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Welcome to Geneva


With a pleasant setting, green parks, colourful gardens and lakeside promenades, Geneva is considered one of the healthiest places to live in the world. The city sits astride the River Rhône, where it streams into Lake Geneva, and is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. At the lake's south shore the Jet d'Eau shoots water 460ft (140m) into the sky from the end of a pier - the city's landmark attraction and Europe's most powerful fountain.

Undoubtedly Switzerland's most cosmopolitan city, Geneva's reputation for religious and political tolerance dates back more than five hundred years. In the 16th century the city spawned the religious teachings of John Calvin, and was where Lenin spent his 'years of recreation'. Little of their Puritanism is left today - stately homes line the banks of the lake, overlooking an armada of luxury yachts. Jewels and designer labels spill out of exclusive boutiques and into chauffer-driven limousines that slide down palatial avenues.

As well as a host of museums and fine galleries, Geneva has a lively cultural calendar. Most notable is the celebration of l'Escalade in December, which involves costumed and torch-lit processions through the town, and the consumption of sickly amounts of chocolate and marzipan.

Geneva is a gateway to Switzerland's luxury ski resorts, an important banking centre and home to thousands of international delegates and diplomats. Among the many international organisations based in the city are the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

Information & Facts


Geneva is situated at a high altitude, which together with the lake, tempers the prevailing continental climate. Summers are pleasantly warm to hot, and winters relatively mild with temperatures hovering just above or below freezing. Rain falls all year round, and occasionally the city suffers the ravages of a harsh north wind known as the bise.

Eating Out

Eating out in Geneva is a gratifying affair. With more restaurants per capita than New York City, Geneva offers a fantastic selection of traditional and local fare, as well as excellent international and ethnic cuisine. Local Geneva specialities include fresh fish from the lake and a variety of pork dishes, including petit salé(salt pork) and longeole(pork sausage). While Swiss cheese is enjoyed worldwide, Geneva has copious amounts of Raclette, Emmenthal and Gruyere, among other well-known cheeses on offer. These can be tasted in the quintessential Swiss fondue. Traditional Swiss restaurants can be found throughout the city but Place du Cirque and Quay Turrettini host some of the best. Diners eating out in Geneva will find a variety of international restaurants offering modern, traditional, ethnic or fusion menus. There are good French restaurants in the hotels on Quai Du Mont Blanc and Chemin du Petit Saconnex and on Rue de Lausanne. For Italian eateries try Rue de Fribourg, while Spanish food is best on Rue de Coutance. Rue du Prieuré has a delightful Indian restaurant, and there are great cafés on Boulevard Helvetique. While the prices at top restaurants can be astronomical the standards are just as high. There are also fixed-price menus available to lighten the load. A 7% service charge is included in all restaurant bills. Many Geneva restaurants close on weekends and especially Sundays, so call ahead to enquire; reservations are recommended.

Getting Around

Public transport consists of very dependable trams, buses and trolley buses that service the city quickly and efficiently, but if there is no hurry, it is cheaper and more practical to walk or cycle; from May to October city bicycles can be borrowed from Genev' Roule outside the main train station free of charge. The excellent bus and tram network operates from about 5am to midnight with a night bus service running on weekends. A basic fare costs Sfr2.20 and allows use of the network within Geneva's central zone and unlimited transfers between buses and trams for an hour, or there are cheaper tickets limited to three stops and including a return journey within 30 minutes. Tickets must be pre-purchased and validated on boarding. One-day passes are also available. Visitors staying in hotels or youth hostels in the city are entitled to free Geneva Transport Cards, offering unlimited use of public transport with no fees. The cards can be collected upon check-in. Taxis are plentiful but generally an expensive means of transport. Driving in the city is not recommended as parking is very difficult, but to tour around Lake Geneva, hiring a car is the most practical way to get around. A national or international driver's license is required, as well as a credit card, and drivers must be at least 21 years of age.

Kids Attractions

Geneva is a great city for children on holiday to explore. On warm days, take the kids to the tropical Aquaparc where they can splash and play, or enjoy a spot of horseback riding, putt-putt golf or bowling, or for something special, pack a picnic and head to Labyrinthe Aventure in Evionnaz where children can let of some steam in the 1.7 mile (3km) adventure maze. On colder days when outdoor activities with kids is not an option, head to one of the many indoor playgrounds found throughout the city such as at Yatouland in the city which features bouncy castles, Noah's ark, slides and even a mini 4x4 circuit. There are many great things for children to see and do in Geneva, and the little ones need never be bored.

