How do you spend 1 day in Geneva?
The city where two rivers meet, the second-most populous city, and the largest French-speaking city in Switzerland. This is Geneva.
Geneva is the only global city in the world with many international organizations and non-governmental agencies, and it is the center of international diplomacy.
The city has an oceanic climate with cool winters and warm summers. With 82 historical sites, there is a lot you can do with 1 day in Geneva.
Geneva is accessible by flight via Geneva Airport which serves several major European cities, and North African, and Middle Eastern Airports.
While the old town of Geneva is accessible by foot, getting around is easy as the public transportation system is efficient.
With its large international community, there is a huge variety of restaurants and cuisine available. The city is also very safe and you do not have to worry about kidnapping or mugging.
Willkommen in Genf! Which means Welcome to Geneva!
Disclaimer: This post contains my affiliate links which may earn me a commission if you click on them, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog!
Where is Geneva?
Geneva is at the southwestern end of Lake Geneva where the lake meets the Rhone River. The city is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains. This gives the city a temperate oceanic climate.
Geneva is the leading financial center with the largest concentration of international organizations. Commodity, trade finance, and wealth management are the three most significant drivers of the economy.
The earliest written record is by Caesar in BC who destroyed the Rhone bridge and built a 19-mile earthwork from Lake Geneva to Jura Mountains to prevent the Celtic Helvetti tribe from advancing into the area.
As the city grew in population and size, it became the target for conquest from the Kingdom of Burgundy to the Franks. In 563 AD, a massive landslide triggered a tsunami that destroyed the city.
By the Middle Ages, Geneva trade fairs reached their peak, giving the town an international reputation. By the early 16th century, the first Protestant refugees arrived from France and Geneva became home to a Protestant Reformation.
The 18th century saw a boom in business, banking, and watchmaking. The artistic creativity flourished. During World War 1, Geneva was the seat for the League of Nations and after World War 2, the city saw steady economic growth.
Due to its geographic location at the crossroad of Europe and its political neutrality, Geneva continues to be an international city with many international institutions having their headquarters in Geneva.
Depending on your nationality, you may require a visa to enter Switzerland. As Switzerland is part of the Schengen Area, citizens from 26 countries such as Austria, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany do not require a visa to enter Switzerland.
Additionally, passport holders from the United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not require a visa, whether as a tourist or on business.
The easiest way to apply for a visa is using iVisa which simplifies the process of getting a Swiss visa, should you require one.
How do you get around Geneva?
Being a small city and having a reliable and efficient public transportation system makes getting around Geneva a breeze. The city has several options with walking being the easiest. With limited parking spots, driving or renting a car is not a good idea.
The best way to get around Geneva is by foot. As Geneva is small, the city center including the Old Town is compact and the major attractions are all within walking distance. It helps that the city is pedestrian-friendly with wide pathways.
This is the second best way to get around Geneva. The Transports publics genovis manages the trams, bus, and ferry network that runs through the city. Get the Swiss Travel Pass or the Geneva Travel Pass that gives you free public transportation and entry into 40 attractions in the city.
Trains are another best way to get around the city. To get to the city from the airport, get to the train station near the Arrivals area. The trains stop at the main train station, Gare Cornavin. The ticket costs CHF 3.00 ($3.22) to the city center.
From the main station, there are trains to France, especially to the major cities in the Auvergne- Rhone Alpes and connects to the TGV to Paris and Marseille.
The intercity trains that originate from the airport run along the northern shore of Lake Geneva via Cornavin before heading towards Lausanne. The journey to Lausanne from Geneva’s main station can take up to an hour.
Uber is available in Geneva and they are about 40 to 50% cheaper than taxis. All you need to do is download the application on your mobile and ensure you have sufficient funds to cover your transportation costs.
These yellow water boats are known as Les Mouettes which translates to “seagulls” in French. These boats take you from the left shore to the right shore of Lake Geneva and vice versa. The boats depart every 10 minutes along 4 routes.
