Sleek Geneva, Switzerland, is more than just a gateway to an Alpine ski holiday. This affluent city is home to many historic sites, museums, chic bars, and upscale restaurants. A charming city surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, Geneva can be well explored by car. Renting a car here lets you go at your own pace, making the most of both massive Lake Geneva, the largest lake in Europe, as well as the city’s tidy streets and ample culture. From there, you can easily head onward for a mountainous nature holiday if you so choose.
It’s your choice: Where to go in Geneva
Geneva is a fascinating city where old traditions mix with stylish trends and modern architecture. The airport is located just 4km away from the city center.. Taking care of your car hire at Geneva Airport and then driving into the city itself is a snap. Furthemore, flights to Geneva are plentiful, as the city has become something of a hub for intercontinental European travel as well as for certain overseas routes. There are ample flights to Geneva from London, for example, on both discount and flag carrier airlines. Upon arrival, be sure to explore neighborhoods like the quaint Old Town (for this you will want to park just outside and then proceed on foot) and stylish Plainpalais. If you plan to proceed from the city itself to explore the nearby mountains or go skiing, a car rental is suggested.
Things to do in Geneva
The best way to learn about Geneva’s history is walking through the Old Town district. Old medieval buildings with masonry facades line the cobbled streets. Many have been converted into museums, cafes, galleries, and upscale restaurants. Geneva is also home to the United Nations headquarters. On any weekday, you can take a free guided tour of the building and its garden.
For fantastic views of Geneva and the surrounding mountains, climb up the St Pierre Cathedral tower located in the Old Town. Sitting atop a hill, the cathedral offers visitors a refreshing perspective of the city. On the edge of Lake Geneva, you will find another important city landmark, the Jet d’Eau, the tallest water jet in the world. With the water reaching as high as 140m, Jet d’Eau can be seen from planes flying over the city. If you visit in March, don’t miss the annual Geneva motor show.
Geneva is a well-connected city, so if you are a castle fan, do not miss your chance to go to neighboring Lausanne or Montreux to visit the Montreux and Chillon castles. Sitting on the edge of the lake and surrounded by pristine forests, these castles are as unique as they are stunning.
Important info about Geneva
This cosmopolitan city is surrounded by mountains and on the edge of the lake, offering Geneva a romantic atmosphere. Step out of your Geneva hotel and it’s your choice, whether you’d like to wander the streets or explore local nature. Be sure not to miss unique areas like Quartier des Grottes, however, where you’ll find ample shopping and curious buildings in which the architects tried to completely avoid the use of any straight lines. And while dining out in Geneva can be pricy, like most things in Switzerland, you can head to Rue de Berne in the city’s downtown for modestly priced Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants. And of course, when you rent a car in Geneva, you can easily explore restaurants farther outside the city center.
Facts about Geneva
Language: French, German, Italian
Currency: Swiss franc
Time Zone: CET
Area Code: +41
Good to know
The Swiss drive on the righthand side of the road, and wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. Your rental car will need to display a motorway vignette. Trams take priority over cars in the cities. Maximum driving speeds are 120 km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on highways, 80 km/h on roads outside built-up areas, and 50 km/h in towns and cities. As a visitor, you are entitled to a free transport card if you stay in any hostel, hotel, or even camping site in Geneva. This transport card offers free use of the bus, tram, train, and yellow taxi boats. Thus, you can easily rent a car in Geneva for outings and then switch back and forth between your personal auto and public transportation. The best way to explore Lake Geneva, for example, is to take the water taxi boats, letting you tour the city via the lake.
What to taste in Geneva
Geneva has a rich culinary culture that’s worth exploring. For a true Swiss flavor, try tartine au cenovis, a local delicacy with a peculiar taste similar to British marmite. Similar to neighboring countries like France and Italy, Switzerland is famous for its cured meats. In Geneva, don’t miss longeole, a type of sausage with cumin. For a filling dinner, order la croute au fromage, a very traditional Swiss dish that is filled with melted cheese.
For some Swiss chocolate with a twist, you’ll have to experience Marmite de l’Escalade, a treasured Swiss tradition. To eat it the right way, you will need someone to say a spell before breaking the chocolate cauldron for you (with a fist), revealing delicious marzipan vegetables inside.
What to bring to your friends from Geneva
Switzerland is renowned for making some of the best chocolate in the world, and a trip to any local chocolatier will leave you spoilt for choice. Outside of France, Switzerland produces some of the highest-quality cheese in all of Europe. Pack up a few hard cheeses to give your friends back home a taste.
Another iconic souvenir, of course, is watches. Swiss watches are renowned for their accuracy, craftsmanship, and intricate design. For local craftsmanship at a more modest price, pick up a bona fide Swiss army knife (so long as you have checked baggage, of course).