The three official languages are Swiss German, French and Italian. A few people speak Romansch, but this is confined to the southeastern corner of the country. Most people know at least three languages, including English.

The official currency is the Swiss franc (CHF) divided into 100 rappen (German) or centimes (French). Although not part of the EU many prices are nonetheless indicated in Euros and some merchants may accept Euros. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted and ATMs are widespread; many are equipped with the Cirrus or Maestro system. Banks offer the best exchange rates for travellers cheques and foreign currency, but it is also possible to exchange money at major hotels, main train stations and airports. Banks are open Monday to Friday.


Geneva does not have the ribald party scene or vibrant nightlife culture that one might except for a city of this size and importance. The youth of the city tend to go to Lausanne when they let their hair down, while the wealthy expats and local bankers frequent expensive restaurants and gentlemen's clubs. The city's most lively area is the Plaine de Plainpalais which features many student bars due to its proximity to the University of Geneva; and the Place du Bourg de Four, near the old Town Hall. The city certainly does have excellent classical music, opera and dance, particularly during the Fêtes de Genève arts festival in early August. Other entertainment options include gambling at the Casino de Divonne and Movenpick Casino on the outskirts of town. For local listings check out the free publication Genève-Agenda, available at the tourist office and hotels, and the quarterly La Clefmagazine. Tickets for concerts and shows can be bought from City-Disc at the train station or the UBS Ticket Corner. For a full listing of venues visit


A shopping spree in Geneva is one like no other with Swiss jewellery, watches, wine and chocolate being the most popular tourist buys. But among all the shopping malls and boutique-lined streets there are wonderful flea markets to discover, such as the Kane Country Flea Market, which is held on the first weekend of each month. The clothes and book market on the Place de la Madeleine is also great for bargain hunting. The main area for shopping in Geneva is the Rues Basses, which is made up of Rue du Rhône, Rue de la Confédération and Rue du Marché, where all the best clothing and jewellery can be found. Head down to the Place du Mulard and enjoy browsing in some of the city's most glamorous and expensive shops or, for antique lovers, head to the old town, the best area to shop for antiques and art. A shopping trip in Geneva wouldn't be complete without the obligatory purchase of the world-renowned chocolates which can be bought from one of the many confectioneries all across the city, but for a real Swiss chocolate decadence head to La Chocolaterie Rohr on Rue du Rhone and Place du Molard. Other popular Geneva souvenirs are the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife, from established brands like Wenger and Victorinox, and Swiss watches. Most shops in Geneva open on Monday to Wednesday from 9am to 6.30pm while on Thursday shops close at 9pm. On Friday stores are open from 9am to 7.30pm. Shops open at 9am and close at 6pm on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. The VAT in Geneva is 7.6% and can be reclaimed by non-Swiss visitors for single items purchased for a minimum of CHF400, as long as the goods are exported within 30 days.


Sightseeing in Geneva offers something for everyone with historic, cultural, religious and natural attractions galore, all within or very near to the city and best visited during the summer months.

The most obvious Geneva attraction is Lake Geneva, the largest lake in central Europe, and its Jet d'Eau, the huge fountain that shoots water 150 metres up into the air. Jardin Anglais is a garden that has been frequented by scribes and philosophers for years, and the nearby Ile Rousseau monument is dedicated to Jacques Rousseau and the inhabitants of Geneva.

Other things to see in Geneva include St Peter's Cathedral, a must for travellers interested in religious landmarks, and the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) is another impressive building. Maison Tavel (believed to be the oldest private house in Geneva) and the 18th century, Italian-style suburb of Carouge are historic Geneva attractions. With so much to offer, sightseeing in Geneva is a rewarding experience.

Local time in Switzerland is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between March and October).

A visit to Aquaparc is a must for families on holiday in Geneva, especially with children. This water park caters to children of all ages and features indoor and outdoor swimming and water adventure rides and slides in a tropical theme. Brave children will love rides such as the Devil's Fall and Morgan's Thrill, while parents can indulge in a massage with thousands of bubbles in the hot tubs.

A comprehensive collection of 7,000 artworks and artefacts from civilizations around the world, the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva is the outcome of the articles accumulated by Josef Mueller, whose collection began in 1907 and is now continued to this day by his heirs. Founded in 1977, the museum wanted to preserve and study the sculptures, fabrics and ornaments brought from "primitive" civilizations that were once isolated communities. Lookout for the megalithic monuments from Indonesia, the statues and items of worship from Oceania, pre-Columbian art from the Americas and ancient masks and shields from Africa.

