Civilization in Geneva was established around 1000 BC in the area of Old Town. In 58 BCE the area became a Roman settlement, and during the Middle Ages it grew as an important centre of trade. Coveted for its strategic location for commerce, Geneva changed hands many times throughout the centuries, and finally became an independent republic in 1535.
This independence coincided with the Protestant Reformation, as in 1532 the Roman Catholic bishop was forced out and protestant figurehead John Calvin helped Geneva become a leading Protestant city of Europe.
During this time, Protestants escaping persecution as well as artisans such as watchmakers and jewellers flocked to the town, laying the foundations for two of the city’s most historically famous industries. In 1798, Geneva was annexed by the French during the French Revolution and was a destination for rich aristocrats and intellectuals like Voltaire and Rousseau.
Geneva finally became part of the Swiss Confederation in 1814. The city gained a reputation as a centre for human rights work after Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross there in 1864.
Geneva gained prominence in the 20th century as the city where the League of Nations was born in 1919 after the First World War, and then as head office of the European United Nations after the Second World War.
Geneva is perhaps most known for playing host to the signing of the Geneva Conventions, the monumental international treaties designed to protect prisoners and civilians in situations of war and foreign occupation.
Whether visiting for business or pleasure, you’ll love a weekend in Geneva, a pristinely gorgeous town where the worlds of finance and diplomacy converge.
Settled along Lake Geneva and nestled in the mountains of Switzerland’s French-speaking Romandie region, it has a strong French influence with iron balconies and sidewalk cafés. Full of fine jewellery and chocolate shops, Geneva is also home to international non-profits and the site where the Geneva Conventions were signed in 1949.
So book a flight to Geneva today and escape to this picturesque city.
A hallmark image of Geneva, the Jet d’Eau is an impressive fountain located in Lake Geneva that shoots a stream of water 140 metres high into the air. The falling water billowing in the wind against a backdrop of the town and the snow-capped Mont Blanc is what makes the landmark so stunning.
Created by accident in 1886 when an engineer simply wanted to release excessive water pressure during the construction of a reservoir system, the fountain quickly became a tourist attraction and was moved and made taller.
Built in the 1930s, this impressive classical compound was home to the League of Nations until it became the office of the United Nations at Geneva after the organization was established in 1945 to promote and international cooperation and diplomacy.
Located in the public Ariana Park, the Palais des Nations has 34 conference rooms and 2,800 offices for programmes such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the Economic Commission for Europe. Included in admission is an hour-long tour of Assembly Hall, the golden-muraled Council Chamber, historic exhibitions, and the surrounding gardens.
With 8,000 square metres full of regional fauna, mammals, amphibians, insects, invertebrates, birds, and minerals, the Museum of Natural History is a sensory and intellectually stimulating stop on your Geneva trip.
The largest natural history museum in Switzerland, it is complete with dinosaur fossils, a re-creation of the hominid Lucy, and exhibits on current environmental issues facing the planet.
This Romanesque-Gothic and Neoclassical cathedral in the middle of Geneva is where protestant reformer John Calvin gave his sermons in the 16th century. Beneath the cathedral are the archaeological remains of former sanctuaries and churches of the Roman Empire, while inside the church itself are 4th century murals and stained glass, as well as 14th and 15th century chapels.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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Stroll along the promenades of Lake Geneva and take in the fresh Alpine air and gorgeous city views. Pop into a café, browse a street market, take a boat ride onto the lake, and even water ski. Along the left bank is the English Garden, Geneva’s green getaway that features a bronze fountain a various busts by renowned European sculptors such as Alex André of Paris.
In the middle of the garden is its main attraction: an enormous clock adorned with thousands of flowers, showing off the natural beauty and watch industry of the city.
Wander the tranquil cobblestone streets lined with quaint shuttered homes in charming Old Town, located on the left bank, along Rue St-Léger and Rue de Granges. Full of cafes, boutiques, bistros, and bars, Old Town is also surrounded by a handful of excellent museums like the Musée Barbier-Müller featuring artwork and sculpture from Africa and Asia.
Stop by the Place du Bourg-de-Four, a historic square and marketplace during Roman times. Also check out the Auditoire de Calvin, a 13th century chapel, and the Maison Tavel museum that depicts the history of urban life in Geneva.
Rest your bones in the sauna and steam room of the Bains des Pâquis, a hedonistic refuge located pier SFr2 on the right bank of Lake Geneva. The pier itself, marked by a lighthouse, is a popular destination to soak in sun, swim in the lake, or just hang out and relax.
The Bains des Pâquis is complete with two (one mixed and one female-only) Turkish baths or hammams, a sauna, solarium, and professional massage treatment. Bring lunch or dine at the Bains des Pâquis restaurant that serves great Swiss specialties.
Catch free screenings of blockbusters, cult classics, and independent films at dawn during the summer months. Held at the water’s edge on the right bank of Lake Geneva and put together by CinéTransat, the screenings invite you to enjoy the city’s sunsets in good company. Snacks, drinks, and lawn chairs are available, but everyone is invited to bring their own picnics and blankets.
