During your holiday in Annecy, you can cross the border to Switzerland and particularly the beautiful city of Geneva. In less than 30 minutes from Annecy, you will be there. Discover our guide to visit Geneva in one day.
The city of Geneva is located on the shores of Lake Geneva on the border with the French city of Annemasse. It is one of the five richest cities in the world. We offer you our guide to what to see and do in a one-day visit during your holiday.
Geneva’s Jet d’Eau
It has been the city’s great symbol since 1891. In the beginning, this water jet was used as a safety drain for the city’s waterworks. It was only 30 metres long. In the 1950s, the water jet was extended to a height of 140 metres. 500 litres of water per second are propelled at 200 km/h. At any one time, 7 tons of water make up this colossal jet. It is located on the Eaux-Vives pier, and we recommend that you take advantage of the spray it produces when it is very hot.
The Old Town of Geneva
The Old Town of Geneva is easily visited on foot. The historic site contains many monuments which are recommended for understanding the history of the city of Geneva:
- The Reformers’ Wall,
- The promenade de la Treille,
- The Tavel house: transformed into a museum, it is the oldest house in the city,
- The Place du Bourg-de-Four: you can enjoy the restaurants and cafés while admiring the façade of the Museum of Art and History. To reach the cathedral, you have to take the hidden passage of the Degrés de Poules,
- The Saint-Pierre cathedral and the Macchabees chapel,
- The Parc des Bastions,
- Calvin’s college which dates from the 16th century,
- The Molard Tower: located on the edge of the Old Town, it dates from 1591 with a coat of arms linked to the history of Geneva and a beautiful clock.
An offbeat photo idea: Photograph the strange street name plaques such as Rue de la Croix d’Or, Rue du Purgatoire and Rue de Toutes Âmes.
St Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva
This Catholic place of worship became Protestant in 1535. It is now one of the main tourist sites of Geneva along with the Jet d’Eau. The Protestant cult inspired by Calvin provided for very bare churches, with all forms of ornament and opulence removed.
To complete your visit of the building, you can climb the 157 steps of the towers to discover a beautiful view of the city. The adjoining chapel will surprise you with its rich decoration. Finally, in the basement, the archaeological site presents the foundations of the old cathedral. If you wish to understand the history of Protestantism, the International Museum of the Reformation is located nearby in the Mallet House.
The Parc des Bastions
The Parc des Bastions is a pleasant place frequented by walkers and students because of its proximity to the university. It is an opportunity for a shady stroll. You can admire: the Wall of the Reformers, which was built to honour the great preachers of the Reformation. In a playful way, the six giant chess sets allow you to follow or play games. The music festival is held every year in this park.
The Treille Walk
This very pleasant promenade near the Old Town of Geneva and the Town Hall is the oldest in the city, you can sit on the longest bench in the world. Made of wood, it is 120 metres long. You will also find what the locals call the “official chestnut tree”. The blossoming of the first green leaf of this tree indicates the beginning of spring in the city.
The Parc de la Grange and the Parc des Eaux-vives
A 10-minute walk from the jet d’eau takes you to the left bank on the Quai Gustave Ador. You will discover two of the most beautiful parks in the city:
- The Grange park allows you to discover: the ruins of an ancient Roman villa, the Théâtre de Verdure and the Orangerie park, a magnificent rose garden. You can also meet sheep in summer. You can also enjoy the picnic area and even a barbecue area set up for this purpose. Your children can also enjoy the paddling pool and the playground.
- The Eaux Vives park: the landscaping of the flowerbeds is very well done with large fir trees, a waterfall and numerous small wooden bridges. To eat, you have the excellent restaurant of Eaux-Vives.
The Flower Clock and the English Garden
The Flower Clock is located in the Jardin Anglais. This landscaped construction pays tribute to the Swiss watchmaking tradition and changes its appearance according to the seasons and the inspiration of the gardeners. It is an opportunity for the many tourists to take a time-stamped selfie.
