The picturesque city of Geneva encircles the crystal blue waters of Lake Geneva, Europe’s largest Alpine lake. Under the watchful gaze of Mont Blanc, Geneva is one of the most cultured cities the world has to offer. Visitors will find a mix of stunning landscape and architectural features, 4,000 years of history and a vibrant contemporary culture. Geneva is a town of luxury homes, jewellers and chocolatiers, and with more than twenty parks and the lake, it offers plenty of year-round relaxation and recreation.
Visit the Old Town with its cobbled streets, stroll the vast promenades, stop at the cafés and markets, or visit one of the city’s many museums. Cross the sparkling lake on a mouette (yellow water taxi) or take a longer cruise on a riverboat. As home to the Red Cross and The United Nations, Geneva is known as the ‘capital of peace’. With more than 200 international organisations operating from Geneva, this is a truly multicultural city. French is the main language; however, residents speak a mix of German, Italian and English as well.
Lying along the edge of Switzerland, Geneva is located at the site where Lake Geneva spills out towards Western Europe as the Rhone River. As the largest port in a land-locked country, it is easy to see why Geneva is such a popular cruise ship destination: this lovely town is Europe’s gateway to the Swiss Alps.
Geneva has four major ports dotted around Lake Geneva, all within easy walking distance of each other: Genève-Pâquis, Genève-Mont-Blanc, Genève-Jardin-Anglais and Genève-Eaux-Vives.
Facilities near the four ports in Geneva include:
- Tourist information centres
- Restaurants and cafés
- Souvenir stores
- Public toilets
- Bank and ATMs
- Medical centre and pharmacy
- Post office.
How To Get Around
The centre of Geneva is compact and easily navigated on foot. Taxis can be hard to find and often must be booked in advance. The city has an efficient public transport network (UNIRESO), comprising trams, buses and mouettes (water taxis). Tickets are available at every stop. Bicycles are also popular, with kilometres of bike lanes to ride. Visitors can rent bicycles for free or pay to hire electric bicycles.
Travel times from the port Genève-Mont-Blanc:
- It is a 14 minute journey to Cathédrale St-Pierre
- It is a 19 minute journey to Jet d’Eau
- It is a 31 minute journey to Palais des Nations.
By bus or mouette (water taxi):
- It is a 12 minute journey to Cathédrale St-Pierre
- It is a 10 minute journey to Jet d’Eau
- It is a 21 minute journey to Palais des Nations.
- It is a 9 minute journey to Cathédrale St-Pierre
- It is an 8 minute journey to Jet d’Eau
- It is a 9 minute journey to Palais des Nations.
Currency – The currency in Geneva is the Swiss franc (CHF). Notes come in CHF10, CHF20, CHF50, CHF100, CHF200, and CHF1,000 denominations. Coins, known as cents (or ‘rappen’ in German and ‘centimes’ in French), come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents as well as CHF1, CHF2 and CHF5 denominations.
Time Zone – Geneva’s clocks are set to Central European Time (CET). This is just one hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), except for daylight savings time (from March to October), when they are set two hours ahead.
Weather – Geneva has a temperate climate that enjoys all four seasons. July is the hottest month in Geneva, with temperatures averaging at 20 degrees Celsius. January is the coolest month, with temperatures averaging at 2 degrees Celsius.
Jet d'Eau – The first pencil fountain in Geneva was built to release the pressure from the city’s water station; this small spout of water quickly became a symbol of the city. Today, a spectacular water jet – the Jet d’Eau – shoots water at speeds of 200 kilometres per hour to heights of 140 metres. Every minute, the Jet launches seven tonnes of water into the air, creating spectacular rainbows and splashing almost every visitor to set foot in Geneva.
Palais des Nations – Originally built to house the League of Nations (which is no longer in operation), the Palais has housed the United Nations (UN) since 1966. More than 100,000 tourists visit this fascinating building each year. One-hour tours of the Palais are offered in 15 different languages. Highlights include the Assembly Hall, which is the largest building in the complex, and The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, which is beautifully decorated. Tours cover the history of the building as well as the current work undertaken by the UN. Recent security measures mean that only pre-arranged tour groups are allowed (that means no individual visitors). And remember to bring your passport along as ID.
Cathédrale St-Pierre – Originally built in 1160, Geneva’s Gothic Cathedral has undergone several reconstructions. Today, it sports a neoclassical façade built in the 18th century. Climb the 157 steps that spiral up to the top of the Cathedral’s northern or southern towers for a 360-degree view over Geneva and its grand lake. You’ll also find an excellent exhibit of archaeological treasures under the Cathedral.