Geneva (French: Genève, German: Genf) , Switzerland's second-most populous city, is one of the world's major centers of international diplomacy, having served as the site of the initial headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Although the United Nations is now headquartered in New York, the organization still retains a large presence in Geneva at the Palais des Nations and many of its sister/child organizations, such as the World Health Organization and ILO. Geneva itself has only 188'000 citizens but 780'000 people live in the metropolitan region (Jan. 2009).
Geneva was one of the eight host cities in the 2008 European Football Championships.
Geneva is officially a French-speaking city, although with the large international presence English takes a close second. Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic speakers abound and of course you will also occasionally hear German and Italian.
In 1536, a young man named Jean Calvin, fleeing Catholic persecution in France, spent a night in Geneva. As it turned out, he was to do a lot more there than sleeping. After being expelled from Geneva for nearly three years, Calvin returned triumphantly in 1541 to help elevate the city to the rank of a Protestant Rome. The intellectual influence of the Reformation extended to all realms of Genevan life: politics, economy, and administration.
Geneva was an independent republic from at least the 16th century until it became a Swiss Canton on 31 Dec 1813. This is a point of some pride to the Genevois, who still refer to their Canton as the République et Canton de Genève. A favorite festival is the yearly celebration of the Escalade, which commemorates a failed attempt in 1602 by the forces of the Dukes of Savoy to invade the city by climbing and otherwise breaching the city walls. Having turned aside this invasion attempt at the cost of only 16 lives, Geneva had secured its liberty, since the House of Savoy was never again strong enough on this side of the Alps to attempt such an invasion.
Geneva is still a very proud city. Some find it downright stuffy, although there is quite a bit more life to be found if you look under the surface, especially if you speak some French.
Due as much to its location as its international status, Geneva serves as a transportation hub for most of French speaking Switzerland and for access to the Swiss Alps from points west.
Geneva airport is served by almost all European carriers as well as a few daily trans-Atlantic flights. These include flights from Montréal's Trudeau International (YUL) on Air Canada (AC), Washington's Dulles (IAD) on United (UA), New York's Kennedy (JFK) on Swiss (LX), and from Newark International on Continental (CO). Otherwise, when flying from North and South America you will have to change planes. Most passengers travelling in from the Asia-Pacific region and Africa will need to change planes as well.
Within the last few years, Geneva itself has become a hub for the low-cost carrier Easy Jet serving a number of destinations in Europe including Great Britain.
The airport itself has an UBS bank with ATMs and exchange machines in the arrival area. There is an American Express office just beyond passport control in the departure lounge. There are several cafes and duty free shopping as well, open 8AM-11PM.
To get into town from the airport, taxis cost approximately 30CHF. The number 10 bus leaves every 15 minutes from 06:00 to 23:00. Get off at the 22-Cantons stop for train station. All trains leaving Geneva airport train station stop at the main train/bus station. Train/bus tickets are around 3CHF (valid for one hour) and can be purchased at machines at the bus stop and in the station. A free transport ticket to the city of Geneva can be obtained from the Geneva Transport kiosk in the airport arrival terminal. This ticket is valid for 80 minutes anywhere in Geneva and suburbs (with this ticket you can go as far as CERN or Anieres or Veyrier), but make sure to get it before you leave the baggage claim area. There is a change machine next to the UBS ATM and at the bus stop.
The Swiss Federal Railway (Called "CFF" in Geneva and the rest of French-speaking Switzerland) serves Geneva's Gare de Cornavin (also called Gare Cornavin or simply Cornavin) with trains to Zürich, St. Gallen, Basel and Bern every hour. Regional trains heading to Coppet, Nyon and Lausanne leave every half-hour.
International trains leaving from Cornavin include the SNCF (French National Railway) high-speed TGV service — there is a direct service from Geneva to Paris with a journey time of three hours as well as a direct service to Nice with a journey time of six hours. Geneva is also the starting point for the night train service to Barcelona, a journey time of nine and a half hours. Many Italian cities are connected to Geneva, notably the "Cisalpino" service, connecting Geneva to Milan and Venice. There is also a night train service to Florence and Rome Termini Station.
For more information:
Unless otherwise announced, most trains arriving in the Gare de Cornavin will usually have the Geneva Airport as their final destination (if they come from elsewhere in Switzerland), which means you don't have to use the TPG (Geneva Public Transport Company) tram or bus to get there.
While not anything special in architectural terms, Gare Cornavin is, nevertheless, exceptionally well designed, and a key part of Geneva's public transport network. City tram and bus routes converge at a terminal located directly outside the front doors of the station, making transition from train to public transit extremely easy. If you're staying in a hotel, hostel or campground, don't buy more than a single ticket. Geneva provides free transit passes to any tourist staying in one of these types of accommodation. The station also features a basement-level shopping concourse, along with an underground passage which connects to the south side of the busy main street, permitting new arrivals to avoid crossing busy roads. The passage also connects to a lovely, open-air pedestrianized shopping street, leading down to the lake.
The motorway network brings you right into Geneva, only 40km from Annecy and 80km from Chamonix with customs at Bardonnex - Saint-Julien. You need the compulsory motorway sticker (single annual 40CHF fee) to come through this customs office. Purchase of the motorway tax sticker (aka Vignette) at one of the customs is obligatory in order to drive on Swiss motorways.
To avoid the purchase of a vignette, you can enter Geneva through other crossing points at Bardonnex or Mouillesulaz, for example. If, however, you decide later to drive on the motorway, you will need to purchase a vignette — you can generally purchase the vignette at Post Offices or at Tourist Offices.
Geneva is served by a number of regular international bus routes (Bus station: tel. +41(0)22 732 02 30). Additionally, the TPG (Geneva Public Transport) provide regular services from the neighboring French towns of Saint-Julien, Archamps, Thoiry, Ferney-Voltaire, Moillesulaz (tel. +41(0)22 308 34 34). See the website for bus timetables.
Regular boat service is provided, mainly in turn of the last century steamboats, from ports all around Lake Geneva by Compagnie Générale de Navigation . All boats arrive at the Paquis port after docking briefly at Parc des Eaux Vives and the Jardin Anglais.
