Make the most of your time in this gorgeous Swiss city with our best things to do in Geneva, Switzerland – home to the UN, CERN, the beautiful Lake Geneva, an impressive Old Town, and more.
When we first locked in our trip to Geneva, one of Switzerland’s largest and most significant cities, we were most excited to check out CERN, as that was all we really knew for what to do.
After we arrived we were instantly amazed at just how many incredible things to see and do there are in this beautiful city, perfectly suited to travellers of all kinds.
Set on the edge of the gorgeous Lake Geneva and surrounded by the Swiss Alps, there is an abundance of natural beauty here.
You can take day trips to the Alps to see peaks, valleys, and glaciers, jump on the cable car up into the forests, or try out some water sports right in town on Lake Geneva.
Geneva is also a huge center for international diplomacy and has a vast history.
You can visit the United Nations office or visit a number of interesting museums. The Old Town of Geneva is also one of the largest and oldest in all of Europe.
Geneva is also home to some incredible green spaces, such as Parc de la Grange and Parc des Bastions.
You can check out the Botanical Garden and the famous Jet D’eau Fountain during your sightseeing, or go on a local chocolate-tasting tour.
There is really so much to do when you visit Geneva. It is a stunning city with a rich history and lots of culture as well as natural beauty.
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Table of Contents
- The Best Things to Do in Geneva, Switzerland
- 1) Visit the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
- 2) Admire the Jet D’Eau
- 3) Take a Tour of the United Nations Building
- 4) Taste Swiss Chocolate
- 5) Explore Old Town Geneva
- 6) Bathe in the Bains des Pâquis
- 7) Visit the Parks
- 8) See the Flower Clock
- 9) Go E-Biking
- 10) Ride the Mont Salève Cable Car
- 11) Visit the International Museum of Reformation
- 12) Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- 13) Visit the Art and History Museum
- 14) Stroll Through the Botanical Garden and Conservatory
- 15) Take A Day Trip to Mont Blanc
- 16) Wakeboard or Wakesurf on Lake Geneva
- 17) Tour the CERN Institute
- 18) Check out the Patek Philippe Museum
- 19) Try Foil Boarding
- 20) See the St. Pierre Cathedral
- 21) Visit the Natural History Museum
- 22) Go on a Running Tour
- 23) Take A Boat Cruise on Lake Geneva
- Where to Stay in Geneva – hôtel Cornavin
The Best Things to Do in Geneva, Switzerland
In this article, we’ll dive into most of the best things to do in Geneva, from exploring the Old Town to visiting the museums to getting out on Lake Geneva for some water sports.
Also, consider getting the Geneva Pass before your visit. The Geneva Pass gets you discounts and free offers at some of the top attractions in the city.
So if you plan on visiting lots of museums, taking public transport, or booking any tours or cruises, the Geneva Pass can save you money during your trip.
Let’s uncover what to see in Geneva, Switzerland!
1) Visit the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum is one of the top Geneva attractions.
This museum unites history, science, and humanitarian efforts. There is lots of art and content to discover here that tells the stories of people from all different cultures and backgrounds.
You can find permanent and temporary exhibitions, all of which dive into the concept of humanitarianism and how it ties to emotions and current events.
If you want to start off your visit to Geneva with some deep reflection on the world, the Red Cross Museum is a great place to start.
- Address: Av. de la Paix 17, 1202 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 10am – 6pm (Closed Mondays)
- Cost: 15 CHF
2) Admire the Jet D’Eau
One of the most unforgettable things to see in Geneva is the Jet D’eau. This massive fountain on Lake Geneva is one of the tallest fountains in the world.
It was originally built in 1886 with the purpose of releasing pressure from a nearby hydraulic plant. But since then, the Jet D’eau has become a symbol of the city.
Jet D’eau pumps through 500 liters of water per second. The water shoots up into the air at such a velocity that it can reach 140 meters.
While sightseeing in Geneva, you are sure to see the Jet D’eau shooting into the sky from wherever you are.
Be sure to take a moment to admire and appreciate the famous fountain, as it is a beloved landmark in the city.
3) Take a Tour of the United Nations Building
The United Nations is an international organization founded at the end of WWII. It serves as a platform for different countries to address their issues, in the hopes of creating more peace and cooperation for the world.
The United Nations is an important part of international relations today. Though its headquarters are in New York, there is another United Nations office in Geneva that is home to multiple branches of the organization.
The office is located in the Palais des Nations, which is one of the top conference centers for world leaders.
Palais des Nations was originally the meeting point for the League of Nations in the 1930s, so it has always served as a vital center for international diplomacy.
You can book a one-hour guided tour of the Palais des Nations online.
