Geneva Switzerland Bucket List: 40+ Best Things to Do
Ahh, Jet d’eau. It’s an iconic attraction in Switzerland, almost synonymous with the mention of Geneva. This fountain sits in the lake and soars over 140 meters high in the sky—higher than the Statue of Liberty! The water stream is one of the top attractions in the city, and I can understand why. But, there is are so many more places to visit and things to do in Geneva.
Known as the city of parks and surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Geneva is a mix of European charm, old world architecture and a modern trendy vibe that begs to be explored. And here are some of the best.
Tip: Purchase the Geneva Pass that gives you access to free public transportation, plus it offers over 40 attractions and activities that are free or discounted!
The Best Attractions, Places to Visit and Things to do in Geneva
1. Take a Helicopter Ride Over Geneva
There is no better way to get your bearings of a city than from a birds-eye view, and what better way to do that than on a helicopter. My thrilling ride with Swiftcopters took us by the iconic Geneva lake, along the nearby Switzerland-France border and atop the snow-capped Jura Mountains. Wow!
The narrow cobbled streets of Geneva’s old town are begging to be explored–every nook and cranny. Around any corner could be a picturesque cathedral, charming architecture, lush park or delicious Swiss cafe.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Geneva’s old town. Don’t miss climbing the tower of St. Pierre Cathedral or going underground to witness the archeological remains, dining at the long-standing Café Papon (it opened in 1808) or enjoying a cocktail at the center square of Old town, Place du Bourg-de-Four.
Geneva is the birthplace of luxury watch making and it shows—fancy boutiques, interesting museums and artisan watchmakers line the streets.
You can easily tour the shops on your own (Geneva Watch Tour has a great map), but it’s hard to truly understand the craftsmanship that goes into a fine watch unless you witness the intricate detail that goes into the making. Many shops offer an exclusive opportunity to take a behind the scenes look into the making of their luxury time pieces.
I had a backstage look at the watchmaking of the high-end brand Roger Dubuis, known for being an innovative creator of world architectural tourbillons. While touring their manufacturing building they slapped a $35,000 Velvet Jewellery watch on my wrist. Ooh la la. Plus, I took a workshop on disassembling and reassembling one of their luxury watch faces, piece by piece. It wasn’t an easy thing to do!! Each screw and part was so small that I had to wear a magnifying glass to see it and tweezers to manipulate.
After touring their factory, the cost of these keepsakes seemed justifiable, at one station a women was in charge of hand placing symmetrical lines on one of the dozens of tiny parts, this one the length of a grain of rice. I had never been a watch fan until now.
I have ridden a bicycle, but never an electric one. I have been to a vineyard, but never by bicycle. Ebiketour will take you on a bike ride you will never forget — along the vineyards, on small windy roads and through the outskirts of Geneva’s city center. Don’t want to ride through vineyards? Ebiketour has almost a dozen other tours to choose from too!
Besides the stunning views, another perk was that it was a ride with a quarter of the work. With just one pedal rotation, electric bikes can propel much further than a normal 10-speed, which makes this ride so much more enjoyable.
5. Relax at Bain Bleu Hammam & Spa
The Swiss are known for their luxurious thermal bathes and spas, but none may be quite as chic or affordable than Les Bain Bleu Hammam & Spa, With jacuzzis, whirlpools, massage jets, bubble loungers and a renewing hammam on premise, you can soak, lounge, heat, bathe and scrub for hours.
On my visit, I first took a relaxing soak in their 3767.37 square feet of aquatic indoor/outdoor areas. The interior baths were elegantly moody with soft lighting, dark tile and a trendy rain shower. The outdoor rooftop bath, which conveniently overlooked the lake, was more vibrant with young families frolicking.
After your soak in the baths visit the cafe for a quick beverage, then head to their relaxing hamman to participate in their unique 6-step circuit—steam, scrub, rest and dry.
6. Climb the Tower of Saint Pierre Cathedral
In the heart of the Old Town lies the Saint Pierre Cathedral, which dates back over 850 years. The Romanesque style church has two main towers that boast the best panoramic view of Geneva from the top.
The fairly steep climb is just over 150 stairs, which is not nearly as bad as my 1200 step climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka or even the 463 stairs of the Duomo in Florence. But at the peak, you will be rewarded just as handsomely with the best view of the city.
7. Be Humbled at the Red Cross Museum
Even if you are typically not a museum person, make an exception to visit The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. It is one of the most unique in the world. The museum documents the humanitarian works of the Red Cross, and is a very moving experience.
