Geneva is rumored to be the most international city in Europe, with over 40% of its inhabitants hailing from other countries. With no less than three official languages (French, German and Italian) most citizens also speak at least one other language. Playing host to a number of UN agencies and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations it’s a hotbed of expats, locals, visiting businessmen and women, and tourists. A cultural mix if ever there was one.
You’re no doubt familiar with the Jet d’Eau, the city’s iconic lake fountain, the Patek Philippe museum and its historic Old Town, which is home to the famous Cathédrale St-Pierre. Needless to say, there’s more to this sophisticated, sometimes slightly expensive, lakeside city. Our team of locals in Geneva is here to show you their favorites with a 48-hour itinerary. Tie up your laces, grab your gear and let’s get to walking (if not, the public transport system is very good here too).
Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00
Quite a good way to start your exploration of Geneva is at the renowned Bains des Pâquis. It’s where you can get an immediate impression of Geneva’s life on the lake’s edge, with a view of the Jet d’Eau and Petit déjeuner starting from 07:00. Another early-bird, though not on the weekends, is Ou Bien Encore. Local Anna-Lena appreciates the quietness here, but also their healthy, local, fresh and organic dishes. If necessary, they also offer gluten-free dishes.
If you didn’t start your day at Bains des Paquis, make your way to that area anyway to rent a bike at Genève Roule. (Though they have plenty of pick-up points throughout the city.) The city’s traffic may elevate your heart rate at some points, but if you keep a clear head then this is a perfect way to discover the city. Requiring only your I.D. and 20 francs, the bike is yours for free for the first four hours (after which you pay a measly 2 francs per hour). We recommend you cycle towards Les Immeubles Schtroumpfs first. Most of András Barta’s guests don’t really understand why he takes them there, but we certainly do. You’d be hard pressed to find architectural design like this anywhere else. Then head to Parc des Bastions via Île Rousseau, to Bertrand Park and if you have the energy left, circle round to Park La Grange for another spectacular lake view.
Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00
The cycle route mentioned above might be a little too much to finish entirely before lunch, so we’re giving you some options for in between. Assuming you don’t get hungry or tired before you’ve even reached Île Rousseau (it is only a 5-minute ride after all) and you’ve made it to Parc des Bastions, make your way to the middle of the city. Sit down at Café du Rond Point to enjoy their brasserie style cuisine, while witnessing the never-ending ballet of Genevan life from their terrace. Or, if you feel it’s necessary to load up on carbs in order to complete the next leg of this bike race, enjoy the delicious and local ingredients that make up the burgers at Holy Cow.
From Bertrand Park cycle past the Russian Church of Geneva towards Park la Grange. The Russian Church is an imposing, typical gold domed Russian church that’s certainly worth a peek both inside and outside. If you’re completely done with cycling and you’re not planning to go on towards Park La Grange, make your final stop at Musée d’art et d’histoire. Catch your breath and experience this highlight of a museum before dinner.
Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00
Dinnertime! Who’s up for entrecote? This world famous restaurant serves one single menu: a small salad as a starter and the famous entrecote with homemade fries. Make sure you’re hungry though, as it’s a big meal, and have a little patience, Le Relais de L’Entrecôte can be a little busy, but the service is very speedy! If you never made it to Park la Grange and you stayed in the heart of the city, consider having dinner at Pasta D’Oro. Located near the hospital it really is mostly frequented by locals only. They serve the biggest pizzas in town and local Diana has never managed to finish one on her own. Perhaps you could after this day of cycling?
In a city known for being expensive, it’s not quite a stretch to think you might want a drink that doesn’t require a bank loan, for this you go to Le Bouffon de La Taverne. Besides the favorable prices, this tavern might just be the only place in Geneva that serves mead! Located close by is Voisins, which has a lovely terrace during the summer and a tasteful modern interior. It’s open till midnight and the resident DJ is sure to take care of you. Coincidentally, if you’re still hungry after that massive pizza or the big hunk of red meat, Voisins serves delicious little ‘dégustations’ burgers.
