2 Days in Geneva: A weekend-long itinerary for first-time visitors

Are you having a short city break in Geneva? Then, these 2 days in Geneva itinerary is ideal for you. Whether you are visiting Geneva for a weekend trip, or as part of a longer trip, then I’m sure that you will enjoy following this itinerary which covers a little bit of everything.

The itinerary is based on my own short stay in Geneva a few years ago. I visited during winter, as part of my winter trip in Chamonix. You can read all about it here.

2 Days in Geneva: Itinerary Overview

Below you can find some useful information to plan your trip. Click here to skip to the itinerary.

When to visit?

I would say that Geneva, like any European city, can be visited year-round. Of course, if you visit during the winter it will be considerably colder than during the summer and you will most probably encounter fewer crowds. On the downside, some tourist attractions may be closed or have reduced operating hours. Hence, if you visit during the summer you may find more options for things to do that those recommended below and you may prefer to spend a few days to see everything.

How to get there?

Geneva has its own international airport with frequent flights to many European cities. From the airport, you can get the train to the city centre main railway station (Gare de Genève). The ride is very short, less than ten minutes and you can even take it for free if you get your ticket from the ticket machine in the baggage reclaim area. Of course, you can arrive by train, by bus or by car. EU citizens can enter without needing a visa and can stay for up to 90 days.

How to move around?

Geneva is an easily walkable city, and this itinerary does not require the use of public transport. However, tourists can get a Free Transport Card for the duration of their stay. The card includes access to all buses, trams, trains and yellow taxi boats. This card is available at hotels, hostels and campsites. Free public transport is also included in the Geneva City Pass available online and at the tourist office for 24, 48 and 72 hours. The activities below are all included in the Geneva City Pass.

Where to stay?

I would say any place around the bus or train stations can be used as a base to follow this itinerary. If you want to follow my steps, we stayed in ibis Genève Centre Lac [AD]. It is a budget hotel with modern rooms, five minutes away on foot from the main transport hubs and a short walk from the old town.

What to book in advance?

Depending on how you plan to arrive in the city, you may want to consider purchasing your plane, bus or train ticket in advance to get a better fare. If you are visiting during high season, then a hotel booking is recommended. Since Switzerland is considered an expensive country, don’t forget to check out the online prices of the places you want to visit in case there is a discount.

Are there any useful websites?

TOP TIP: Practice your French before visiting Geneva, as it lies on the French-speaking part of Switzerland!

Day 1 – Arriving in Geneva

Allow a morning to arrive in the city, have lunch, and then spend the afternoon getting to know the area.

A lighthouse in Geneva
View of Phare de Pâquis, Sony ILCE-5100

15:00 Brunswick Monument

Start your afternoon by going for a long walk to get lunch and get to know the area. The first stop should be the tourist office to get any information you may need about your short stay. Then continue towards the lake but don’t cross the bridge (Pont du Mont Blanc) and instead turn left, where you can find the Brunswick Monument. The monument was built in memory of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick, who scarified his life for the city of Geneva.

15:30 Jet d’Eau

Continue your walk along the lake and catch a glimpse of the Jet d’Eau. Jet d’Eau is a large water fountain, one of Geneva’s icons, it was built in 1886. It jets water with a speed of 200 km/h, which results in the water reaching a height of 140m. Note that the operation of Jet d’Eau may be suspended based on the weather conditions.

16:00 Les Pâquis

After you’ve had enough of the fountain, continue on to Bains des Pâquis, where you can enjoy a short swim in the lake. The Phare des Pâquis offers great views of the Lake Geneva and the city skyline. After that, you can return to your accommodation and look for a place to have dinner.

Directions:

Below I include a sample route of the above walk, starting and ending at the train station. Feel free to amend it based on where your accommodation is.

Day 2 – Exploring The Old Town and International Geneva

Make an early start to the day and enjoy the most Geneva has to offer.

The Flower Clock in Geneva
The flower clock of Geneva says that it’s 10:50! Sony ILCE-5100

09:30 L’Horloge Fleurie and Jardin Anglais

One of the most popular sights in Geneva is the Horloge Fleurie, a flower clock in the Jardin Anglais (English Garden). The clock was created in 1955 to honour the watchmakers of the city. To create the clock, more than 6000 flower pots are required. Depending on the season, different flowers are in bloom, hence the clock features different designs and colours. Before leaving, don’t forget to walk a bit in the Jardin Anglais.

11:00 Saint Pierre Cathedral and Old Town

St Pierre’s (St Peter’s) Cathedral is one of the most important places in the Old Town. It dates to the 12th century, and it was extensively renovated during the Reformation of 1535. Apart from the Cathedral, visitors are welcomed (for a small fee) to climb the 157 steps to get to the top of the tower and admire amazing views over Geneva and the Alps. Underneath the church, there is an archaeological site that people can visit (after paying a small fee) and explore artefacts from the ancient times.

Find out more about St Pierre Cathedral here and the archaeological site here.

13:30 Reformation Wall

The Reformation Wall along the Promenade de Bastions is a memorial to the people involved in the Protestant’s reformation in the 16th century. There are many statues of important figures along the wall and underneath them, there is the Latin inscription “Post Tenebras Lux” which translates to “After darkness, light”. On the wall, there is also an inscription of the Christogram. Before leaving to get something for lunch, check out the giant chess boards on the Promenade.

15:00 Geneva International

The last activity of the day is a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the Geneva International. Geneva International is an area which houses the headquarters of numerous global organisations, such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and the World Health Organisations. Some of those organisations have museums and public places, so depending on the tour schedule, you may wish to get off the bus and join later. One of the most famous buildings is the Palais des Nations which houses the United Nations. Opposite the building, you can find the famous Broken Chair. The Chair is 12 m tall and stands in memory of those killed in mines and by other explosive weapons.

The hop-on hop-off bus departs from the Place du Rhône (shown on the map below) and the Quai du Mont-Blanc. The complete route lasts 75 minutes. Note, that the bus may operate at different times than those stated here. This tour is included in the Geneva City Pass.

Find out more information about the bus sightseeing tour here and about Geneva International here.

Alternative 1: If you have purchased the Geneva City Pass, then you can follow one of the other tours offered, such as the sightseeing cruise, the train ride or the walking tour. Remember to check their operating hours.

Alternative 2: Instead of taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour, you can visit one of the museums in Geneva. One museum that I wanted to visit but we didn’t have time was the Patek Phillipe Museum. The museum has a short history of watchmaking and some historical information about the homonymous watchmaking company.

Directions:

Bonne Voyage!

P.S. This itinerary can be easily squeezed in a single day, especially during the summer when days are longer.

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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