Geneva, like most cities in Switzerland, is a marvel of public transportation efficiency. Transports Publics Genevois provides frequent bus, tram, 'mouette' (boat), and suburban train service to within a block or two of most locations in the city and canton.
The law changed this year and anybody staying in a Geneva hotel/hostel is entitled to a free daily travel pass for the local Transport TPG. This is provided by the hotel.
Old Town and St. Gervais
The old-town can be easily visited by foot starting anywhere around the tour boat dock on Lake Geneva. Crossing the bridge (Pont du Mont Blanc), you'll get to the English Garden with the famous flower clock and a sculpted bronze water fountain. Then you can cross the street (Quai de General Guisan) and go up the hill (on Place du Port and Rue de la Fontaine) and up the long stairs passage and end up behind Saint Peter's Cathedral. After visiting the cathedral, which is Geneva's well-known landmark, you can exit the courtyard and be right in front of Geneva City Hall. From there you can easily walk down to the Bastions Park where you can find the famous Reformation Wall memorial. This park is very quiet and romantic, especially at the beginning of the fall season when the leaves start falling. See this walking route in pictures .
Geneva is a great town to get around in by bicycle. Except for the old-town, the city is fairly flat, and though there are some streets that are dangerous to ride, there is almost always a safe, fast route to your destination. If you want to know the best routes, you should get a copy of the beautifully designed VELO-LOVE plan de ville, which is available at all bike shops in Geneva, or by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (+41) 22 418 42 00.
A social organization called Genève Roule lends bicycles free of charge (for four hours and then a fee of 1CHF per extra hour), from 30 April through 30 October. A passport or identity card must be shown and a refundable deposit of 20CHF is required. Four kiosks, staffed by asylum seekers, are located along the lake, behind the railway station, and in the plaine de Plainpalais. While this service is quite convenient, be sure to bring ID and contact information, including hotel phone number, to speed up the paperwork.
Tickets, which cover both trams and buses, must be bought from ticket machines (located at every stop) before boarding the transport.
Tickets cost 2CHF for a short hop (three stops or less, or a one-way crossing of the lake). 3CHF for one hour with unlimited changes on tram, bus, boat, and rail within greater Geneva, 7CHF for a pass valid from 9AM to midnight, and 10CHF for a 24-hour pass valid from the time it is purchased. Holders of the SBB Demi-Tarif/Halbtax card get 20-30% off these prices. The ticket machines do not give change, if you have over paid, keep the ticket and take it to a TPG office (located at the airport, Cornavin railway station and in the middle of the rond-pont de Rive), where the difference will be refunded to you.
Since January 2008, if you stay in a hotel, hostel, or on a camping site, you will get free public transport. Typically, you will receive a Unireso Geneva Transport Card at check-in. It will be authorised for use for the length of your stay and like a ticket one gets in the airport upon arrival it is valid for Geneva and suburbs including the Unireso network. You are supposed to carry your passport or identity card with you at the same time, to ensure validity. The ticket is valid on trains as far as the airport.
If you want to explore the mountainous countryside or go skiing in one of the ski resorts in the Alps, getting a car is a better option. Numerous local and international car rental service providers operate from the airport. They provide customized traveling services to the needs of tourists visiting Geneva.
Regional trains to suburban areas run every half hour during the day and every hour after 8PM. The last train to the eastern terminus, (Coppet), leaves at 12:03AM. Though these "Regios" mostly serve commuters, at least two of their station stops, Versoix and Coppet, have several good restaurants and historic main streets. As with buses and trams, tickets must be bought before boarding the train. If you are only travelling with the canton of Geneva, a bus/tram ticket is valid on the train and vice versa; travelling further afield will cost more.
Geneva has an expanding network of super frequent trams. Many lines have their hub at the Cornavin train station, a few others at Place Bel-Air on the old-town side of the river. Tickets which cover both trams and buses must be bought from ticket machines (located at every stop) before boarding the transport.
Please notice that contrary to popular belief, the Swiss are beyond punctual when it comes to closing hours. So if a museum is supposed to close at 5PM, expect that at 4:45PM you will be asked to leave and if you point out that closing hours are still 15 minutes away you might get expelled. If you arrive after 4:30PM, you'll more than likely be denied entrance. The same applies to shops and pretty much every public activity with a schedule.
Jet d'Eau, daily 10AM-11PM, the Rade, visible from most of the Lac Léman waterfront, One of the crowning symbols of Geneva is the monumental **Jet d'Eau**, a fountain of water pumped 140m into the air. The spectacular plume was once an occasional pressure release for hydro-power generation on the Rhône River, but people liked it so much that in 1891 the city created a permanent pumped fountain. It's beautifully lit at night. Best viewed from a distance — the surrounding half kilometer is soaked with water.
Cathédrale St-Pierre , Jun-Sep, M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 11AM-7PM; Oct-May, M-Sa 10AM-noon and 2PM-5PM, Su 11AM-12:30PM and 1:30PM-5PM, Place St. Pierre, At the highest point in the Old Town, The new Espace Saint Pierre pass includes entrance to all three sites of Cour Saint-Pierre, a noteworthy space of unique spiritual and cultural importance. The Cathedral and its towers, which both embody the high point of the Reformed tradition and explore the origins of Christianity with an extensive archaeological site are now complemented by the International Museum of the Reformation on the ground floor of the Maison Mallet. An underground passage, reopened when the Museum was created, connects the two buildings. Nearby, the Auditoire, where Calvin taught, completes a complex that is both representative of the past and open to current questions. The new Espace Saint-Pierre thus aims to contribute to our understanding of today’s world – between tradition and modernity, cultural experimentation and spiritual practice. These three buildings invite the visitor to explore the city’s history. Religious denominations aside, Espace Saint Pierre represents a spirit that continues to guide the city and citizens of Geneva today. For schedules and information about free live organ performances in the cathedral, go to the website
Palais des Nations , +41-22-917 48 96, +41-22-917 48 96, Open daily Apr-Oct 10AM-noon and 2PM-4PM; Jul-Aug 10AM-5PM; the rest of the year M-F 10AM-noon and 2PM-4PM (except over the Christmas period), 14, Avenue de la Paix, Number 8 bus, stop at Appia, Originally built to house the League of Nations, the Palais is worth visiting just to take in the magnificent Assembly Hall, in addition to the large collection of public art, the library, and the landscaped grounds.