Interactive exhibits take you through 150 years of history, plus challenges in the world today. The stories of the twelve witnesses are key to your visit, so make sure to get the audio guide!
Geneva has almost 40 museums scattered throughout the city. You can see some of the favorites here.
8. Visit the Village of Hermance
The picturesque village of Hermance is on the shores of Lake Geneva, just under an hour from the city center. It will be easy to watch the hours of the afternoon disappear while exploring the narrow streets, enjoying the beachfront and dreaming about residing in one of the old houses with lilac wisteria hanging off the balcony.
Don’t leave without dining at Cafe du Quai where you can indulge in a plate of the local perch that is caught right in lake Geneva!
Barely over the France border, the cable car of Mont Salève will take you to an altitude of over 3600 feet to give a breathtaking panoramic view of Geneva. And it does it in less than five minutes! On the summit you can go mountain biking, hiking, paragliding or simply watch the sunset while dining window-side at L’Horizon.
Located inside the Parc des Bastions, a botanical garden smack-dab in the middle of city life, the Reformation Wall is a tribute to a religious movement in the 16th century. The 325-foot long monument, that is built into the old city walls, honors great leaders in the religious upheaval that divided Catholic Europe.
Besides chocolate, there is no better souvenir to bring home from Switzerland than a Swiss Army Knife. They can come in very handy too! The Victorinox Flagship store in Geneva has a knife assembly station where you can create your own Swiss Army Knife that is personalized with your choice of blades and accessories, plus have it engraved with a special message.
12. Eat at the Chef’s Table at Le Chat Botte
With a Michelin starred chef, Le Chat Botte exemplifies gastronomical delights at its finest. A simple dinner on any evening would be a special treat, but for a more unique bucket list experience book a seat at the chef’s table with chef Dominique Gauthier.
Tucked away in the corner of the busy kitchen, guests will be dining in the middle of the action on a tailor-made menu. Wine connoisseurs will be delighted with their list, as well as the wine cellar that has an extensive collection of over 22,000 bottles (some dating back to 1911!).
13. Make Your Own Swiss Chocolate
Millions of people around the world, including myself, are die-hard chocolate lovers and the Swiss make some of the best. The country is at the forefront of chocolate manufacturing and the proof is in the tasting. At the Stettlerlaboratory you can try your hand at making your own chocolate bar and candies. The most delicious thing to do in Geneva!
Come prepared — during the couple hour class, there will be a lot of sampling!
Fondue was invented as a way to use stale bread and aged cheese in the cold winter Swiss months when fresh produce was unavailable. It is now one of the most recognized Swiss dishes and quite possible the most delicious. What can be better than a hot pot filled with a blend of gooey cheese?
You can get your fondue fix at the hotel restaurant Les Armures or Café du Soleil near the United Nations. For a more unique experience take a fondue making class at the lively Edelweiss where you can learn to cook your own pot of cheese as musicians perform traditional instruments in the background. While there, don’t forget to take a blow into the traditional alphorn (long wooden horn)!
Enjoy the hospitality at the luxurious Beau-Rivage, a unique 5-star hotel that sits on Quai du Mont Blanc, opposite the renowned Jet d’Eau fountain. Exceeding guests expectations begins as soon as you enter through the revolving doors. The classic lobby impresses with a central fountain, marble pillars and colorfully tiled floors. My room had all the essentials to make you never want to leave: plush pillows, a soaking tub and a view of Jet d’Eau. It didn’t hurt that the Michelin-starred French restaurant Le Chat Botte (see #12) was located just off the lobby.
Not only is this a place of extravagance, it is also filled with history. Now operated by the fifth generation of the Mayer founding family, it has a legendary past dating back to 1898. Eleanor Roosevelt worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights here. The Empress Sissi of Austria died here after being stabbed by an anarchist just a few blocks away (there is one suite named in honor of her). The signing of the 1918 founding of Czechoslovakia was done here. If these walls could talk!
16. See the Kilncraft Ariana Museum (Musée Ariana)
The Kilncraft Ariana Museum in Geneva is one of the most important ceramic museums in the world, and it is the only one of its kind in Switzerland. It houses an impressive collection of over 20,000 ceramics and glass artworks from Switzerland, Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East, dating from the ninth century to the present day.
Built in 1884, the museum’s founder, Swiss art collector Gustave Revilliod, named the museum after his mother, Ariane de la Rive. In addition to its ceramic collections, the museum also houses a library (with over 7000 ceramic-related books), cafe, restaurant, and gift shop.
17. Sunbathe at Bains des Pâquis
Geneva’s Bains des Pâquis is a sun-worshipper’s paradise. Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Bains offer stunning views of the Alps and the cityscape.