One of the best-maintained medieval castles in Europe, the 13th century Château de Chillon is the most visited historical building in Switzerland. With its stunning lakeside location near the chic town of Montreux, jutting out into the water and framed by mountains, it is one of the more frequently photographed castles in Europe. An important fortress in the Middle Ages, it was strategically positioned to control the narrow passage between mountains and lake protecting the major north-south route. It was also the favourite summer residence of the Counts of Savoy. Later it served as a state prison. Visitors can tour the dungeons where the castle's most famous prisoner was chained for four years, the priest François Bonivard, a supporter of the Reformation. The fortress became famous when Lord Byron wrote about Bonivard's fate in an inspired poem entitled Prisoner of Chillon. Besides the dungeons, visitors can wander round the towers and courtyards, discover narrow secret passages, and see the grand knight's halls, frescoed chapel, luxurious bedchambers and rooms containing medieval weapons, furniture and paintings.

Forestland is a fantastic place to take the kids for the day to let off some steam. This adventure circuit is equipped for children and adults alike and features fun activities like branch climbing, monkey bridges, forest jumping and there are even inflatable games for younger tots to enjoy.

Happyland is Switzerland's largest amusement park and a great place for the younger children to enjoy. Kids will love rides such as Splash River, Tropical Track, the Big Swing and Helico Low G. Happyland also features a restaurant where families can refuel before heading out to enjoy more rides.

One of the most creative and thought provoking museums in Europe, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum brings together sculpture, installation, photography and film to highlight the importance of human rights, the history of conflict in the 20th century and the humanitarian work the Red Cross has done in providing aid to combatants and civilians caught up in both war and natural disasters. Funded entirely by outside donors, the museum is appropriately situated on the hillside opposite the United Nations, within the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. A significant stopover on a visit to Geneva, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum provides insight into the gross implications of war and the tragedy that surrounds but also the committed work of the volunteers and Red Cross representatives alike. All the exhibits have an English language option.

The tallest fountain in the world, the Jet d'Eau is a Geneva attraction that cannot be missed. Projecting 460 feet (140m) into the air at a speed of 124 miles per hour (200km/h) and pumping 132 gallons (500 litres) of water per second, the fountain was initially established to release pressure for hydropower generation on the Rhone River, but was so loved by the populace that in 1891 the city created a permanent fountain. As Paris has the Eiffel Tower and New York has the Empire State Building, Geneva has the Jet d'Eau. For a breathtaking and romantic sight, visit at night, when the fountain is lit up.

A great place to bring the kids, La Ferme Foraine Bonaventure features camps for children aged 6 - 12 years old, as well as offering little tots the opportunity to meet donkeys, lamas, pigs and other farmyard animals. Children will enjoy petting the animals and making new friends here.

The largest lake in central Europe that is shared by both Switzerland and France, Lake Geneva (Lac Léman to its French-speaking inhabitants) has for decades drawn visitors to its shores. Attracted by the alpine panorama, quaint wooden chalet villages, vineyard-covered slopes and sailboats skimming across the blue waters, many famous writers, musical composers, actors and poets came to settle and the area has become something of an inspiration to the arts. Situated in the westernmost district of Vaud, the region contains a diversity of attractions and activities, from wine-growing villages and mountain ski resorts, picturesque castles, and magnificent cathedrals, to low-key lakeside resorts, boat cruises, and cosy fireside pots of fondue. Sophisticated shopping and cultural life can be found in the cities of Geneva and Lausanne, with sweeping views across the sparkling lake to the Alps and the distinctive pinnacle of Mont Blanc. Among the vineyards and affluent villas clinging to the slopes lie the lakeside towns of Vevey and Montreux, the pearls of the Swiss Riviera. Scenic winding roads stretch along the shores, and train trips offers outstanding views, while below steamers crisscross the waters of Lake Geneva, offering a variety of ways to experience the splendour of its location.

Picturesquely located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the youthful and energetic city of Lausanne is built above the lake on a sequence of tiers connected by a small metro. The upper or Old Town contains the grand Gothic cathedral, Notre-Dame; its turreted towers a well-known symbol of the city. The lower town on the lakeshore was once the small fishing village of Ouchy and is now the prime waterfront area with outdoor dining and cafés, promenades and sporting activities. The gardens around the Quay d'Ouchy are home to the city's foremost attraction, the Olympic Museum, containing a wealth of sporting memories and a collection of unique objects pertaining to the Olympic Games from its beginning until the present. Lausanne relishes its importance as the Olympic World Capital and headquarters of the International Olympic Committee.