International Museum of the Reformation , + 41 22 310 24 31, + 41 22 310 24 31, Open daily, except Monday, from 10AM-5PM. Closed on 24, 25 and 31 December and on 1 January. Open Easter, Pentecost, and Jeune Federal Mondays. Access for disabled visitors., 4, rue du Cloître, Bus n° 36 to Cathédrale/ Bus n° 2, 7, 20, stop Molard/ Tram 12, 16, stop Molard, Installed on the ground floor of the magnificent Maison Mallet (next to Saint-Pierre Cathedral), this new Museum presents the main spiritual and cultural elements of the Reformation. Unique objects, manuscripts, rare books, engravings, and paintings illustrate the close ties between Geneva and the Reformation. State-of-the-art technology welcomes a modern audience: films, a music room, and demonstrations, including many for children, invite visitors to both rediscover the past and imagine the future.
Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross , + 41 22 748 95 25, Open Daily, except Tuesday, from 10AM-5PM. Closed on 24, 25 and 31 December and on 1 January. Access for disabled visitors., 17, Avenue de la Paix, 8, F, V, or Z bus to Appia 1.80CHF from the central station, The Museum of the I.C.R.C. is one of the best in Europe, providing detailed photographic and other physical evidence of the I.C.R.C.'s service to humanity during countless wars and natural disasters. The displays are striking and affecting, but somehow manage to avoid taking sides.
Musée ARIANA , +41 22 418 54 50, Open daily (except Tuesdays) 11AM-5PM, Avenue de la Paix 10, About midway between Place des Nations and the entrances to the Palais and the I.C.R.C, Occupying a big chunk of what would otherwise be the UN campus, the Ariana Museum offers a huge collection (16,000 pieces) of ceramics from around Europe and the far East.
Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain , +41 22 320 61 22, Tu-F Noon-6PM. Sa-Su 11AM-6PM, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, Number 1 bus to Ecole des Medécins, Late modern, post-modern, and contemporary works by internationally known artists, as well as a special collection of Swiss conceptual work.
Musée d'Histoire Naturelle , +41 22 418 63 00, Tu-Su 9:30AM-5PM, Route de Malagnou 1, Bus 1-8 (arrêts Tranchées & Muséum) 20-27 (arrêt Muséum), trams 12-16 (arrêt Villereuse), Geneva has a nice museum which is worth a visit, especially if you have youth and children.
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire , 022 418 26 00, Tu-Su 10AM-5PM, Rue Charles-Galland 2, Extensive art and archaeological-historical collections. Painting gallery extends back to the early Renaissance, but is most extensive in Swiss-French and Impressionist works.
March: Motor Show.
Bol D'Or Yacht Race (biggest in Europe).
Fête de la Musique, +41 22 418 65 32, Free, . For three days in June, the whole City of Geneva is a stage. Actually, there are on the order of 40 of them. The musical offerings include children's choirs, punk rock, chamber orchestras, jam bands, avant-guard jazz, klezmer, and drum and bass DJs. The venues are as diverse as the music, with stages inside and out of l'Usine, Parc des Bastions, and even Cathédral St. Pierre. There is also a wide assortment of international food and drink for sale, which can be a bit pricey, but highly worth it. The easiest way to get information is to just head to one of the parks listed above and find one of the free newspaper-style festival guides. It includes time-tables and maps. Additionally, be sure to wander around, as the festival is full of many excellent unofficial performances, including drums, juggling, and dance.
August: Fete de Geneve — Week long party, including best fireworks display in Europe.
It's worth taking at least a day to explore the green places of Geneva, of which there are quite a few, not the least because some of the more interesting parts of town are between those green places. There are a number of suggested promenades for which there are maps available at the tourist office on the Ile de la Machine.
Parc des Bastions, entrance at Place Neuve or just down rue St. Léger from Place Bourg de Four. This lovely tree lined park, which is home to the liberal arts campus of the University of Geneva features giant chessboards and even larger statues of Geneva's Calvinist founding fathers, and it's directly between the old town and Plain de Plainpalais, so it makes a good transitional area for exploring.
Parc des Eaux Vives, entrance at the far end of Rue des Eaux Vives and the number 2 bus line. There's also a boat dock, with service from the Pâquis. This park offers promenades and views over the lake of the U.N. campus and the Palais des Nations. Geneva beach is at the end furthest from the city, on the lakefront.
Bois de la Bâtie — Just over the river Arve from Jonction. Most of this woodsy bluff has been left in a more-or-less natural state, though there are walking trails around the edges. The trails connect eventually with a sidewalk which crosses a railroad bridge to the St. Jean neighborhood. There is also a small zoo at the western edge of the woods.
Geneva has a huge number of restaurants for a city its size, and the international community means there's more variety than you'll find in most Swiss cities. On the downside, Geneva is possibly the most expensive city in an expensive country. Additionally, it can be quite difficult to find food on Sunday night, so it might be worth planning ahead or just visiting the more touristy region near the train station.
There are many budget spots located around the train station and in the nearby Paquis district, or near rue de l'Ecole de Médecine off of Plaine de Plainpalais.
