Geneva aerial view.
Photo: Xavier von Erlach

Tips for when you first move to Geneva

From fun swimming spots to Geneva's hottest sporting event, we've lined up some great ways to get to know the city

Written by
Stéphanie Thom

Moving to Geneva? Lucky you! You’ll never be short of amazing things to do in this fun and friendly city, but until you’ve been here a while you might need a little inspiration for where to find all the good stuff that’s going on. That inspiration can be found below, with our introductory guide to the city’s best sights and experiences, plus some practical tips on day-to-day life in Geneva.

1. Sort out your transportation around Geneva...

First things first: you're going to need to get around to make the most of all Geneva has to offer. Get a yearly unireso pass for travel on TPG’s buses, trams and trolleybuses, as well as aboard the small boats of the Mouettes Genevoises and the CFF train lines running through Geneva.

2. ... and then around the rest of Switzerland

While you're at it, it makes sense to get a half-fare CFF yearly pass and complementary one-day travel pass from the commune you live in and enjoy free transportation on trains, buses, trams, post buses and boats all across the country (with a few exceptions). The perfect way to explore Switzerland at the weekend (and the resf of the week).


3. Get your bearings

Climb on top of Saint Pierre Cathedral to enjoy the best downtown view over Geneva and get your bearings around your new hometown.

Learn French!

Sure, Geneva is an international city with lots of expatriates and most locals speaking English. But wouldn’t you enjoy life here more and feel more integrated if you could speak the local language? The State of Geneva offers free French courses in the summer, which are held outside in some of the city's many beautiful green spaces, meaning you can top up your tan while you learn. Some parks even offer a child supervision service while lessons take place.


5. Load up on culture

Geneva can more than hold its own against the likes of Zurich when it comes to museums and galleries. From eye-opening venues like the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to cutting-edge art spaces like MAMCO, there's no shortage of cultural goodness in the city. Get to know more of it with our guide to Geneva's best museums and attractions

6. Enjoy all the nature

Life in a Swiss city is often focused around nature, from lake swimming and sunset picnics to boat trips and hikes. The city centre public bathing area Bains des Pâquis is a great spot to get to know Geneva's vibe, whether summer or winter. Or get active with some paddleboarding, a huge trend with locals in the warmer months. Many people head just a little further out to lakeside bathing areas, such as the not-so-hidden one near the Perle du Lac.

Visit a winery or two

Geneva is the third-largest wine-producing canton in Switzerland. Wineries are open in the evening on weekdays and on Saturday mornings for tasting and, of course, buying. Three wine trails will take you around the main producers in the canton. An open day is held on a Saturday every May, with special entertainment for the children while the parents sip on wine from some 70 wineries.

The longeole, an IGP pork sausage flavored with fennel seed and the cardons argentés épineux de Plainpalais (a green vegetable looking like spikey rhubarb branches with a taste similar to artichokes, traditionally eaten in gratin at Christmas), are typical products from Geneva. In the pastry department, sample rissoles (turnovers filled with Marlioz pears also typical from Geneva). The Office de Promotion des Produits Agricoles de Genève regularly organises courses and tastings.


9. Know your shopping hours

On weekdays, most shops and supermarkets are open until the evening, with many closing at 7pm. Be careful, however, on weekends: closing time for lots of shops is 6pm on Saturdays and almost everything is closed on Sundays. For last-minute grocery shopping past closing time, head to the Migros supermarkets at the airport and Gare Cornavin, Geneva’s main train station, as both open until late. Tuck shops and gas stations are other possibilities. 

Get sporty

Ice hockey is one of the bigger sports in Switzerland and Geneva’s hockey team, Genève-Servette Hockey Club (dubbed the Eagles), is one of the top teams in the country. Attend a game and let yourself be swept over by the wild atmosphere in the arena.


11. Celebrate history

Get involved in the Escalade celebrations in early December, when Genevans celebrate the victory of their forefathers over the armies of the Duke of Savoy in 1602. Students dress up in costumes and parade around town singing celebratory songs. The Compagnie de 1602 historical association runs a weekend of celebrations in the Old Town, and vegetable soup is cooked in remembrance of the Mère Royaume, who raised the alarm by pouring hot soup over an enemy soldier. The weekend before the official celebrations, races are organised, including la Course de la Marmite, a favorite among families who take part while dressed in costumes.

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