When you think about traveling to Switzerland, we bet that you don’t think about Geneva at first. Zurich is the obvious choice as it is also the country’s capital. But we encourage you to think about other options, Geneva in particular. Located close to the borders of France, the city is mostly known as a center of international diplomacy. Many international organizations have their offices there, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross. But its identity consists of much more than that. Geneva is full of historical places as the city itself is more than 4000 years old. The city’s residents still fiercely cherish the traditions that have been celebrated here for centuries. Read below to discover how to spend a weekend in Geneva and make it worth it.
Geneva may not be Rome or Paris, but it never tried to be anyway. It has its own character, both Swiss and international, historical and modern. Pack your bags and get your maps ready, because you should not forget about the recommendations mentioned below.
1. Visit some museums
Weekend in Geneva
If you love museums, or you’d like to know more about Geneva’s history this section is for you. You don’t need to visit every museum you see, especially if you don’t have much time in the city. But you definitely have to consider visiting these two below. We can guarantee they are worth your time.
Start your day with a visit to Maison Tavel, a small museum located in Geneva’s old town. The entrance is free and you will discover the city’s history throughout the centuries. There are two amazing things you shouldn’t skip in this museum. The first is an audiovisual display on the ground level. The second is an architect’s replica of the city center on the top floor, which covers the entire room as well. When you go there you will notice a clear focus on one specific historical event: the Duke of Savoy’s surprise attack on the city in 1602.
According to the legend, the Genevois managed to push back the invading army, thanks to a local woman who poured a cauldron of hot soup on the Duke’s soldiers as they tried to climb the city’s walls. This event is still celebrated every year in December and people wear traditional 17th-century dresses. Don’t miss your chance to learn more about all these by visiting the museum.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
In 1863, Geneva arrived on the global scene in an unexpected way. Genevois Henry Dunant and four other Swiss men set up what we know today as the Red Cross. This organization is global as of today but it all started in Geneva more than a century ago. If you haven’t noticed, its emblem is actually the inverse of the Swiss flag. Nowadays it is also a universal symbol for medical aid. If you’re eager to find out more about Red Cross’s history you should pay a visit to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.
The entrance is 15 francs and you’ll discover the organization’s role in assisting soldiers, prisoners, and endangered people around the world all these years. The exhibitions explore the important humanitarian challenges: defending human dignity, restoring family links and reducing natural risks. Take your time to look around as the museum is small and it won’t take you much time to explore. don’t miss the video testimony of a former detainee at Guantánamo Bay, which is an amazing piece of history.
2. Visit the lake and the botanical garden
Weekend in Geneva
There is no better way to relax and decompress than to get closer to nature. Very close to International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum you will find Parc de l’Ariana and the Botanical Garden. The park itself is beautiful and a great place to have a picnic or a beverage. Don’t omit your visit to the botanical garden though. As described in their official website, it houses magnificent collections of living plants and it is the ideal setting for relaxing, walking or for the discovery of our sometimes threatened plant heritage.
After your first stop, walk towards the bottom of the garden. Take the small underground walkway, below the traffic on Rue de Lausanne and straight to Lake Geneva. Also known as Lac Léman, it is definitely worth checking out. From there keep walking while having the lake on your left and you will pass through the territory of the World Trade Organization. Slowly you will arrive at another park, named Park Mon Repos. Stroll along the Quai Wilson, and enjoy the view of the fountain, Jet d’Eau, across the lake.
3. Enjoy some delicious food
Weekend in Geneva
If you think of yourself as a foodie, you’ve come to the right place. Geneva is full of nice spots where you can enjoy your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We have gathered some of our favorite places to recommend to you but don’t be hesitant to look around and visit the places that catch your eye.
Start your day off right
First things first, breakfast is the best way to get started. L’Epi Doré might be a Portuguese and not a Swiss place but don’t disregard it just yet. Geneva actually has quite a large Portuguese community that has left its mark on the local food scene over the years. In L’Epi Doré you can find loads of amazing homemade pastries that will satisfy you for sure. We recommend you order a delicious coffee along with a pastel de nata, the classic Portuguese custard tart, served with cinnamon sugar.
Switzerland’s national dish
Next up we recommend a place where you can enjoy some Swiss cheese, fondue in particular. Swiss people love a good fondue and you will love it as well. This is a must-do during your weekend in Geneva. La Buvette des Bains is the perfect place to enjoy it. The restaurant itself is casual, semi-outdoor. But wait, there is more. Did you know that there are some unofficial rules for eating fondue?
Well, we’re here to help. First of all, never have a fondue if the weather’s warm unless you want everyone to know that you’re a tourist. Secondly, drink white wine only or herbal tea as you eat, never beer or water to avoid having a stomachache. Last but most definitely not least, at the end of the meal don’t forget to scrape off and enjoy even, the golden, crunchy crust on the bottom of the pot. This is a very important part of the whole process. Enjoy your meal and plan to have a nap afterwards, because you’ll need it.
Wondering what to do in Zurich? Read our article for first-time visitors