The spacious lawns are perfect for sunbathing, and there are plenty of shady spots for those who prefer to stay out of the sun. If you’re looking to pamper yourselves, saunas, hammams, Turkish baths and massage services are also available. You can also find a cafe-restaurant on site, making it easy to spend a whole day at the Bains.
In addition to its picturesque setting, the Bains are also known for their lively atmosphere. On any given day, you’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the sun and the water.
The Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva is a must-see for anyone interested in art and culture. The museum houses an incredible collection of over 7,000 pieces of tribal art from around the world, ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary works.
The museum also offers a variety of temporary exhibitions, which provides visitors a chance to see different types of art from different cultures. In addition, the museum has a shop where you can buy books, souvenirs, and other items.
19. Visit the Basilica Notre-Dame
The Basilica Notre-Dame Geneva is the main Roman Catholic church in Geneva, Switzerland. Completed in 1857, it is one of the most important landmarks in the city, especially for pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela.
The basilica is home to many significant artworks, including stained glass windows by Claudius Lavergne and several other artists. The basilica is also known for its grandiose architecture, which combines Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical elements.
Each year, the Basilica Notre-Dame Geneva attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The Bioparc Geneve is a unique and exciting place to visit. The park is home to over 250 animal species, including fossa, turtles, camels, and pinch tamarins. There are also several majestic birds, such as the bald eagle and the hyacinth macaw.
The park is beautifully landscaped, and several walking trails wind through the different areas. Whether you’re interested in animals or nature, the Bioparc Geneve is sure to have something that will capture your attention.
21. Visit the Brunswick Mausoleum Monument
The Brunswick Monument in Geneva is a mausoleum built in 1879 to honor Charles II, Duke of Brunswick. It is located in Jardin des Alpes in Geneva and is made of white marble.
The mausoleum has three storeys, each with different reliefs and statues. The top part previously houses the Equestrian Statue, which was later moved to the ground due to an earthquake. Next is the spire, where you can see the shield bearers, seated women with coats of arms, and several medallions with heads. Last is the sarcophagus surrounded by reliefs and six of the Duke’s ancestors in their own stand on columns.
22. Explore the Greenwich Village of Geneva: Carouge
Geneva is a city full of surprises. Many people think of it as a staid financial center, but it is actually home to a vibrant and eclectic array of neighborhoods.
One of the most fascinating and unique neighborhoods is Carouge. Also known as the Greenwich Village of Geneva, Carouge is a charming community with a distinctly bohemian atmosphere.
The streets are lined with colorful buildings housing independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. The vibe is casual and relaxed, and the locals are warm and friendly.
23. Tour the Castle Voltaire
While Castle Voltaire is a popular tourist attraction in Ferney-Voltaire, France, its close proximity to the Swiss border and the city of Geneva make it a fantastic addition to your must-see destinations.
Located northwest of Geneva, the castle is well-known as the home of the philosopher Voltaire and for its beautiful architecture and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can tour the castle grounds, visit the chateau, and learn more about Voltaire and French history.
24. Visit CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research)
CERN is an acronym for the French name “Conseil Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire” and is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC is used to collide high-energy beams of protons to study the resulting debris.
Their primary purpose is to provide particle accelerators and proper infrastructures for high-energy physics research. The organization currently consists of 23 member states, and its headquarters is located in the northwest suburb of Geneva, Switzerland.
CERN is also involved in other projects, such as World Wide Web’s development and medical research. CERN’s work has had a profound impact on our understanding of the universe, and its discoveries continue to shape the course of science and technology.
25. Tour Château de Chillon
Chillon Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. The beautiful medieval castle stands on an island in Lake Geneva and offers stunning views of the surrounding lake and mountains.
For a fee, visitors can tour the castle’s many rooms and halls, including the Camera domini, which served as the quarters for the dukes and counts of Savoy. The Chillon Castle is a must-see for anyone visiting Switzerland.
The Geneva Museum of Ethnography (or MEG, from the French name Musée d’ethnographie de Genève) is one of Switzerland’s most important ethnographic museums. The museum was founded in 1901, with an aim of promoting the understanding of human cultures and their history.
Today, the museum houses over 80,000 artifacts and 130,000 documents from all over the world, ranging from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum’s collections are constantly expanding, and new exhibitions are regularly mounted, making it an essential destination for anyone interested in anthropology or ethnography.
27. Take a Swim at Genève-Plage
Looking for a place to take a dip in Lake Geneva? Head to Genève-Plage! This man-made beach is located on the right bank of the lake, just a 20+ min bus ride from the city center. It’s the perfect spot to cool off on a hot summer day. There’s plenty of space to lay out a towel and soak up the sun, or you can swim laps in the enclosed swimming area.
