Unique Things To Do in Geneva, Switzerland
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
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Geneva is very much a financial and business hub, with many organizations choosing to base themselves from here. It’s sadly often overlooked by tourists who simply use Geneva as an overnight stop on their way to other parts of Switzerland. However, there are plenty of unique things to do in Geneva that can easily fill an itinerary for a couple of days. If the more modern parts of Geneva don’t really appeal to you, it has a beautiful old town with cobblestone streets and medieval architecture that you’re going to love walking around.
The history of Geneva predates the Roman period, but it was the Romans who first noted it as a settlement. Its strategic location along the river, surrounded by mountains, made it a very important city to control in the Middle Ages. The city has attracted intellectuals, business people, and artists for centuries and has been built on a number of different cultural influences. As you make your way through the city you’ll come across unique architecture, French-inspiration, and of course the odd chocolate shop or two.
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Unique Things To Do in Geneva
Geneva is quite an expensive city to visit, and on top of all of the fantastic free things to do in Geneva, there are some unique spots and activities that you won’t want to miss either. We spent 4 days in Geneva and were able to explore the city centre and a few areas further afield, so here are my top recommendations for you.
Ride a Mouette
The Mouettes are the city’s version of a shuttle boat. These bright yellow boats operate from four different harbours, and are a speedy way to get across Lake Geneva. If you’re in possession of the Geneva transport card then the boats are completely free to use. The Mouettes have been running since 1897, so they’re quite an important aspect of the city, and taking a ride on one is definitely a very unique thing to do in Geneva that you won’t find in any other city in Switzerland.
Join a chocolate tour
One of the best ways to explore Geneva is by taking part in a chocolate walking tour. Local Flavours Tours operates an award-winning tour where you get to taste, explore, and indulge in some of the city’s most famous chocolate. This guided tour in Geneva lasts around 3 hours, and during that time you visit several boutique chocolate shops, learn about the history of chocolate and why it became synonymous with the city, and of course eat some chocolate too.
This is honestly one of the best walking tours I’ve been on. We joined their tour on our second day in Geneva so we hadn’t seen much of the city yet and we learned a lot. If you’re only spending one day in Geneva this tour is a great way to see the main highlights of the city and get a quick history lesson as well. Part of the fun of the tour is seeing where you’ll go next, so I’m not going to go into much detail about the places we stopped at or the specific chocolates we ate. Trust me when I say this is one chocolate tour you won’t want to miss out on since it’s one of the most unique things to do in Geneva.
The Jet d’Eau is arguably Geneva’s most well known attraction, and has been in operation since 1886. Although it wasn’t originally situated in Lake Geneva, it was moved from its original site at the pumping station due to the influx of visitors it was receiving. After adjusting its height, it quickly became the symbol of the city, so if you’re doing some sightseeing in Geneva make sure you add this to your list.
Sit on the world's longest bench
Did you know that Geneva is home to the world’s longest bench? Perched at the edge of the old town, the Promenade de la Treille is a beautiful vantage point with views over the rooftops and the mountains in the distance. This is also where you’ll find the Marronnier de la Treille, which was built in 1767 and stretches for 120 metres. This area is popular with locals and tourists, and is a nice spot to sit for a while to soak up some of the culture of Geneva.
Sitting just below the world’s longest bench, in the grounds of the University of Geneva, is the Reformation Wall. Visiting the wall is a very unique thing to do in Geneva, as the wall was built to commemorate the 400th year anniversary of John Calvin. The monument features sculptures of various men who played an important role in the Reformation, and it’s a must-see in Geneva. Plus, this is one of the many free things to do in Geneva as well!
Victorinox flagship store
Although Victorinox wasn’t founded in Geneva itself, the city is home to a fairly large flagship store which is located on the main shopping street, Rue du Marché. The downstairs part of the store is where you’ll find a lot of different products to buy, and you can even build your own pocket knife that will be assembled by hand. This experience is only available in a few Victorinox shops worldwide, so it’s quite a unique thing to do in Geneva.
