Geneva is a great destination at any time of the year! Settled on the west side of Lake Geneva by the France and Switzerland border, the city’s surrounding landscape is nothing short of breathtaking. The alps loom all around the city and Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak is just a stone’s throw away.
The city of Geneva is well known for its artisan products the most famous of which are its Swiss chocolates, cheeses and wines. It is also a city of famous watchmakers and is home to leading brands including Patek Phillipe and Rolex.
The city has a history dating back to medieval times which can be seen in its cobbled streets and tiny passageways. It has an abundance of museums and galleries and a literary heritage that includes Mary Shelley and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Don’t miss this enticing alpine city.
Here are some of the most fun things to do in Geneva!
1 – See the monumental Palais des Nations
Geneva’s impressive Palais des Nations is the headquarters of the United Nations in Europe. It is located in Ariana Park overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps.
When construction was completed in 1936 it was the second-largest building complex in Europe, after the Palace of Versailles. It was originally built for the League of Nations.
The Palais des Nations hosts thousands of meetings between governments each year. Outside the building are many flags, one for each of the United Nations member countries.
2 – Take a stroll in Jardin Anglais
The Jardin Anglais is one of the city’s most spectacular parks. Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva by the Pont du Mont-Blanc bridge, Jardin Anglais has century-old ginkgo, red beech and sequoia trees. The gardens also house the famous Flower Clock or L’horloge Fleurie.
There are a number of landmarks here like the four seasons fountain, which has stood in the center of the park since the mid-1800s. The Monument National which symbolizes the unification of Geneva with Switzerland is to the west of the park.
3 – Explore the Geneva Old Town
Geneva’s Old Town is the first place to visit to get an idea of the city’s identity. The area is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and small picturesque squares. La Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva’s oldest square, is located here and is surrounded by cozy cafes and bars.
Nearby is the famous St. Peter’s Cathedral as well as the Maison Tavel. The area has old tunnels and passageways that date from the medieval period.
4 – Ride the giant zip lines at Geneva Adventure Park
A trip to Geneva Adventure Park is definitely a really fun thing to do with the kids while in Geneva. The park has treetop courses to navigate your way through and giant zip lines to launch down. Add a sense of adventure to your day with these adrenaline-filled treetop routes.
Strap into your harness and navigate through one of 11 courses that vary in difficulty. Traverse rope bridges, nets, and other obstacles in the fresh forest air.
5 – Take a Lake Geneva boat tour
Lake Geneva sits on the border between France and Switzerland and is one of the largest lakes in western Europe. It has long been celebrated for the natural beauty of its surrounding mountains and hills with rolling vineyards and sleepy villages.
First-time visitors to the city should not miss the opportunity to take a boat trip on the lake. Cruise from the Pierres du Niton via the Pointe à la Bise taking in important sights such as the UN building and the iconic Jet d’Eau fountain.
6 – Climb the towers at St. Pierre Cathedral
St. Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva dates from the 1100s but stands on the site of a much older church. The Cathedral became an unofficial center of Protestantism in the Reformation of the 1500s. It contains a chair that was used by John Calvin, one of the leading figures of the movement.
Though the rest of the church is quite bare, the Chapel of the Maccabees is a must-see especially its highly decorated pulpit and painted ceilings. Visitors can climb the two towers of the cathedral for stunning views of the city.
7 – See the Geneva Water Fountain or Jet d’Eau
The Jet d’Eau is the city’s most iconic landmark and its major attraction. It is located on the Eaux-vives pier in the center of the bay. The fountain was originally built for practical purposes as part of a nearby hydraulic plant but was relocated to the bay in 1891 and promoted as a tourist attraction.
The Jet d’Eau is one of the world’s tallest fountains. It propels water up to 140 meters in the air at speeds of 200 kilometers per hour. Visitors can walk near to the fountain if they don’t mind getting wet.
