Geneva is one of the most unique places to visit in Switzerland – mostly, because it is completely different to the rest of the country.
If you plan to spend one day in Geneva this post is for you. With this Geneva itinerary, you can find out about the best things. Along with the top attractions, you will also find some travel tips for your Geneva trip.
Travel Tips for One Day in Geneva
Before diving into the Geneva itinerary, here are some tips for your trip. If you’re not sure what to take with you, check out my packing list for Switzerland.
How to Get to Geneva
Geneva has its own international airport so you can arrive by plane from almost anywhere.
One of my favorite ways to explore Geneva is part of a Switzerland road trip. Though Geneva is not centrally located – it is in the very south-west of Switzerland – it is great to include in a road trip.
Alternatively, you can reach the city by train, bus or boat. Switzerland’s public transportation is amazing and you can hop on a train and enjoy the ride from places like Zurich or Lucerne (or any other city in Switzerland).
How to Get Around
Public transportation in Geneva is good – you can buy single tickets if you do not have the Transport Card (that you will get for free if you stay in an official accommodation in Geneva).
Or you can get around Geneva with a Geneva Pass. This will give you access to free transportation for 24 hours while allowing you to visit over 50 attractions (and you’ll save some money while doing so).
However, most sights are close to each other and you won’t need public transportation much if you stay in Geneva for one day.
If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation on Geneva – including boats – for free.
Where to Stay
You can see a large portion of Geneva’s attractions in one day. But if you want a little more time to experience this stunning Swiss city, it might be worth extending your stay.
I have had my own experiences with hotels in Geneva – and I must say, there were quite some bad experiences amongst them. They are very, very expensive and also standard was not always what I expected.
However, there are some stunning hotels close to all the main attractions that won’t break the bank. My personal favorite is Hotel Manotel N’vY.
I definitely recommend staying in the old town or just at the shores of Lake Geneva in the city center.
Tip: If you stay in an official hotel, hostel or campsite you get a Transport Card that will allow you to use public transportation for free.
For more general Switzerland travel tips, check out this post.
What to See in One Day in Geneva
I am aware that not everyone loves Geneva. Geneva is different to the rest of Switzerland. It doesn’t feel Swiss – personally, I love Geneva. It is not my favorite city in the country but still worth a trip.
Geneva is considered to be the global hub for diplomacy and banking.
But there’s also plenty to do for tourists. One day is enough time to see the most exciting attractions in this incredibly clean and well-maintained city.
Palais des Nations / United Nations Headquarters
Start your day at the United Nations headquarters which is not located directly in the city center of Geneva.
Switzerland is known for its neutrality, so it makes sense that the United Nations offices are located in Geneva. Throughout the year, the building sees thousands of meetings between global governments in its conference rooms.
However, it’s also open for guided tours in an array of different languages. The tours usually last around an hour and the parts of the building you’ll get to see will depend on any meetings taking place.
One of the highlights of the tour is the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. This room was decorated by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelò and is absolutely magnificent. Look up and be awestruck by the brightly painted ceiling.
You’ll also be able to see the largest room in the building, The Assembly Hall, and The Salles des Pas Perdus, the main concourse of the Palais.
If you’re lucky, the tour will take you to The Council Chamber where many paramount historical negotiations have occurred. In this room you’ll also find gold and sepia murals created by Catalan painter, José Maria Sert.
Check out tours in advance – but even if you do not do a guided tour, you could visit the headquarters and look at it from far.
Also it is where you will find the Broken Chair which was made in 1997 – standing at a height of 12 metres, this work of art has been dominating the Place des Nations and it has a simple message: to remember the victims of landmines and to urge governments to promote a ban on landmines.
International Committee of the Red Cross
From there, you can walk to the International Museum of the Red Cross.
The International Committee of the Red Cross houses an incredible museum that is largely considered one of the best in Geneva.
The permanent exhibition takes you on a moving journey through the experiences of people throughout history. It documents some of the important work done by the Red Cross over the past 150 years.
