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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Switzerland > Geneva

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Things to see in Geneva

Tourist Offices

Geneva Tourist Office

Address: Cornavin, Rue du Mont-Blanc 18, Geneva, 1211
Telephone: +41 22 909 7000
Opening times:

Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat 0900-1800, Thu 1000-1800, Sun and public holidays 1000-1600.

Website: http://www.geneve.com

Located on the main drag from the rail station to the lake, Geneva's tourist office is hard to miss. Stop by to orientate yourself, pick up a free map and buy a multi-attraction discount card, the Geneva Pass.

Tourist passes

Two thirds of Geneva’s museums do not charge for admission. Private museums do charge, but many offer discounted or free entry to holders of the Geneva Pass. Available for 24, 48 or 72 hours, the Geneva Pass (www.geneve.com/en/see-do/geneva-pass) covers over 50 activities, museums, tours and attractions and includes free public transport. It's available to buy in person at the tourist office and some hotels, or visitors can buy online and print it off at home.

Attractions

CERN

Straddling the Franco-Swiss border, the laboratory of the European Council for Nuclear Research is the world-leading particle physics research organisation. It's most famous for being where Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the world wide web, and for its Large Hadron Collider, the world's biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, which sends particles racing round a 27km (16 miles) underground ring. Visitors can see the awe-inspiring LHR for themselves on a guided tour, while CERN's outreach building, a 27m high illuminated sphere called The Globe of Science and Innovation, hosts a permanent exhibition helping you get your head around particle physics. Children should at least be 12 years old. A bit of preparation ahead of the visit is helpful to understand the explanations you will hear at CERN.

Address: Meyrin, 1, Esplanade des Particules, Geneva, 1217
Telephone: +41 (022) 767 7676
Opening times:

Universe of Particles: Mon-Sat 1000-1700

Microcosm: Mon-Fri 0830-1730, Sat 0900-1700

Website: http://visit.cern
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Mont Salève

Just over the border in France, the Salève is nevertheless known as Geneva's local mountain as it's just a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre. Either drive or take the cable car up for an outstanding panorama over Lake Geneva, the city and Mont Blanc. A number of hiking paths meander over the mountain, while you'll often come across paragliders launching themselves into the abyss. The less energetic can enjoy the view from one of several restaurants and cafés at the top.

Address: Etrembières, Route du Téléphérique, Veyrier, 74100
Telephone: +41 (0)22 909 70 00.
Opening times:

Year-round

Website: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/mount-saleve.html
Admission Fees:

No (but there's a charge for the cable car)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Genève (St Peter's Cathedral)

For a spot so central to Geneva’s religious life, St Peter's Cathedral – built between 1160 and 1252– is surprisingly small. Even more astonishing is its combination of Romanesque, Gothic, and Neoclassical styles. The austerity of the main body of the church seems wholly appropriate for a building in which protestant reformer John Calvin preached (1536-1564). By contrast, the 15th-century Chapel of the Maccabees (restored in 1875) is a riot of gilded embellishment against blue and red backgrounds. The Neoclassical facade was added in 1750. Under the cathedral is an archaeological site revealing remains dating back to the pre-Christian era, while climbing the 157 steps to the top of the north tower rewards visitors with fine views over the Old Town and lake.

Address: Old Town, Place du Bourh-de-Four 24, Geneva, 1204
Telephone: +41 22 311 7575
Opening times:

Mon-Sat 0930-1830 and Sun 1200-1830, towers open daily until 1800 (Jun-Sep); Mon-Sat 1000-1730, Sun 1200-1730, towers open daily until 1700 (Oct-May).

Website: http://www.saintpierre-geneve.ch
Admission Fees:

No (although there is a small charge for the tower)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Jet d'Eau (Water Fountain)

If you’ve got one image in your head of Geneva, it’s likely to be this. The city’s jet d'eau is in many ways its Eiffel Tower, providing an iconic backdrop for many a tourist's holiday snap. Dominating the harbour, it spurts out 500 litres of water, some 140m (459ft) into the air, every second. Far from being intended as a tourist attraction, the jet was initially a pressure release valve for Geneva’s water supply. The aquatic showpiece is illuminated at night and adds an impressive dimension to the city's annual fireworks display in August. During the day the fountain takes care of the special effects for itself, with the appearance of shimmering rainbows a common spectacle during sunny periods.

Address: Rive Gauche, Quai Gustave–Ador, Geneva, 1207
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 1000-1600 (mid-Nov-Feb); Mon-Thu 1000-sunset, Fri-Sun 1000-2230 (Mar & Apr); Daily 0900-2315 (May-mid Sep); Mon-Thu 1000-sunset, Fri-Sun 1000-2230 (mid Sep-Oct). The fountain is occasionally shut down due to frost or high winds.