8 – Spend the afternoon at Bains des Pâquis
Geneva’s multipurpose bathhouses, the Bains des Pâquis, can be enjoyed all year round. They are situated on a pier that juts out into Lake Geneva and in the summertime offer public swimming. The area has a small beach for sunbathing as well as cafes and restaurants and facilities for scuba diving, paddle boarding and climbing.
In the winter season, visitors can enjoy the saunas here and winter bathing is becoming more popular among the hardiest swimmers. On warm sunny days, the Bains des Pâquis is one of the most popular spots in the city.
9 – Take a walk in the historic Parc La Grange
Positioned next to the Parc des Eaux-Vives, Parc La Grange is one of the city’s largest and most scenic parks. The park is a historic monument and contains neolithic menhirs and the ruins of a Roman villa. It was previously the private grounds of the 18th-century manor house, Villa de La Grange, and was created by the Favre and Lullin families.
The park is a great place to take a break from the city and has a playground for children and a paddling pool. Visitors can also enjoy its luxurious flower gardens, large old oak, cedar and beech trees and two theaters.
10 – Visit artisan chocolate makers on a chocolate tasting tour
There’s no argument that Switzerland produces some of the finest chocolates in the world. Geneva’s love affair with the cocoa bean began in the 1800s and many of the city’s best chocolatiers have been in production for over 70 years.
Some of the best-loved producers are Favarger, Du Rhône, Teuscher, Stettler and Auer. Why not take a tour of the artisan chocolatiers and see the traditional methods still in use. This has to be one of the most fun things to do in Geneva!
11 – Discover the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire is one of the largest museums in the country. It has over 650,000 objects in its collection from prehistoric artworks in its archeology department as well as antique, classical, byzantine and modern pieces. The museum has over 7,000 square meters of exhibition space spread over five floors.
The Musée Rath hosts the museum’s temporary exhibitions which change two to three times throughout the year. This is a must-see for art and history lovers.
12 – See the Basilica Notre-Dame
The Basilica de Notre Dame is the city’s main Roman Catholic church. It was constructed in the middle of the 19th century on the site of a former fort. The Basilica’s altar contains a treasured statue of our lady of Geneva that was gifted by pope Pius IX.
Its stained glass windows are some of the finest in the country from the 19th and 20th Centuries. The basilica features particularly nice wood carvings by Charles Jeunet who produced the Christ on the cross statue as well as the intricate pulpit.
13 – Take in the view from Parc de La Perle du Lac
Parc de La Perle du Lac is one of the most wooded parks in the city with a variety of old trees including the unusual cork oak. The name means jewel of the lake due to its spectacular views of the city, surrounded by Lake Geneva and the mountains.
Visit the decorative flower gardens including the Jardin de la Perle and the terrace of the Monumental Fountain. The Museum of Science history is located inside the park.
14 – Experience the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum covers 150 years of humanitarian history of the institution. The first international conference of the Red Cross occurred in Geneva sparked by local businessman Jean-Henri Dunant after he witnessed the horrors of war in Solferino, Italy.
Its permanent exhibition covers three major challenges of today’s world, defending human dignity, restoring family links and reducing natural risks. The museum presents vital questions as to what it means to be human.
15 – Take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour
A hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a perfect way to see the major sights and landmarks of the city. Get on and off as many times as you like and enjoy the onboard commentary as you travel the city streets.
Visit the monument to Austrian Empress Sissi who was assassinated here in 1898. Pass by the Place du Rhone, Quartier des Eaux-Vives, the United Nations building and St. Peter’s Cathedral on these great value tours.
16 – See the Broken Chair sculpture
The Broken Chair is a 12-meter sculpture by artist Daniel Berset. It incorporates five and a half tons of wood in its structure and was constructed for the European NGO, Handicap International.
The three-legged chair symbolizes the NGO’s campaign against landmines and urges people to remember the victims. You can find the Broken Chair in Place des Nations where it has stood since 1997.