Browse the flea markets
If you’re a fan of flea markets, then you’re in luck. One of Switzerland’s largest flea markets is located in Geneva, and there are a lot of interesting items to look at here. Plainpalais Flea Market has been running every Wednesday, Saturday, and the first Sunday of the month since 1970 and is a hub for collectors, bargain hunters, and people who just enjoy walking around the stalls. On a clear day, this is a great thing to do in Geneva in October.
United Nations Office
One of four major United Nations Offices is located in Geneva. The main building is called Palais des Nations, and guided tours are available although they recommend booking 3 months in advance due to the high demand for tickets. If you don’t manage to get a ticket, you can always take a photo from outside the gates like we did. Just across the road is the Broken Chair sculpture which is a unique spot to visit in Geneva as well.
If you’re interested in seeing unique natural occurrences, then La Jonction is the place for you. This is a very popular place for people swimming, jamming out to music, and doing watersports, but at the tip of La Jonction is where you’ll find two rivers meeting. The River Arve and the River Rhône flow at different speeds, so when they meet the water forms a sort of barrier that looks like the water isn’t mixing together. It’s difficult to see from below, but if you have the time, the view from the top of the bridge is where you’ll get the best vantage point.
View Geneva from above
St Pierre Cathedral is one of the top attractions in Geneva. The cathedral itself is free to enter, but for an even better experience a trip to the top of the tower is a must. The cathedral is over 800 years old, and is most famous for its Calvinist connections and the starkness of its interior. Entry to the tower costs only CHF 7 but you can get a combined ticket for the tower and archaeological site below the cathedral for CHF 12. The view from the top of the tower is breathtaking, so it’s definitely worth climbing the 157 steps to get up to, and it’s one of the best things to do in Geneva too.
Unique Places To Eat in Geneva
Geneva is home to some fantastic places to eat. There’s everything from traditional Swiss restaurants in the old town to more modern fusion restaurants in the newer part of the city. Whatever kind of food you're craving, I guarantee Geneva has it. Here are a few unique places to eat in Geneva to help get you started.
Teatro Cucina Italiana
If you enjoy a little bit of a show while dining, Teatro Cucina Italiana is one unique experience in Geneva that you won’t soon forget. This speakeasy-inspired modern Italian restaurant is located in the banking district, and infuses its food with theatrical elements. The chef’s name isn’t made public in order to keep up with the mysterious element of the restaurant, but I guarantee all of the food is presented exceptionally well and the flavours are fused to perfection.
We visited in the evening, and sampled various dishes from the menu. This included bruschetta with beef tartare and truffles, bruschetta with bell peppers confit, anchovies, and gorgonzola, pasta all’assassina, baked porcini, eggplant with burratina, and for the grand finale a smoked risotto with chanterelles which was a personal favourite of mine. If I could recommend ordering one drink it would be their romantic cocktail for two which is presented with dry ice and rose petals - a very cool performance to finish the night off! Teatro Cucina Italiana was the most unique restaurant in Geneva that we visited, so make sure it’s at the top end of your list.
Auberge de Saviese
You can’t visit Switzerland without having a traditional Swiss meal, and in Geneva that means heading to Auberge de Saviese. They offer the best fondues and raclettes in Geneva, set in what’s designed to look like a traditional Swiss chalet. We noticed that there were a lot of locals eating here which is always a good sign. Of course, we had to try the fondue here.
Our meal started with a special Valais plate, which was a mixture of traditional Swiss cold cuts, and a Malakoff. We were then served a half and half cheese fondue for two, which comes with bread and boiled potatoes. We rounded things off with a meringue & double Gruyère Cream. This was our first time having fondue in Switzerland and it was delicious. I couldn’t recommend Auberge de Saviese enough, and on a cold evening this is the perfect place to stay nice and cozy.
