Choosing where to stay in Geneva isn’t simple, especially if you’re visiting for the first time.
Located at the southern edge of Lake Geneva, the city is surrounded by the Swiss Alps and the Jura mountains. It’s a majestic landscape containing one of the best travel destinations in Switzerland.
In the 1980s, Geneva was known as the Las Vegas of Switzerland, due to its rowdy nightlife scene and red-light district. It’s now a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population and a variety of attractions.
The eclectic city has museums, galleries, and historic sites. It also has a wide selection of restaurants, bars, and cafes to suit any taste.
Before deciding where to stay, take the time to learn more about the top neighbourhoods.
Not sure where to look? Get started on your accommodation search with this guide to the best places to stay in Geneva…
Where to stay in Geneva: A complete guide to the best neighbourhoods & areas for travellers
Geneva isn’t the biggest city. You can quickly walk or bike from one neighbourhood to the next, but staying in a specific part of the city can change the entire mood of your trip.
Whether you’re looking for shopping, sightseeing, nightlife, or entertainment, Geneva has it all.
The city is divided into two main parts, separated by the lake and the River Rhone. On the west bank of the river, you’ll find the old town and the University of Geneva. It’s a combination of student life and historic sites.
To the east, the city includes a mixture of residential districts and commercial areas. You could also stay closer to the lake and spend your time sunbathing on the concrete or strolling through the large public parks.
The best areas to stay in Geneva for travellers include:
- Old Town
- Les Paquis
✔ Best area to stay for history buffs and first-time visitors
Old Town is often the starting point for the typical itinerary, especially if you only have one day in Geneva. It’s past the upscale shopping streets near the river.
You’ll know when you reach Old Town. Instead of multi-lane roads and large commercial buildings, the area has numerous winding roads and older architecture.
It’s the perfect place to stroll around and explore. Besides the expected assortment of cafes and restaurants, you’ll find little antique shops, museums, and art galleries.
If you’re looking for the top things to do & see in Geneva, you won’t have to travel far from Old Town. St. Pierre Cathedral and Geneva Town Hall are just a stone’s throw away.
The cathedral is impressive, with its vaulted ceilings and iconic pillars. You can even view several archaeological excavations containing artifacts from the Roman Empire.
Shopping Area Geneve is also within the Old Town area. It includes multiple shopping streets with dozens of high-end shops. You’ll find luxury Swiss watches, designer clothes, and first-class customer service.
If you don’t have the budget for high-end shopping, other parts of Old Town contain a variety of independent little boutiques. You can shop for souvenirs, Swiss chocolate, and affordable Swiss Watches.
Recommended hotels in Old Town
Old Town is one of the most expensive parts of the city and it’s where you’ll find the best hotels in Geneva. Luckily, several of the top-rated hotels in the area offer reasonable rates for luxurious rooms. This is also an area where you’ll want to book early to lock in your spot.
- Les Armures: Located inside a seventeenth-century building, this unique hotel helps you get in the right mindset to explore the historic sites around Old Town. The building is also connected to St. Pierre Cathedral and is a ten-minute walk from various museums, the lakefront promenade, and the shopping district.
- Hotel Bel’Esperance: Enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the rooftop restaurant or prepare a meal in your room using the fully-equipped kitchen. This highly rated hotel also offers rooms with terrace views.
- Hotel Central: This family-owned hotel is a short walk from several important sites, including the Flower Clock and the Jet d’Eau fountain. Along with a good location, it offers comfortable rooms and a complimentary continental breakfast.
✔ Top-rated neighbourhood for foodies and nightlife
Paquis is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Geneva. It’s a lively place located near the main train station featuring a mixture of residential and commercial areas.
It’s not the biggest neighbourhood in the city, but it offers a little bit of everything. Paquis has numerous hip bars and cafes. You’ll also find upscale restaurants. Dine on local cuisine or the best foreign dishes from around the world.
The multicultural neighbourhood is known locally as the “district of a thousand flavours.” Residents of all nationalities call this area home and it’s reflected in the variety of international restaurants.
If you’re looking for the city’s nightlife scene, visit Paquis. The bars and clubs stay open later in this neighbourhood and tend to attract younger crowds.
Paquis is also home to Geneva’s red-light district. It’s the only area of the city where some travellers may feel a little uncomfortable. Luckily, the red-light area is contained to one or two blocks.
The rest of the neighbourhood is vibrant, diverse, and safe. Paquis tends to attract artists, students, and bohemians. It’s perfect for most visitors, but families may want to consider staying in one of the other areas due to the noise and activity at night.
