Top events in Geneva

July
25

This open-air film festival is a family favourite, which hosts several films a night across five weeks. From action to animation, documentaries to...

July
31

Geneva's summer street party begins with a pre-festival warm-up from mid-July, with the main 10-day event following in early August. The streets...

August
01

The Swiss National Day is a patriotic celebration of the union of the three states – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden – that was formed in 1291. There...

Jet d'eau on Lake Geneva
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Jet d'eau on Lake Geneva

© 123rf.com / Kheng Guan Toh

Geneva travel guide

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Switzerland

With an international atmosphere, an enviable standard of living and a natural outdoor playground on its doorstep, Geneva has plenty to shout about.

For starters, the biggest city in French-speaking Switzerland has a plum location. Bang in the heart of Europe, and framed by the snow-capped mountains of the Alps and Jura, Geneva wraps itself around the western end of Lake Geneva with the famous Jet d'Eau proudly marking the spot.

On arrival, it's hard not to be impressed by the imposing banks, the 5-star hotels, the designer boutiques and the swish restaurants strung along the lake's glamorous shores. The city centre exudes wealth and status too, boosted by the presence of myriad multinational companies enticed here by Geneva's international outlook and strong economy.

It's also home to the UN’s European headquarters, the International Red Cross, the World Health Organisation and a clutch of other governmental and non-governmental bodies. The majority are drawn by Switzerland's famed neutrality where, despite its location, the country hasn’t joined the EU. The babble of different cultures makes for a cosmopolitan atmosphere on the streets, where visitors will hear English spoken as much as French.

It also means the city has a real global presence and it's often in the news for being the place of peace negotiations or international treaties. More recently, the particles physics research organisation, CERN, have turned the spotlight on the city with a number of scientific breakthroughs, most notably the Large Hadron Collider.

Such is Geneva's overall status on the world stage, it’s often wrongly assumed to be the national capital and this does mean Geneva is hardly the cheapest place to visit. But venture beyond the high-end watch shops and slick bars of the city centre and visitors will find more bang for their buck. Browse the flea markets and arty boutiques of Bains and Plainpalais, find lunch for all budgets in the attractive Old Town, and follow the locals to the Sardinian-style suburb of Carouge to sample the area's laidback bars and great little artisan shops. When it comes to nightlife, Geneva may not be the most innovative or diverse of party towns, but there's certainly enough on offer to fill a short visit. Guests can marvel at the moneyed clientele in the slick mega clubs and high-end cocktail bars, or sniff out the alternative music nights and quirky independent drinking holes if they burrow a little deeper.

When it comes to outdoor activities, Geneva is perfectly placed too: it's just a short hop to many of Switzerland and France's top mountain resorts including Tignes, Verbier and Val d'Isere. But skiers and hikers heading straight from the airport to the Alps don’t just miss out on the city's lively restaurant scene, important museums and diverse shopping, but on its crowning jewel, the beautiful Lake Geneva. Take a stroll along its classy Rive Gauche (Left Bank) and picnic by the impressive Jet d'Eau or bathe in the clear waters at popular swimming spot Bains des Pâquis. Certainly take a cruise or try the latest trend in watersports, because if you haven't experienced what the lake has to offer, then you haven't experienced Geneva.

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