17 – Visit the cities on Lake Geneva
The towns and cities surrounding Lake Geneva offer visitors a genuine taste of Swiss life. The Town of Nyon may be well known by sports fans as it is home to UEFA, the European football association.
The picturesque towns of Morges, Vevey and Chillon Castle island are all beautiful places to visit on the Swiss side of the lake. Lausanne has the spectacular Aquatis Vivarium which houses rare and endangered creatures in a state-of-the-art facility.
The resort town of Montreux is something of a music capital and has had many famous residents including Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa and David Bowie. Charlie Chaplin also lived here for the last 25 years of his life. Chaplin’s World museum is housed in the actor’s former home and exhibits some of the star’s personal items and memorabilia.
Thonon-Les-Bains, the spa town of Évian with its famous water and Yvoire on the French side of Lake Geneva are well worth a day trip from Geneva.
18 – Visit the home of a profound writer at Castle Voltaire
Castle Voltaire lies just north of the city across the French border in Ferney-Voltaire. It was the home of celebrated French writer Voltaire between 1761 and 1778. Whilst living here he wrote thousands of letters as well as his Treaty on Tolerance and Philosophical Dictionary.
Visit the home of Voltaire and see furniture and artworks owned by one of the 18th-century’s greatest writers. Take a walk in gardens that were landscaped by the author and see the views that inspired his writings.
19 – Visit the medieval Maison Tavel
The Maison Tavel is the city’s oldest private residence. It is located in Geneva’s Old Town and parts of it date back to the 12th-Century. It was destroyed by fire in 1334 and was rebuilt by the Genevan noble family the Tavels. It was later acquired by the City of Geneva and is now a museum.
Visitors can explore the six levels of the medieval building to see artifacts related to the development of Swiss urban life over the centuries. Admission is free of charge.
20 – Take a mountain cable car at Chamonix and Mont Blanc
Within a short distance from Geneva is Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain and the beautiful resort town of Chamonix. The area is a favorite destination for winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing and in the summer months is a popular spot for paragliding.
Chamonix is a popular day trip from Geneva. Visitors can tour the stunning alpine landscape and see Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Take the Aiguille du Midi cable car to the peak of the French alps then enjoy a traditional lunch in a local restaurant. This is the real alps!
21 – Play chess in Bastions Park
Parc des Bastions is just a short distance from the Old Town. It has plenty of monuments to see and benches to relax on if you want to picnic under the many old trees. The Reformation Wall is the park’s most popular monument and features the four leading figures of the Reformation movement.
The park is home to the city government building the Palais Eynard and the University of Geneva. It also has a public library, cafe, giant chess board and play areas.
22 – See an exhibition at Geneva Contemporary Art Center
The Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève has been a fixture of the city’s arts scene for the past 45 years. It hosts exhibitions of installations, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, music and dance and more.
The center is also a research institute and hosts educational activities that promote creativity and has a residency program for artists. It hosts a series of temporary exhibitions, performances, art lessons and films. Why not go along and become inspired.
23 – See the rivers meet at Pointe de la Jonction
The Pointe de la Jonction is the meeting point of the Rhone and Arve rivers and is a popular place to relax or take a swim in the city. On a bright and sunny day, you can see a clear divide in the color of the waters which do not mix but flow side by side.
The area has a few cafes and pleasant tracks to stroll along the edge of the water. The Pointe de la Jonction was until recently an industrial area and is gradually becoming an urban park.
24 – Visit the “Venice of the alps” at Annecy
The medieval city of Annecy is one of France’s most picturesque cities. It has been called the “Venice of the alps” because of its canals and the Thiou River which flows through it. The historic city was home to the counts of Geneva and Savoy from the 10th to the 14th-centuries.
Take a guided tour of Annecy’s medieval Old Town and visit the 12th-century Château d’Annecy. See the city’s famous pastel-colored houses and the imposing Palais d’isle.
25 – See luxury watches at Patek Philippe Museum
Geneva is the world capital for luxury watches and one name stands out above all others. Patek Philippe has been creating high-precision timepieces in the city since 1839. The company owns the Patek Phillipe Museum which covers five centuries of watchmaking excellence.
