THINGS TO DO IN WINTER IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

BEST WINTER ACTIVITIES IN GENEVA

Switzerland in winter is a fantastic idea. But what about Geneva in the winter? Honestly, winter in Geneva might not be as spectacular as winter in Interlaken or St.Moritz but even though the city may be in its off-season, there are still many winter activities in Geneva.

No matter what time of year you visit, Geneva serves as a gateway to the Alps. After thrilling days on the slopes or gallery-hopping, winter in Geneva is all about drinking hot chocolate in cozy cafés while looking at the best views. Whatever you decide to do, you can be sure that the second-largest city in Switzerland will dazzle you with its wintery charm.

In this post, I will focus on the best things to do in Geneva in winter + provide you with plenty of tips, so your winter trip can go as smoothly as possible.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR GENEVA WINTER TRIP

First, here are a few tips for your winter trip to Geneva.

Weather in Geneva During Winter

In Geneva, winter lasts from mid-December until mid-March.

The entire season is somewhat chilly from December through February with erratic temperatures. There are a lot of gloomy days and wind. With so many rainy days, the city may also be extremely wet. When it rains, the highest temperature can rise to or above 50 – 54°F (10 – 12°C). Also, temperatures can drop below freezing. 

In Geneva, it snows frequently; in fact, 20 to 25 percent of winter days have snow. This shouldn’t come as a massive surprise given the city’s location. 

What to Pack for Winter in Geneva, Switzerland

Pack plenty of layers for unwrapping in warm restaurants and heated shops and the appropriate cold-weather clothing for Switzerland in the winter.

With temperatures this low, it’s important to pack to stay warm. Here are some essential items you should bring along with you:

✔️ A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the first items you think to pack. Avoid choosing a bulky jacket that takes up a lot of space. This can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath. Instead, opt for a lightweight trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. 

✔️ A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.

✔️ A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility and comfort. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.

✔️ A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily. 

✔️ Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denim as an extra layer of warmth. 

✔️ When it comes to packing socks for your Austria winter trip – the thicker, the better. The chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy. 

✔️ My favorite winter clothes are thermalsA quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Austria. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!

✔️ Make sure you have a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. You’ll want your shoes to be as versatile as possible. Snowshoes allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry. 

How to Get Around

Most sights within Geneva are close to each other, so you can just walk.  However, you might need public transportation for many winter activities in Geneva. Public transportation in Geneva is good. 

  • If you stay in a hotel or hostel you will get a personal and non-transferable Geneva Transport Card. This allows you to use the whole public transportation system of Geneva for the length of your stay for free. This includes buses, trams, trains, and yellow taxi-boats – 
  • 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). Check out the prices for the Geneva Pass here.

Swiss Travel Pass

If you are a non-Swiss resident, you might want to look into a Swiss Travel Pass. I often, even if I road trip, buy them and use them for long distances, my boat cruises (I might have a slight obsession with boat rides), and even mountain rides.

You have unlimited bus, train, and boat rides with the Swiss Travel Pass.

The Swiss Travel Pass gives you a 50% discount on most of the mountain excursions and the Mount Rigi train ride is even included. Check out prices for a Swiss Travel Pass here. Check out prices for a Swiss Travel Pass here.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA IN WINTER

Making plans for wintertime activities in Geneva is half the fun. Should you go skiing, shopping, sipping, or swooning over chocolate? Of all the fun winter activities in Switzerland, Geneva offers a ton of options.

Christmas Markets

Order your mulled wine and prepare for glittering magic at the Geneva Christmas markets. Many excellent Christmas markets open in Geneva around November and remain open until the end of December.

The major event occurs in the English Garden, also known as the Jardin Anglais, which offers breathtaking views of the Jet d’Eau fountain on Lake Geneva. You’ll pass by charming wooden chalets filled to the brim with goods pleading for your purchase. Think of handmade crafts, artisanal baked goods, and vintage wooden toys.

Expect stomach grumbling as you pass by the aromas of nuts roasting and batter frying. While you stock up on gifts, there are plenty of snacks at street food vendors. 

Chocolate Walking Tour

Not only does Geneva have distinctive architecture, but it also produces some of the best chocolate in the world. What could be more enjoyable on a chilly day than indulging in chocolate? 

Auer Chocolats store in Les Rues Basses, Geneva. Benoit GVA, Shutterstock.com Arzo Travels
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Experience Geneva’s acclaimed 3-hour guided chocolate tour. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit some of Geneva’s top artisanal chocolate stores and sample their delectable creations. This three-hour tour will begin with the custom of breaking the “marmite” in the old town.

Try incredible artisanal chocolates, learn about chocolate’s history through entertaining anecdotes from your guide, and explore the city’s historic locations. Order the house hot chocolate from Chocolaterie Arn in Place du Bourg-de-Four and blow yourself away with champagne truffles.

Balloon Festival Day

Visit Château-d’Oex for the Festival International de Ballons on a day excursion from Geneva (the International Hot Air Balloon Festival). Each January, they launch dozens of hot air balloons daily during the Festival International de Ballons.

Hot-air balloons line up for launch at the 31st International Festival of Hot-Air Balloons in Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland, Mihai-Bogdan Laza Shutterstock.com
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The festival also features tiny balloon demos, flying contests, air shows, and a sizable night illumination event. The festival features family-friendly workshops, rides in a chopper, balloon flights, exhibits, and other entertainment in addition to balloon events.