This is not one of the best ways to get around Geneva. Although taxi drivers are polite and keep their vehicles clean, the rates are expensive. The meter starts at CHF 6.30 ($6.77) with an additional CHF 7.40 ($7.95) for every kilometer traveled with an additional CHF 0.60 ($0.65) charged between midnight and 6 am.
You may need to pay more if there are additional pieces of luggage. The two main taxi stands are at Place Du Lac and Gare Cornavin Train Station. Alternatively, you can call Taxi Phone or Taxi Ambassador to book your ride.
This is also not one of the best ways to get around Geneva. With limited parking and rush hour traffic, driving here is stressful. A United States driving license is recognized with the minimum driving age being 21 years.
Additionally, the signages are in French, fuel is calculated by the liter, and distance is measured by the kilometer. Renting a car is also expensive, it would be easier to join a tour group or have a private tour instead.
How can I spend 24 hours in Geneva?
When you only have 24 hours in Geneva, every minute matters. You might think if it’s possible to visit Geneva without rushing through its major landmarks. With Geneva’s historical core being small, this walking guide helps you with your 1 day in Geneva itinerary.
This useful map gives you a birds-eye view of the places mentioned in this guide.
The Geneva Fountain
The first of our 1 day in Geneva is the Geneva Fountain or Jet d‘Eau which simply means “water jet”. This is Geneva’s iconic landmark that is located where Lake Geneva exits as Rhone River.
The fountain was just an aesthetic value as the water fountain was built to control and release excess pressure from the nearby hydraulic power plant.
About 500 liters which are about 132 US gallons are pumped to an altitude of 140 meters. Be prepared to be drenched if there is a change in wind direction. The fountain can be reached via a stone jetty at the left bank of the lake.
There is no entrance fee to visit the fountain and you can easily spend about 1 to 2 hours walking along Lake Geneva’s shores as there are plenty of photo opportunities.
St Pierre Cathedral
The second of our 1 day in Geneva is the St Pierre Cathedral which is the oldest church in Geneva. St Pierre Cathedral is a 17-minute walk from Geneva Fountain. The present cathedral was built in the early 12th century.
The cathedral was rebuilt and reconstructed many times throughout Geneva’s history. The interiors are rather plain as most of it was destroyed in 1535 when the residents of Geneva accepted the Reformation and destroyed the altars, statues, and paintings.
Is St Pierre Cathedral free?
Yes, St Pierre Cathedral is free to visit. To access the towers of the cathedral, there is a fee of CHF 7.00 ($7.50) for adults and CHF 5.00 ($5.35) for children. Walk up the 157 steps and discover the emblematic symbol of the Reformation and admire the beauty of the city from above.
Palais des Nations
The third of our 1 day in Geneva is the Palais des Nations or Palace of Nations which is 2 miles or a 45-minute walk from St Pierre’s Cathedral. This is the home of the United Nations Office in Geneva. The building is located in Ariana Park with stunning views of Lake Geneva and the French Alps.
Where are the four UN Headquarters located?
The UN Headquarters are in New York with its four international headquarters in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, and the Hague.
What is the Palace of Nations used for?
The Palace of Nations is one of the largest diplomatic conference centers in the world with about 5,300 meetings organized annually. Some of the conference rooms date back to the 1930s when the building was the headquarters for the League of Nations.
The Broken Chair
The fourth of our 1 day in Geneva is the Broken Chair which is a quick 5-minute walk from the Palace of Nations. This chair is made out of wood at a height of 39 feet.
The chair stands on three legs and has a simple message attached to it symbolically. The message is to support the victims of landmines and to urge government bodies to support the Ottawa Treaty on landmines.
The fifth of our 1 day in Geneva is the Brunswick Monument. This monument is an easy 30-minute walk from the Broken Chair. This monument was built to commemorate the life of Charles II, the Duke of Brunswick who donated his fortune to the city of Geneva in exchange for a beautiful memorial and a monument in his name.