See over 2000 examples of portable mechanical watches including antiques from Europe’s finest makers as well as the exclusive collection of Patek Phillipe watches. This is a must-see for Swiss watchmaking enthusiasts.
26 -See the statue of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Rousseau Island
The tiny island park of Ile Rousseau is stuck out in the Rhone by the Pont du Mont Blanc. It is joined to the land by the Pont des Bergues that crosses the river before it joins with Lake Geneva. In its history, the island has been a fortification and shipyard.
In the 1800s it was renamed Ile Rousseau after local writer, philosopher and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The small tree-covered park contains a statue of Rousseau and provides a perfect point to sit and gaze at the city scenery.
27 – Taste the gourmet foods of Gruyere on a day trip
The medieval town of Gruyere is famous for two great swiss delicacies, cheese and chocolate! The famous Gruyere cheese is a staple ingredient of fondue and is the most popular Swiss cheese throughout Europe.
Why not take a guided tour of Gruyere’s famous cheese and chocolate factories and see how these alpine delicacies originate. See the rolling green hills and flower-filled meadows that surround this gem of a town.
28 – Discover the Geneva Ethnography Museum
The Museum of Ethnography covers the history of world cultures through a collection of 74,000 artifacts, some of which date back 9,000 years. The museum’s Americas collection includes a diverse selection of items from the Arctic north to the Tierra del Fuego in the South.
It also has European items specifically those related to the alpine regions. The ethnomusicology department features a collection of instruments and recordings from all over the world.
29 – Visit the Brunswick Monument
The Brunswick Monument in the Jardin des Alpes was built to commemorate the life of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick. He left his fortune to the city of Geneva but stipulated in his will that a monument should be built to honor him.
The Brunswick monument features a statue of the duke’s father and grandfather and is inspired by the Scaliger tombs of Verona, Italy. The duke’s fortune paid for the construction of the monument and also Geneva’s Grand Theatre.
30 – Learn about native animals at the Museum of Natural History
Geneva’s Natural History Museum is spread over four floors. The ground floor contains taxidermied creatures native to Switzerland and the alps and tropical ones including a two-headed turtle called Janus. The third and fourth floors house exhibits on the evolution of humankind, astronomy and geology.
The museum also houses a library, cafe and shop. All exhibitions are in French only, but English and German language tours are given.
31 – Join a Rhone River kayaking or canoeing trip
Why not take the chance to try kayaking on the peaceful Rhone River while in Geneva. Meander along steady stretches of the river while glimpsing wildlife in the city’s protected areas. Take a relaxing trip with friends or family and experience kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding first hand.
These kayak trips are ideal for beginners as the river waters are very calm. A kayak trip is without a doubt one of the most fun things to do in Geneva.
32 – Discover the International Museum of the Reformation
The Reformation forced a major change to the status quo in 16th-century Europe and Geneva was at the very center of it. Follow the history of Protestantism at the International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva.
Learn about key figures such as John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli and the effect that the Reformation had on Genevan society. Check out the museum’s collection of books, manuscripts, paintings and precious objects.
33 – Visit the birthplace of the World Wide Web at CERN
CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It has some monumental achievements under its name such as the creation of the Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle. The World Wide Web was also created there in 1989 by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee.
Visitors to CERN can take guided tours of the facility and view exhibitions on physics and the origins of the Universe.
34 – See the city’s actual cannons at Old Arsenal
The Old Arsenal is a museum of artillery that was previously used to defend the city. It is housed in what was originally a granary and was later converted to a storeroom for weapons. Visitors can see a collection of five cannons that were in use up until the 19th-century.
There is a beautiful series of three mosaics behind the guns depicting important moments in the history of the city. Don’t miss this while walking through the city’s Old Town.
