Things to Do in Geneva
January 1, 1970
by Fraser Kelly
Geneva, Switzerland. Situated in a western pocket of Switzerland, right next to the French border, is regarded as a ‘global city’. The financial capital of Switzerland, it hosts the headquarters for organisations such as the United Nations and Red Cross. Yet when I found myself in Geneva at the start of December 2017, I was taken aback at how much there was to do for a tourist like myself and even though I was only there for a day, I managed to explore a lot of the city. I will provide a summary of what I did in my day there and the recommendations I have for anyone who visits. While there is plenty to do in Geneva, such as day trips travelling to Mont Blanc and other attractions in the Alps, I can only write from my experiences of what I did during the day.
Museums I Visited
There are a number of museums for free/cheap general admission that are worth checking out:
- Museum of Natural History (Museum d’Histoire naturelle) – Admission is free, parking is free and the best part is; there is plenty on offer. The museum features exhibitions on just about any animal you could imagine from every part of the world and vast amounts of information on each animal. Me and my friend ended up wandering around for hours, the African and Asian animal exhibits in particular were amazing.
- Art and History Museum – Admission is free for the general exhibitions but some of the special exhibits cost money, the amount caries on each exhibit. In the general exhibit they have everything, from an Ancient Egypt collection to armoury from centuries past to a fine art collection. Once again, this is a museum I spent hours as there is so much to see in this cast, beautiful building. The fine art collection is from all periods and styles, there is something for everyone is this museum and my personal favourite was the collections of European arms and armour.
- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO) – Admission is roughly 8CHF (8 Swiss francs) and like the others, there was plenty on offer in this four story building. The aesthetic of the place is stylish and modern and when I visited there was exhibits on offer, I took the guided tour (in English) as I felt I did not fully understand some of the pieces due to their abstract nature. I will say that this museum might not be for everyone’s taste, and while it is a reasonable price, the contemporary art is very different.
Things to do in the daytime
There are a number of possibilities of things to do, even in December:
- Jet d’Eau – One of Geneva’s most famous landmarks. This fountain is located in Geneva’s downtown area and is situated on Lake Geneva. It’s fascinating at the fountain sprays 500 litres of water a second to a height of 140 feet. Just getting close is genuinely fascinating and you can walk right up to the jet – just be aware of getting wet! The fountain can be seen from the surrounding area but if you get close, you get a great view of Lake Geneva and the mountains surrounding the city, a truly breathtaking view even in dull December.
- Visit Eglise Rusee – This Russian Orthodox Church is located in a quiet and peaceful area away from downtown. The stunning church is not to be missed, I stumbled upon it when exploring the city and I am very glad I did. It’s near the Art and History Museum and has recently been restored inside and out. Although I did not know much about the Russian Orthodox faith, this is the first church I have seen of its kind and it is truly stunning.
- Flower Clock – Located next to Lake Geneva, the flower clock is pretty self explanatory but a beautiful addition to the city. It’s a good stop if you are exploring the nearby garden and is very colourful, with the backdrop of the lake and mountains adding to the view.
- Giant Chess Boards – If you are going a walk through Bastions Park then this is well worth a stop. There are multiple giant chess boards and always busy, with many people sitting around and watching the matches.
Places I Ate
There are a number of different places I visited from chocolatiers to cafes:
- Confiserie Arn – This is a chocolate artisan shop I visited that sold delicious chocolate at a very good price compared to other shops. There was a massive variety of chocolates and a cafe through the back. I myself just got a plain bar of chocolate for a couple francs while my friend went for a selection box, which featured caramel, hazelnut, strawberry etc. It was easily some of the best chocolate I’ve had and is one of many chocolatiers in Geneva but it’s location at Place de Bourg-de-Four mean it’s located in a stunning square with other shops and spots nearby.
- Holy Cow Gourmet Burger Company – This great restaurant located next to the railway station is a perfect spot for some burgers and fries at a good price. Delicious food and high-quality service meant I felt satisfied. Although it has the feel of a fast-food joint, styled like some 50s burger place, the food is well above the standard of some greasy burger place. Highly Recommend if you like a good burger and fries!
- Edward’s – This is a place I stumbled upon when looking for place to eat lunch. Located in downtown, I was pleasantly surprised by the varied choice on the menu and they had good options for vegetarians too. The price was reasonable and the food was very good, I had a great bagel sandwich and afterwards was full enough for the rest of the afternoon.
I was not in Geneva long at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed my full day there and found there was plenty to do and much more, I only scratched the surface. Most people spoke English but if I made the effort to speak their local language, Swiss-French in this region, they were that bit nicer because I made the effort. Don’t let anyone tell you this is only a ‘financial city’ because there I so much more to this beautiful city.