Eat Me is a unique restaurant in Geneva serving up a mixture of international dishes on small and sharable plates. This isn’t your regular tapas style menu though. Each dish is artfully presented in a way that amplifies what you’re eating. It’s certainly a culinary adventure - even the cocktail menu is organized by regions of the world. Their Geneva location can be found a short walk from the Jet d’Eau, in the lively Les Eaux-Vives neighbourhood, making it easy to get to by public transportation.
Our dishes consisted of food inspired from all corners of the globe, and the flavours were incredible in all of them. We tried beef tartare, roasted cauliflower, grilled entrecôte, gyozas, shrimp lollipops, and tataki. The cocktails are just as unique as the food, and there are recommendations in the menu as to what part of the meal you should order each cocktail at. Overall, we had a fantastic night at Eat Me, and it’s the perfect restaurant in Geneva to visit if you want to taste a variety of global dishes in one place.
In the mood for some freshly made Italian pizza? Luigia is serving up some of the best Italian food in Geneva, and although their food is labelled as “no-fuss”, the restaurant itself is all about the glam. You can expect a lot of lights, quirky Italian decorations, and traditional Italian dishes here - and it’s always busy. We visited the Rive Gauche location which isn’t far from the old town.
I would recommend taking some time to read the menu before heading down to Luigia, because there are a lot of options. For starters we ordered the Truffini rice balls and the Arancini which reminded us of our trip to Naples. They have a few pasta dishes available on the menu, but what you really need to try is the pizza. All of their pizzas are made in a stone baked oven and come out perfectly. The Tricolor pizza is a great option for vegetarians, but the Truffle pizza is really going to blow your tastebuds away. For dessert we ordered the Pistachio Tiramisu and the Fondente Al Cioccolato Con Gelato - the best way to end the meal!
Where To Stay in Geneva
When visiting a new city, most people want to be based close to the main attractions, or at least within a short commute of them - and we found the best option in Geneva. Tiffany Hotel is a 4 star boutique hotel, located in the arts district of the city. It’s situated inside a 19th century building that’s been decorated in the Art Nouveau style, blended with a few modern touches. After a couple of full days exploring the old town, we were very glad we could come back to this luxurious hotel and rest for a while. From the moment you walk through the doors you can immediately tell that you’ll have the best stay here.
We had the pleasure of staying in one of Hotel Tiffany’s stunning Deluxe Rooms. The room was very spacious and bright, with a large window that had electronic shutters. A seating area, office space, a wardrobe with a bench, Nespresso coffee machine, a small fridge, and a chocolatey surprise were just some of the features our room had. The bathroom itself was amazing, with a large bathtub and shower in one part, and a closed off toilet connected to it. There were also two sinks side by side and ample toiletries, as well as two pairs of slippers and dressing gowns - no need to share anything! The bed was so comfortable we struggled to get out of it in the morning, but we knew how good the breakfast was going to be so we forced ourselves to move.
Breakfast is served in a buffet style, inside the Restaurant L’iode. There are plenty of options from cold cuts to cheeses to breads to fruits. The restaurant itself is very modern yet sophisticated, so you’ll enjoy starting your day off here. Tiffany Hotel also boasts a unique seating area down the hall from the check-in desk, as well as a spa that’s open at certain times in the evening. We unfortunately didn’t have enough time to check out the spa, but it looks like the ideal place to relax at the end of the day. Tiffany Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Geneva if you enjoy staying in modern accommodation that has a touch of history to it.
>> Click here for the most up to date prices at Tiffany Hotel <<
As you can see, there are plenty of unique things to do in Geneva if you’re spending one day in the city or more. Whatever your preference is, whether that be historic monuments, quirky dining experiences, or soaking up the culture of the city, there’s a little something for everyone, and many of the places to visit in Geneva are budget friendly. Geneva is an amazing city to explore, so whatever you decide to add to your itinerary will be a great option.
What are your thoughts on Geneva? Please let me know in the comments section below or via email if there’s somewhere else we should go during our next trip to Geneva. And as always, don’t forget to follow my travels on Instagram as well!