35 – Experience Geneva’s delicacies on a food tour
What better way to get to know a new city than by taking a gourmet food tour? Discover artisan eats like the city’s famous cheeses, honey and pastries. Take a walking tour of a local market and discover Genevan delicacies such as prepared meats, truffles and gourmet chocolates.
Try local red and white wines and learn the history of the food from a local guide. Visit a number of small eateries and experience the best of Geneva’s culinary scene.
36 – Discover the eco-zoo, Bioparc Geneve
Bioparc Geneve is an animal sanctuary and rescue center that began its mission in the 1980’s resuing injured birds. The park gradually grew to include more than 250 creatures from 80 different species.
Visitors can see farm animals like rabbits and pigs and animals native to Switzerland like the Eurasian lynx and Northern bald ibis. Bioparc Geneve also has exotic creatures like peacocks, primates and wild cats like the African serval.
37 – Explore the glass and ceramics of Ariana Museum
The City of Geneva’s extensive collection of glass and ceramic works are available to view at the Ariana Museum. The collection includes 27,000 pieces spanning seven centuries of craftsmanship. See historic porcelain, china, earthenware and pottery from Europe, Asia and the East.
The Ariana Museum is one of the most important museums in Europe dedicated solely to kiln-produced crafts. It is housed in a grand neo-classical building near the Avenue de la Paix.
38 – Take a walk through the Conservatory and Botanical Garden of the City of Geneva
If you are looking for a place to relax and unwind in the city, the Botanical Gardens are a great choice. It has over 16,000 species of plant and an arboretum with several oak trees that are over 300 years old. The rockery is especially nice with a hectare of rock formations and plants that thrive in alpine conditions.
Though it is rarely open to the public the herbarium has a huge collection of plant and fungi specimens. Admission to the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is free of charge.
39 – See the best of contemporary art at MAMCO Geneve
MAMCO is Geneva’s modern and contemporary art museum. It is the largest of its type in Switzerland and It is located in an old factory building. Its huge exhibition spaces host permanent and temporary exhibitions and pay special attention to the local art scene.
The museum also puts on regular educational services for adults and children. It offers guided tours and opportunities for French language learners.
40 – Attend an event at Palexpo convention center
Palexpo is Geneva’s premier venue for conventions and shows. It hosts a wide variety of events so you can encounter fun expos you didn’t know you would enjoy.
Shows cover anything from trade events to dance and martial arts, flea markets and vintage clothing and Swiss Army surplus stock clearance. Check out the website to see what’s on while you’re in town.
41 – Discover tribal art at Barbier-Mueller Museum
The Barbier-Mueller Museum is a collection of artworks from ancient tribal and primitive cultures. The collection was started by Josef Meuller in the early 1900s and continued by his son, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller. Jean Paul opened the museum in 1977 to share his love of traditional arts with the public.
The museum has over 7,000 pieces in its collection many of which are from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania.
42 – Chill out at Mon Repos Park
Mon Repos Park is a gateway to the city and the first of five lakeside parks with fantastic views. Mon Repos is an organic park that is maintained without chemicals and has wildflower meadows and hedges to attract breeding wildlife.
It has great facilities for kids which includes a playground and paddling pool surrounded by exotic palm trees. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on leashes.
43 – Take a day trip to the historic Château de Chillon
Chillon Castle is one of the most popular castles to visit in all of Switzerland and it’s not hard to see why. This charming castle is perched on a tiny island at the eastern end of Lake Geneva and looks straight out of a fairytale.
Its history dates back to at least 1005 and it has been a military outpost, summer residence for the Counts of Savoy and later on a prison. The castle has lots to explore and detailed information related to its history. Chillon Castle is definitely a fun place to visit when in Geneva.
44 – Take a swim at Genève-Plage
Just ten minutes from the city center, Geneva Beach has everything you need to cool off on those warm summer days. Surrounded by beautiful woodland scenery and with direct access to Lake Geneva, there’s plenty of space here for sports, leisure and relaxation.
