Ultimate Guide to Geneva – Where to stay and What To Do

Ultimate Guide To Geneva

Thanks to its International Airport and proximity to the French border, Geneva in Switzerland is a hub for many skiers and snowboarders visiting the French Alps.

Some people simply pass through Geneva, but others want or have to stay for a few nights. So, in this article, we’ll give you our top tips for spending time in Geneva so you can make the most of it.

Where To Stay In Geneva

Geneva is located on the banks of Lac Leman, also known as Lake Geneva. There are many places to stay, as it is one of Europe’s business and political centres.

We have experienced Geneva multiple times and believe the old town is best for short stopovers. The old part of Geneva is a picturesque district dominated by St. Peter’s Cathedral, the centre of the Reformation.

Here, you can expect cobblestone streets, secret passages, fantastic shopping opportunities, and cultural and culinary experiences.

What To Do In Geneva’s Old Town

Retail Therapy in the Heart of Geneva

If you’re a shopping enthusiast, you’ll find the old town the perfect place to flex your credit cards. It offers a fantastic mix of boutiques, shops, and markets. Whether you’re looking for luxury items or unique souvenirs, you’ll have plenty of options, especially as Geneva is known for its high-end watchmakers. Head to Rue du Rhone and Rue de La Croix d’Or for the best shopping in Geneva.

Museums, Galleries, and Landmarks

Geneva’s old town isn’t just about cobblestone streets and shopping; there’s also a lot of culture and history to learn about. For example, you can visit the Gothic architecture of the St. Pierre Cathedral. The old town is also home to several museums and galleries where you can enjoy art and learn about the city’s history.

Culinary Experiences

After a day of wandering around Geneva, you’ll want to refuel. The old town’s cosy restaurants and cafes offer a variety of delicacies. From delicious chocolates to traditional dishes like fondue and raclette, you can get an authentic taste of Switzerland. 

Head To The Lake

Lac Leman is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, and it’s worth visiting while you’re in Geneva. You will see all kinds of boats skimming across its surface, from yachts to ancient paddle steamers. You can also get great views of the Jet d’Eau, the huge fountain dominating the skyline, shooting water 140m into the air.

Visit The Red Cross And Red Crescent Museum

Switzerland is famed for its neutrality, and Geneva is the home of many international organisations, such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent. A great way to understand the organisation’s humanitarian work is to visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. You can also take a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations, to see how the most significant issues facing the world are tackled. 

Our Recommended Hotels In Geneva

You will find some great close to the Cornavin train station, such as the Novotel Centre and the Warwick. These hotels are good value for Geneva and offer convenience.

We like to stay at the Hotel Rotary Geneve M Gallery. This 4-star hotel is close to the main bridge and just a short distance from the train station.

Alternatively, you may want to stay at the Hotel des Armures, a 5-star hotel in Geneva’s old town. This boutique hotel has a laid-back, family feel with a relaxing ambience and has arguably one of the best locations in the old town.

Night aerial view of beautiful Geneva old city
Night aerial view of beautiful Geneva old city

Night aerial view of beautiful Geneva old city

Things You Need To Know About Geneva To Enhance Your Stay

When you’re passing through Geneva during your trip to the Alps, there are a few things to know that will make your time there more straightforward and enjoyable. Here are our top tips:

Consider Your Pick Up Time

You can make your trip from Geneva to your chosen ski resort seamless by booking your private transfer pick-up time wisely. Geneva hotels generally have a 12 p.m. check-out time. Your ski resort accommodation check-in time will usually be 4 or 5 p.m.

With this in mind, we recommend a 2 p.m. pick-up. This will give you time for a nice lunch in Geneva before heading into the mountains. You can leave your luggage at the hotel, so you don’t have to drag it around the city.

Your choice of resort will affect how long it takes you to get to it from Geneva. Additionally, driving into the Alps on Saturday will mean there’s a good chance of traffic, especially if it has snowed recently. Therefore, your transfer time could be as much as 3 hours.

How To Get From Geneva Airport To The City

Geneva Airport is located about 4 km from the city. It is easily reachable by public transport: train and bus, taxi or shuttle. The train journey between the Airport and the Gare Cornavin takes just 6 minutes, and the bus to downtown takes about 20 minutes. Gare Cornavin is then a hub for public transport, from where you can catch a tram or train anywhere. 

You can rent a car from one of the many car rental companies operating at the Airport. There’s a main motorway that connects the Airport with the city.

