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Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most visited cities thanks to its international airport and many international organizations. On the shores of Lake Geneva, it is the second-most populous city in Switzerland and the most populous in the French-speaking part.
Many international organizations are located in Geneva, including the United Nations, the Red Cross, the World Trade Organization, and the World Health Organization. With Pictet Group, Bank Lombard Odier & Co, and more, it’s also a major financial center. In addition, Geneva is home to some of the biggest watch brands in the world, including Patek Philippe, Baume & Mercier, Chopard, and Frédérique Constant.
If you would like to book a guided tour of Geneva, you can book either the Geneva City Tour from Viator or the Geneva: 2-Hour Tour of International Quarters and Old Town from GetYourGuide.
Whether you’re looking for a 1-day itinerary or a list of things to do in Geneva, Switzerland this article is for you. Here are a few ideas for how you can spend one day in Geneva.
Geneva One Day Itinerary: What can you do?
1. Start Your Day With a Cozy Breakfast
In case your hotel doesn’t offer a breakfast option, you can walk around Geneva to find a café. It is important to find a warm, cozy place to eat breakfast before heading out for sightseeing.
Geneva has plenty of cafés and restaurants that serve hot coffee with delicious pastries. Some recommended coffee shops are listed below:
- Cottage Café (Rue Adhémar-Fabri 7, Genève) – With a fantastic location near the lake, it has well-priced food of excellent quality. Set in the middle of a park with a view of the Brunswick Monument and Jet d’Eau, you can also have lunch and dinner here.
- LA BASTIDE Café (Grand-Rue 8, 1204 Genève) – Located in the old town of Geneva, this café is charming. Besides a secret garden with outdoor seating, they have a delicious tea latte selection.
- Ferdinand Coffee Shop (Pl. du Bourg-de-Four 19, 1204 Genève) – Excellent coffee (possibly the best in Geneva) made with fresh beans. Also, it’s conveniently located in the old town.
After having your breakfast, I suggest that you make your way to Geneva’s Old Town before proceeding to Geneva Cathedral.
2. Visit Geneva’s Landmark – the Jet d’Eau
The 140-meter-high Jet d’Eau water fountain is Geneva’s most iconic landmark. Translated from the French words “water jet“, it’s basically a huge water jet shooting 200 kilometers per hour into Geneva’s skyline.
In my opinion, you can get the best views of Jet d’Eau from Geneva’s lakefront. Walking along the lake will let you see it easily without any obstructions. You can also walk along a 200-meter jetty (Jetée des Eaux-Vives) near Jet d’Eau and see it up close.
From the train station, head down Rue du Mont-Blanc and walk past the lake to Jardin Anglais. You just have to walk toward the Jet d’Eau jetty. With it being so high, it’s easy to see.
If you would like to read more about Jet d’Eau, you can check out our article A Quick Guide to Jet d’Eau: Geneva’s Iconic Water Fountain.
3. Explore the Old Town of Geneva Before Lunch
I recommend walking around Geneva’s Old Town after Jet d’Eau while waiting for St. Pierre Cathedral to open. Geneva’s Old Town is compact, easy to walk through, and charming. Worth visiting are the Town Hall and the Old Arsenal and Canons. That’s why it’s worth exploring until the cathedral opens.
If you would like a guided tour, you can also book one via GetYourGuide here – Geneva: 2-Hour Tour of International Quarters and Old Town.
As an alternative, you can shop along Rue du Rhône or Rue de Rive. Or you can go to Bastions Park and see the Reformation Wall.
Make your way to St. Pierre Cathedral once it opens.
3. Discover the St. Pierre Cathedral
When you’re done walking or shopping, you can head to St. Pierre Cathedral. The St. Pierre Cathedral opens between 9:30 AM and noon depending on the day.
Founded over 860 years ago, St. Pierre Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in French) is one of Geneva’s most famous churches. It is one of the city’s most visited buildings. John Calvin, the famous French theologian, used to preach here during the Protestant Revolution.
The St. Pierre Cathedral Tower offers panoramic views of Geneva. There’s an extra fee for climbing up the tower. Your entrance ticket can be bought inside.
Make sure you check out the Chapel of Maccabees before you leave. Also called Notre-Dame Collegiate Chapel, it’s the most beautiful part of St. Pierre Cathedral. Jean de Rogny built this chapel between 1400 and 1405.
If you would like to read more about St. Pierre Cathedral, you can check out our article Discover St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland.
After visiting St. Pierre Cathedral, I suggest visiting a nearby restaurant for a quick lunch.
4. Explore One or Two of Geneva‘s Best Museums
I recommend visiting one of Geneva’s many museums after lunch. Here are a few of my favorites, but Geneva has a lot more.
- Musée Ariana (Avenue de la Paix 10, 1202 Genève) – Musée Ariana is the Swiss Museum for Ceramics and Glass Geneva. The museum is dedicated to porcelain, stained glass, and glassware.
- Muséum d’histoire naturelle (Rte de Malagnou 1, Genève) – With lots of safari animals and birds on display, the Natural History Museum of Geneva spreads over several floors.
- Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (Bd Carl-Vogt 65, Genève) – This museum shows different human cultures from different continents in the world and is one of the most important ethnographic museums in Switzerland.
- Maison Tavel (Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre 6, 1204 Genève) – The Tavel House is Geneva’s oldest private residence. The museum houses many objects, paintings, and maps from Geneva’s past, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
- Patek Philippe Museum (Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Genève) – This elegant building houses a wonderful collection of watches and jewelry. If you’re a watch fan, you’ll love it.
5. Get a glimpse of the UN and the Broken Chair
It would be great if you could make your way to the UN if you still have time. Discover the United Nations’ work in Geneva by touring the Palais des Nations. The guide will explain how the organization fosters and maintains world peace.