The area has a large swimming pool with sectioned off lanes, a water slide and diving area as well as space for sunbathing. This is a real gem close to the city center.
45 – Spot the Statue of Frankenstein
Geneva is the setting of Mary Shelley’s famous horror story Frankenstein. She created the story to entertain friends while staying by Lake Geneva in 1816. The book recounts landmarks from the city such as Calvin College which is now one of the city’s high schools.
A statue of Shelley’s famous creature can be found on Plainpalais. In the story, this is the site where the monster commits his first murder. Horror fans shouldn’t miss this spooky monument while in Geneva.
46 – Visit the Museum of Far Eastern Art
The Museum of Far Eastern Art houses a wide variety of ceramics, prints, swords, textiles and more from China and Japan. The museum’s 9,000 items were amassed by private collector and entrepreneur, Alfred Baur from 1906 to his death in 1951.
See antique ceramics and pottery as well as exquisite jade sculptures, Japanese prints from the late Edo period, silks and robes. Visit the Museum’s Japanese garden and learn about its deep symbolism.
47 – Immerse yourself in language at the House of Rousseau and Literature
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of Geneva’s favorite sons. The writer, philosopher and musician was born in the city in 1712 and lived here for his early life. The House of Rousseau is a museum to his legacy and cultural space located at his old home 40, Grand-Rue.
The Museum covers the works and life of Rousseau but also his influence on modern society. It promotes a love of reading and creates a space for readers, writers and lovers of literature to meet, practice and debate.
48 – Dine in style at Michelin-starred restaurants
At Geneva’s finest restaurants visitors will find a variety of modern French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. Il Lago at the Four Seasons Hotel is an excellent city restaurant. It serves light and aromatic Italian dishes in classic surroundings.
49 – Watch the world go by at Place du Bourg-de-Four
Place du Borg-de-Four is the oldest square in Geneva and sits just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Cathedral. It has been the center of the city’s Old Town for centuries and its market has been around since at least the 9th-century.
Visitors might want to grab a drink in one of the small cafes and take in the ambiance of this old square for a while. The Place du Borg-de-Four is the real heart of Geneva and is still a popular area for shopping and meeting friends.
50 – Stop by the impressive Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church is one of the most striking buildings in the city and definitely worth a visit. The church was built in the 1860s with funds donated by Tsar Alexander I’s sister-in-law, the Grand Duchess Anna Fyodorovna.
It is built in the Byzantine style with shimmering golden domes on the roof. The church is still in use today and it can be found in the charming neighborhood of Les Tranchées.
51 – Go shopping at Manor Geneve
Manor is Switzerland’s largest chain of department stores and its Geneva branch is the only department store on the right bank. It is famous for the freshness and range of foods it supplies as well as specialist local and regional wines.
The store also stocks clothing, luggage, makeup and cosmetics, jewelry, electronics, toys and more. Why not take time for some retail therapy while visiting Geneva.
52 – Shop till you drop at Rue de Rhone
The Rue du Rhone is the place to be if you’re shopping for luxury items in Geneva! From clothes, watches and jewelry to indulgent chocolate creations, it can all be found in this small area of the city.
Gucci, Louboutin and Prada, the biggest names in fashion are all here. After a busy day shopping, why not call into the Du Rhone tea room and try some of the excellent handcrafted chocolates and pastries?
53 – Explore Geneva’s nightlife
Geneva’s nightlife has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a casual drink in a cozy bar or to dance till dawn.
Le Verre à Monique is a small and quirky bar for those looking for a relaxed evening. La Clémence in the Old Town is a small but lively spot and the historic Palais Mascotte offers nightly burlesque shows in a speakeasy-style club.
For electronic dance music, Weetamix is the best place in town and brings in a host of cutting-edge local and international DJs.
We hope you enjoyed reading our selection of things to do in Geneva. If you have other fun places to recommend don’t hesitate to leave us a message.
Take a look at the Geneva City Pass for great deals on travel and admission fees.