Buvette des Bains (Bains des Paquis) , +41 22 738 16 16, +41 22 738 16 16, 30, quai du Mont-Blanc, jetée des Bains des Pâquis, Wonderful place in the middle of the lake. Beach in Summer, fondue restaurant in Winter. Good
Expresso Club, +41 22 738 84 88, M-F until 2AM, rue des Pâquis 25, just off of Place de Navigation, A tiny bar and three tables means this little local spot is usually packed with a very international crowd of people who know where to get the best pizza, salads, and pasta dishes in town, with many vegetarian selections. Espresso club keeps the ovens going late for late working customers and it's a nice spot for a cafe and newspaper afternoon as well. Unfortunately the quality of its customer service does not mirror that of its pizzas. L'Entrecôte Couronnée, +41 22 732 84 45, 10:00-14:15 & 19:00-22:45, closed on Sundays, rue des Pâquis 5, close to rue de Alpes, (sic) it really is spelled that way, we know it's wrong, take it up with the owners of the café * Café Art's, +41 22 738 07 97, M-F 5PM-2AM, Sa-Su 11AM-2AM, rue des Pâquis 17, Café Art's (sic) has a limited menu of salads and pasta dishes, but all around or under 15 CHF and service is non-stop all day.
Boky, +41 78 628 16 99, 6PM-midnight, rue des Alpes 21, also Rue Neuve du Molard 19, Large selection of chinese and japanese dishes. Fast, but impolite service. Quality Chinese food (it's always full of Chinese customers) but no fancy atmosphere.
Piment Vert, +41 22 731 93 03 , 4 place Grenus, the small plaza behind the Manor department store, Indian and Sri-Lankan fast food in a charmingly appointed space. There's also a terrace during warm weather.
Chez Ma Cousine, A chain with a simple menu: chicken, chicken, or chicken. The roasted chicken is what they're famous for, and two chicken salads make the rest of the regular menu, each under 14.90CHF.
, +41 22 310 96 96, pl. du Bourg-de-Four 6
, +41 22 733 79 85, ch. du Petit-Saconnex 2
, +41 22 731 98 98, rue Lissignol 5
Mike Wong, Fast Thai, with great Pad Thai noodles and Thom Yam Kung soup.
, +41 22 731 49 25, bd James-Fazy 11
, +41 22 800 15 03, rue du Conseil-Général 20
Été comme hiver , +41 22 731 56 30, Place de Saint Gervais 1, Soup and/or salad is the specialty at this lunch place just across from a lovely terrace on the Rhône. If you're really hungry you should probably order both.
Cafe Istanbul, Rue du Mont Blanc, Directly across from Gare Cornavin (the train station) on the pedestrian street Rue du Mont Blanc, This serves kebabs of lamb, chicken, or both. Cafe Istanbul serves the most per price at the best quality. Good hot sauce and Tahini for condiments, and the workers are very nice.
Manora, +41 22 909 41 11, Rue de Cornavin 6, Just west of the central gare (train station). Anyone on the streets could easily point it out as it is the top floor of the mega-store Manor (you can find anything and everything you need at Manor)., Cafeteria like serving area with everything and anything including (but not inclusive): chicken, pasta, pizza, desserts, entree of the day, salads, and coffee. There is also a great view of the Geneva skyline from the balcony eating area.
Brasserie Lipp, +41 22 311 10 11, 8 Rue de la Confederation, Good Brasserie, lots of seafood.
Café du Soleil , +41 22 733 34 17, Place du Petit-Saconnex, This ancient Petit Saconnex roadhouse claims to be possibly the oldest restaurant in Geneva and to have probably the best fondue in Switzerland.
Le Comptoir, Rue de Richemont 9, Easy-Listener-chic Asian/fusion restaurant and bar sporting white leather sofas and the occasional local DJ. Not a cheap choice, but the food is unusually interesting and the crowd friendly.
Hashimoto, +41227367680, 6, rue de Villereuse, Hashimoto Sushi is a favorite spot for Japanese diplomats and international civil servents in Geneva, which should tell you enough.
L'Entrecôte Couronnée, +41 22 732 84 45, 10:00-14:15 & 19:00-22:45, closed on Sundays, rue des Pâquis 5, close to rue de Alpes, Excellent steak restaurant with fast and efficient staff. The wine card is limited but has good Swiss wines. Just 40 seats so better reserve a table
Le Triporteur, +41 22 321 21 81, 33 rue de Carouge, This little place fills a nice niche at the low end of the high end, where it is likely to impress the heck out of a date without overly denting the bank account. The room is cozy and romantic. The service is attentive, but not at all pushy or snobbish. The Triporteur has the feel of a lot of the better restaurants in say, San Francisco. Expect to spend around 50 Chf per person if you're drinking the house wine.
Café des Négociants , 29 rue de la Filature, Carouge, Wonderful hip restaurant with wonderful hip food and a wonderful hip wine cellar where you can wander around and choose from all the wonderful hip wine on the racks. You can guess what the desserts are like. Everyone wants a piece of this place, so plan to reserve up to a week or so in advance.
Edelweiss Manotel , Place de la Navigation 2, This is a must if you want to taste the Swiss culture. You will get the cheese fondue, of course, but also some other local delicacies. But you get there for the show: you can hear and see folklore music and yodeler singers, as well as many other instruments. It is however a very touristic restaurant and you are not likely to see many Swiss people eating there.
Les Brasseurs , (+41) 22 731 02 06, Tuesday to Saturday until 2:00AM, Sunday and Monday until midnight, 20 Place de Cornavin, directly across from the train station, One of the few brew pubs in Geneva, Les Brass serves three flavors of home brew in the usual half pints, pints, and liter glasses or you can go for one of the giant plastic tubes filled with three to five liters. A small menu of pub food and a full restaurant in the back makes it a good spot to waste an evening.
Café de la Gare, Open until 11PM daily, 2 rue de Montbrillant, directly outside of the TGV arrival area of the Gare Cornavin, Of the two restaurants attached to the hotel Montbrillant this is the pick. The beautifully decorated but unpretentious Café de la Gare captures the laid-back feel of some of the best sidewalk cafés in Paris. It's a great place for dinner as well, with excellent Swiss, French, and Italian offerings.
Pickwicks , (+41) 22/731 6797, (+41) 22/731 6797, W-Sa until 2AM, Su-Tu until 12AM., 80, rue de Lausanne, Take the number 13 Tram from Cornavin toward Nations, One of the half-dozen or so British pubs. Usually full of football watching ex-pats eating fish and chips while sipping Guinness. Saturday night has low-key dancing to sometimes cheesy disco and pop music. A laid-back, friendly spot.One of the best in geneva for burgers and a dozen of draft beers!!
