Geneva, Switzerland is a beautiful city with a lot to offer even in the winter. While skiing is a popular winter activity in the surrounding Alps, there are plenty of non-skiing activities to enjoy in Geneva. If you are looking for a solo weekend away in the city like I was after skiing in the nearby Swiss alps, there are a lot of unique things to do in Geneva, Switzerland. Here are some of the best things to do in Geneva in the winter if you are looking for a city escape.Read more: The Ultimate Geneva Winter Travel Guide
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How to get around Geneva
When you arrive at Geneva International Airport it is extremely easy to get around. The airport is connected to the SBB train station, and it is located very close to the city center of Geneva.
Before you arrive you can buy the Geneva City Pass for 24, 48, or 72 hours which covers the public transit buses and trams. Also, it has other perks like free entry to some museums, discounts on other activities, free tours, and a free boat tour on Lake Geneva.
Things to do in Geneva in the Winter
Old Town Geneva
Geneva’s Old Town is a charming area with narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and scenic views of Lake Geneva. In the winter, the Old Town is decorated with Christmas lights and offers a festive atmosphere. Also, after Christmas, the streets of Geneva are pretty quiet and you can have tourist spots all to yourself.
St Pierre Cathedral
The best view of Geneva is from St Pierre Cathedral. This stunning cathedral is a must in Old Town Geneva and dates back to the 12th century. Not only can you climb the spiral staircase to the bell towers to enjoy a panoramic view of Geneva, but you can also see the archeological site and museum beneath the church. Both of these activities are covered by the Geneva City Card. The beauty of Gothic and Romanesque architecture comes together to make a beautiful centerpiece to Geneva. Plus, it is one of the most Instagram-worthy photo spots in the city.
Place du Bourg de Four
A short walk from the church is Place du Bourg de Four the oldest public square in Geneva with plenty of cafes to choose from like Café La Clémence for a traditional cafe, Ferdinand for a cozy cafe, and Helia for a cafe/cocktail bar.
I particularly liked my quiche and latte from Ferdinand. This is a no-laptop environment that encourages community in their cafe.
This 14th-century mansion is one of the oldest buildings in Geneva and now serves as a museum of Geneva’s history. Maison Tavel is free! Visitors can explore the museum’s exhibits and learn about the city’s rich cultural heritage. This will give you a taste of medieval civil architecture and is one of Geneva’s oldest private residences as well.
Promenade de la Treille
After that, stroll by the Promenade de la Treille and see the world’s longest bench with an amazing view of Geneva from the old medieval walls. It is perfect for a walk while you enjoy a coffee or hot cocoa to go.
Walking tour of Old Town Geneva
I think taking a walking tour of the city or any type of tour to understand the history of a place is very useful. It is also one of the best ways to meet people when traveling solo in a new country.
If you are in a bit of a bind for the time you can take a self-guided Getyourguide scavenger hunt through the city as well. Also, if you are in Geneva in March – December and have the Geneva City Pass you can take the Old Town Scenic Train for free. When you are here you cannot miss going to the Jardin Anglais and see the flower clock!
Place Du Molard
Is a pretty square that lights up at night. During the day you can shop, people watch, and see a pedestrian street located just off the square.
Reformation Wall: Located in the Parc des Bastions, the Reformation Wall is a monument to Geneva’s Protestant heritage. The wall features statues of notable Protestant leaders, including John Calvin and William Farel.
Geneva Winter Activities and Things to do throughout the City
Explore Museums In Geneva
Geneva is home to several world-renowned museums that are perfect for a winter day activity. The Maison Tavel, the Patek Philippe Museum, and the Red Cross Museum are just a few of the top museums to visit. These museums are covered by the Geneva City Pass with FREE ADMISSION.
For science geeks or inquiring minds, you can head to CERN to visit the Globe of Science and Innovation. I have been here once before with a friend and it is pretty interesting. It is reachable by tram. Another very lauded museum I was not able to make it to was the Museum of Ethnography.
Geneva Winter Visitor Tip: Check out Geneva Tourism’s website city pass page and filter for activities based on if they are free, open on Mondays, and types of activities. For instance, this is filtered for free museums open in the winter.
