Chocolates and cheese – these were the only reasons I needed to jump on a chance to spend a couple of days in Geneva, Switzerland’s second largest city.
As it turns out, there’s a lot more to enjoy in Geneva beyond the truffles and fondue. There’s the breathtaking Lake Geneva, a mere glimpse of the many gorgeous natural landscapes you can explore in Switzerland. There’s the picturesque old town, its winding alleys leading to art galleries, quiet leafy parks, and intimate cafés. And then there’s Carouge, a hip neighborhood just outside Geneva where you can instantly catch a Mediterranean vibe.
Whether you’re in Geneva for business or a little holiday, make the most of your stay in one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. Here’s how to spend 3 days in Geneva.
Little Holidays Guide to Geneva, Switzerland – 3-day itinerary and travel guide
- Map – must-sees in Geneva
- What to see and do in Geneva – 3-day itinerary
- Essential information – planning your trip to Geneva
- Beyond Geneva – where to go next
Map – Essential landmarks in Geneva
Day 1 – exploring Geneva’s Old Town and “little Italy”
Start the day with a stroll by the lake. Go around Jardin Anglais and check out L’horloge fleurie, a clock made up of 6,500 flowering plants and shrubs – an homage to the city’s watchmakers and an expression of the city’s dedication to nature. Continue on to Jet d’Eau, a 140-m fountain that symbolizes the city’s ambition and vitality. Take a moment to bask in the lakeside’s beauty and get acquainted with Lake Geneva’s resident swans and seagulls.
Once you’ve had your fill of Lake Geneva’s beauty, make your way to the old town. You can see a lot just by winding in and out of the cobblestoned alleys. Learn about the city’s history at the Maison Tavel, see the city from St. Pierre Cathedral’s viewing deck, then relax by Treille Promenade. If it’s time for lunch, have fondue at Restaurant Les Armures which is just next to Maison Tavel. Or if the weather is good, enjoy eating al fresco at one of the restaurants around Bourg-de-Four Square.
Next, make your way to Carouge, Geneva’s “little Italy.” You can take tram 12 or go for a 2-kilometer walk. Go past the tree-lined Promenade des Bastions, through the Place de Nueve, and walk all through Plainpalais. Upon crossing the Pont de Carouge, the city instantly exudes a Mediterranean vibe. Walk along Rue Saint-Joseph and check out the various novelty shops until you reach Place du Marche. If you love vintage finds and quirky souvenirs, this is where you’ll find them.
Day 2 – Lake Geneva and the city’s green spaces
After a busy first day, spend your second day enjoying the city’s beautiful views and green spaces.
Start the day with a walk along Quai de Mont Blanc. Walk along the lake towards Parc Barton, a large park with plenty of spots for a picnic or to rest your feet.
Continue your walk and cross the street to the Botanical Gardens. This is where the city houses a vast collection of living plants to conserve and raise awareness about threatened plants. Various trees and shrubs flower throughout the year.
From the Botanical Gardens, the Palais des Nations is a short walk away. If you want to go on a tour, it’s best to reserve it in advance. Otherwise, you can spend some time relaxing in Parc de l’Ariana.
While in the area, you might want to take a 1-km trek up the leafy residential areas and have lunch at Café du Soleil, one of the best places in Geneva for fondue. It’s extremely popular among locals, though, so it’s better to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance. But if you don’t have a reservation, you can still try to walk-in for lunch – dinner might be a little trickier.
Day 3 – go for day trips around Geneva
Geneva is compact, and you can pretty much cover most of the city sights in just two days. But if you have more days planned in the city, it’s a perfect starting point for adventures to the Swiss and French countryside.
Get a rental car or a Swiss pass and make your way to these amazing day trips from Geneva. If you prefer handing the logistics off to someone else, you can also join organized day tours that set off from Geneva.
Les Diablerets and Montreaux – Take a two-hour drive from Geneva to enjoy the Swiss Alpine mountain scenery in Les Diablerets, a mountain village with picturesque chalets, breathtaking views, and a slew of winter sports for adventurous folks. Stop by the charming lakeside city of Montreux on your way back for the best Swiss landscapes. Day tours to Les Diablerets from Geneva run from April to September and November to December.
Interlaken and the Jungfrau region – Interlaken is about a 3-hour drive from Geneva and is the gateway to the exciting Jungfrau region. Ideally, you should spend a couple of days to enjoy the landscapes and adventures the area offers fully. But if you only have one day, start really early and ride the rail to Jungfraujoch. Afterward, enjoy a stroll around Interlaken and bask in the beauty of the lakes Thun and Brienz set against the mountain ranges. You can join a day trip that includes a trip to Jungfraujoch or to Schilthorn.
Gruyeres – If you’re more into Switzerland’s culinary delights – yes, we’re talking chocolates and cheese – make your way to Gruyeres. This small storybook town is a short and picturesque 1.5-hour drive along Lake Geneva and has everything you love about Switzerland. Visit La Maison de Gruyere and learn everything about cheese, go for a chocolate tasting at Maison Cailler, then burn all of those sinful-but-worth-it calories with a walk around the medieval castle and village of Gruyeres. You can also do this as a day trip onboard the Golden Pass panoramic train!
