There are two main aspects to Geneva to investigate in a day or two - the "historical" Geneva and the "international" Geneva. For more than a day of sightseeing, Geneva also has wonderful museums (some 40 of them!) and of course it sits at the western end of Lake Geneva (called Lac de Genève by the Genevois and Lac Léman by other French speakers, sharing the lakeshore with the Genevois). You can take boat rides for an hour, half a day or a day (details on  Here are some suggestions, grouped into several categories: Old Geneva;  International Geneva;  Eating in Geneva;  Day trips from Geneva.

Start by visiting the Tourist Office at 18, rue du Mt Blanc. This is just down the street leading to the lake from the main train station. You will be able to get maps and other information there. If you want to visit their site it is: The tourisme office has guided walking tours.


The "Vieille Ville" or old town:-

Carry on walking down the rue du Mt Blanc from the station to the Pont du Mt Blanc. This will give you a nice view of the harbour. As you cross the bridge you will see a little island on your right. This is the Ile Rousseau and you can see a statute of one of Geneva ’s most prominent former citizens, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If you are there in summer there is a little café on the island which is not a bad place for an ice cream! In the harbour you will undoubtedly see the famous "Jet d'Eau" ( Geneva famous fountain). It is a jet of water that rises 140m into the air, drawing water from the lake. It runs from 10am to 11pm in summer, from about 3pm to 8pm in winter and is illuminated at night. If however the wind is blowing more than 25 km/hr it stops automatically - otherwise it would possibly wet the people on the Mt Blanc bridge! It is also stopped if the temperature of the air goes below 2C - or it would turn into an enormous snow-making machine!! The original jet d'eau dates back to the end of the 19th century.

Cross the bridge and walk through the Place Molard to the "rues basses" - which is really one street with many names (rue de la Confédération, rue du Marché, rue de la Croix d’Or) that runs parallel to the lakefront. Walk along this to your left (you will be on the part called “rue du Marché”) for a short few metres and you will see a flight of stairs going up to your right. Walk up this and you are in the "vieille ville" - the old town. Follow signs which indicate the Cathedral of St Pierre and you will come to the square in front of the cathedral. First visit the 12 th century  cathedral.   It is most interesting and you can see the chair from which (they say!) Calvin preached. If you don't mind heights or stairs climb up to the tower for a great view of Geneva. Remember that Geneva was one of the centres of the Reformation and St Pierre was built as a Catholic church before becoming Protestant.  Then leave the cathedral and walk to the right of the main entrance.  You will see an entrance to the archeological sites under the cathedral, dating back to the First Century BC and ending in the 12th Century AD when the existing cathedral was built.  There are some 400m of paths under the cathedral that allow you to explore the old ruins.  An audioguide is provided with your entrance ticket (8frs) and the site is open daily from 1000-1700.  For details see: 

Then walk to the Maison Tavel, very close by (  Again there will be signs to point you on your way.  This is a museum of "old Geneva " - 13th to 19th century. It is also the oldest house in Geneva. On the top floor is Switzerland’s largest relief map, which depicts the way Geneva was around 1850. It is fascinating to compare this with the way the city is today!  After visiting this, stop in at the Hotel de Ville - you can see a staircase there designed (so they say) so that men could ride their horses upstairs! You will also see a sign “Salle Alabama ”.  This is where negotiations were held during the American Civil War over a ship called the Alabama which was running the North’s blockade of the South!  

Now walk along the rue des Granges which has beautiful old houses which in French are called “hôtels particuliers” and onto the Promenade de la Treille from which you get a nice view of the "back side" of the old town down to the University and the Parc des Bastions.  You will notice a long green bench next to the railing.  This bench was put there in 1767 and is the longest in the world!  Even in those days people loved the view from la Treille. You will also see a large chestnut tree - this tree is closely watched each spring for its first leaf to show.  The date of this is recorded, and spring has officially arrived when it comes out!!

It is around here that a lady called Mère Royaume threw down her soup pot in the middle of the night to warn the Geneva guard that Savoyards were trying to assault the city. This event is called “L’Escalade” and took place in 1602. It is remembered every year around December 12th with a torch lit parade and a special meal – as well as a chocolate soup pot or “marmite” which you can buy at that time of year in the confiseries. It is also from this Promenade that a canon is shot off every 31st December to mark the restoration of the Republic of Geneva following the removal of the Napoleonic occupiers in 1813. Walk through the Bourg de Four square, down the hill past the lovely neo-classical Palais Eynard and see the beautiful and very simple Reformation Wall in the Parc des Bastions.  