Take A Lake Geneva Cruise
During the winter Geneva City Pass has a free cruise included, but only on Sunday and there are two times. However, there are other Lake Geneva tour options as well. I sadly could not go on the lake when I was in town because they had a technical issue with the boat. The cabins are enclosed so you will for sure stay warm as you take in the beautiful Lake Geneva waterfront.
City Sightseeing Bus Tour
If it is a particularly cold day the Geneva City Pass also covers the city sightseeing bus tour. I took it and it brought me to see not only places like the United Nations, but also a lot of other International Organizations such as the WHO, World Bank among other important organizations that call Geneva home.
If you have ever seen a postcard from Geneva you most likely will see a huge fountain in the center of Lake Geneva. This is an iconic landmark in Geneva and goes off every day weather permitting. The first day I was there it was too windy and not running. But when I saw it walking around Lake Geneva it was a beautiful scene.
Hot Springs and Sauna Right Off of Lake Geneva
Enjoy Hot Springs: Geneva is home to several hot springs that are perfect for relaxing after a long day of sightseeing. Bain-Bleu Hammam & Spa and the Lavey-les-Bains Thermal Spa are just a few of the top hot springs to visit.
Also, check out the new Banquise, a brand new outdoor spa in Geneva open until March 26. 10 CHF for 1 hour to use the facility. There are two traditional dry saunas with a view of the Jet d’Eau. There is also a Yurt where you can grab tea and chill. Finally, take an icy plunge or ice-cold shower with water from Lake Geneva.
Geneva Winter Holiday Celebrations
Christmas Markets: Geneva is home to several Christmas markets during the winter season. These markets offer a variety of local crafts, food, and drink and are a great place to find unique gifts for your loved ones.
Visit Carouge, Switzerland
Carouge is a little piece of Italy in the heart of Switzerland. This is a spot where you can find amazing shops, restaurants, and nightlife. It also is amazing because the architecture and light pastel buildings will remind you of Italy. It is more like a neighborhood of Geneva and you can even use the Geneva City Pass to take the tram for fifteen minutes to arrive in Carouge.
If you are feeling brave try Ice Skating in Carouge in the winter! Patinoire saisonnière in Carouge offers ice skating throughout the week but has limited hours some days. Check out the times here.
Chocolate Shop Tour
Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, and Geneva is no exception. During the winter months, many chocolate shops in Geneva offer special holiday treats, such as chocolate Santas and snowmen. Chocolaterie du Rhône and Favarger are two popular chocolate shops in Geneva to visit.
If you love chocolate like me, however, you can visit 7 chocolate shops in Geneva with Geneva Tourism’s Choco-pass. I was able to visit 7 amazing chocolate shops and ate a ton of chocolate way more than the 30 CHF paid for.
Where to eat Fondue in Geneva, Switzerland?
Fondue Spot You Must Try: Buvette Des Bains- If you want a local spot for fondue that is reasonably priced, and super cute check out Buvette des Bains. It offers fondue in the evening and costs about 23 CHF after 6 pm. It is only open during the winter season from September to April for Fondue. It is pretty popular so you may have to call to reserve.
The Cottage Cafe is great for coffee, lunch, or dinner and is located steps away from the Brunswick Monument. It also has views of the Jet D’eau in the distance. I stopped here for some cake and a latte. The ambiance is there and this is frequented by locals as much as it has tourists. It is worth a stop and the cottage is super cute. Also, they have a fire out front so you can enjoy a crisp beautiful day in the winter.
Where to stay in Geneva?
Hotel D Near The Train Station
There are many places to choose from in Geneva for all budgets. I particularly loved my stay at Hotel D. It was located on a cute street and it was not far from the main train station.
Hotel D is a boutique hotel and I had a beautiful suite with a great window view, as well as a coach, and a massive bathroom.
I loved the clean and modern design tucked behind the historic facade of the building. Every morning they offered a hot and cold breakfast buffet with coffee, juice, and tea.
The staff here was also extremely friendly and thoughtful, helping me find the best museums to start my adventure as soon as I arrived.