Geneva Travel Guide
Geneva – for decades, this gorgeous Swiss city has mediated scores of international disputes. Over that time, the United Nations and other international organizations have set up a presence here. But even if you aren’t interested in any of that stuff, this destination’s natural setting will win you over.
Most people know Geneva for its role in global affairs. However, not all realize that this city is also home to CERN. As one of the planet’s most important research institutes, its scientists do crucial theoretical and practical work daily.
If you’re reading this, you can thank CERN – they played a key role in birthing the modern internet. However, most of their research involves particle physics – they helped to discover the Higg’s Boson and created anti-hydrogen.
If you want to see their operations up close, though, you just can’t show up. You must book a tour in advance – visitor services recommends doing so one month ahead of time. If it’s too late for that, you can roll the dice and jump on a waiting list. If you get lucky, spaces may open up.
Before the United Nations existed, the League of Nations was the world’s first attempt at international dialogue. During its brief tenure, the Palace of Nations in Geneva was its headquarters. Today, this stunning Classicist structure is the European HQ for the United Nations.
To tour the place, you need to go on a guided tour. Bring your passport (mandatory) to the ticket office and get a slot on a tour given in your language.
Next door to the Palace of Nations is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. This institution covers the history of one of the world’s best-known humanitarian organizations. Get the audio guide, as it will explain its history of disaster response, advocating for POWs and political prisoners, and more.
If you’re looking for a church to tour in Geneva, check out St Pierre Cathedral. Its builders created it as a Gothic Catholic church in the 12th century. However, during the Protestant Reformation, it converted to a Calvinist cathedral.
As cliche as it is, many know Switzerland for its watches. At the Patek Philippe Museum, you can learn about the history of this industry. Here, you’ll get to see one of the oldest watches in existence – a piece from the 16th century.
Over three floors, you’ll see a variety of wristwatches, pocket watches, as well as jewellery and music boxes. Note that this museum does not allow video or picture taking of any kind – so don’t try. To enter, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of 10 CHF (9 EUR), so be sure you have enough on hand.
On a rainy day, a visit to Geneva’s Museum of Natural History can help salvage your plans. Within, you’ll find a collection of preserved insects and taxidermied animals that once belonged to famed Swiss/German naturalists.
The quality of these displays, which include animals like tigers, zebras, and even a two-headed tortoise, is astounding. Better yet, entry to these exhibits is free, making it an excellent option for families and budget travellers. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours here.
Garden lovers will want to spend some quality time out at Villa le Chene. The property here pales in comparison to its expansive grounds – its flower beds and theme gardens steal the show. In particular, the zen gardens and the tropical glasshouse stand out. If you have kids, a small animal park, which features ducks, goats, and deer, is also worth visiting.
On a warm sunny day, there’s no better place to be than on the shores of Lake Geneva. Public beaches are available, as are private clubs. In the latter, enjoy fine food and drinks as you enjoy refreshing lake breezes – it’s an exquisite experience.
What To Eat
Eating in Geneva can be expensive. To save money – but enjoy a local delicacy – grab a Longeole. This sausage contains ground pork, pork rinds, and fennel seeds for seasoning. If you can’t find it on the street, have it in a restaurant with potatoes – you’ll thank us later.
If money is no object, find a fine dining establishment that serves Fondue Bourguignonne. Once a treat for hard-working farmhands, diners now pay loads of cash to cook their own dinner. On the table, you take raw cuts of fine beef (or other meats), cook them in oil on a table griddle, and dip them in fine sauces.
For dessert, leave room for some Wähe. This tart comes in sweet or savoury versions – the former comes with seasonal fruit, while the latter boasts spinach, cheese, and/or onions. If you opt for the sweet version, you’ll enjoy local apples, apricots, or rhubarb.