The Duke of Brunswick specifically requested that the monument must be a replica of the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy. The monument is within the Le Jardin des Alpes Park next to Lake Geneva.
The sixth of our 1 day in Geneva is Lake Geneva. This is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe and is shared between Switzerland and France.
As the lake spreads over two countries, the major cities worth exploring include Lausanne, Nyon, Montreaux, Morges, and Vevey in Switzerland.
With its crescent shape, the lake is home to varied landscapes. It has breathtaking views of the Alps on its eastern side and vine-covered slopes with castles and villages on its northern side.
Day Trip: Chamonix and Mont Blanc
The seventh and last of our 1 day in Geneva is a day trip to Chamonix and Mont Blanc. This mountain resort is in the French Alps with Chamonix being the starting point for the ascent toward Mont Blanc.
As Mont Blanc is one of the highest mountains in Europe, it is known as the “rooftop of the world”. The first two climbers who climbed this mountain were Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard in 1786.
What are the best places to stay in Geneva?
These are our picks on the top 5 best places to stay in Geneva. From refurbished historical to modern buildings, these hotels would make your stay a comfortable one, even if it is just for 1 day in Geneva.
Our first choice for 1 day in Geneva hotel is the Beau-Rivage Hotel which is a 52-room hotel with a modern grand facade restored. The historic hotel is in a 145-year-old building and welcomes guests like Sting and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The rooms have large comfortable beds and are draped in heavy furnishings and period-style furniture. Guests loved that the staff addressed them by name with their little attention to detail in taking care of guests’ needs.
Guests also loved the lovely terraced that overlooked the lake, the large and comfortable beds, and the delicious breakfast spread.
The best suites are the Henri Dunant Suite which pays tribute to the founder of the Red Cross. The room is in soft hues and allows abundant daylight. The area has a separate living area and comes with all the modern amenities expected from a 5-star hotel.
Our second choice for 1 day in Geneva hotel is the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues which is a 115-room in Neo-classical style.
The hotel is on the banks of Lake Geneva, next to Point Du Mont Blanc which is the main bridge across the Rhone River to the city center. All rooms have large and comfortable beds, quiet air conditioning, and a minibar with gluten-free options.
Guests loved the easy access to public transportation, the breathtaking views from the rooms, the fast check-in and check-out, and the excellent breakfast spread choices that befit its status as a 5-star hotel.
The best suite is the Leman Suite with King Bed which is in pastel tones of light blue and beige while the Mont Blanc Suite with King Bed is in raspberry and beige and comes with a complete view of Lake Geneva.
Our third choice for 1 day in Geneva hotel is the Fairmont Grand which is a 412-room hotel on the banks of Lake Geneva facing Jet d‘Eau. The hotel is within walking distance of the Geneva Fountain, the Flower Clock, and the Cornavin Train Station.
Guests who stayed here loved the excellent staff, the convenient location, and the large rooms with comfortable beds. Guests also loved the indoor pool, and the breakfast spread choices available.
For the best view of Jet d‘Eau and the Alps, take the Executive Suite with Lake View that comes with a luxurious marble bathroom and large oval bathtub, and a separate shower. Connecting rooms are available for the Executive Suites.
Our fourth choice for 1 day in Geneva hotel is the Mandarin Oriental which is a 178-room hotel. This 5-star hotel elegantly combines luxury and service, making this the perfect place for work or leisure.
All rooms come with flat-screen televisions, a Nespresso machine, and a minibar that can be refilled without disturbing you. The rooms are large and are in earth tones and with parquet flooring and wool carpets that bring out the simple elegance of the room.
The best rooms are the Penthouse Suite and the Royal Penthouse which are on the 7th floor. These rooms have a terrace that overlooks the Rhone River and the snow-capped mountains of the Alps, and the Old Town.
Guests loved the excellent location, friendly staff, and delicious breakfast spread. Although the WiFi is not fast, the beautiful decor and incredible service from the staff made the stay memorable.