It’s worth noting that Geneva has a lot of traffic, especially on the roads close to the lake. Therefore, we advise you to stick with public transport or take a taxi or limousine from the Airport unless you intend on driving to the ski resort.

Free Transport Around Geneva

If you stay in approved accommodation in Geneva, you are entitled to a free transport card. This digital card on your phone enables you to use Geneva’s public transport free of charge during your stay.

Three days before you arrive in Geneva, you will receive a link by email to get your Geneva Transport Card on your smartphone. You will then be able to use it to reach your accommodation from the Airport.

Geneva Airport
Geneva Airport (GVA)
Geneva Airport - copyright Top Snow Travel
Geneva Airport - © Top Snow Travel
Geneva Cornavin Train Station
Geneva Cornavin Train Station

Geneva Airport (GVA) and Geneva Cornavin train station provide easy access to Geneva City center and Old Town

Geneva Airport Has A French Side And A Swiss Side

Geneva airport has two sides, a French and a Swiss side. It’s worth knowing this as it has implications on a few aspects of travelling through Geneva. 

For example, if you rent a car, you must return it to the appropriate side. By this, we mean you cannot take a Swiss rental car to the French side of the Airport and vice versa. In addition, if you need to get cash for your trip to the French Alps, use the ATMs on the French side of the Airport, or you’ll get Swiss francs instead of Euros. Businesses in French ski resorts do not accept Swiss Francs.

Bring Swiss Francs If You Have Any

You can pay for things in Euros at Geneva Airport, but if you have some spare Swiss Francs (CHFs), bring them. It’ll make buying things much easier, as you can pay in Euros but your change will be given in Swiss Francs. This can be frustrating if you buy a 3 croissant with a 20 note and then head over the border into France.

Take Advantage Of Geneva Airport’s Airside

When you fly out of Geneva Airport and go through security, you will be “airside,” where you’ll find the Airport’s duty-free shops. These shops offer all sorts of goodies, from electronics to clothing and Swiss chocolate. There’s even a small duty-free shop where you can buy discounted alcohol.

There are also a few places to eat before your flight. You can expect anything from simple sandwiches to a platter of oysters accompanied by Champagne.

If you’re travelling with young kids, you may want to head up to the creche on the mezzanine level. Here, they can enjoy books, games, and slides. There’s even a rest area and a kitchen.

The mezzanine area is also an excellent place for a quiet sit down before you board your plane. Its comfortable seating area is tucked away from the creche, restaurants and bars.

Relax In One Of Geneva Airport’s Luxury Lounges

Geneva Airport has several lounges that extend your holiday until the last minute. These lounges remove you from the busyness of the Airport and put you into a tranquil space.

For example, Premium Geneva can offer you a VIP experience in the luxurious Skyview lounge and even drive you in a limo to your plane. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Swissport lounge, which boasts a wide selection of complimentary food and drinks. You can use this lounge irrespective of which airline you use, and it is ideal for catching up on emails before your flight.

You may want to check if your chosen airline has a lounge at Geneva Airport. Swiss Air, British Airways, Air France, Dnata, Swissport, and Lufthansa offer lounges for first-class and business passengers.

Leave Plenty Of Time To Board Your Plane

Some of Geneva Airport’s departure gates can be about 10 to 15 minutes walk away from the main departure lounge. So make sure you have enough time to get to your gate. There are toilets and a cafe near to the gates, so you can get there even earlier if you like.

Free Wi-Fi

Geneva Airport offers all passengers 120 minutes of free Wi-Fi access. You just need to find the network Free Wi-Fi GVA, enter your mobile phone number and then use the code sent to your phone. Alternatively, you can scan your boarding card into a machine that prints the access code onto a ticket.

Security at Geneva Airport 

When flying out of Geneva Airport, you must go through Airport security. The strict EU security rules can mean lengthy queues at peak times, so it’s best to allow extra time for this on your way home. 

You can pay for Priority Lane at security, which costs around 8CHF. This service can be booked online from the Geneva Airport e-services hub page.

As with all airports, Geneva follows strict guidelines regarding restrictions to hand luggage, so make sure your bags are the correct size.

Keep Track Of Your Flight

Geneva Airport has live departure and arrival boards on its website. You can also download an app that alerts you on individual flights to keep you informed.

Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, Switzerland

Make The Most Of Your Ski Trip With A Visit To Geneva

If you have some spare time, visiting Geneva provides extra experiences to tag onto your trip to the French Alps. By using this information and our tips, flying to and from and spending time in Geneva will be much more enjoyable. However, our travel experts will ensure everything is in place to ensure you have the best holiday possible.