There’s nothing conventional about Geneva! 7 top things to do in Switzerland's second city
Geneva is a fascinating city! Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the capital of Switzerland (and neither is Zurich…), but this international epicentre packs a punch and makes for a bustling starting point to a Swiss road trip or an intriguing city break.
Here are our top things not to miss when visiting Geneva:
The Jet D’eau - it’s hard to miss this 140ft high fountain. In fact you can see it from your plane when coming into Geneva airport, and over rooftops as you explore the city. A pier from the lakeside allows you to walk out very close to it, but wear a raincoat! The spray is like being near a waterfall!
Stroll the cobbled streets of the Old Town - Don’t miss café lined Place Bourg-de-Four, the oldest square in Geneva, St Peter’s Cathedral and the 15th century Hôtel de Ville where the Geneva Conventions were signed. Be sure to climb the bell tower of the Cathedral for dramatic views over the city and the lake!
See L'horloge fleurie - the famous flower clock. Located in the Jardin Anglais park, this beautiful outdoor clock face was created in 1955 and pays tribute to Geneva’s watch making traditions. It is replanted with seasonal flowers and shrubs throughout the year, so will look different each time you visit Geneva!
Ride a seagull - no not a bird, a Mouette, one of the yellow taxi boats that whizz across the lake. If you’re staying in a campsite, hostel or hotel in Geneva, you will be given a free public transport pass - this covers all the buses, trams and trains within the city, plus the yellow Mouettes!
Visit the Palais des Nations - the flags of the world stretch out in front of European seat of the United Nations and in the square opposite is Broken Chair, an enormous wooden sculpture of a 12m high chair with a broken leg. Dedicated to the victims of landmines and cluster bombs around the world, it sits as a reminder to all the diplomats and politicians as they enter the UN building as well as international visitors. 15 CHF guided tours can be booked online .
Have your mind blown at CERN - known for being the home to the Hadron Collider, this epic physics lab brings together the nuclear research resources of 12 European countries. CERN has two exhibitions open to the public, Globe of Science and Innovation and the Microcosm exhibit. Free 1 hour guided tours are run Monday to Saturday but these must be registered in person on the day at the centre’s reception and fill up very quickly! (More info on CERN’s website here)
Take a red bus tour of International Geneva - famously neutral, Geneva is home to the headquarters of many global organisations and non profits including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the World Trade Organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Eurovision Network. UNESCO has a liaison office in Geneva and Médecins Sans Frontières has one of its main operational offices in the city.
Geneva- know before you go:
Unlike many of the other major cities in Switzerland which tend to speak German, Geneva is French speaking.
The Genevois don’t say Lake Geneva! It’s Lake Léman.
If Geneva is your first entry point into Switzerland and you’re driving on elsewhere, don’t forget to buy your autoroute vignette – it’s a sticker that goes in your windscreen and costs CHF 40. It’s essentially 1 year of pre paid road tax and you have to have one in order to use any of the motorways in Switzerland. Of course you could save money and take all the little roads, but it will take you a REALLY long time to get anywhere! We bought ours at the main post office, but if you’re driving in from France, they’ll have them for sale at the official border crossing.
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