Having moved from London nearly 3 years ago I’ve been lucky enough to travel a great deal in the surrounding region including France, Switzerland and Italy.
Having moved from London nearly 3 years ago I’ve been lucky enough to travel a great deal in the surrounding region including France, Switzerland and Italy. While not the most exciting place on the planet, Geneva is nestled amongst some of the most stunning mountain landscapes in Europe and that’s what makes it such a great place to live. You could spend weeks on end exploring all of the quaint towns, shimmering lakes and towering mountains that are within a two hour drive. The thing I love most about Geneva is how quickly you can get out of the town and into nature. A 20 minute drive in any direction and you can be right out of the town cruising into the French Alps, toward the Jura mountains or just around the beautiful Lac Leman (more commonly known as Lake Geneva). It is a great place to rent a car and go on an epic road trip through dark tunnels, around crystal lakes and over mountain passes.
What about Geneva itself?
Geneva is a town in Switzerland right near the French/Swiss border. If you’re from Europe you might think of it as being a great travel hub for the French alps come ski season, and the world knows it as the HQ of the United Nations. It also makes consistent appearances on lists of ‘The Top 10 best places to live’, but being a great place to live does not necessarily translate into a great place to visit. Like most places Geneva has a bit of good, a bit of bad and a little bit of ugly.
Geneva: The Good
- In the summer months there is a lovely atmosphere around Lac Leman, with some great opportunities to cruise the lake or just relax on a beach. Summer is definitely the best time to visit, it’s when Geneva is at its absolute best.
- Like most places in Europe it has a great cafe culture in the summer, and the old town area is fantastic for a lazy wander in the afternoon sun.
- There is no shortage of things to do in the beautiful area around Lac Leman, absolutely stunning landscapes are on offer in almost every direction.
Geneva: The Bad
- If you’re visiting at a weekend, don’t plan too much for Sunday. Most shops and restaurants will be closed for the day, so if you are going to be in Geneva plan to spend the day by the lakeside. Alternatively take the train or rent a car and head out to the mountains nearby for a hike.
- Geneva is not known for its fantastic nightlife, so if you’re looking to party hard you might be better off somewhere else in Europe like Budapest.
- It’s a very expensive city. You’ll probably feel like you’re spending too much every time you buy something. But this allows for some pleasing moments when you find something that seems like it’s reasonably priced. It won’t happen that often so make the most of it!
Geneva: The Ugly
- Geneva seems to have an obsession with concrete buildings that look like they were built in the 1960s. There are some lovely buildings and interesting architecture here, especially around the lake and in the old town. But there is a lot more drab concrete, even in new builds.
- In the Autumn a heavy cloud seems to roll in and dominate the skies above Geneva for October and November. I would definitely avoid visiting during these months.
Should I visit?
If it’s an exciting city break you’re looking for Geneva might not be for you. But if you just want a lazy weekend away with some nice weather then Geneva in the summer is a great option. Less hectic and touristy than other European cities, you can just relax and enjoy the lake and old town areas taking in the mountain scenery as you go. It just might hurt your wallet a little bit more than other destinations.
If you’re looking to get out of the town, I would highly recommend exploring the area around Geneva. It’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to in Europe and there are many spectacular sights to see. But there are cheaper places than Geneva to use as a base for exploration. I would hop across the border into France and stay in the delightful town of Annecy which is about 40 minutes by car. It has a beautiful lake just like Geneva which is perhaps even more stunning then Lac Leman with mountains rising from the water high into the sky. In Annecy you should save a great deal on accommodation and gain a little bit of charm in the process. If you are thinking of exploring by car, be sure to arrange your rental on the French side of Geneva airport as you’ll likely save some money there as well.
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