Also be sure to check out the Broken Chair sculpture across the street, which symbolizes the importance of looking out for the victims of violence around the world.
- Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: Hours vary based on the department, check the website for details.
- Cost: A guided tour is 16 CHF
4) Taste Swiss Chocolate
You can’t visit Switzerland without indulging in lots of delicious Swiss chocolate!
While exploring the wonderful city of Geneva, stop into many of the local chocolate shops to taste and shop for some amazing chocolate.
Or better yet, book a guided tour of the chocolate culture of Geneva. A chocolate walking tour of Geneva will take you to all the best shops and cafes in the city. You’ll also get to taste lots of the best chocolate treats around.
READ MORE: Check our our detailed guide on hiking in Switzerland
5) Explore Old Town Geneva
Wandering through the picturesque Old Town is one of the best things to do in Geneva.
Referred to as Vieille Ville in French, the charming Old Town is full of narrow, cobbled streets, historic buildings, unique museums, local cafes, art galleries, cafes, secret passageways, cool architecture, and so much more.
Place du Bourg de Four is the heart of the Old Town. As the oldest square in the city centre, Place de Bourg de Four is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
The Old Town encompasses thousands of years of history, and you can explore the whole thing on foot.
6) Bathe in the Bains des Pâquis
No matter what time of year you are visiting Geneva, you have to take a dip in the Bains des Pâquis.
Located on a man-made peninsula that jets out into Lake Geneva, the Bains des Pâquis is a spot with public baths, saunas, and a beach.
In the summer you can lie on the beach and soak in the sun. In the winter you can relax in the saunas and rejuvenate. There are also showers, toilets, changing rooms, and sports and recreation facilities.
The entire Bains des Pâquis area is open year-round, and it is free in the wintertime. It is located on the beautiful lakefront promenade, Quai du Mont Blanc.
- Address: Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, 1201 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 10am – 9pm (opens at 9am on Sundays)
- Cost: Free in winter, 2 CHF in summer
7) Visit the Parks
Another one of the best things to do in Geneva is visiting all the beautiful green spaces. Geneva is a relatively big city, but it doesn’t feel that way with all the amazing parks.
Parc de la Grange is one of the most gorgeous places in Geneva. As the largest green space in the city. Parc de la Grange has lots to see.
There is an 18th-century villa and numerous gardens, including the biggest rose garden in Geneva. Branching off from Parc de la Grange is Parc des Eaux Vives, a grassy area with impressively old and majestic trees.
Parc des Bastions is another great park to visit. It is located right near the Old Town and has gardens, lounge chairs, and playgrounds.
Right next to Parc des Bastions is Promenade de la Treille, one of the longest benches in the world that offers fantastic city views.
8) See the Flower Clock
Geneva’s famous flower clock is a must-see landmark in the city.
Located on the western side of the Jardin Anglais (the English Garden, another lovely green space in Geneva), this giant clock made up of colorful flower beds is a beautiful sight to see.
It is made up of thousands of flowers and is well-maintained year-round, though the plants change along with the seasons. It is free to visit and open 24/7 for access.
- Address: Quai du Général-Guisan 28, 1204 Genève, Switzerland
9) Go E-Biking
Though many attractions in Geneva are within walking distance, biking is a fun way to explore the city and cover more ground.
E-Bike Tour is an awesome local company where you can book e-biking tours around Geneva.
E-bikes give you that little extra bit of power and speed while biking so you can travel further without getting too tired.
They offer many different types of e-biking tours, including wine tours, art tours, chocolate tours, and Geneva highlights tours. Contact them to personalise your tour as well!
You can also go mountain biking in the mountains and trails around Geneva if you want to explore even more.
10) Ride the Mont Salève Cable Car
Hitching a ride up the majestic Mont Salève on the cable car is one of the most fun things to do in Geneva.
Mont Salève is a mountain in France that is just a 30-minute drive outside Geneva.
Fun things to do on the mountain include paragliding, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and more.
The cable car takes you up Mont Salève in just a few minutes. The views are beautiful, and it’s a fun little excursion to take outside Geneva.
- Address: Téléphérique du Salève, Route du Téléphérique, 74100 Etrembières, France
- Hours: Spring hours are 9:30am – 6pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:30am – 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Summer hours are 9:30am – 7pm every day, with 11pm closing times on Fridays and Saturdays.
11) Visit the International Museum of Reformation
The International Museum of Reformation is another unique museum to visit in Geneva. It is located right next to the Cathedrale de St. Pierre in the Old Town.
This museum focuses on the Protestant Reformation, which was a monumental movement in Europe in the 1500s that sparked religious reform. The movement was greatly influenced by John Calvin, a French minister in Geneva.
