneva Airport to the main station of Geneva. It takes only 7 minutes. Learn all about it in our Swiss airport guide.

  10. How to travel for free in Geneva?

    If you spend the night in a hotel in Geneva, you’ll get the Geneva Transport Card that allows free urban transportation. Some rail passes, such as the Swiss Travel Pass, provide free travel in Geneva too.

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Page author: AnnikaSince early childhood I've been visiting Switzerland during my holidays and I just fell in love with the country. I spent many summers in the Bernese Oberland, which still feels like my second home, and then started to explore other areas. Traveling, hiking and photographing in the Swiss Alps are my absolute favorite activities.