Then walk through the Parc de Bastions with the University buildings on your left to the Place de Neuve. The Opera (very grand!) and the Conservatory of Music are on this square. You can now hop on the bus No. 5 for the 20 minute trip across the lake to the Place des Nations. (The bus will say “Aéroport” on the front panel).


The Place des Nations is where the European Office of the UN has its headquarters in the Palais des Nations which was originally built for the League of Nations which had its headquarter in Geneva during the inter-war period. For tour times etc.: It is important to realise that there are more than 160 international organisations that are headquartered in Geneva, and many of these are centred around the Palais des Nations, for example the World Meteorological Organisation, the International Telecommunications Union, the European Broadcasting Union and so on.  Once you have finished your visit to the UN, continue on to the International Red Cross, which is just behind it (You will see a sign “CICR –ICRC” – International Committee of the Red Cross). The International Red Cross has a fascinating museum which should not be missed. After significant renovations it has now reopened and is really worth a visit  (see the article on the CICR museum onTrip Advisor). That will do it for your day in Geneva and you will have seen and learnt a lot!!  

Should you have two or more days at your disposal you could spend more time in the old town on day one, saving “International Geneva ” for the second day. There are also quite a few interesting museums in Geneva: Art Museums :- Art and History Museum , Rath Museum , Ariana Museum (porcelain) -  information on for these three, MAMCO (Modern Art), Collection Barbier-Müller (primitive art).  Other Museums : Natural History Museum, Museum of the Reformation. In total there are some 40 museums for you to visit! There is also a lovely Botanical Garden, near the UN. Geneva is also well known for its other beautiful gardens on the other side of the lake (Parc des Eaux-Vives, de la Grange).


You might also want to know where you can eat! For a moderately priced, simple meal the cafeterias at the following stores will do nicely – Manor, Globus and Coop City. Manor and Globus both have Food Halls where you can buy excellent takeaway food and drinks. Also the three restaurants Chez Ma Cousine offer affordable meals (such as half a chicken, potatoes and a salad for about CHF 15).

There are a lot of restaurants around the station area, including the “Café de Paris” on the rue du Mt Blanc, which originated the sauce of the same name.  Sadly it is not s good as it used to be, but the sauce is still delicious!  Expect a meal here to cost around CHF 50 per person, including wine. Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, on the rue du Rhône on the other side of the lake offers a much more “up-market” steak with fabulous sauce. There are queues of people waiting to be seated here every day! But they do take reservations – (022) 310 6004. This is more expensive – expect a bill per person around CHF 70, including wine and coffee. The Cave Valaisanne, on the Plainpalais – Blvd Georges Favon (not far from the Musée Rath and the Opera) offers cheese dishes – fondue, raclette etc... A meal for one will cost you around CHF 50 per person here. The Café de l’Hôtel de Ville (in the old town) offers a “bistrot” type menu as well as one of the best "fondue" in Geneva . Cost is between CHF 50-70 per person for a two or three course meal.  


If you have more time in Geneva and you are there in Spring, Summer or Autumn you might want to take a trip on a lake boat. You can see a lot from the lake that you do not see from the shore! Short cruises of an hour or so leave frequently from the Quai du Mt Blanc and the Jardin Anglais.  Some of these are "themed" and you can find out more details about them all on   There is at least one boat in summer that goes all the way to Lausanne-Ouchy which takes about 3 hours.

Ideas and information are available in this article:

In sum, two days is probably sufficient to see and do most there is in Geneva which is a relatively small city, not least since it is a seriously expensive place to stay and eat out in. And beware, most shops and even coffee shops/cafe's etc. are closed on Sundays, so Sunday is very quiet, especially out of season.   If your plans include day trips to places in Switzerland consider spending a day in Geneva and then moving on to somewhere more central, as Geneva, being on the extreme west side of the country, is not the ideal base if you wish to sightsee around Montreux or Bern etc.  But it is well worth including some time in Geneva which is a very interesting place!

Have a wonderful time in Geneva !