Due to its popularity, you will have to book the tour months in advance. Click here to book it on the UN’s website.
6. Come Aboard the Gourmet Cruise
When you’re done with the museums, you can go to Lake Geneva. Although you can have lunch on the ship, I think you’re better off leaving this activity until dinner.
CGN (Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman) or the Lake Geneva General Navigation Company offers a dinner cruise on a Belle Epoque ship for a good price. Take note that you will have to reserve a ticket in advance. To familiarize yourself with their offers, check out the ship’s website at cgn.ch.
If you want to stay in Geneva instead of cruising, here are some restaurants we recommend:
|L’ Aparté||Michelin star-worthy place that serves elegant dishes presented by the chef.||Rue de Lausanne 43, Genève|
|Bayview by Michel Roth – Hôtel Président||With views of Lake Geneva and the Alps, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves French food and amazing service.||Quai Wilson 47, 1201 Genève|
|Auberge de Savièse||This chalet-style restaurant serves cheese fondue, raclette, and other classic Swiss food.||Rue des Pâquis 20, 1201 Genève|
|Spinella||An excellent Italian restaurant owned by three brothers from Sicily near Cornavin central station and the city center. At Spinella, you can enjoy great cocktails, handcrafted beers, and homemade desserts.||Rue Liotard 4, Genève|
|Fiskebar||An innovative Nordic-style fusion restaurant that focuses on zero waste and sustainable seafood.||Quai du Mont-Blanc 11, 1211 Genève|
Recommended Hotels in Geneva
Should you need some assistance choosing a hotel in Geneva, here are some suggestions:
- Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva (5-star) – Set in a historic building from 1834, Four Seasons is one of the best hotels in Geneva. You can’t go wrong with this hotel with its elegant interiors, fine dining restaurant, indoor infinity pool, spa, business services, and multi-lingual concierge.
- Beau-Rivage Genève (5-star) – With its panoramic views of the lake and Mont Blanc, this elegant 5-star hotel is right on Lake Geneva. Cornavin Train Station is just a five-minute walk away. This hotel has a highly-rated French restaurant called Le Chat Botté. There is a 24-hour front desk, fitness center, concierge service, a business center, and more.
- Hotel Bristol (4-star superior) – Between Geneva’s train station and the lake, this 4-star superior hotel Hotel Bristol makes a great choice for tourists. This hotel has a wonderful spa area with saunas, a hot tub, and a hammam. Besides that, it’s got a great restaurant called Côté Square.
- citizenM Geneva (4-star) – citizenM Geneva is close to some main attractions, including St. Pierre Cathedral, Jet d’Eau, the Flower Clock, and Geneva Town Hall. The hotel has air-conditioned rooms, a restaurant, and a bar, too.
- Hotel Bernina Geneva (3-star) – Located opposite Geneva’s train station, the Hotel Bernina Geneva is a convenient 3-star superior hotel with clean, modern rooms.
- MEININGER Geneve Centre Charmilles (Hostel) – Although this hostel isn’t in the center of the city, it’s well connected, so you can easily get to all the sights. With 24-hour reception, free WiFi, luggage storage, a washing machine, a dryer, a kitchen, a bar, and a game zone, you’ve got everything you need for your stay in Geneva.
Summary: 1 Day in Geneva, Switzerland
As you can see, you will not run out of options on what to do in Geneva in one day. In fact, you can stretch the Geneva One Day Itinerary offered here easily to another 1 or 2 more days.
In case you need other ideas on what to do in Geneva, please see our additional checklist below:
- Geneva Botanical Garden – One of Switzerland’s most beautiful gardens, the Geneva Botanical Garden is also free to visit.
- CERN – The birthplace of the web, CERN is the largest physics laboratory in the world.
- Carouge – A charming little town for artisans and artists.
- Mont-Salève – You can reach this beautiful panoramic spot after a short bus and cable car ride.
- Beaches of Geneva – There are lots of beaches in and around Geneva, from Geneva Plage to sandy Plages des Eaux-Vives.
- Basilica of Notre Dame – Located near the train station, this is Geneva’s main Roman Catholic church.
- Plainpalais – Plaine de Plainpalais hosts Geneva’s biggest flea and farmer’s market. Every now and then, they have a circus or roller coaster.
- Rousseau Island – L’Ile Rousseau is a small park and island on the Rhône River in Geneva’s center. It is connected to both banks by the Pont des Bergues bridge. Here you can relax, grab a snack, or just take a break from sightseeing.
- Victoria Hall – A beautiful concert hall in Geneva. The ceiling carvings and artwork here are exquisite.
Geneva is a great place to visit even if it’s just for a day. It would be great if you extended this trip to more days so you could see more beautiful places around Lake Geneva. Around Geneva, there are also beautiful towns to visit such as Nyon, Montreux, and more.
If you would like to find more activities to do in Geneva, you can also check out GetYourGuide.com.
- Discover St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland
- Musée Ariana, Geneva: 8 Things That Make You Love It
- A Quick Guide to Jet d’Eau: Geneva’s Iconic Water Fountain
- 8 Best Things to Do in Geneva on a Rainy Day
- 9 Beautiful Towns Near Geneva, Switzerland
- 10 Best Day Trips from Geneva
- Closest Mountains To Geneva in Switzerland
- 12 Most Beautiful Lakes Near Geneva
- 8 Best Places on Lake Geneva
- When Is the Best Time to Visit Geneva, Switzerland?
- Geneva Botanical Garden: One of Switzerland’s Most Beautiful Gardens
- The Fascinating Maison Tavel: Geneva’s Oldest Residence And Historical Museum
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.