A short ten minutes from the airport is the newly-renovated Warwick Hotel. Each elegant room features modern amenities such as a flat screen TV, high-speed Internet access, a desk, and tea and coffee-making facilities. The local and international cuisine of the hotel’s restaurant Tso is sure to please any discerning traveller.
With dazzling views of Mont Blanc and Jet d’Eau fountain, the Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva is a convenient 5-minute walk from the city centre. Each room in this 5-star hotel is equipped with large windows, high speed Internet access, a plasma TV, and lakeside views. Also featuring three restaurants and a nightclub, the hotel offers great cuisine and entertainment right on the premises.
Superbly located minutes from the Geneva Airport and the United Nations Building, the NH Geneva Airport Hotel offers a convenient and comfortable stay. Enjoy a meal at the hotel’s Pavillon restaurant or a drink at the B4 bar. The hotel also provides guests with free shuttle transportation to and from the airport.
Check out the Moevenpick Casino and Hotel for a host of fine dining and entertainment options with various restaurants, cafes, and a piano bar. Each spacious room comes with air-conditioning, a wireless Internet connection, and a minibar, while the hotel has an airport shuttle, business centre, and parking.
If you want more options you can look for a hotel in Geneva here.
Geneva has an extensive and dependable public transport system that spans the entire city. The same company, TPG, runs all trams, trolleys, and buses, making tickets purchased for one conveniently valid for all forms of travel. Prices are according to distance travelled and tickets should be bought at coin-only machines next to each stop.
To get from one bank to another, ferries and boats that cross the water leave approximately every 15 minutes and are a pleasant and affordable way to travel. Because these networks are so efficient, taxi travel is not necessary unless you are in a particular hurry and do not mind their high fees.
Gare Routière is the central bus station with buses leaving to and coming from cities in Switzerland and Europe. If you book a guided tour, it will also most likely depart from Gare Routière. Gare Cornavin is the central train station with trains running from Geneva to all over Europe.
Prefer to see Geneva by bike? The city offers free bicycles near the Gare Cornavin station as well as near the Bains des Pâquis. Though parking in the city centre is difficult, you may wish to opt for car hire in Geneva to guarantee maximum mobility.
Thankfully, the Geneva Contrin Airport is only a few kilometres from the city centre. Taxis and limousines are available for hire, however there is also a train station within steps of the terminal. Alternatively, the number 10 bus stops directly outside of the terminal and serves the city centre, while other buses serve the Palais de Nations building and other neighbourhoods. Many hotels also offer free airport shuttle transportation.
Intimate and friendly, L’Entrecôte Couronnée (5 rue des Pâquis) boasts delicious Swiss dishes for either lunch or dinner. Start with a smoked beef carpaccio or marinated duckling, followed by one of the restaurant’s tender steaks or the monkfish fillet. With a personal greeting from the chef before ordering, L’Entrecôte Couronnée welcomes all travellers as if they were well-loved locals.
Simple, delicious, and reasonably priced Italian food is served up at La Trattoria restaurant (1 rue de la Servette), located near the railway station Gare Cornavin. Pizzas are oven-baked to perfection, while the Sicilian penne pasta and rich lasagne are also favourites. Though it tends to be crowded, the family-run La Trattoria is a sure bet for authentic Italian cuisine.
Located in Hotel President Wilson is Spice’s (47 Quai Wilson), a restaurant with incredible Asian fusion cuisine, accented by a few international dishes. Entrees include sweet-and-sour crayfish and lobster, sea bass with Sicilian artichokes, or duck foie gras ravioli. Though the restaurant a bit pricey, the delicious and varied menu and warm and attentive service make Spices worth the splurge.
Eat in elegance at Le Chat Botté (13 quai du Mont-Blanc) inside the luxurious lakeside Beau-Rivage Hôtel. Enjoy incredible views of the harbour and the mountains from your table, and sit on the restaurant’s flower-covered terrace during summer months. With an innovative and gourmet menu by chef Dominique Gauthier, dishes at Le Chat Botté include fried spicy salmon, venison with quince and cinnamon, roasted scampis, and French favourites like foie gras.
The health system in Geneva is excellent and can be compared with that of France. Before leaving, ask your local Social Security centre for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Though there are no required vaccinations to enter Switzerland, those recommended include tetanus, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and measles. The water is potable and there is a variety of bottled water as well.
Some helpful numbers include:
Emergency room at Hospital de la Tour: (022)78 780 01 11
Dial 144 for an ambulance.
Dial 117 for Police.
Dial 118 for the Fire department.
Dial 140 for road rescue.
General doctor: Dr. Dieter Kraft; Gilbert Trolliet 1209; 022 740 11 111
Some pharmacies include the Grand Casino at 10 Quai du Mont-Blanc and Pharmacie Principale at 8 Confédération Street.
Geneva is a very safe city, and crime and assaults are infrequent. Still, do not walk alone at night or in poorly lit areas, and make sure to keep expensive items that may attract attention hidden. Do not accept food or drink from strangers. If renting a car, do not leave your belongings visible in them while it is parked.