24 hours in Geneva

Posted on 12. Aug, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, Switzerland

Planning 24 hours in Geneva is actually fairly easy - Switzerland’s second city is quite on the small side and is only a few minutes away from the beautiful Annecy, which makes for a perfect daytrip. Let’s see what I had planned for the day.

Palais des Nations, Geneva, UN, 24 hours in Geneva

Palais des Nations

First stop: Palais des Nations

Built in 1929 to host the League of Nations (now known as the United Nations), and still is home to many UN agencies today such as WHO, ECE and ILO, it is the second largest building complex in Europe after Versailles. After the well worth 30 minutes stroll from the historic center through the beautiful Perle du Lac park, take your geography knowledge to another level by trying to identify the 193 flags in the entrance. Also have a look at the famous Broken Chair, which represents opposition to landmines.

Second stop: Quai du Mont-Blanc

Logical stop on your way back to the historic center, this quay offers superb views of the city itself, the highest fountain in Europe, and possibly the iconic Mont-Blanc on clear days. From this point, you can also hop on one of the popular lake cruises, which I highly recommend. Not only is the air amazingly fresh, but you get to see many lakeside historical buildings and domains along the way. The costs of course varies with the length of the cruise - the one I chose lasted about an hour and only costed 9 francs.

Geneva, Lake Leman, Lac Léman, Switzerland, 24 hours in Geneva

Lac Léman in Geneva

Third stop: Historical Center

A pretty small area compared to other large European cities but definitely worth visiting nonetheless. That’s where you’ll be spending the largest part of your 24 hours. Start with the St.Pierre Cathedral and enjoy the views of the lake (and the fountain) from the square, or if you’re up to the exercise, climb up the north tower of the cathedral. I also particularly enjoyed the Place du Bourg-de-Four, where I indulged on gelato, people watching and postcards.

Optional fourth stop: the Shopping District

This activity is meant for the wealthy people of this world, because believe me, not just anybody can afford a shopping spree in Geneva. Louis Vuitton bags, Mont-Blanc pens, Dior dresses, Chanel shoes… that’s the kind of items you are going to find on the Quai du Général-Guisa. For those of you with a regular wallet, you can relax among the locals in the English Gardens and try to focus on how many trips you can take now that you just saved thousands of dollars.

Geneva, historic center

Geneva's historic center

Speaking of dollars….

24 hours in Geneva can certainly get on the expensive side if you are not careful with your spending. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the fourth most expensive city in the world is actually…. expensive. I had to walk around over an hour to find a lunch place that would cost me less than 20 francs, and had to settle for a 10 francs sandwich on the Quai Bezanson (and by sandwich, I mean sandwich - no side salad, no tap water, no nothing, not even a little piece of celery). My suggestion is to aim for supermarkets and transform the “budget meal” into “glamorous picnic along the Lac Léman”, which can only be enjoyable and much cheaper.

As for the accommodation, I decided to skip out on the historic center costly experience and decided to stay in the suburbs - I was leaving the city in the morning anyway. Also worth noting for those who will be visiting by car: Swiss motorways require you to get a 40 francs toll sticker - instead, opt for the back road option to get into the city and use this money to cover the parking costs, which will likely cost around 30 francs for the whole day.

While Geneva is certainly more business than tourist oriented, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit - but I have to say I was a little bit disappointed in overall (I mean, the so-called highest fountain in Europe is basically just a very high water explosion) and I would definitely suggest alternative cities to discover the French Swiss (e.g. Lausanne and Gruyère).

Have you spent 24 hours in Geneva? What are your recommendations? Did you also struggle with the prices?

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3 Responses to “24 hours in Geneva”

  1. Bob Crunch

    12. Aug, 2011

    Wow that is a very efficient day. Of all of those, I think the Historical Center interests me the most. Great article.

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  2. Katherina

    12. Aug, 2011

    I find Geneva’s old town very charming, but it’s true that I do prefer Lausanne as a city to live, one of e reasons being its high prices (as a rule, bars charge 2 chf more per beer than in Lausanne!).
    Besides, I don’t want to be mean but… Lausanne has got a much more impressive view from the lake than Genea ;)
    Did you decide when you would be coming over?

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  3. Claudia

    30. Jul, 2012

    To save money in restaurants I also recommend to check offers and prices in advance.
    You also can read restaurant reviews and ratings to find out which are the places recommended by other diners and tourists. During the high tourist season it is best to make your restaurant reservation in advance.
    At MyTable.com and the smartphone app you find a complete directory of restaurants in Switzerland. You can search a restaurant and read reviews written by other users. You can also search for a place nearby (the app detects your actual location and makes proposals). Also, you can see the restaurant’s menu, as well as ratings and recommendations of restaurants written by other users. MyTable.com services are available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

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