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.
Geneva is a captivating city, hugely influenced by its French roots; this influence can be seen throughout the city and most clearly in the language – as out of Switzerland’s four official languages (French, German, Italian & Rumantsch), French is much more commonly used within Geneva.
Must Visits When Living in Geneva
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. Explore more about Lake Geneva here.
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.
Carouge is the spot for a unique, one-of-a-kind experience in Geneva. Explore its bohemian atmosphere and enjoy strolling around some of the most stylish boutiques and art studios or hit up bars to check out Carouge’s exciting nightlife scene.
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!
Try something unique and authentically Geneva with Longeole! This pork sausage is flavourful, seasoned with fennel seeds, pickling salt and white pepper. Enjoy it alongside the classic pairing of potatoes for an unforgettable experience. Vegetarians might opt for another local delicacy called cardon genevoise. Cardon is an interesting plant that thrives in the region, boasting a taste similar to artichokes. Enjoy its unique flavour by preparing it as a delicious gratin with béchamel sauce.
Enjoy Geneva’s gourmet atmosphere when exploring the city and its delicious dining scene. From world-class cuisine to classic Swiss dishes, your taste buds will be delighted by all of the incredible flavours!
Cost of Living
Overall, Switzerland is known for its vibrant cities and opulent lifestyle. Geneva, particularly so – while it may seem expensive at first glance considering the high costs of living here compared to London or New York City. However this can be duly offset by both a higher level of income and quality life amenities available in this swanky locale!
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.