Alhambar , (+41) 22 312 1313, (+41) 22 312 1313, M 12PM-2PM, Tu-F 12PM-2PM and 6PM-2AM, Sa 5PM-2AM, Su 11AM-12AM., 10, rue de la Rôtisserie, Enter in back off of Parc Pélisserie, A swanky cocktail bar above the Alhambra Theater. Pretty people in a pretty room, usually with a DJ. A small tapas menu early in the evening and a nice brunch on weekends until 2PM.
La Clémence , 11AM-12AM, every day, Place Bourg-de-Four, This cozy little bar on the central square of Geneva's old town more than quintuples in size from April until October when it is able to use a huge swath of the place as its terrace. During warm weather it's packed, but is such a lovely and central stopping point that it's worth the wait for a table - check out the gallery on their website. In the winter they have the best **vin chaud** in town.
Café Demi-Lune , M-W 8:45AM-APM, Th-F 8:45AM-2AM, Sa-Su 4PM-2AM., 3, rue Etienne-Dumont, Located in a small street connecting to Place du Bourg-de-Four (Old town), this little café has a very charming attitude and atmosphere. A good place for after dinner drinks with good friends.
Spring Bros. Pub, (+41) 22 312 4008, 35, Grand-Rue, Located in the old town, 10 minutes from the train station, this is a classic Irish pub. The establishment is comfortable and friendly, though on soccer nights, it can get a bit rowdy as fans come to enjoy the large screen TVs. As you might expect, Guinness flows free from the tap, but you can also order sweets, snacks and freshly made hot sandwiches if you get hungry.
Saveurs & Couleurs Café, +4122 734 63 52, 24 rue des Grottes, The Grottes neigborhood of Geneva has long been a center for creative types, many of whom can be found of an evening enjoying a glass of wine at this comfy little bistro.
Boréal Coffee Shop , +4122 310 69 60, 60 rue du Stand, 1204 Geneva, This cosy Coffee Shop is in the bank district. Espressos, Cappuccinos, Lattes, Renversés, Macchiatos, Mochacinos, ice coffees and teas can be consumed there or take-away. The coffee is great, there is a free WIFI connection. This is the kind of places where you feel like staying hours, lovely !
Les Enfants Terribles , +41 22 321 85 13, rue Prévost-Martin 24, A café bar bicycle-workshop hair salon and wine shop, with a nice lunch tapas buffet and Thursday night jazz in a beautiful post-industrial space with atrium roofs and an olive tree. What is there not to like?
Around a dozen of the best bars in town are located around this diamond shaped parade and circus ground in the area southwest of the old town. This shouldn't be surprising since the many buildings of the Université de Genève are ranged around it as well.
Remor, Place de Cirque 1, phone number ((+41)22 328 12 70). Really the best Parisien style grande café in Geneva. Artwork by University Students and sometimes the Proprietor hang on the wall. They also offer two salads of the day, and a range of ice-cream treats. On recent evenings they've been screening the best of Swiss film, for free. 3.50/5.00CHF draft/bottle beers. Free Wi-fi available.
l'Ethno, (+41)22 310 25 21, Rue Bovy-Lysberg 1, This comfy nightspot across the street from the northern tip of the **plaine** is popular with Students as well as with the folks who work at the private banks in the surrounding neighborhood.
Moloko Bar , Mon - Fri 6PM-1AM, Sun 6PM-12AM , Place des Volontaires, Upstairs from the main entrance of l'Usine, There are punks in Geneva! Well, a few anyway, and they all hang out at the bar upstairs at the l'Usine. When you're sick of rubbing elbows with bankers, politicians, and their lackeys, head over to the smoky interior of L'Usine for a cheap beer and interesting people-watching. L'Usine also has two large dance/concert halls: One downstairs with an entrance by the river (hard to miss with typically massive lines every weekend) and one upstairs. Prices typically run for 15ch, but entry from upstairs is free (or the bouncers don't care) once Moloko starts kicking people out and closing down after 1AM. The two halls are booked by three separate organizations: KAB which books punk rock and rasta, PTR which handles slightly bigger name acts, and ZOO which books the best dance hall and electronica music available in Geneva.
Le Ferblanterie, 8, rue de l'Ecole-de-Médecine, The **Ferblanterie**, or Tinsmith would be one of the coolest bars in just about any town, and it happens to be on a street loaded with cool bars. This is very much a student haunt, and a grungy one in all the right ways. Some of the cds in the rack above the cd player are by Paulo Conté, Tom Waits, Fugazi, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Charles Mingus, if that tells you anything.
L'Etabli, 5, rue de l'Ecole-de-Médecine, L'Etabli is a great place to go when the Ferblanterie is packed, or perhaps it's the other way around. This super-friendly little café/bar/wine bar is a great place to meet grad students to help with your French, or to help with their English, or just to argue politics or whatever.
La SIP (Soul Influenced Product) , Open until 5AM, 10, rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, The SIP is one of the largest and most happening places in Geneva. The music tends toward the mainstream, which does serve to attract a large mixed crowd of locals and expats. The bar is on the first floor and disco on the second floor. i
Weetamix , 37 Chemin Jacques Philbert, Although it's not the easiest place to get to, Weetamix is able to attract good, mostly local crowds by consistently booking some of the best cutting-edge talent in electronic music from France, Britain, and the U.S..
Shakers , (+41) 22 310 5598, rue Winkelried 4, This club is known for the wild nights within, thanks to its very strong cocktails served in shaker glasses. The dance floor is imposing, but once on it, well known for romantic encounters. Very popular with English speakers.
Bypass , (+41) 22 300 6565, Carrefour de l’Etoile 1, 1227 Carouge, One of the most modern clubs in Geneva, the Bypass is, for lack of a better word, bling-bling. The dance floor swarms with young professionals and, on occasion, corporate parties and the rooms pound with clean hip-hop and r'n'b. Unfortunately, this club is not near the city center, but still just a short taxi ride from it.