Website: http://www.ville-geneve.ch
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Maison Tavel (Tavel House)

Officially the oldest private house in Geneva, this 12th century property in the Old Town was rebuilt after a fire in 1334 and remains a fascinating example of medieval architecture in Geneva. Bought by the city in the 1980s, its six floors now showcase Genevese living from the 14th to the 19th century. Don't miss the original 12th century vaulted cellars and the relief map in the attic showing Geneva as it looked before its defensive walls were destroyed in 1850. The museum sometimes hosts temporary exhibitions, too.

Address: Old Town, Rue du Puits-St-Pierre 6, Geneva, 1204
Telephone: +41 22 418 3700.
Opening times:

Tue-Sun 1100-1800.

Website: http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mah/
Admission Fees:

No (for permanent exhibition).

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Palais des Nations (Palace of Nations)

This vast Geneva building, designed in the form of a double horseshoe and set in a park with century-old trees, is the European headquarters of the United Nations and the largest UN centre after New York. It was built between 1929 and 1936 to host the League of Nations, the precursor to the UN, so in terms of historical significance it’s something of a titan. Guided tours take visitors to the Assembly Hall, the Council Chamber and the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilisations Room with its incredible ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miguel Barcelò. Unsurprisingly, visits are extremely popular and it attracts more than 100,000 tourists annually. Tours last an hour and are available in 12 languages.

Address: Nations, 14, Avenue de la Paix, Geneva, 1211
Telephone: +49 22 917 4896 or +41 22 917 4539.
Opening times:

Tours: Mon-Fri 0945-1145 and 1345-1545 (Jan-Mar & Oct-Dec); Mon-Sat 0945-1145 and 1345-1545 (Apr-Sep). Group tours for more than 15 people must be booked in advance.

Website: http://www.unog.ch
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum)

Completely renovated in 2013, this museum documents the work of the Red Cross from the humanitarian vision outlined by founder Henry Dunant in 1863, through the many conflicts worldwide where its work has been so vital. The permanent exhibition, entitled The Humanitarian Adventure, is split into three thematic sections, each comprising moving video interviews with witnesses to the Red Cross' work. Particularly affecting is the section detailing how the Red Cross reunites families following war or genocide, while the collection of 6 million record cards containing the fate of prisoners of war during WWI is extraordinary.

Address: Nations, Avenue de la Paix 17, Geneva, 1202
Telephone: +41 22 748 9511
Opening times:

Tue-Sun 1000-1800 (Apr-Oct); Tue-Sun 1000-1700 (Nov-Mar).

Website: https://www.redcrossmuseum.ch/en/
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Carouge

This little artisan town, around 2km (1 mile) south of Geneva’s city centre, is full of book and antique restorers, glass blowers, watchmakers, clothes designers, hatters, trendy bistros and smart restaurants. In 1772, the Kingdom of Sardinia came to set up a town to rival Geneva. Carouge changed hands frequently but, in 1816, the town was annexed to Geneva and became Swiss. Its architecture therefore remains Italianate in style and the narrow streets are straight and orderly, with apartments looking onto wide, green courtyards. Populated by Geneva's bohemians, Carouge makes for an interesting alternative to the slick city centre.

Address: Carouge, Mairie de Carouge (Town Hall), Place du Marché 14, Geneva, 1227
Telephone: +41 223 078 987
Opening times:

Year-round.

Website: http://www.carouge.ch
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Jardin Anglais (English Garden) and Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock)

The English Garden, dating from 1854, is home to the Monument National, a statue of two young women – the 'Republic of Geneva' and 'Helvetia' – which together symbolise Geneva's induction into the Swiss Confederation in 1814. Within the park there is an elegant bronze fountain and L'Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock) that was installed in 1955 to honour Geneva's watch-making industry and is now decorated with over 6,500 plants. The clock measures 5m (16.4ft) in diameter and 17.7m (58ft) in circumference. And if you’re into obscure world records, its second hand is one of the longest in the planet, at over 2.5m (8ft).

Address: Rive Gauche, Quai Général Guisan 34, Geneva, 1204
Telephone: +41 22 909 70 00
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: https://www.geneve.com/en/attractions/english-garden/
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Mur des Réformateurs (Reformation Wall)

Construction of Geneva’s 100m-long (328ft) Reformation Wall began in 1909 on the 400th anniversary of the birth of protestant reformer John Calvin, considered the spiritual father of the city. The monument features huge statues of the four figures central to the Reformation movement: John Calvin (1509-64), Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605), John Knox (c1514-72) and Guillaume Farel (1489-65). The quartet casts a watchful eye over students lounging about the lovely Parc des Bastions in the university district.