Our fifth and last choice for 1 day in Geneva hotel is the Les Armures which is a 32-room boutique hotel that is at the heart of Geneva’s Old Town. The hotel is in a 17th-century residence that spreads over 4 buildings.
The largest and best room in this hotel is the Junior Suite which comes with a King Bed, living area, and the old exposed stonework that adds history to this room.
Guests loved the warm welcome on arrival, the clean and comfortable rooms, and the exceptional housekeeping who made the bed with clean sheets daily. Guests also loved the friendly staff and the convenient location within the Old Town.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Geneva
Do you still have questions about Geneva? Read more in our FAQ sections on Geneva. Hope you find this information useful.
Geneva is in the southwestern corner of Switzerland and is the second-most populous city in Switzerland and the most populous city in Romandy, the French-speaking region of Switzerland.
Yes, they do speak English in Geneva due to its international city status. French, German, and Italian are the national languages of Switzerland. English is the most-spoken non-national language in Geneva.
Yes, Geneva is a walkable city. A simple walk could begin at Pont du Mont Blanc, the English Garden, Flower Clock, Saint Peter’s Cathedral, and Bastions Park. Join a chocolate-themed walking tour or express walking tour with a local that completes within an hour and takes you through the lesser-known parts of the city.
Geneva is an international city because it is home to the United Nation’s European Headquarters, 36 international organizations, about 700 non-governmental agencies, and 179 diplomatic missions.
With all these organizations, it isn’t surprising that about 32,000 of Geneva’s population consists of international civil servants and diplomats.
With French, German, Italian, and Romansh being the four official languages, here are four ways to say hello in Switzerland. In German, you say “Grüezi” to greet one person and “Grüezi Mitenand” to greet two or more persons.
For the French-speaking regions of Geneva, you say “bonjour” while in the Italian-speaking regions, you say “Buongiorno”. In the Romansh regions, you say “bun di” which means hello in English.
Yes, transport is free in Geneva, even for tourists. If you stay at a hotel, hostel, or campsite, you will receive a personal and non-transferable Geneva Transport Card.
This card gives you free rides on buses, trams, trains, and yellow taxi boats. Make sure to ask your hotel’s front desk receptionist about the card upon check-in.
United States Dollars (USD) are not accepted in Switzerland. The legal currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF). You don’t need to carry much cash as debit and credit cards are accepted. Always ensure that the transaction is processed in Swiss Francs. It’s best to confirm with your bank if they have fees for international transactions.
Geneva is the center of international diplomacy. It is home to the United Nations and is the global financial center. Geneva is also famous for its Swiss chocolates and watches and its superb public transportation system.
Being the center of international diplomacy may make Geneva a boring destination, here’s why Geneva has to be on your bucket list.
1) International city. Imagine walking down a street in Geneva and bumping into someone who speaks the same language as you. Yes, that happens in Geneva.
2) Food. When it comes to food, Geneva is the place to be. From traditional cheese fondue to paneer butter chicken, finding international food is a breeze.
3) Gateway to the Alps. In Geneva, you can visit one of the largest lakes in Europe and the highest peak in Europe on the same day.
4) Mysteries of the Universe. The headquarters of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is on the outskirts of Geneva. After that, choose to visit one of the many museums that make Geneva unique.
5) Chocolate. Yes, chocolate it is. Lindt, Cailler, and Toblerone are famous Swiss brands that we love and enjoy. Whether you eat or drink chocolate, get your chocolate fix in Geneva.
Geneva is an international city that has small-town vibes. Unlike Zurich, Geneva is much quieter and sees fewer tourists. This culturally vibrant city has many museums, art fairs, and exhibitions.
You can sip coffee along the shores of Lake Geneva before walking to Old Town. Geneva’s Old Town has lively streets and well-maintained parks. And, countless shops invite you to spend your money’s worth. Still undecided? Just make that trip to Geneva!