Recommended hotels in Les Paquis
Paquis contains one of the largest selections of hotels in the city, covering every price point. You can find cheap budget hotels and luxury five-star hotels. Vacancies also disappear quickly, so be sure to book months in advance.
- Hotel des Alpes: As one of the more affordable options in Paquis, this hotel has basic amenities, but makes up for it with a great location. It’s located a short walk from the bus and tram stations and near some of the main shopping areas in the city.
- Hotel d’Angleterre: This five-star hotel is a short walk from the shore and features stylish, luxurious rooms with views of the city. Some of the rooms even offer views of the Jet d’Eau in the middle of the lake. You’ll also receive a complementary piece of Swiss chocolate.
- Le Richemond: Located near the shores of Lake Geneva, this five-star hotel boasts an excellent customer rating and first-class treatment. Relax in your room decorated with elegant furniture or taste the menu at the award-winning on-site restaurant.
✔ Recommended area to stay for families or those seeking a quieter experience
Eaux-vives remains a popular choice for families and those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Located east of Old Town, Eaux-vives resembles more of a traditional neighbourhood. It’s a walkable area with lots of residential streets mixed with convenient commercial strips.
It’s less touristy compared to some of the other areas, giving you the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Visitors often describe Eaux-vives as a throwback to early twentieth-century European cities. It’s a quiet, relaxed neighbourhood with charming cafes, old-style theatres, and quaint little boutique shops.
Besides shopping, Eaux-vives has its own attractions to check out. It’s the home of the 140-metre-high Jet d’Eau fountain. The fountain is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. It appears on official tourism advertisements and souvenirs.
First installed in 1886, the fountain sprays a jet of water up to 140 metres tall, often spraying unsuspecting tourists as they travel near the bank of the lake.
You’ll also find the largest park in the city. Parc La Grange covers over 200,000 square metres. It’s mostly comprised of old, tall trees, but it also has a large rose garden and an eighteenth-century villa.
Recommended hotels in Eaux-vives
Some of the hotels offer views of the lake and access to gourmet restaurants. It’s a charming area to stay with a wide selection of three- and four-star hotels near the lake. Most of these hotels also charge about half the price compared to similar accommodations in Paquis or Old Town.
- Sagitta Swiss Quality Hotel: Located on the left bank of the lake, this hotel is just a few feet from the centre of Geneva and a ten-minute walk from the fountain. Besides a great location, it offers comfortable rooms with spacious living areas.
- Hotel Pax: Set in the centre of a residential area, this hotel is set away from the crowded streets of Old Town. The hotel stands out for its interior courtyard, providing a private spot to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
- Le Cenacle: This quaint boutique hotel is set in the middle of a large park, secluded and away from the busy tourist areas. Most of the rooms offer views of either the park or the hotel’s garden. The rooms are a little small, but you’ll likely spend most of your time out exploring the city.
✔ Best area to stay for shopping and budget travellers
Plainpalais is located west of the river and next to Old Town. The neighbourhood centres around a massive public square that houses the city’s largest outdoor market.
Geneva’s flea market first opened in 1970 and attracts hundreds of vendors and thousands of shoppers. The area is filled with stalls and people each Wednesday and Saturday and the first Sunday of the month.
When the flea market isn’t open, the public square is often used for large public gatherings and events. During the summer, you’ll come across various festivals.
Locals tend to refer to Plainpalais as the university district, as it’s close to the University and many of the academic buildings. Students congregate in the various bars and cafes that line the streets of this neighbourhood.
As a popular hangout spot for tourists, Plainpalais also offers some of the best prices on dining and accommodations. You’ll find cheap bars and restaurants that typically cater to students and expats.
The student population has helped bring more culture to the neighbourhood. You can find several contemporary art museums, including Nuit des Bains. This museum has exhibits that spill out onto the sidewalk.
Recommended hotels in Plainpalais
Plainpalais has a mixture of hotel options, from affordable business hotels to upscale locations with numerous amenities and large rooms. Despite the variety of hotels, these options are all three-star hotels and tend to fill up quickly during busy tourist seasons.
- Hotel Adriatica: This luxurious hotel is a five-minute walk from the Grand Theater and offers free bicycles to help you get around the city. The rooms are spacious and elegantly furnished while the staff caters to your every need. Enjoy 24-hour room service and free bathrobes and slippers.
- La Cour Des Augustins Boutique Gallery Design Hotel: The modern-style rooms in this three-star hotel stand out compared to other options. The clean, white furnishings give the rooms a sterile atmosphere. The hotel is also just a short ride from Old Town via the tram.
- Hotel Leprince: Large rooms and a convenient location are two of the main reasons to consider staying in this hotel. It’s also one of the top-rated choices in the area, thanks to the friendly staff and comfortable beds.