Annecy – Hop over to France and visit one of the region’s most beautiful cities. If you love fairytale destinations, you’ll love Annecy’s cobbled streets, pastel-colored houses, and picturesque canals. It’s a short 1-hour train ride from Geneva to Annecy, but if you’d like an expert guide to show you around, join this day trip from Geneva.
Chamonix Mont Blanc – See the magnificent Mont Blanc up close with a day trip to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. From Geneva, the mountain village is a picturesque 90-minute ride through the Arve Valley. Chamonix is a great starting point for many sightseeing hikes. Ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car for 360-degree views of Mont Blanc, or ride to the Montenvers site and learn more about glaciers. You can do all of these with this day tour from Geneva.
Flying: You can check out flights to Geneva here. From Geneva airport, you can get to your hotel in the city by public transportation, car hire, or shuttle.
You can use public transportation for free from the airport to your hotel in the city. Look for the ticket machine dispensing free tickets at the baggage reclaim hall, then ride the train to Gare Cornavin (the central railway station). From there, you can catch a tram or bus to your hotel. Use SBB or TPG to find your way around Geneva.
The free ticket is valid for 80 minutes for public transport to the central Geneva area. Make sure to have your valid plane ticket on hand to show to a ticket inspector.
You can also go by Uber or check if your hotel offers shuttle services to and from the airport.
By rail: If you’re coming from nearby cities, you can look for train connections using SBB. Make sure to take advantage of the many saver passes available.
Public transportation: Hotels in Geneva give all guests a free transportation card, which you can use on the city’s whole public transportation system for the duration of your stay. This includes buses, trams, trains, and yellow taxi-boats. You can find your way around using TPG or SBB’s route planners.
Renting a car: Geneva is an excellent base for exploring nearby towns and natural parks, particularly those surrounding Lake Geneva. It’s also great to venture over to the French side. For day trips to the surrounding countryside, get a rental car.
By bike: Another great way to explore the city is on a bike! You can rent a bike here then venture to the city’s outskirts.
Best areas to stay in Geneva
As you can expect from a cosmopolitan city exuding luxury and style, Geneva has plenty of gorgeous hotels on offer. For a romantic or special trip, stay in Quai de Mont Blanc where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and the Alps. Hotel d’Anglettere and Hotel Beau Rivage are lovely options.
If you love to be in the center of the city’s historical and cultural areas, stay in the old town. Unlike other, more touristy cities, Geneva’s old town is more peaceful. You’ll get to enjoy the old-world charm and be close to all the must-see sights. Les Armures is our top pick for you!
If you want a more relaxed stay away from the touristy areas of Geneva, stay in Quartier des Eaux-Vives. Here you’ll get to enjoy vast green spaces and a more “local” experience, while still being within walking distance of the essential landmarks. Plus, hotels here come with a friendlier price tag. Triplex Geneva Jet d’eau is especially perfect for families and small groups.
Here’s a more in-depth neighborhood and hotel guide to Geneva.
Good to know / top tips
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF) – you can pay for almost anything using a credit or debit card, but if you want to have cash with you, it’s best to withdraw from ATMs.
If you have a borderless card like TransferWise, you can withdraw from any of the Swiss banks’ ATMs for free – convert your currency to CHF on your app first, then withdraw easily and hassle-free.
Language: French and English
Year-round weather: The coldest months are from December to January, with temperatures of -1 to 5°C. Winter is a great time to visit Switzerland if you’re into winter sports. July is the warmest month (from 14-26°C) with also the longest days. If you like warm, sunny weather, visit from June to August. September is the wettest month, so plan for plenty of indoor activities if you’re visiting on this month.
Staying connected: You’ll find plenty of free hotspots around the city, but if you want constant connection, get a Lycamobile SIM card (look for stores around your hotel here) and top it up with as little as CHF 3.25 for 500 MB of data. You can check all the data bundles here – I got the 2 GB data bundle for CHF 9.90, and it was plenty for a 5-day stay.
Remember that if you have an EU SIM card, the no-roaming charges rule does not apply in Switzerland. Check with your provider and make sure to turn off your cellular data to avoid substantial roaming fees!
Save time and money on transportation – get a Swiss pass: Switzerland has a remarkable network of rail and other means of public transportation. All that convenience and comfort, however, comes at a pretty steep price. If your Swiss itinerary involves plenty of long-distance travel by rail, you should consider getting a Swiss Travel Pass. This is particularly ideal for itineraries that involve long-distance travel over short periods – for example, going to 3 cities/towns that are at least 2 hours’ travel time apart over 3-5 days.
If your travel plans are more spread out – for example, traveling to 5-10 cities over 2-4 weeks – a Swiss Half Card may be a better deal for you.
Expect a lot more guides around Switzerland in the coming months as I explore this gorgeous country, one lake town at a time! In the meantime, hop over to its chic neighbor and enjoy storybook towns and sumptuous cuisine.
- Alsace, France – This real-life storybook destination is one of France’s wine-growing regions. Expect great weather, endless wine trails, and heavenly gastronomy.
- Strasbourg, France – Want to visit more refined and cosmopolitan cities like Geneva? Visit Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament and a melting pot of Franco-German culture, architecture, and cuisine.
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I hope this guide helps you make the most of your 3-day holiday in Geneva! Have fun exploring the city!
If you need more help planning your trip to Geneva, send me a message, and I’ll help you out!