There are a lot of hotels in Geneva, but very few of them are actually in anything like the budget range. Hundreds, many right around the central Cornavin train station offer a pretty standard rate of 135CHF per night for a single. If you arrive late and are willing to spend that it makes sense to look at the automated hotel board in the train station to find the nearest vacancy.
It's hardest to find lodging during large international conferences, and trade shows. The latter, of which the prime example is the Salon d'Auto are usually held at Palexpo. It's worthwhile to do a bit of research to see if your arrival is likely to coincide with one of these events.
For lower hotel prices, try the outlying French cities of Annemasse or Gaillard which are conveniently accessible via public transit from Gare Cornavin.
Youth Hostel Geneva , +41 22 732 62 60, Rue Rothschild 30, Tram 13 to Môle, A clean well maintained place. Well placed for access to the bars and restaurants of the Paquis, and only a 15-minute walk from the central station. Floors, lockers, and doors, unfortunately, are all fairly loud, and if staying in a shared room, you must bring ear plugs.
City Hostel Geneva , +41 22 901 15 00, Rue Ferrier 2, from the main train station it's a five minute northbound walk up Rue de Lausanne, A clean and hassle-free, if somewhat soul-less, hostel located near the budget food haven of Paquis and the central train station.
Cité Universitaire , +41 22 839 22 22, Avenue Miremont 46, 01210 Ferney Voltaire, France, bus number 3 to Champel, A **huge** dorm space with 500 beds, which means that if all else fails you can probably sleep here **and** it's cheap. It is a bit far out of the old town though, about 2km south on the bluff of Champel, which overlooks the Arve river across from Carouge. Do remember that, because it is not a hotel, the reception closes at 10PM. If you do stay there check out the tower of Champel in the morning.
Hôtel de la Cloche , +41 22 732.94.81, 6, rue de la Cloche, In the Pâquis, take bus number one to Place de Navigation, This charming, clean, and relatively inexpensive family run bed and breakfast shares its tiny street with the cab stand of the Hilton. It is usually full so do book ahead!
Hotel Formule 1 , +33 891 705 254, Route de Meyrin, 01210 Ferney Voltaire, France, Right behind the airport on the French side. Inexpensive but still a good standard since it belongs to the Accor hotel chain.
Hotel de Geneve, +41 22 732 32 64, Famille Ray Place Isaac Mercier 11201 GENEVE, 5 minute walk from Cornavin Station.4 bus stops away from St. Pierre Cathedral.
There are hundreds of quality mid-range hotels in Geneva. Here are a couple of representative examples.
Hotel Savoy , Place Cornavin 8 (Across from the Cornavin train station), +41 22 906 47 00 (fax: +41 22 906 47 90). A nice clean recently remodeled place with prices as close to reasonable as one can find in Geneva. 135-195CHF/165-230CHF Singles/Doubles.
Le Montbrillant , 2 rue de Montbrillant (at the north entrance of the main train station), +41 22 733 77 84 (fax:+41 22 733 25 11). This lovely hotel is slightly pricier than the average mid-range, but the location can't be beat. If you can, get a room on the top floor under the sloping roof. There are two restaurants downstairs: the Café de la Gare which has a separate entrance, and a quality pizza joint which adjoins the lobby. Both are to be recommended on their own.
Hôtel Bel'Espérance, rue de la vallée 1, (next to the College du Calvin, just off of Place Bourg de Four). +41 22 818 37 37, Fax +41 22 818 37 73. Run by the Salvation Army, the Bel'Espérance is less hotel like than many hotels; they have a little kitchen with small individual refrigerators if you want to cook, and considering how close the hotel is to the Wednesday morning farmer's market on blvd Helvetique there's a pretty good chance you will want to. You can take your meals on the rooftop terrace or in the big, comfy lounge area. 90/160CHF singles/doubles
Residence Studio, Rue de berne 35, (next to Hotel Novotel,infact its part of Novotel hotel), +41 22 909 90 00, Fax +41 22 909 90 01. Run by Novotel and the cheapest available in Geneva center. Small room in 125 CHF per night excluding tax. The best part is kitchen, with has two hot plates, fridge, and ample crockery. Kitchen cost is 100 CHF per stay, which means if you stay for two days or two weeks its only 100CHF. The sad part is location of studio which is in red light area.
Hotel Strasbourg, Rue Pradier 10, (three minutes by foot from the main train station). +42 22 906 58 00, Fax +41 22 906 58 14. Run by Best Western, the hotel is very close to the train station as well as tram and bus lines. The desk staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.
Hôtel-Résidence du Grand-Saconnex, 175, route de Ferney Genève,CH-1218 Grand-Saconnex (very close to bus stop). Cheapest available in Geneva near airport. variety of rooms available, studio or standard rooms.
Bernina, , 22, Place Cornavin, Member of Swiss Quality Hotels Internationanl. Three star hotel located right next to the railway station in the heart of geneva. The airport is 6km away. Single room from 179CHF, double room from 245CHF (as of April 2009). www.bernina-geneva.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
Drake & Longchamp, , 32 rue Rothschild, CH-1202, Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Three star hotel situated 1km away from the railway station, 500m from the city center and only 5km from the airport. Single room from 180CHF, double room from 234CHF (low season of April 2009). www.hdlge.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
Grand-Pré, , 35, rue du Grand-Pré, CH-1202, Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Four star hotel situated 1km away from the railway station and 500m from the city center. Single room from 231CHF, double room from 292CHF (low season of April 2009). www.grandpre.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
Mon-Repos, , 131, rue de Lausanne CH-1202, Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Three star superior hotel situated 1km away from the railway station and 1.5km from the city center. Single room from 207CHF, double room from 258CHF (low season of 2009). www.hmrge.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
Sagitta, , 6, rue de la Flèche, CH-1207, Member of Swiss Quality Hotels International. Three star hotel situated 1km away from the railway station and 200m from the city center. Single room from 163CHF, double room from 213CHF (low season of April 2009). www.hotelsagitta.ch www.SwissQualityHotels.com
It's almost as hard to pick from the huge selection of luxury hotels in Geneva as it is with the mid-range.. that said there are a couple that stand out for their historical importance or excellent locations.
