When you land in Geneva, take advantage of the free transport tickets that you can pick up from the baggage collection area. The airport is linked to the train and a lot of different bus lines, and the ticket lasts 90 minutes so it’s enough time to get to wherever you’re staying, drop your bags off, and use it for a bit longer too.
If you’re staying in a hotel or hostel anywhere in the entire canton of Geneva, you’ll get a Geneva Transport Card which permits unlimited travel on Geneva’s public transport network (UNIRESO: bus (TPG), train (CFF), and boat (Mouettes Genevoises) during the time you’re staying there. If you’re not, they cost 3 (CHF and €) for 1 hour, 2 for a short trip (3 TPG stops or one boat ride), 10 for a day card, 8 for a day card from 9am.
When my friends come to visit Geneva, or if I’m in charge of giving a family member or family friend the geneva tour this is usually the route I follow:
- Breakfast at Manor – in an expensive city, this is quite a good deal, for 6 CHF you get 6 items from the buffet plus a free hot drink, with any additional product being 1 CHF. Geneva’s prices for coffee and a tartine or a croissant is very reasonable, but if you want just a little bit more, then this is the place to go. If it’s a nice day you can sit in the balcony, and if it’s not cloudy you can see the mountains and jet d’eau and the tops of the buildings in the old town.
Taken from balcony of Manora restaurant in September 2014 and March 2016.
- Manor is also a good place to go down to the basement for chocolates and souvenirs.
- Then we walk along the lake side for a tiny bit to take either the Cite du Temps bridge across to the other side, which has great views, and it’s a pedestrian bridge, or Pont du Mont Blanc which comes out right next to Geneva’s highly photographed flower clock, and then walk to the middle of Geneva’s high street. Or if we don’t want to walk too much, we follow rue de Coutance down to the lake and follow rue de la Tour-de-i’lle to end up in Bel Air from where we can take tram #12 a couple of stops towards Carouge to explore the Place de Neuve area
View from the Cite de Temps bridge, Summer 2014
- From wherever we end up, it’s easy to get up the hill to Old Town: walking up the windy roads filled with boutiques from Rue de la Croix-d’or; or taking the minibus #36 from Place de Neuve after possibly exploring Parc des Bastions a little bit. The #36 is an amazing little minibus/van that takes you through all the little roads of the Old Town which the big busses can’t access. From Place de Neuve, another way to bypass walking up the hill too much is to take either the #5, #10, or #3 up the hill, next to the Reformation Wall, up to Palais Eynard.
- In old town, we walk around a little bit wherever we feel like, looking down to the views of the city.
Old Town Geneva, March 2016. PC: Evelyn
View of City and Jet d’eau from Old Town, April 2017
- In old town there are a few places I would suggest: Chez ma Cousine if you’re a chicken fan, it’s also surrounded by lots of other cafés because it’s right bang in the centre of Old Town.
Old Town Geneva, Cafés. March 2016. PC: Evelyn
A favourite place of mine to go have a drink at this point is Restaurant les Armures, which is very close to Cathedral Saint-Pierre (a must-visit to see a magnificent cathedral, which because of the reformation isn’t as decked up as you’d expect for a cathedral that size. And has a chapel which was renovated to show what it would’ve been like before the reformation).
Cathedral Saint-Pierre, April 2017
- Behind the main part of old town, still up on that hill is the Museum of Art and History which has a park in front of it with views towards the lake (rightfully named Parc de l’Observatoire), which is a great place to have lunch al fresco if you’re the type to have carried lunch with you.
View while eating lunch in front of Museum of Art and History, March 2016.
- The next thing I would do at this point is go down to the “High Street” and possibly walk around a little bit, walk towards the lake. Then take a boat across the lake (part of Geneva’s included public transport, or you can buy a ticket from the machine if you need) from Molard, Eaux-Vives or Genève Plage to Pâquis (You can also go from Genève Plage to De-Chateaubriand which is even closer to Jardin Botanique and the UN – see #13).
The boat ride from Eaux-Vives to Pâquis in September 2014.
- Then there’s an opportunity for another relaxation time at Bains des Pâquis, at the Buvette there, feeling the breeze, saying hi to the swans, watching the boats pass and letting Switzerland be beautiful. During warmer months, there is a small entrance fee to get in.
Bains des Pâquis: First two in Spring 2014; last in September 2014.
- Or you can walk along the lake – this bit of the lake has a little bit of history, there is a Monument to Sisi. In September 1898, Empress Sisi (Elisabeth of Austria) was departing from this bit of the lake to go to Montreux. Directly in front of the ship, the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni stabs the empress with a sharpened file. Because of the constricted dress, it wasn’t realised until she was on the ship that she was badly injured (remind you of a Sherlock plotline? Hint: S03E02), and she passed away in her suite in Hotel Beau Rivage at 2:40pm at age 61.
- This being the international side/UN side of the lake, there are sometimes exhibitions and posters up that highlight something along the lines of cultures, development, migration, or war, which can be interesting to look at.
- At this point you can keep walking up the side of the lake towards Jardin Botanique, or go to Place de Cornavin/Rue de Lausanne and take tram #15 up there.
- That is also really close to the UN/Palais des Nations and the Red Cross Museum, if you still have the energy, or if you want to pick up from here on another day.
Other cool places not considered in this route:
– Carouge: The architectural style completely changes when you go into Carouge. There’s a bohemian vibe, and lots of artists and studios are in the area because they offer(ed) subsidised housing for artists. Tram #15 goes straight into Carouge and back to the station and UN area.
– Jonction: Two rivers, Rhône and Arve, dark blue and almost milk white, meet.
– CERN: European Organisation for Nuclear Research founded in 1954. (European students: They have Eduroam here!) They do free guided tours in English and French for anyone over the age of 13. There are also other exhibitions which are really interesting for people of all ages (I suggest Universe of Particles). You can get here using Tram #18 (which stops at the station, Bel Air and Carouge).