Living in Geneva – a City Guide
Located in a South-Western protrusion of Switzerland and right at the Southern tip of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) lies the city of Geneva. Living in Geneva has become increasingly popular amongst expats as it is a very international city. Many large companies and organizations are based here, among them many banks, the headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross.
However, Geneva has lots more to offer than just that: surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains and with an incredible view of the largest Alpine lake in Europe, beautiful vineyards nearby and well-maintained parks throughout, the city is a picturesque poster child of what Switzerland has to offer.
Out of the four official languages in Switzerland (French, German, Italian and Rumantsch), French is most commonly used in Geneva. Being so close to the French border to both sides, there is lots of French influence throughout the city.
Visiting and living in Geneva, you’ll have access to a wide variety of historic and cultural sights and activities. Here are the most popular places to check out!
Obviously, Lac Léman (or Lake Geneva) is a major focal point of the city. Not only does it offer an incredible view, but it’s also a great place for a swim in the summer, renting boats or meandering along the lakeside promenades.
The water fountain in the middle of Lake Geneva has become the most famous landmark of Geneva. Shooting about 500l of water per second 140 meters into the sky, it’s the tallest water fountain in the world, adding a striking feature to the skyline.
Stroll around the cobbled streets of old town, explore the architecture and walk around the Place du Bourg-de-Four, where charming cafés and restaurants invite you to stay awhile.
Cathédrale Saint Pierre
A prominent building in Geneva is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Genève. You can climb up the 157 steps to the tower to enjoy an incredible view over the city, or check out the basement where you can see remnants of the original cathedral’s foundation.
Palais de Nations
The United Nations headquarters in Geneva is one of the most important diplomatic centres in the world. There are many guided tours to take, for example about the activities of the United Nations, or just stroll around to bask in the history and meaningfulness of the place.
Right next to the building you can also visit the Broken Chair sculpture, which was designed to symbolise opposition to land mines and cluster bombs.
The area of Carouge is considered the “Greenwich Village of Geneva” for its bohemian atmosphere and artsy vibes. A great place to walk around if you’d like to visit some boutiques, cafés and art studios, or for some nightlife if you’d like to go out.
Parc de la Grange & Parc des Eaux-vives
Known for being a very green city, Geneva also offers great parks. Check out Parc de la Grange and the adjacent Parc des Eaux-vives for incredible views over the lake and the surrounding mountains.
They are also a great place for a nice walk, for picnics or barbecues in the designated areas, or for a visit of the beautiful rose garden.
During summers, you can even find sheep in the park, or attend one of the many free concerts held at the Théâtre de Verdure!
Getting Around While Living in Geneva
If you’re living in Geneva, you’ll have an easy time getting around. Geneva is a very walkable city and great for bikes, as it is very flat. Another great way to get around is the modern and well-established public transportation system by the tpg (transports publics genevois), made up of buses, trams, trains and the Mouettes Genevoises, which are the yellow and red water buses for crossing the lake. Tickets are valid across all types of transport.
A big plus for tourists and visitors is the fact that anyone arriving at the Geneva airport can get a free ticket to their place of stay, valid for 80 minutes. When staying at a hotel, youth hostel or campsite, you also receive a free Geneva Transport Card, valid for the entirety of your stay!
When thinking about food in Switzerland, many people think of fondue and chocolate. And well, what can we say – you can definitely find these delicacies in Geneva as well! Cheese fondue in Geneva is usually served with morrels or mushrooms. As for chocolate, one of the biggest and most popular chocolatier companies of Switzerland, Favarger, is actually located very close to Geneva and has stores in the city, so we encourage you to give them a visit and check for yourself if the hype holds up!
If you’re hoping to try a truly Genevese specialty, however, go for Longeole. It’s a pork sausage seasoned with fennel seeds, pickling salt and white pepper, usually served with potatoes. Vegetarians might opt for another local delicacy called cardon genevoise. Cardon is a thistle-like plant that grows in the area and tastes similar to artichokes. It is usually served as a gratin with béchamel sauce.
In any case, Geneva is home to many amazing restaurants throughout the city and your palate will be easily pleased here – it is not called the gourmet capital of Switzerland for nothing!
Cost of Living
Switzerland is notorious for being a very expensive country, and living in Geneva definitely puts you on the higher end of the range. Rent and cost of living is generally described as being even more expensive than London or New York City. However, both income and quality of life are also incredibly high here, so it does even out the balance a bit.
We hope our guide gave you a better idea of what kind of city Geneva is. Whether you plan on living in Geneva or just visiting, you’ll surely have a wonderful time in this beautiful and well-maintained city. Before we let you go, check out these French phrases to keep in your back pocket for some local small talk!
The Swiss French equivalent to Ça va?, meaning “how’s it going?”
avoir une gonfle au pied | “j’ai une gonfle au pied!”
Walked around the city too much? Use this phrase, meaning “I have a blister on my foot!”
faire un clopet | “je vais faire un petit clopet”
All that exploring would leave anyone tired – this sentence is perfect for that. Translation: “I will take a quick nap.”
Where the French say “de rien”, you can use this Swiss French phrase as a polite way to say you’re welcome.
Want to learn more phrases or polish up your old French skills from school? Try Babbel! Psst, our registered users can also benefit from an amazing discount!