The most French Swiss city, Geneva, is bordered by France on three sides. The focal point of the city is Lake Geneva, the largest lake in Switzerland, shaped in a natural arc between Geneva and Montreux, with Lausanne in the middle. The lake features Geneva’s most iconic landmark, the Jet d'Eau. As the world’s tallest fountain, it creates a jet of water reaching a spectacular 460 feet high! Set right in the middle of Lake Geneva, the fountain can be seen from miles away. A fun way of exploring the lake is to take a Mouette (local water taxi). They run between every 10 and 30 minutes and have four routes or lines. Tickets are included on the complimentary transport cards given by hotels in the area upon check-in. It is also possible to arrange a private boat tour around the lake. For those interested in something a little more active, paddle boarding or wake boarding on the lake in summer is also a possibility, with some hotels even having their own have instructors.
Geneva’s old town, Vieille Ville, is atmospheric and looks to have jumped straight out of a postcard. Charming winding streets full of cafes and galleries, it is easy to lose yourself here for half a day. A visit to the 850 year-old Cathedral St-Pierre is a must. For those that have the energy, we recommend visiting the top of the church towers for unparalleled views over the city and lake.
For art lovers, a walk around the Quartier des Bains the art district, is a wonderful excursion. MAMCO, the Contemporary Museum of Art and the contemporary Art Center Centre d'Art Contemporain are just the starting point. There are many private galleries which are worth visiting for those that have an interest in modern art.
Switzerland is, of course, famed for quality timepieces and a visit to The Patek Philippe Museum is a must for anyone interested in the Swiss tradition of watchmaking. The museum chronicles the development of watchmaking from the 16th century through to today.
Anyone interested in Switzerland’s history of humanitarian aid should visit the Red Cross Museum, a modern and interactive museum charting the history of the Croix Rouge. The UN complex is also a great stop for those intrigued by international affairs, post WWII. Tours of the Palais de Nations are also available.
Geneva is also the ideal base to visit the two other Swiss cities also located on the shores of Lake Geneva – Lausanne and Montreux.
In the very center of Lake Geneva is Lausanne. Famous for the world’s best hotel school, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland due to its location on the lake. Here you can truly feel the majesty and expanse of the water. The 11th century Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame dominates the small town. Nearby are the UNESCO protected Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, originating from the same century as the cathedral. The second city, just 30 kilometers from Lausanne is Montreux. There is a panoramic train that travels slowly through the vines for one or two hours and you can even taste the wines along the way! Famed for the annual Jazz Festival, and the Château de Chillon (Chillon Castle), the medieval castle, Montreux sits just opposite Geneva on the lake.
Another day trip from Geneva or Lausanne, is the village of Corsier-sur-Vevey, where Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life. There is now an extraordinary new interactive museum there. A fun place to visit if you are a fan, or with children.
Geneva is a year-round city. To make the most of the lake and the waterside location, the summer months are the most ideal, and there are several festivals, such as the Geneva Festival, that take place annually over two weeks in August. During the winter months, the city looks like it popped out of a fairy-tale. We encourage you to visit the lovely Christmas Market for some mulled wine, on the shore of the lake.
Our team of travel experts can customize a unique program for you based on your exact preferences and interests. We suggest you allow a minimum of three nights staying in Geneva or Lausanne, to explore the area around Lake Geneva.
One of the most charming areas of Geneva is the Place Du Marche in Carouge, also known as “little Italy”. “It is a unique area which was originally settled by Sardinians and is incomparable to the rest of the city. Carouge’s unique architecture is an expression of its Sardinian heritage, a web of historical streets, cozy cafes and antique shops. Every Saturday and Wednesday there also is a lovely public market.
An easy walk from the lake and the Jet d’eau is the lively residential area of Eaux-Vives in Geneva with many independent restaurants and bars. L’Adresse is a bistro come clothes atelier. The large almost industrial space as a bohemian atmosphere and, for the summer months there is a garden terrace outside. Their menus full of uniquely innovative bistro style cuisine.
If you prefer something completely traditional, Le Relais de l’Entrecôte is the perfect French brasserie in this the most French of Swiss cities. Serving only steak frites, this restaurant is a French institution. Order green salad and steak as you like it with fries on the side, followed by a Crème Brulee, or even better, a perfectly ripe brie. Reservations are not taken, and there can often be a wait for a table.
The Swiss make great wine, but they only export a tiny percentage of it. For a really unusual gift, consider a bottle of wine from Le Caveau de Bacchus. Many of their wines are regions around Geneva.