Des Bergues , Quai des Bergues 33 (On the river near the old pedestrian Bridge), +41 22 908 70 00 (fax: +41 22 908 70 90). The oldest of Geneva's super-luxury hotels, this palace like space faces the old town from a superb right-bank position just above the pedestrian Pont des Bergues. A favorite among European royalty. 450Chf+ (They do run specials. The price can drop as low as 330CHF in slow periods, such as over Christmas).
Les Armures , 1 Rue du Puits St-Pierre (In the center of the old town, up the curved steps from Rue de Rotiserie), +41 22 310 91 72 (fax: +41 22 310 98 46). Lovely 17th Century building in the old town has hosted recent democratic presidents of the U.S. 360Chf+ (Specials sometimes as low as 290CHF for a single.).
Beau Rivage , 13, Quai du Mont-Blanc (On the northern border of the lake), +41 (0)22 716 66 66 (fax: +41 (0)22 716 60 60). The interieur of this five star hotel is breath-taking, old european style, beautiful, service is above any doubts, simply high-class, usually you meet there a lot of rich arabian families. reserve best months in advance... 600CHF+ .
Swissotel Metropole , 34 Quai Général Guisan (On the southern border of the lake), +41 (0)22 318 33 50 (fax: +41 (0)22 318 33 00). Five star hotel with nice old ambiance. Very kind service, in front of it is a park, may be a nice view, but to see much of the lake or the jet d'eau you should take a room on 3rd level or higher (one of the suites). 430CHF+ .
Grand Hotel Kempinski , 19, Quai du Mont-Blanc, +41 22 908 9081. Formerly known as the Noga-Hilton, this very modern and luxurious hotel is a typical choice for corporate clients. Features a mini-mall, health club and conference rooms. Prices start at 580CHF.
While Switzerland is famed as a land of banks and financial institutions, getting ahold of some local cash for your shopping trips can be more difficult than you might think. ATMs (automatic bank machines) are found easily in the train station and in nearby streets, but become hidden and elusive creatures elsewhere. Often they are tucked away within shopping malls, without any signs leading you inside. Your best bet is to get money at the train station, and then to ask people (in french if you can) where the nearest bank machine is located.
Chocolate can be bought at any number of specialty stores, but the stuff at the grocery is just as good for a fraction of the price (1-3 CHF a bar). Meanwhile, if you have a place to prepare meals the grocery stores in Switzerland offer the best possible dining deal for your money. For many fresh foods you'll pay a lot more than you are accustomed to paying in the U.S. or Britain.
Wine and spirits cost much less than in Anglophone countries, and the local stuff is particularly cheap, and not just drinkable but quite good. Some say that the only reason Swiss wines are not well known internationally is that the Swiss drink all of it.
Shopping for clothing and accessories can be disappointing in Geneva. Most offerings are usually expensive and uninteresting, unless you're really after that floor-length purple fur coat with the rhinestone trim. Geneva is home to several watch manufacturers, and there are many jewelers and horologers with a great selection.
If you are interested in taking or sending home some outwardly Swiss souvenirs you can certainly find them in Geneva, mainly along the main streets leading down to the lake from Gare Cornavin. There are also a couple of good spots on the other side of the lake near the end of the Mont Blanc bridge. You should be able to easily find at reasonable prices:
Cuckoo clocks (in fact originally from southern Germany and formerly produced in Hong Kong *(now in mainland China)... but who cares!)
Swiss Army Knifes, with Wenger and Victorinox being the two most well-known brands (Best price at Migros/Coop)
Almost any sort of object with a cow or a Swiss flag printed on it
Want more? La Rue du Marché, a 5 minute walk southwards from the train station, has just about everything. From the traditional to the modern, from souvenirs to household appliances to libraries to prescription glasses. This is one of Geneva's busiest streets, and is kept clean and appealing. Prices are fair for the most part, but checking several stores before buying, or asking a friendly-looking passer-by for shopping tips can't hurt.
Geneva is by and large a very safe place. Violent crime is almost unheard of, although it's important to keep an eye on your belongings in public, as petty theft is a fairly common occurrence. Do report any such activity to the police, you will probably find them much more interested and helpful than police in many other western cities, especially if you speak a little French.
Unfortunately there is a huge amount of vandalism in the city. On every street you can see bicycles with stolen seats, wheels, everything not locked. Many bicycles are vandalised and destroyed.
If you see people gambling on the streets (usually along the main city centre bridges) stay away! The modus operandi usually involves a guy playing the classic game of "hiding the ball". This involves covering the ball (or small trinket) with either a bottle cap or a match box and swirling it around with two other bottle caps asking people to guess the position of the ball. The game is set in a way that you can easily see the ball's position. This is done to lure the unsuspecting person into placing a wager. There are usually two main players and, between them, they will lose and win money back and forth to give the appearance that it is a fair game - do not be tricked! They are from the same gang. Once you get greedy and get lured in, you will surely lose your money! The person in control of the bottle caps will remove the ball from their position through sleight of hand and you will never see your money back. Besides the two or three other players involved, there are usually at least two lookouts - one on each side of 'stage'. Similar variations of this scam has been reported in places like Budapest as well.
French language lessons are available, both through formal courses and informal arrangements, but in both cases they can be more expensive than other French-speaking countries.
Geneva University also offers quite cheap classes and there are a number of the big language schools, including Berlitz and Inlingua.
Migros also offers language courses at rather decent prices.
There are several English language universities in Geneva, mostly focusing on international business and relations.
The world-famous European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN is in Meyrin, just outside of Geneva. Currently under construction is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which, at 27km in circumference, already holds the title of "world's largest machine" When finished it will hopefully answer many fundamental questions in particle physics and open a host of new ones. CERN has a famous summer student program that accepts 150 European students, 20 American students, and a handful from other countries. If you are interested in this program, you might want to read the Camp CERN Manifesto . CERN also features an exhibition open to the public and tours can be arranged in advance .
