Your trip to Switzerland isn’t complete without checking out some of the best things to do in Geneva. Surrounded by the Jura and Alps, Geneva is known for its scenic landscape. It’s also one of the main financial centres in the world and home to a large collection of museums.
Geneva is home to international firms like the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, and the International Red Cross. International financial organizations fit right in with luxury hotels, world-renowned jewellers, and decadent restaurants. Geneva is a pristine city, and one known to attract the business elite, but underlying its orderly exterior is a rich Bohemian pulse fueled by an array of artists and activists that call Geneva home.
The city also has an internationally recognized sweet tooth, and there are many chocolatiers around town to take advantage of during your stay.
With a wide range of tourist attractions in Geneva, you may not know which places to visit first. It’s easy to spend an entire trip eating fondue and visiting historic sites without seeing everything Geneva has to offer.
Not sure where to go in Geneva? Start planning your itinerary with this guide to the best places to visit in Geneva!
What to do in Geneva
Climb the north tower at St Pierre Cathedral for a view of the city
Visiting St Pierre Cathedral tops the list of the best things to do in Geneva, as it’s the most iconic building in the city. Built in the gothic style around 1160, the church has a large interior with tall ceilings and arches, but not a lot of decorations.
The interior was eventually stripped of its adornments, leaving a large white-washed interior. It’s still an interesting place to add to your Geneva sightseeing tour due to the massive stained-glass windows and the view from the bell tower.
As with a lot of Geneva attractions, you need to pay a fee to climb the tower. When you get to the top, you’re treated to a panoramic view of Geneva.
Catch the impressive sight of Jet d’Eau
Any trip to Geneva should include a stop near the waterfront to view Jet d’Eau. The fountain in the lake is one of the more interesting things to see in Geneva. The fountain sprays a stream of water 140 metres into the air. You can get near the fountain by walking to the end of a jetty at the waterfront promenade. Be careful! Depending on the wind, you could get drenched.
The original fountain was installed in 1886, making it one of the oldest of its kind. Unfortunately, it’s only active during the warmer months, between March and October.
While visiting the fountain, you could also check out the rest of the attractions around Lake Geneva. The lakeside promenade includes gardens, trees, and historic architecture.
Walk the historic streets of Old Town
If you can’t decide what to do in Geneva, start walking toward Old Town. You’ll pass some of the best things to do in Geneva on the way, including St. Pierre Cathedral and several museums.
Old Town is also one of the best places to visit in Geneva if you’re only in the city for a day. Many of the top attractions are nearby, giving you a chance to see quite a few sites with just one day in Geneva. You can visit a few of the old churches and museums in a single afternoon.
The area around Old Town also offers shopping and dining. Around the Bourg-de-Four Square in the centre of Old Town, you’ll find a collection of coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating.
Take in the impressive Geneva Flower Clock and English Garden
One of the more unusual Geneva points of interest is Jardin Anglais (English Garden). The English Garden is a lovely park with a 19th-century fountain, views of Lake Geneva, and a great place to enjoy some quiet time away from the crowded streets. It’s also home to a massive flower clock.
The flower clock is a large display of flowers arranged to resemble a clock face. It’s a functional clock, so you can avoid spending too much time in the garden.
The clock is carefully arranged, featuring over 6,500 flowering plants. It also changes with the seasons. For the brightest colours, visit during the summer.
As you may have guessed, the clock is a reference to the city’s history as the watchmaking capital of the world.
Marvel at luxury items along Rue du Rhone
Rue du Rhone is one of the top tourist attractions in Geneva. The luxurious shopping street is lined with high-end stores. Shop for clothes, jewellery, and watches, if you have the budget.
If you’re strapped for cash, you can still window shop. It’s an interesting street to walk, especially if you’re interested in historic architecture. Many of the buildings that line the street were built a couple of hundred years ago.
Rue du Rhone is also surprisingly quiet compared to other parts of the city, most likely due to the high prices. This gives you a chance to get away from the crowds while admiring expensive goods.
Play chess along the promenade at Bastions Park
Bastions Park remains an important addition to the top points of interest in Geneva. It’s a sprawling park located just south of Old Town. A large promenade cuts through the centre of the park and includes a few interesting attractions.
While visiting the park, stop at the Reformation Wall. It’s along the edge of the promenade and contains a large monument to the most significant figures in Geneva’s history. You can stand below the towering sculptures of famous reformers, including John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism.
The promenade also takes you to a giant chessboard. Depending on when you visit, you may get a chance to play a game. If the board is occupied, you could take a detour and explore the neighbouring botanical gardens.
Explore the history of Swiss watches at the Patek Philippe Museum
If you want to know where to go in Geneva to learn more about Swiss watches, visit the Patek Philippe Museum. Located in a restored factory not far from Old Town, the museum is dedicated to Swiss watch brands, including Victorinox, Swatch, and Rolex.
The museum includes hundreds of fine watches from the top watchmakers. You can learn more about the history of the watchmaking business during a detailed audio tour.
The only drawback is the strict set of rules. The museum doesn’t allow photos, videos, food, drinks, shopping bags, or backpacks. You’ll need to leave everything at the hotel, as they don’t provide a spot to store anything.
Where to stay in Geneva
Thanks to its small stature, choosing where to stay in Geneva is a cinch. For most travellers, the best areas to stay include Old Town and Les Paquis. Here are a few of the best hotels in Geneva to start your search…
- Hotel Bel’Esperance: A top mid-range Geneva hotel offering stylish modern rooms. Upgrade to a studio to relax on your own private terrace or simply take in panoramic views from the rooftop restaurant.
- Hotel d’Angleterre: Located close to Lake Geneva, this 5-star hotel offers elegant rooms, with some featuring spectacular lake and mountain views.
- Les Armures: Built in a lovely 17th-century heritage building, this charming Old Town hotel set itself apart with its distinctive alpine-inspired Swiss decor. The hotel is also home to the oldest coffee house in Geneva and a yummy French restaurant.