This hot air ballooning festival has two distinctive aspects. First, it is one of the rare wintertime celebrations for hot air balloons. Second, it is among the few festivals when you may witness hot air balloons soar over mountains covered in snow.

Geneva Lux Festival of Lights

It is always an excellent idea to travel to Geneva in the winter, particularly during the Geneva Lux Festival of Lights, when they decorate the city with thousands of lights. From the end of January through the first few days of February, light installations created by artists around the world adorn the streets in honor of Geneva Lux.

Geneva Lux Festival of Lights, Hector Christiaen Shutterstock.com, Arzo Travels
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Visit around ten illuminated modern art pieces placed throughout the city’s streets with a knowledgeable guide. Allow yourself to get carried away into the world of the Geneva Lux Festival.

Spa Time

Going to the spa is very rejuvenating after a long day of skiing. A unique location, Bain-Bleu Hammam & Spa Genève-Plage, offers two distinct experiences: the Bath area and the Hammam.

Spa time in winter in Geneva, Switzerland
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The Bath area has two pools with beautiful amenities, including a steam room, whirlpools, hot tubs, massage beds, and jets. More important, though, is the lovely Bistro Lounge, which has a picturesque patio.

Switzerland is also home to many thermal baths, among the most enjoyable ways to spend a winter day outside. Hot springs naturally warm the water in Switzerland’s thermal spas. Due to the abundance of natural minerals in the water, it has many therapeutic and health benefits.

Ice Skating at Parc des Bastions

Nothing is more ideal than ice skating on a winter day while enjoying a glimpse of lovely Geneva. It’s an excellent activity for people of all ages to enjoy during the chilly winter months. In practically every neighborhood, Geneva provides a wide variety of ice skating rinks.

The charming ice rink in Parc Les Bastions is ideal for those staying in the middle of the city. The Reformation monument lies inside the park, immediately adjacent to the skating rink.

  • The cost of renting ice skates is CHF 2, and entry to the rink is free.

Lake Geneva Boat Cruise

The largest and one of the best lakes in Switzerland is Lake Geneva. It should come as no surprise that pleasure cruises are particularly well-liked in one of the biggest freshwater bodies of water in Europe. 

Lake Geneva boat tour in winter
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A sightseeing cruise will enhance your experience of the major attractions you have already walked around. This includes the Palais des Nations, the Flower Clock, the Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva, and more in a three-hour guided tour that begins in the center of Old Town.

After that, you’ll board a boat for the remainder of the hour-long tour which will take you to the Mermaid, Villa Diodati, Black Harbor, the Castle of Bellerive, and other sights.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum stands as the world’s sole museum devoted to the legacy of Henri Dunant, providing an unparalleled insight into the realm of humanitarian efforts.

This venue invites you to explore the pivotal actions and 150-year history of the Red Cross, presented in a manner that is both thought-provoking and emotionally engaging.

Comprising three distinct exhibition areas, the museum immerses you in the core challenges of our times: the protection of human dignity, the restoration of family connections, and the mitigation of risks associated with natural disasters.

Your visit will leave you deeply impacted and more aware of the pressing issues facing our world today.

Rochers de Naye

At slightly over 6,500 feet, the Rochers de Naye mountain is the highest point overlooking beautiful Montreux. The 55-minute journey from Montreux train station to the summit on the classic mountain train has breathtaking views. 

A drone image of Rochers De Naye, trip from Geneva
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To get the best view of Montreux, take a cogwheel train to the highest point, where you can look over the cliffs, explore an alpine flower garden, and make friends with the local marmots.

You may find panoramic viewing sites, two restaurants, and an alpine flower garden at the top. Serious hikers can launch epic excursions from here, while casual hikers wander the summit to look over the cliffs. 

Montreux Nöel

And when you are “finished” with Rochers de Nayers, take time to visit another main attraction in Montreux.

Discover a world of enchantment and joy at Montreux’s beautiful Christmas market, one of Europe’s most charming. Montreux Noël captivates visitors of all ages with its traditional Christmas Market set along the scenic lakeside promenade, beautifully illuminated and adorned for the festive season.

The market not only showcases a myriad of gift options from skilled artisans but also introduces an exciting new game featuring instant prizes to enhance the festive atmosphere. 

For two decades, Santa Claus has made his home atop Rochers-de-Naye, eagerly anticipating the chance to welcome visitors to his abode

Winter Sports in France

You’ve hit the jackpot with a trip to Switzerland in the winter if you can’t wait to hit the slopes. Numerous destinations, including the well-known Chamonix and Mont Blanc in France, are accessible by day travel. In reality, several of the nearest ski areas require you to cross the border. 

Chamonix and Mont Blanc trip from Geneva in winter, Arzo Travels
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Family-friendly activities, including sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, and ice skating, are abundant in Avoriaz. Beginners and experts alike can find the thrilling skiing action they desire thanks to various terrain parks.

Go to Megeve to mix some genuine ski village romance with your thrills. Before starting down the slopes surrounded by trees, explore the quaint village.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WINTER IN GENEVA

Geneva in winter transforms into a picturesque wonderland, offering a blend of cultural richness and scenic beauty. From the enchanting Montreux Noël market to the historic insights at the poignant International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, the city captivates with its festive charm and profound heritage, making it an ideal destination for those seeking both festive joy and reflective experiences in a serene, snow-draped setting.

Geneva in the winter offers some unique and fun activities – so, when you visit, make sure to not only spend time in the warmth of your hotel room and to get out to experience some of the winter activities in Geneva.

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