Many foreign professionals working in Geneva are employed by one of the United Nations agencies or international banks. Non-Swiss UN employees get a special visa to live and work in Switzerland, but the jobs can be hard to find unless you are already in Geneva. Of course if you speak French and are a EU citizen, you can accept a job offer by any other employer since the bileteral agreements between Switzerland and the EU allow you to work here as anywhere else on the continent - whether you are a blue or white collar worker. Since the beginning of 2009 unemployment is on the rise though and it is proving more and more difficult to find a post in all fields regardless of the work permit issue.
For more information on working for the UN: UN-Employment — How to find a job with the UN. A list of current opportunities with Geneva-based international organizations can be found on the UN jobs website .
If you are not very proficient in French, it is also possible to find work as an au pair, a housekeeper, or at one of the many bars. You really do need to be in town to set this sort of thing up. If you want to do household work, you will probably want to advertise on the bulletin boards which can be found at the entrances of most grocery stores, at the English and American churches, and at the American Women's Club. For a bar tending job, you do what you would do to get a similar job anywhere else, go talk to the manager (you should know enough French to serve drinks, obviously).
Local cellphone service is mainly provided by Swisscom , Orange , and Sunrise . In the second half of 2005, Yallo , Migros and Coop have started their own mobile offers. Don't be surprised if you find your phone using a cell in neighboring France however. If you buy one in Switzerland you will have to either just accept the occasional roaming fee, or be prepared to set the phone manually.
If you are staying for a while you should consider getting a SIM card/and or a phone since it's much cheaper and easier than dealing with payphones. The best deal is with Sunrise SIM cards. These days you do have to register your name and an address to get a SIM card, as Swiss anonymous phone cards have been found on apprehended terror suspects who have never even been to Switzerland!
Payphones are still fairly common here, but very few of them accept coins, so be prepared to buy a prepaid card or to use a credit card (no surcharge).
Swisscom has borrowed one neat idea from the French which you might find very useful: the minitel. Every phonebooth is equipped with one of these electronic directory devices. You just need to know the name (in French) of the type of business you are looking for to get a list, with the closest examples highlighted. A fee is charged for using this system.
Internet cafés have just begun to really take off in Geneva, and there are now several that stay open fairly late.
Internet Café Cornavin, inside the Cornavin train station near the west entrance. Until 10PM every day. This convenient and friendly place offers printing, and laptop stations. If you do plan to use your laptop you need to be able to demonstrate that you have anti-virus software. 6CHF per hour. (specials for regulars and students).
Point6, 12 rue Jean Violette, +41 22 800 26 00. Primarily a gamer internet cafe, but becoming quite popular with casual internet users. Scanning/photocopying/printing, diskettes/CD burning, faxing services available. Manned by a young staff who as a result of being surrounded by snack machines and video games are very friendly. Prices: free for first five minutes, then 5CHF an hour.
Central Perk, 6 Avenue Du Mail. This living shrine to a certain television show is just off of Plain de Plainpalais. They offer food and drinks and FREE! wireless access (802.11b) (be nice and buy a coffee or beer). Burger: 10CHF, Beer: 5CHF, Coffee and Croissant in the morning: 6CHF.
Café de la Gare (see Drink) is a Swisscom hotspot. To use the service you need to either be a Swisscom Mobile customer (see Phone) or buy access cards sold at any Swisscom office, and at the Montbrillant reception desk. The cards have timed values ranging from a half-hour to 1 month of continuous use.
In the Parc des Bastions there is free wi-fi internet access available. Just log on to the ville-de-geneve or Bastions network.
The public library of the city is located inside the Parc des Bastions, and the same network listed above is available inside. Search for the reading room (Salle de lecture), on the 1st floor. There is even electricity to plug your notebook. Opening hours of the room: M-F 9AM-10PM; Sa 9AM-5PM. To get there by bus take Bus 3, 5, 36, Tram 12, 17 (stop at Place Neuve); Bus 1, 32, Tram 12, 13, 15, 17 (stop at Plainpalais). .
Swiss destinations are almost all served by the CFF from the central train station (Gare Cornavin) while ski resorts in the French alps and the Jura can be reached by bus from the central bus station off of Rue de Mont Blanc or from SNCF's Gare des Eaux Vives. The price of the bus ticket often covers ski lift tickets as well, be sure to ask.
Here are just a few places which make a good day trip from Geneva:
To hitchhike to the direction of Lausanne (North) take bus number 29 towards Gare Zimeysa and step out at stop Blandonnet. Walk back 200m Route de Meyrin towards the center, across the bridge over the highway and you´ll find an on-ramp to highway towards Lausanne. (Another, even better possibility is to take tram 14 or 16 in direction of Avanchet and step out at the last stop. Then walk forward 200 m.) Walk down 100m along the on-ramp and hitchhike before the speed gets high. The position is very good, speed of the cars low, visibility good and there´s plenty of space for cars to stop. You should accept a ride at least to Nyon, where you can continue hitchhiking on the on-ramp. (Hitchhiking on the on-ramp is illegal. Your best bet is usually to try and get a ride at one of the gas station/restaurants on the autoroute itself.)
To hitchhike to the direction of Chamonix and Turin (South-East) take bus 27 towards Thônex-Vallard-Douane and go to the end of the line. Walk through customs to France and stand at the end of the customs just before the cars speed up for the highway. Be sure to have your passport with you when crossing the border. The position is very good, the customs officers are nice, speed is low, there´s space for cars to stop, all the traffic is passing through.
To hitchhike to the direction of Lyon and Paris (South-West, West, North-West) take the bus 29 to stop Blandonnet. Walk about 600m to the next on-ramp in direction of South, the one leading to the highway in the direction of South from Route de Vernier. The position is not very good because the cars speed up and visibility is not really good but there´s place for cars to stop. Take a ride at least 10km South to the Swiss-French border, where there´s a decent spot to continue. Walk through the customs and hitchhike - preferably with a sign - before the cars speed up. There´s not much space for cars to stop but they can, speed is low and all the traffic is passing through the customs.
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