Geneva became a refuge for protestants during the reformation, and the teachings and actions of John Calvin helped make Geneva a center for enlightenment in Europe.
To learn more about John Calvin, the Protestant Reformation, and how it ties into Geneva and Europe’s history, this museum is worth a visit.
- Address: Rue du Cloître 4, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland
- Hours/Cost: The museum is currently closed for renovations, but more info can be found on the website.
12) Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding
This was what we got up to on our first day in Geneva, and we absolutely loved it.
Stand-up paddle boarding is a lovely way to experience the Rhone River, a major river in France and Switzerland that flows through the Alps.
For a fun and active day out in nature, book a stand-up paddle boarding tour with Rafting.Ch.
The tours run every day and leave from the Geneva city centre. You will then paddle for 7-12 km down the river, which takes around 2-3 hours. All your gear is provided!
13) Visit the Art and History Museum
As the largest art museum in the city, the Art and History Museum is one of the best things to do in Geneva for those who love to learn.
There are over 1 million pieces in this fascinating museum. The Art and History Museum covers the art and culture of Western civilization throughout history, with pieces dating back to ancient times.
See religious paintings, fine art sculptures, ancient pottery, and even Ancient Egyptian sphinxes and pharaohs. There is also a restaurant and a kid’s playground in the museum.
- Address: Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 11am – 6pm on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. 12pm – 9pm on Thursdays, closed Mondays.
- Cost: Free
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14) Stroll Through the Botanical Garden and Conservatory
Often referred to as a “Living Museum”, the Botanical Garden and Conservatory of Geneva is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
With over 16,000 different plant species, landscaped gardens, and peaceful walking trails, you can immerse yourself in nature at the Botanical Garden.
There is an Herbarium with one of the world’s largest collections of plant and fungi species, as well as a historic rose garden and unique, rotating exhibitions.
The garden is located next to Avenue De La Paix in downtown Geneva.
- Address: Chem. de l’Impératrice 1, 1292 Pregny-Chambésy, Switzerland
- Hours: 8am – 7:30pm
- Cost: Free
15) Take A Day Trip to Mont Blanc
One of the top Geneva activities is taking a day trip out to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.
If you don’t have a car when visiting Geneva, you can easily book a guided tour that will bring you to the incredible mountain.
Most day tours to Mont Blanc will bring you to the mountain resort town of Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc. Then you can take the cable car up to enjoy panoramic views of the Alps.
You could also book a Mont Blanc day trip that includes Glacier 3000. This 3,000-meter-high glacier is under 2 hours away from Geneva.
You will cross over the Peak Walk, a scenic walking platform that gives you the best views of the mountains and the glacier.
Whether you have a car and want to drive out there yourself, or you want to book a tour, a day trip to Mont Blanc is one of the top things to do in Geneva.
16) Wakeboard or Wakesurf on Lake Geneva
One of the best ways to explore Lake Geneva is by wakeboarding or wake surfing. If you’re craving something a little different from museums and gardens, get your adrenaline going by riding the waves behind a boat on Lake Geneva.
GenevaBoats is a local boat rental company that also offers wakeboarding and wake surfing tours as well as water skiing and water tubing.
For any adventurous, sports-loving travelers out there wondering what to do in Geneva, these water sports are a great option.
- Address: 27-29, Quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Genève, Switzerland
- Contact info: +41 79 775 04 12 or [email protected]
17) Tour the CERN Institute
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, often referred to as CERN, is the world’s largest particle physics lab.
The CERN Institute was established in 1954 and is located in Geneva. If you’re at all interested in physics and science, this is one of the top institutions in the world!
There are free guided tours of CERN every day that last 1.5 hours. Tours are extremely popular and availability is limited, but you can only book your spot on site.
CERN is also opening up a new visitor center in summer 2023, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
- Address: Espl. des Particules 1, 1211 Meyrin, Switzerland
- Hours: 8am – 6pm Monday – Saturday
- Cost: Free
18) Check out the Patek Philippe Museum
Another one of the coolest museums in Geneva is the Patek Philippe Museum. It showcases the history of Swiss watchmaking and manufacturing, from the 16th Century to the present day.
Patek Philippe is one of the world’s oldest watch manufacturers, and the Patek Philippe Museum is one of the world’s most prestigious horology museums.
There is an astonishing collection of antique watches, and the museum houses around 2,500 watches in total. You can also go on an educational tour or a private guided tour.
It is a fascinating place to learn about the art and history of Swiss watches.
- Address: Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, 1205 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 2pm – 6pm (Closed Mondays, opens at 10am on Saturdays)
- Cost: 10 CHF
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19) Try Foil Boarding
Tropical Corner is an awesome local tour company in Geneva that specializes in a variety of water sports such as windsurfing, paddleboarding, and foil boarding.
