What to do in Geneva

September 14, 2022

Photo by Anokhi De Silva

Although the rivalry between Lausanne and Geneva is as strong as ever, we have to recognize the unique differences and desirable traits found in this metropolitan city only 45 minutes away. The second most populated city in Switzerland (after Zurich), and the global home for the world of finance, diplomacy and often referred to as the "Peace Capital", Geneva is a gem - you just have to uncover it. Here's what to do in Geneva:

hamlet geneva hotel and apartments

©Hamlet Geneva

bristol hotel in geneva

© Hotel Bristol

Where to stay in Geneva

Recently renovated with a gorgeous Art-Deco vibe, Hotel Bristol has been owned by the same family for over 50 years. With a prime location not far from the lake, yet central to shopping and restaurants, this 4* boutique hotel feels 5* without breaking the bank.

For those longer stays (or not!) this luxury apartment ‘hotel’ located in Geneva’s old town is breathtakingly beautiful, with every small detailed carefully curated. Though on the pricier side than a traditional hotel, this special place is privately-owned and family-run, combining ‘old-world values with understated, contemporary sophistication.’

Kiosque des Bastions Geneva

© Christophe Voisin – Kiosque des Bastions

© Alma

Where to eat in Geneva

The atmosphere at the ALMA is vibrant and energetic as they serve South American cuisine with mouth-watering flavors. Sharing plates mean you get to taste your way through their diverse menu, and why not start with ceviche made right in front of you?

Bombar knows exactly what it does best, with a simple menu that doesn’t hold back. Natural and organic wines accompany dishes that are so popular it can be hard to bag a reservation, but open bar seating means you can always try your luck on the day. The warm ambience makes it a favourite place for an after-work drink in its chic but social interior. 

Scandinavian sophistication with lakeside views is the order of the day at Fiskebar. Their food is a delight for the senses, as visually beautiful as it is delicious, and built around organic and seasonal produce. 

Designed by our friend Julia Christ – this spot, with its idyllic location in Parc des Bastions, has been undergoing renovations for over 3 years and the wait was worth it.  Go for a drink and make sure to sit inside – it’s just that magical.

©Fiskebar

At Oh Martine! they want you to feel at home, and with the trendy but cozy décor, the dishes bursting with color and their specialty coffee to while away the hours, this is somewhere you’ll want to make yourself comfortable. Despite their friendly ambiance, don’t underestimate them as a foodie haven  – try their tartines with toppings including the ‘Sam’ – spinach, romaine lettuce, cream cheese, smoked salmon, avocado, mango, mint, crispy onion and lemon. Yes. Please. 

Started by two friends: Florent, the coffee maestro/barista who makes a wicked flat white, and Bastien, the chef who worked for none other than Alain Ducasse in Paris, they began their adventure in October 2014. They both felt an absence of good quality food and coffee in a friendly and well-designed space. Their food is fresh, healthy, and seasonal, and changes daily based on what’s available. Their coffee is equitably and thoughtfully sourced, and roasted with care.

If you want flavor explosions, you’ve come to the right place. Authentic Thai food (read SPICY) in the heart of Geneva, Suahoy serves up regional and ancient Thai recipes.  Expect fresh seafood, inspired cocktails, and a creative celebration of tastes from across the region. 

This beautiful French brasserie will whisk you away to another world. Elegant Parisian design complement a menu offering the best in French cuisine and a specialism in seafood. A little more on the expensive side, Brasserie Lipp is a place to treat yourself to the ultimate French gastronomic experience – but who doesn’t want to feel like Audrey Hepburn for the night?

The little brother to Suahoy, Soï is the trendy street food alternative to its more traditional sibling restaurant. With a canteen feel this is a fantastic place to lunch, or sit out on the terrace beneath the colored lamps as night falls and relish their array of  nibbles. You’ll want to try everything on the menu, so bring someone along with you to “share”. 

Once you come to terms with the fact that proper Mexican food will be expensive here in Switzerland, sit back and order away…because you’re not going to find more authentic and delicious tacos than at El Catrin. Also try the frozen mezcalita – it’s life changing.

History runs through the charming Café Papon, from its view onto the oldest promenade in Geneva, to the fact that it first opened its doors in 1808. Home to a private room for Geneva’s political leaders, this place feels connected to the heart of the city. Enjoy French gourmet with the option of terraced seating or the warm glow of their main dining salon.

Where to drink in Geneva

Twin bars Bottle Brothers and Grand Bottle sit side-by-side and offer an incredible selection of cocktails. While you spill out onto their shared terrace and soak up the vibrant atmosphere, try their homemade creations including the autumnal ‘Slow Death’ – cognac, rum, lime, bitter and apricot.

Tucked away near the lake is Little Barrel, where rum takes centre stage. This rum and cocktail bar explores rums from across the world, with over 100 varieties (plus a few options for those who prefer something rum-adjacent). 

Located in Eaux-Vives, Yvette de Marseille is a local favorite, with an unpretentious atmosphere and a vintage feel. This is a great place to get away from the tourist hubs and relax. 

bottle brothers bar in geneva

Two words. Burgers and cocktails. Black Sheep excel at both and we’re here for it. Brimming with personality, this retro bar is the perfect place to begin a night out in the heart of the city.

L’Apothicaire Cocktail Club is proudly a mixologist’s haven, with a cocktail menu that will test your decision-making ability to the limit. Try their perfect seasonal cocktail  ‘Anniversary’, made with saffron gin, orange liqueur, passion fruit, grapefruit, green citrus and sugar. If what you’re craving isn’t quite covered, the bartenders will blend you up something bespoke, or take a risk with their ‘Secret Mystery’…before spending the rest of the night trying to guess the recipe. 

What not to miss in Geneva

Hunt to your heart’s content at Plainpalais Flea Market, one of the largest in Switzerland. Happening every Wednesday and Saturday, you’ll find stalls of all kinds selling books, clothing, furniture and jewelery. The market opens early (from 6:30am) and runs until the late afternoon at the Plaine de Plainpalais. Immerse yourself in the world of this bustling market while you support local vendors, and find yourself some very reasonably priced treasures. 

In a city famous for its political diplomacy, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent museum is a fascinating dive into questions around global responsibility and collective action. With three permanent collections looking at ‘Defending Human Dignity’, ‘Restoring Family Links’ and ‘Reducing Natural Risks’, the museum is a both place to reflect on the history of humanitarianism, and to consider what the future holds. Open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 5pm during the Autumn – Spring season.

©Red Cross Museum

If you’ve never seen the Jet D’eau before you are in for a treat. This incredible fountain built in 1886 in the middle of the lake projects water up to 140 meters in the air, and needs to be seen to be believed. Take the pathway around the base of the fountain (raincoats advised!) for an adventurous close encounter, and be sure to check the opening times as it is periodically closed for maintenance.

With an area of over 70 acres and a population density that rivals that of the island of Manhattan, Le Lignon is an urban development in the town of Vernier just outside of the centre, built by architect George Addor. Originally built because of a housing shortage, it’s now a sight to behold as one of the largest apartment complexes in the world. With 2,780 units, it also houses a school and a medical centre — can you imagine having that many neighbors?

Old Town

The picturesque old town or Vieille Ville is a perfect place to wander and get lost amongst the maze of cobblestoned streets. Littered with galleries, museums, cozy cafés and boutiques, this area is rich in history and has some of the most beautiful spots to spend the day. If you’re looking for some one-of-a-kind jewelry or home goods, check out George, and for sustainable clothing and accessories made by local designers go to BLK & YLW.

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