If you get hungry, there are several restaurants and cafes nearby. And when you’re ready to explore more of Geneva, the picturesque old town is just a short walk away. So why not add Genève-Plage to your list of must-see sights?
28. Stroll Through Jardin Anglais (English Garden)
Jardin Anglais, or the English Garden, is one of Geneva’s most beautiful urban parks. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the park features sprawling lawns, manicured gardens, hundred-year-old trees, a bronze fountain, and world-famous Flower Clock (L’horloge fleurie).
Visitors can stroll along the paths, relax in the sun, or take a boat ride on the lake, where you can also see a variety of wildlife such as swans and birds.
Jardin Anglais is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike, and it is easy to see why. With its stunning views and tranquil atmosphere, the park is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
29. Visit Jardin Botanique (Conservatory and Botanical Garden)
The Jardin Botanique de Genève is a large botanical garden located in Geneva, Switzerland. Founded in 1817 by Swiss botanist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, it covers an area of 28 hectares and is home to over 14,000 different species of plants.
In addition to its scientific research programs, the garden also offers a variety of public education programs and events. You will also find a small zoo housing animals like deer and flamingos. The botanical garden is open year-round to the public and free of charge.
30. Relax on Rousseau Island
If you’re looking for a place to relax and take in the sights of Geneva, Rousseau Island is the perfect spot. Located in the middle of the Rhone River at the heart of Geneva, the island is home to a variety of trees and flowers, as well as several benches where you can sit and enjoy the view.
Rousseau Island is also a popular spot for picnics, and there is also a small snack and tea shop on the island named Pavillon de l’Ile Rousseau if you’d like to grab something to eat. Whether you’re looking to relax or explore, Rousseau Island is definitely worth a visit.
31. See the Jet d’Eau (Water Jet)
The Jet d’Eau is one of the most iconic landmarks in Geneva, Switzerland. The massive water fountain shoots water 140 meters (460 feet) into the air, making it one of the tallest fountains in the world.
The Jet d’Eau has been a symbol of Geneva for over 130 years, and it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Every day (conditions permitting), hundreds of people come to watch the water jet shoot its impressive plume of water into the air.
32. Explore Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva is a beautiful natural body of water located in the north side of the Alps, and shared between Switzerland (60%) and France (40%). The lake is 45 miles long and has a maximum depth of 310 meters.
Aside from being a popular destination for water activities like swimming, it is also known for the Montreux Jazz Festival, an annual music festival held every July (and the second largest yearly jazz festival in the world!).
The area around Lake Geneva is also home to many vineyards, resorts, and other attractions. In short, it is a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
Here are a couple of tours that will help you explore Lake Geneva:
33. See the Oldest House in Geneva (Maison Tavel House)
The Maison Tavel (or Tavel House) is the oldest house in Geneva, Switzerland. It is one of the most important historic buildings in the city, and listed as part of Geneva’s network of Art and History Museums.
The house was built in the early 13th century, and was originally the home of the noble Tavel family. With the last of the Tavel family passing during the 16th century and passing into the hands of different owners over the centuries, it was acquired in 1963 by the city of Geneva.
Today, the Maison Tavel is open to the public and houses a museum showcasing Geneva’s history. Visitors can also tour the building and see its original features, including its intricate medieval design.
34. See the Masterpieces at Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (Art and History Museum)
The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva is the largest art museum in the city. The museum houses a significant collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day and a rich collection of archaeological artifacts.
The museum’s collections come from renowned artists from different parts of the world, such as Rembrandt, Picasso, and Konrad Witz. The museum is also home to an impressive assemblage of Byzantine art and archaeological findings from Europe, ancient Egypt, and many more.
35. See the Asian Art at the Museum of Far Eastern Art
The Museum of Far Eastern Art in Geneva is a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese and Chinese art and culture. The museum houses an impressive collection of more than 9,000 pieces from the Edo period Japan and imperial China.
Highlights include ancient ceramics, beautiful textiles, and intricate carvings. The museum also features a Zen Buddhism-inspired Japanese garden, which is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring the galleries.
36. Visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO)
TheMuseum of Modern and Contemporary Art(MAMCO) Geneva is one of the most important museums of its kind in Europe. It houses an impressive collection of more than 4,000 works by different artists from the 1960s to the present day.
The museum is particularly well-known for its holdings of modern and contemporary art, which includes works by Robert Filliou, Maurizio Nannucci, Yoon-Ja Choi, and Paul Devautour (to name a few).