A great place to bring the kids, the Musée d'Historie Naturelle contains numerous historical collections left to the museum by world-renowned scientists, such as Lunel, Saussure and Fatio. Children will be amazed by displays of animals and specimens including a leatherback turtle, giant spider crabs, tiger sharks and even a coelacanth.

Comprising of three sections, the captivating Museum of Art and History explores the passage of western culture and international civilizations with over 7,000 pieces covering archaeology (Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Etruscan), fine arts (paintings from the Renaissance to modern times) and applied arts (found objects from the Middle Ages to the 20th century). One of Geneva's largest museums, the colossal Museum of Art and History was built at the beginning of the 20th century, between 1903 and 1910. When visiting lookout for paintings by legendary artists Van Gogh and Renoir.

Opened in 1994, the cutting edge Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art refuses to conform and as museum director Christian Bernard says, the museum 'is not here to present the acceptable face of contemporary art'. With modern works dating from the 1960s to the present day, exhibited in a turn of the century factory, visitors to MAMCO will spend hours marvelling at the range of contemporary art that covers three floors. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art constantly reinvents itself, changing its exhibits and interior construction three times a year. The works of famous Dadaist Marcel Duchamp are on display all year round.

Built between 1929 and 1937 to host the League of Nations, the Palais des Nations now houses the United Nations Office at Geneva, which was inaugurated in 1966 after the dissolution of the League of Nations. The biggest United Nations station outside of the headquarters in New York, the office at Geneva provides critical support to the organization. Situated in 45-hectare Ariana Park, the extensive Palais des Nations is bordered by century old trees, and it is not uncommon to see peacocks darting around, the result of a request by the former owner of the land who bequeathed it to the City of Geneva on condition that peacocks may run freely on its grounds. Tours include the council room with frescoes by José Maria Sert and the Assembly Hall. Identity documents are required.

An exquisite collection of timepieces from the 16th to 19th century is housed in this fascinating museum, home to the prestigious creations of the Geneva-based firm of master watchmakers which was founded in 1839. The intricate details and designs, moving parts and beautiful colours of the collection will provide hours of fascination.

The cultural hub of Geneva, Place Neuve sits just outside the former ramparts and is a great access point for the Old Town, which lies on the other side of the high retaining walls. Home to three of Geneva's regal performance and exhibition halls, the Grand Theatre (opera house), Conservatory of Music and Rath Museum, the Place Neuve is worth visiting to witness the architectural aesthetic of these buildings. In the centre of the square is the emblematic statue of Swiss general Henri Dufour, who was the first person to establish a map of Switzerland and also presided over the First Geneva Convention. The highest mountain in Switzerland, Dufourspitze, is named after him.

For quality fresh produce stop in at the Plaine de Plainpalais Flea Market on Tuesday and Friday mornings and visit the fruit and vegetable stalls in their attractive outdoor park setting. For antiques, vintage clothing, clocks, paintings, records, books and more head to the Plaine de Plainpalais Flea Market on Wednesday and Saturday, when stalls are piled high with bric a brac, sometimes at Sfr1 a pop and large crowds of residents and tourists comb the many stalls in search of bargains to be had and souvenirs to gather. Established in 1848, the Plaine de Plainpalais quarter was the setting for the Swiss National Exhibition in 1896.

Public parks cover over one quarter of Geneva providing the populous with a quiet haven of rolling lawns and tree lined walkways. Dotted with many curious sculptures and attractions, there are a few parks worthwhile visiting. Bastion Park houses the 328-foot (100m) Reformation Wall, a monument commemorating the major figures and events of the Protestant Reformation, as well as life size chess boards at the north end of the park. To view the famous flower clock, a symbol of the Swiss watch industry, head to the English Garden close to the water fountain and for outstanding views of Mont Blanc and the lake, Park Moynier is a firm favourite, with the History of Science Museum situated in the centre. Twenty hectares of woodland and hiking trails is what you will find at Batie Woods on the outskirts of the city.

With initial construction commencing in 1160 and lasting nearly a century, St Peter's Cathedral has over the years become a hotchpotch of architectural styles with Romanesque, Gothic and Neoclassical features. A former Catholic cathedral, St Peter's became a Protestant church in 1536 at the advent of the Reformation and was cleared of its ornate fittings such as altars, statues, paintings and furniture, but the stained glass windows remained. Prominent theologian John Calvin preached at St Peter's Church from 1536 to 1564 and the church soon became the centre of Protestantism. For a breathtaking panoramic view of Geneva and Lac Leman, climb the 157 steps that lead to the summit of the cathedral's north tower.

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