The Jardin Anglais is a beautiful public garden near Lake Geneva. You can get close to the Ferris wheel and during the warm season enjoy the shade of the trees during your visit. This garden has the National Monument which celebrates the joining of the city to Switzerland in 1814. This is more recent than you might think. You can also cross the Mont Blanc bridge over the lake to the north of the park. The old bandstand sometimes offers concerts in summer.
Les Bains des Pâquis
This is a very good place to share a moment with locals and discover the Geneva lifestyle. For swimming in the summer, having breakfast, skating or simply drinking a coffee facing the lake, this is the place to be. The food is tasty and reasonably priced for Geneva. You can also take advantage of the water activities and massages in summer. In winter, a sauna and a hammam complete the relaxation offer. It is also an opportunity to enjoy a good Swiss fondue at an affordable price.
Admission to this public facility costs 2 Swiss francs.
The United Nations Palace in Geneva
This large neoclassical building was built in the early 20th century. It houses the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. It is the seat of intense diplomatic activity at the global level. Many international organisations are also present on the site in the scientific and economic fields.
To discover this unique site in Europe, we advise you, because of the security measures applied, to choose the guided tour formula:
- The visit of the great Ariana Park: this immense expanse of greenery encircles the palace and has beautiful fountains to discover,
- The history of the Palace: this visit allows you to understand the history of the place over the years,
- The activities of the UN: this highly educational tour explains how the UN institutions work in Geneva.
- The combined visit to the League of Nations Museum, in addition to the Palais des Nations, you will understand the history of the international organisation that preceded the United Nations.
The broken chair
This monumental work of art is erected in front of the Palais des Nations and symbolises the fight against the use of anti-personnel mines with a broken foot. Handicap International had it installed in 1997. At over 12 metres high, you can’t miss this creation by Daniel Berset called Broken Chair.
The Geneva Botanical Garden
After your visit to the Palais des Nations, near Lake Geneva, you can discover the Geneva Botanical Garden. It is a very well maintained natural site with very beautiful glasshouses. These greenhouses allow you to see the vegetation of several climates: desert, temperate and tropical. For lovers of Japanese culture, don’t miss the very pretty little Japanese garden. We recommend this visit for the whole family, and admission is free.
Great museums and visits in Geneva
A large choice of museums allows the visitor to make a choice according to your interests:
- The Ariana Museum: allows you to discover the techniques of creation of ceramics. Moreover, the very beautiful architecture of the place is worth a visit.
- The Museum of Art and History: this large museum is located in the old town and its permanent exhibition is free of charge.
- CERN: The Universe of Particles exhibition is an opportunity to understand the work of international researchers on elementary particles. The site is outside Geneva, straddling France and Switzerland. You can also discover the Microcosm exhibition. Visits are free.
- TheOrthodox Church of Geneva: this religious building is not a museum, but its typical architecture is worth a visit to understand the Orthodox religion.
- The Patek Philippe Museum: The reputation of the quality of Swiss watchmaking is worldwide. Discovering the museum of this famous brand is an opportunity to see very luxurious models produced by the factory for several centuries. You can appreciate objects in miniature enamel painting, which is a speciality of Geneva.
Cruises and boat hire on Lake Geneva
As with Lake Annecy, Lake Geneva offers tourist cruises that allow you to discover the lake’s shores while resting or dining. Different formulas are proposed: a cruise with lunch or dinner, a visit to the Geneva shores of the lake, a longer cruise to visit Nyon and Lausanne. As with Lake Annecy, it is also possible to hire a boat to visit the area at your own pace.
The Geneva International Motor Show
If you are visiting Geneva in March, we recommend that you visit the Motor Show. It is the opportunity to see the latest novelties and concept cars from the world’s leading brands. Due to the high purchasing power of the Swiss clientele, the most prestigious brands are present:Bugatti, Roll Royce, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The show is held at the Palexpo near Geneva International Airport
The Geneva Pass: a good way to save money
As with any major capital city, you can purchase a pass to enjoy free admission and discounts on many activities:
- Guided tours by train, bus or on foot,
- Certain cruises,
- Free admission to all museums,
- Free use of public transport in Geneva.
This pass is available for one, two or three consecutive days.