In addition to exhibitions of paintings, sculptures, and installations, MAMCO also hosts a variety of educational programs and events. These include conferences and workshops for children.
37. Explore the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in Geneva is a must-see for anyone interested in the natural world. The museum showcases a wide range of exhibits, from fossils and dinosaurs to minerals and crystals.
In addition to its many exhibitions, the Natural History Museum also offers a variety of educational programs, including lectures and workshops.
38. See the Rose Garden at Parc de la Grange
Parc de la Grange is one of Geneva’s most beautiful parks. Located south of Lake Geneva, it is home to the city’s biggest rose garden, an 18th-century villa, sculptures, and many more.
The park is also a popular spot for picnics and relaxation. On sunny days, expect to see people filling the park, enjoying the scenic surroundings.
39. Take in the Views at Parc de La Perle du Lac
Parc de la Perle du Lac is one of Geneva’s most popular parks, and it’s easy to see why. The views here are simply stunning, whether you’re looking out over the lake or the cityscape beyond. And with plenty of green space to explore, it’s the perfect spot to come for a stroll or a picnic on a sunny day.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in the springtime, you’ll also be treated to a spectacular display of cherry blossoms. Whether you’re a local or just visiting Geneva, Parc de la Perle du Lac is definitely worth a visit.
40. Learn About Watchmaking at the Patek Philippe Museum
If you love watchmaking, then a visit to the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva is a must. This museum traces the history of watchmaking from its origins from the 16th century to the present day. You’ll see some of the world’s most iconic watches on display, including timepieces made by Patek Philippe himself.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum also hosts educational tours and events. So whether you’re a watch enthusiast or just curious about this fascinating industry, the Patek Philippe Museum is definitely worth a visit.
41. Visit Geneva’s Oldest Square: Place du Bourg-de-Four
If you’re looking for a taste of history in Geneva, be sure to head to Place du Bourg-de-Four. This is the city’s oldest square, and it’s been a gathering place for centuries.
Today, it’s still a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, and it’s easy to see why. The square is surrounded by beautiful architecture, including several medieval buildings. There’s also a lively market, which is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs.
42. See the Statue of Frankenstein
In 1818, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published and became an instant classic. The novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a horrifying creature in his laboratory. The book has been adapted into countless movies and television shows, and its iconic monster has become a pop culture icon.
In Geneva, Switzerland, you’ll find a sculpture of Frankenstein’s monster made by artist group KLAT in 2014, made of bronze and stands nearly eight feet tall. It is located in the Plainpalais quarter, and is a popular spot for tourists to take photos.
The sculpture is an impressive tribute to Mary Shelley’s timeless novel, and is a fitting reminder of the power of literature to inspire art.
43. See The Broken Chair of Geneva
The Broken Chair sculpture in Geneva, Switzerland, is a powerful symbol of the city’s commitment to peace. It was created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset, and stands in front of the Palace of Nations, the headquarters of the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The sculpture pays tribute to the victims of landmines and other explosive weapons, and serves as a reminder of the city’s dedication to promoting peace and security.
. . .
There is no doubt that Geneva is a beautiful city that has a lot of places to visit and things to do. The city’s stunning lakeside setting and its numerous museums and art galleries (and more!) are sure to give something to everyone. Add to that the excellent shopping and dining options, whether you’re looking for some Swiss chocolate to designer clothes.
So if you’re looking for a place to enjoy some cultural attractions, history, and good food, be sure to add Geneva to your travel list.
Essential Tips for Visiting Geneva
Getting There: The Geneva International Airportis a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use the train or bus, take a shuttle or take a taxi.
Where to Stay in Geneva: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. TheHotel des Alpes (moderate) is a great choice in the heart of Geneva. For something on the less expensive side, try theNash Pratik Hotel, which includes an airport shuttle,located in Cointrin. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Hôtel de la Cigogne, on charming Longemalle Square, or theLe Richmond(airport shuttle included), located right on the shores of Lake Geneva.Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Public transportation is the best way to travel while in Geneva, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxisand Uber are available all over the city, plus most of the top attractions can be accessed with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
City Transportation Passes: The Swiss Travel Pass is valid on all public transportation in Switzerland (train, bus, and boat), as well as the Glacier Express and Bernina Express. It also includes free admission to more than 490 museums. There are several options for purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass, but the popular 4 days consecutive (2nd class) Swiss Travel Pass costs €247.
Best Tours in Geneva: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing atTravelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
This post was provided in a partnership with Geneva Tourism. All opinions my own.This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, I earn a commission that helps to keep this blog running—at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.