Day 1: 23:00 – …
Still in the Old Town of Geneva, look to the sky for some late night drinks. Take your pick from Rooftop 42 or 5 Lounge. Both come highly recommended by Diana, with the latter being far more intimate in its secret garden atmosphere. Actually, why pick…start with 5 Lounge and when it closes at 01:00 head to Rooftop 42, which doesn’t close till 03:00. Party with a view!
Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00
If you’re in town on Wednesday or Saturday, do stop by the Marché à Carouge, a great market where you can try some local specialties for breakfast or as a snack before lunch. If you missed out on this market, get your breakfast at Cafe Remor, which opens at 07:00 every day. On the other side of the Rhône, András’ favorite spot for Sunday mornings is Chez Quartier. But if you’re a fan of brunch, then you can’t go wrong with Fleurs de Marie, which offers the best according to Anna-Lena. It’s nothing like the classic brunch you’re used to, that’s for sure.
Fancy some vintage shopping? You can visit the flea market of Plainpalais, a market which has been held since 1970, and which is full of another man’s trash…I mean treasure of course! Don’t forget to negotiate! For more second hand gems and gadgets, head to Croix Rouge Vêt Shop. While at first glance you might think Geneva only offers expensive, high-fashion stores, Rue de Carouge actually has plenty of vintage shops. After some thorough shopping/vetting, Anna-Lena has concluded that the Red Cross shop is the best.
Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00
This natural wonder marks the confluence of the Rhône and the Arve river. In summer, approach the Pointe de la Jonction from the left side, which is where the locals sunbathe, grill meats and enjoy some drinks. There is also a bar by the way, so you can definitely stay here for a while. And because yesterday was such a tough and intense cycling day, we’ll take it a little easier today.
Follow the river back towards Lake Geneva. Along the way you’ll pass by La Barje. Once La Barje opens its door you know it’s summertime! With a converted caravan and beach chairs this is a true locals’ favorite on warm days. Read a book, take a swim and order some of their drinks & snacks.
For a proper lunch, head on a little further to Bateau Lavoir. Local Diana writes, “I love going to “Le Bateau Lavoir” for lunch, it is fast, different and economic. There is a great view of Rhône River and inside it is cozy and friendly.” At Lavoir your francs will also go towards a good cause as the owners offer internships and other methods of assistance to teenagers that need a little boost in life.
Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00
If you would like try some of the cuisine that reflects the cultural diversity in Geneva, then get ready for the best shawarma in town, at Parfums de Beyrouth. Fancy some Indian? Check out Little India. The Paquis neighborhood is known for its range of diverse restaurants, so it’s no surprise that this area is also home to the best Indian in town.
The Swiss are no strangers to the burger craze that’s been taking over entire cities. We mentioned Holy Cow before, and now we’re recommending The Hamburger Foundation. The three founders started their business as a food truck (two actually) and now also own a restaurant. Similar to Holy Cow, they offer 100% Swiss beef, local buns and homemade fries.
You can also head on further to La Terrasse, which offers a great view over the lake and Bains des Pâquis, either before or after dinner, as they serve some exquisite burgers and tapas as well. But definitely head this way for a fancy (expensive) drink.
Day 2: 23:00 – …
Before heading to Zoe Live Bar for some live music, do check out Bains des Pâquis for their event offer for the evening. They’re known for some great concerts, jazz sessions and short film festivals. For a more invigorating night, at least definitely in terms of dancing, Zoe’s DJs or live music sessions will get your blood pumping. Or it could be the cocktails, shots and long drinks…
Before going to bed tonight, there’s one last thing you might enjoy…If you’re a party animal you’re likely to find yourself on the Rue de l’Ecole de Médicine, which is famous for its bars and nightlife, at one end is the Hans-Wilsdorf bridge. Late at night this bridge is beautifully lit up with changing colors. Even without the colors though, this architectural wonder is surely worth at least a glance! Good night!