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Geneva, Switzerland Travel Guide

Geneva Summary


  • Picturesque setting on Lake Geneva, and surrounded by mountains
  • Beautiful, historic architecture
  • Home to several important sights, such as the world's tallest fountain, the largest stage in Switzerland, and numerous museums
  • Plenty of outdoor activities; a short drive from beaches and ski resorts
  • International business hub
  • Known for its watch and jewelry shops
  • Easy to explore by foot, but there's also dependable public transportation
  • Tasty restaurants feature a range of cuisines, but French-influenced cuisine is prevalent (and superb)
  • Local specialties such as Gruyere and chocolate are not to be missed
  • Gorgeous, historic hotels
  • All restaurants are non-smoking (a con for some!)


  • One of the most expensive cities in Europe
  • Hotels often book up quickly due to the many business and international conventions throughout the year
  • Generally safe area, but petty crime -- such as stolen bicycles -- is relatively frequent
  • All restaurants are non-smoking (a pro for some!)

What It's Like

Geneva is a picturesque city, divided into two banks by Lake Geneva, and surrounded by mountains. During the winters, visitors and locals head to the mountains to ski; ski resorts such as Verbier and Crans-Montana are conveniently only about an hour away. And in the summertime, the lake -- and nearby beaches -- become popular spots for swimming. But all year long, tourists can enjoy the city's cafe culture (reminiscent of Paris), beautiful gardens, specialty shops (the city is known for its gorgeous jewelry and watches), fabulous restaurants, and many sights.

Though Geneva may not be as popular with tourists as other major European cities, it's certainly worth a trip. It's located in Romandy, the western French-speaking portion of Switzerland, and has excellent French-influenced cuisine, gorgeous architecture, and views of Mont Blanc.

The United Nations was formerly headquartered here, and though it may have found a new home in New York City, Geneva still maintains a thriving international affairs and business community. There are numerous hotels, restaurants, and shops targeted toward this crowd, but be warned: they are largely upscale and expensive. In fact, Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in Europe -- though arguably for good reason.

Where To Stay

Geneva is an expensive city, and that applies to just about everything -- including the hotels. The most expensive hotels and the least expensive ones can book up months in advance, considering the many conventions and conferences that are held in the city every year. The most expensive hotels are often those right on Lake Geneva, so tourists can often find deals by staying a bit farther from the city center, in neighborhoods such as Les Paquis District, which is home to nightclubs, restaurants, and a few sights.

Geneva is divided into the Left and Right Bank, and each is further divided into smaller neighborhoods and districts. Generally speaking, however, the Left Bank is a tourist's paradise; it's the more historic part of the city, and boasts beautiful architecture, great shopping, and numerous museums. The Right Bank is where the majority of international business takes place; it is also home to a cluster of fabulous jewelry and watch shops, as well as several picturesque parks.

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