Address: , Promenade des Bastions 1, Geneva, 1204
Telephone:
Opening times:

Daily 24 hours.

Website: http://www.ville-geneve.ch/
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens)

Geneva's world-renowned Botanical Gardens were created by the botanist A P de Candolle in the Parc des Bastions in 1817. Relocated to their present site in 1904, the 28-hectare (69-acre) gardens have greenhouses with tropical plants from six continents, a pond brimming with aquatic plants, a rose garden, an arboretum, a garden of the senses, an aviary and a park of rare animals, as well as a research laboratory, herbarium collection (open by appointment) and an extensive library. In total, the gardens consist of around 14,000 different plant species from around the globe.

Address: Chambésy, Chemin de L'Impératrice 1, Geneva, 1292
Telephone: +41 22 418 5100.
Opening times:

Daily 0800-1700 (Nov-Mar); Daily 0800-1930 (Apr-Oct).

Website: https://www.ville-ge.ch/cjb/jardin_en.php
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Musée Patek Philippe (Patek Philippe Museum)

If your knowledge of Swiss timepieces begins and ends with cuckoo-clocks (which originated in Germany anyway), prepare for enlightenment. Geneva and the nearby Jura region have long been associated with clocks and the Patek Philippe Company counts among the finest manufacturers of Swiss watches. The exhibition is split into two main sections: the first displays antique watches from the 16th to the 19th centuries, many of them considered masterpieces of their kind, while the second showcases watches made by Patek Philippe from 1839 to the present day.

Address: Plainpalais, Rue de Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Geneva, 1205
Telephone: +41 22 707 3010.
Opening times:

Tues-Fri 1400-1800, Sat 1000-1800.

Website: https://www.patek.com/en/company/patek-philippe-museum
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

MAMCO (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art)

Open since 1994, and occupying the site of a former factory, Switzerland's largest modern art museum extends over four floors. The industrial architecture of the previous tenants greatly adds to the mood of the venue, which focuses broadly on conceptual art from the last 50 years. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum stages a number of temporary exhibitions, often involving international artists. One of the permanent displays is 'L'Appartement', a faithful reproduction of a Parisian collector's flat, for which he has loaned his own furniture, paintings and sculptures.

Address: , Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, Geneva, 1205
Telephone: +41 22 320 6122.
Opening times:

Tues-Fri 1200-1800, Sat-Sun 1100-1800.

Website: https://www.mamco.ch/en/100/Homepage-partners
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

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Mövenpick Hotel & Casino Geneva

Located in the International Centre Cointrin (ICC) business complex the Mövenpick Hotel & Casino Geneva is situated just 0.8km (0.5 miles) from the Palexpo Exhibition Centre and 15 minutes' drive from the city centre. Trendy types and the business community enjoy this mini-city which provides everything from an airline check-in desk and discotheque to a casino piano bar and business centre. In short a solid bet in terms of price and location.

Hotel De Genève

Just streets away from Lake Geneva itself, there are no whistles and bells at Hotel De Genève, but what you get is a plum location and a choice of 39 rooms which straddle the line between modern design and historic home comforts. It’s clean, cheap and offers free Wi-Fi and a breakfast buffet.

Genève Cottage

What it may lack in location, Genève Cottage more than makes up for in quality and quaintness. Situated 20 minutes from the city centre by train (with a 10-minute walk), this family-run hotel is a home away from home with individually decorated sleeping quarters, queen-sized beds and modern en suite bathrooms. Ask for a room at the back of the house to enjoy a little more peace, plus views of the lovely gardens.

Starling Residence Geneva

Not only does the Starling Residence Geneva boast a supreme selection of 93 modern, clean and restful rooms and studios, but the staff are amongst some of the best in the business. With flatscreen TVs, free Wi-Fi and free travel cards all available, this is the best budget accommodation in the city.

Le Richemond

Gigi author Colette enjoyed her own suite at Le Richemond, one of Geneva's most established high-end hotels. The property rewards visitors with an enviable setting on the banks of the Rhône and 109 sumptuously appointed rooms and suites. There are also four flexible meeting spaces with its Le Jardin restaurant serving fine Italian cuisine. Additional facilities include a spa and limousine service.

Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva

Billed as Geneva's first hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva has been standing on the shores of Lake Geneva since 1834. Modern highlights include a spa and fitness facilities, but the real pull lies in the chance to sample the charm of a bygone era. If you've got the cash, this is arguably the finest hotel in Geneva.