In the museum you’ll explore three major challenges facing the world including Defending Human Dignity, Restoring Family Links, and Reducing Natural Risks. The Red Crescent Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase current humanitarian efforts
A trip to the Red Cross is a worthwhile experience that’ll show you the best and worst of mankind. Parts of the exhibition are quite shocking, so it might not be ideal for young kids or sensitive viewers.
Lake Geneva (and the Jet d’Eau)
From there, take public transportation or your car and get to Lake Geneva (it is about 4 kilometers).
One of my favorite activities is strolling Lake Geneva. Not only is this the largest lake in Central Europe but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Amateur and professional photographers will be captivated by the sparkling waters.
The lake’s most impressive feature is the enormous fountain that spouts water 140 meters into the air, the Jet d’Eau. It’s one of the city’s most famous landmarks and is one of the tallest fountains in the world.
While walking along the edge of Lake Geneva offers impressive views, the best way to experience the lake and the awe-inspiring landscape of Geneva is from the water. With an hour-long boat tour of Lake Geneva, you’ll be able to see everything up close, including the Jet d’ Eau.
If you have more than one day, you could do longer boat tours (I have a ridiculous thing for boat trips, so I have done the long tours which take hours).
Make sure you go all the way to Mont Blanc Bridge. The water color is extremely beautiful there, and you often have some local swans you can say hello to.
Tip: It might be time for lunch, so I recommend looking for a nice spot where you can have lunch with a Lake Geneva view.
Then it is time to explore the old town.
A trip to Geneva would be incomplete without visiting the Old Town. This part of the city is filled with interesting buildings and squares that’ll lure you in. Along the maze of small streets you’ll find some boutique stores and cozy restaurants.
The Old Town (or Vieille Ville) is filled with places to visit, including the Maison Tavel, a museum that commemorates Geneva’s history. You’ll also be able to see the luxurious Hotel de Ville and the Old Arsenal, five interesting cannons that were used up until the 19th century.
Within Geneva’s Old Town you’ll also find St. Pierre’s Cathedral. Founded in the 4th century, this stunning historical site took over a century to build and is worth a visit.
You will also find many cafes and restaurants and could have your dinner here. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff or avid shopper, Geneva’s Old Town will keep you busy.
Tip: Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes to walk in, as the Old Town has many cobbled streets and uphill roads. Or take an Old Town Segway tour which will save you a little time (and blisters) while allowing you to experience a lot more.
Next to the St. Pierre Cathedral you will find one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks: The International Monument to the Reformation, more commonly known as Reformation Wall is one of the top places to visit.
Geneva was one of the key places during the Reformation that took Europe by storm in the 1500s.
This gigantic wall features some of Geneva’s most famous reformers, namely John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox, and William Farel. These four figures played an integral role in the revolution. It’s conveniently located close to Old Town and is perfect for a quick stop during.
Near the Reformation Wall, you’ll also find The International Museum of the Reformation. This is a great place to learn more about the history of Geneva. It’s also an incredible photo opportunity.
To end the day, I recommend heading back to Lake Geneva and watch the sunset there.
More Things to do in Geneva in 2 Days
If you happen to stay 2 days in Geneva, I recommend doing some day trips. You could either hop on a train or on a boat and visit beautiful places at Lake Geneva.
Montreux is a perfect day trip as is the little town of Yvoire – which lies in France and can be best reached by boat.
You can also do a day trip to stunning Annecy – which is probably one of the most beautiful towns in France and quite close to Geneva.
Of course, there are also many other excursions you can take. A day trip to Mount Blanc is such an option – it is still on my own bucket list though.
CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO IN 1 DAY IN GENEVA
Geneva is an interesting and fun city to visit in Switzerland – though it surely is not THE top place to see in the country, it has many beautiful places. Especially for those who are into politics, history or watches Geneva is a must-visit.
So, with one day in Geneva you will have enough time to check out the main attractions and if you can add a day and stay 2 days, even better.
Stay safe and enjoy!