Foil boarding is a less well-known type of water sport, so if you’re looking to try something new, book a lesson with Tropical Corner!
A foil board is like a surfboard with a foil that extends down into the water, so you are surfing while raised above the surface of the water. It’s a super fun activity that makes you feel like you’re flying above the lake.
If you’re an experienced foil boarder and you don’t need lessons, Tropical Corner also has rentals. This is an awesome way to spend a day out on the beautiful Lake Geneva.
20) See the St. Pierre Cathedral
The Saint Pierre Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city center.
It was originally a Roman Catholic cathedral when it was built in the 12th Century. But the St. Pierre Cathedral transformed into a Reformed Protestant church during the pivotal Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.
St. Pierre Cathedral is the main church of Geneva and sports multiple different architectural styles including Neoclassic, Gothic, and Roman.
While exploring the Old Town, definitely take the time to check out this monumental landmark.
- Address: Cr de Saint-Pierre, 1204 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 10am – 5:30pm (Opens at 12pm on Sundays)
- Cost: Free
21) Visit the Natural History Museum
Many cities around the world have a Natural History Museum, and Geneva is no exception.
To discover more about the fascinating world of plants, animals, minerals, and other natural things, spend a few hours in this massive museum.
Check out the interactive exhibits, taxidermy displays, and unique collections of items from the natural world.
It’s the largest natural history museum in the country, so it’s a highlight of visiting Switzerland if you love museums.
- Address: Rte de Malagnou 1, 1208 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 10am – 5pm (Closed Mondays)
- Cost: Free
22) Go on a Running Tour
To get a workout in while sightseeing in Geneva, consider going on a running tour! Go Running Tours is an awesome local company that loves to present Geneva in a unique way.
They offer a variety of different running tours based on what you want to see and your fitness level.
If you’re an experienced runner and you want an epic challenge, take the “Climb of Your Life Tour”. It’s an 8km run that takes you up 900 metres so you can get an amazing view of Lake Geneva.
There are runs ranging from 7km – 16km. If you want a more leisurely tour, go on the City Highlights walking tour which is only 5km.
Either way, this is the best way to soak in the city life while running or walking with a local.
- Address: Rue de la Faucille 14, 1201 Genève, Switzerland
- Hours: 7am – 10pm
23) Take A Boat Cruise on Lake Geneva
One of the best ways to tackle your Geneva sightseeing is by taking a boat cruise on Lake Geneva.
If you’ve already tried paddle boarding, foil boarding, or wakeboarding, try enjoying the famous lake by just relaxing on a boat.
You can sit back, take in the sights of the city and the surrounding Alps, and just enjoy your epic trip to Switzerland.
A boat cruise of Lake Geneva usually lasts around one hour, so it’s an easy excursion to slide into your full days of sightseeing.
Geneva isn’t exactly a budget-friendly destination, but that’s ok – the quality of hotels is fantatic.
We personally stayed at the hôtel Cornavin, which was a great place to call home for a few nights in Geneva.
Famous for being featured in the Tin Tin comics, this centrally-located historical hotel has been refurbished and offers bright, comfortable rooms with great views over the city.
The included breakfast is pretty decent, staff are friendly and wifi is fast. It’s also located right next to the train station and near a major bus and tram stop, so perfect if you’re planning on getting around the city or elsewhere in Switzerland.
Where to Eat in Geneva:
Now that you know about the best things to do in Geneva, let’s discuss something that almost all travellers love to do: eat!
Switzerland has some incredible food and you have to indulge in some delicious local cuisine. Here are some of our favorite places to eat in Geneva.
This adorable cafe sits on the edge of a small park that surrounds the 19th-Century Brunswick Monument.
It has a cozy outdoor terrace where you can enjoy light breakfast and lunch meals.
For some classic French food, head to the Brasserie Bagatelle. This restaurant is located right next to the Notre Dame de Genève Cathedral and has a large selection of wines and desserts in addition to food.
Hotel de Ville Restaurant
You can’t leave Switzerland without tasting some classic fondue! This traditional local restaurant offers a delicious cheese fondue as well as other classic Swiss dishes.
Located right next to the English Garden and Lake Geneva, this charming cafe is the perfect place to grab lunch or cocktails with a view. They also do brunch and live music in the evenings.
You may not think of amazing Lebanese cuisine when visiting Geneva, but this restaurant has some of the best food in the city.
Balila Geneva is a Lebanese restaurant in the heart of Geneva that unites eastern cuisine and culture with the local French and Swiss influences.
Cafe du Centre
This local favorite has been open since the 1930s. It’s a restaurant with history as well as incredible food. They focus on fresh seafood and meat dishes with local flavors.