Last Updated: September 16, 2022

One Day In Geneva: History, Architecture & Museums

If you are visiting Switzerland, chances are you will be flying into or passing through Geneva at some point during your trip.

Since there are so many great things to see in Switzerland, you might be thinking that a quick visit to Geneva isn’t worth it, but we beg to differ.

You should visit Geneva if you have the opportunity as it is a stunning city full of history, great architecture, galleries, and museums, and being on the shore of Lake Geneva it has great views plus lots of lake activities too.

One day in Geneva is all you need to set aside to get a good sense of this city and without our one day in Geneva itinerary below, you will see the best of it.

Join me as I run through everything you need to know for your Geneva day so you can have the perfect day trip in this lovely city.

Getting Around Geneva

Getting Around Geneva

Since you are only spending one day in Geneva, the last thing you need is to waste any time getting from one place to the next. Luckily, Geneva is a very walkable city and with lakeside views, walking is the best way to do it.

But there may be moments when you need to use public transport to cut down on travel time or to give your legs a break. Here are your best options.

Trams & Buses

The tram and bus network in Geneva is excellent and they should be your first port of call when you need to get from A to B outside of walking.

You will never be far from a bus or tram stop, they have their own lanes so they don’t get stuck in traffic, and they are very affordable too. You can get a 60-minute ticket for both buses and rams in Geneva for 3 CHF or a day travel card for 10 CHF.

You can buy these tickets at all ticket machines, and there are machines at pretty much every stop, bar a few. You can even pay with your card and in Swiss Francs too if you have some cash with you.

You also have the option to get a Geneva Transport Card to see all the tourist attractions which you can get from your hotel and gives you free transport on all trams, buses, trains, and yellow boats.

Ubers

In a time of need, use Uber instead of taxis as they are much more affordable but they can take a bit longer since they don’t get their own lane and are subject to traffic.

You shouldn’t need to use Uber at any point on your one-day Geneva itinerary but it is nice to know that the option is there.

Use Google Maps To Navigate

To follow your one-day Geneva itinerary in a relaxed way, use Google Maps to navigate your way around all the main attractions.

Google Maps will show you the fastest walking routes as well as the fastest public transport routes and will ensure you don’t lose any time traveling during your one day in Geneva.

Best Time to Visit Geneva

Best Time to Visit Geneva

You can visit Geneva all year round but I would recommend being in Geneva in the months of May, June, and September.

These months see a lower number of visitors which means the city center is easier to navigate, your flight and accommodation costs will be lower, and the weather will be lovely.

You can expect the sun to be shining and the weather to be around 22-30°C and it is a great time to swim in Lake Geneva too. Lake Geneva might be a little chilly in May but it will have warmed up by June, and in September it should be quite warm.

Going to Geneva in winter is also quite a lovely experience, especially if you want to tag on some skiing. It will be around 5 to -1°C but the surrounding Alps will be covered in snow. If you visit in December, you will also get the chance to experience the Christmas Markets which are very festive.

I would advise avoiding July & August if you can as this is when the city center is at its busiest and accommodation is very expensive. But, if this is the only time of year you can visit, be sure to book in advance and bring your bathing suit as a swim in Lake Geneva will be a must.

How to Spend Your Day in Geneva

This one-day Geneva itinerary is designed to be walkable and will take you around all the top Geneva attractions to see in one day.

This Geneva itinerary is just a suggested itinerary so feel free to add and remove some of the Geneva attractions and build your perfect one-day itinerary around it.

Tour The United Nations At Palais Des Nations

Palais Des Nations

Your one day in Geneva will begin at the Palais Des Nations which is a little bit outside the city center so you might want to grab a tram or a bus if your hotel is not a walkable distance away. Use Google Maps to find your best route.

The Palais Des Nations is one of the main tourist attractions in Geneva and for good reason as it is the European United Nations Headquarters.

When you visit the Place Des Nations, you will be able to take a tour around the United Nations Office and see the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, Library, Council Chamber, and Assembly Hall.

Be sure to spend some time taking in the stunning gardens, Lake Geneva views, the Alley of Flags, and the Broken Chair sculpture. The Broken Chair was created by Daniel Berset, a local artist and it only has three legs to pay tribute to victims of landmines and to protest against the use of landmines too.

Learn About Humanity At The Red Cross & Crescent Museum

The next destination for your one day in Geneva is The Red Cross & Crescent Museum which is just a 5-minute walk from the home of the United Nations.

The Red Cross & Crescent Museum is the headquarters for the International Red Cross as well as being a museum. A stroll around the museum is the best way to understand all the work that international organizations do for humanity.

Between the International Museum of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, you will learn a lot about the history of humans and how they have managed to live through disaster after disaster, and how humanitarian organizations have helped them do so.

It is well laid out and brilliantly explained through interactive exhibitions and it is quite a sobering experience but a very valuable one.

It is open from 10 am to 5 pm between Tuesday to Sunday and entrance costs just 15 CHF or is free with a Geneva City Pass.

Be Blown Away At The Natural History Museum

From the Red Cross & Crescent Museum hop on bus number 8 from the Appia stop, get off at the Tranchées stop and walk for 2-minutes to the Natural History Museum in the Old Town. This might be the only time you need to use public transport and use Google Maps to make it easier.

This is the largest museum of its kind in Switzerland and one of the best museums in Geneva, especially if you are traveling with kids. The museum is full of amazing exhibitions that cover everything from science and geology, to biology and the history of humanity.

You will see a rock from the moon that was donated by NASA, dinosaur fossils, and a lot of taxidermied creatures or replicas that look very well. You can walk amongst giant mammals like rhinos or huge birds, reptiles, and fish.

Entry to the museum is free and it is one of the top attractions in the city. Be sure to have a quick stop in the park around it as it has incredible views and is very pretty.

Set Your Watch At The English Garden & Flower Clock

English Garden & Flower Clock

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

From the museum, enjoy the 12-minute walk from the Old Town to the English Garden which is right on Lake Geneva and is home to the famous flower clock.

When you arrive at the English Garden, take in the stunning lake views that stretch out across Lake Geneva and into the Alps behind. Walk towards the western end of the English Garden where you will find the incredible Flower Clock.

The Flower Clock is the second-biggest working clock in the world and has the longest minute hand in the world which measures 2.5 meters long. The Flower Clock provides incredibly accurate time as it is updated via satellite so you might want to set your watch by it.

It is also a stunning clock, as the clock face is made up of more than 6,000 flowers that change with the seasons, so it is ever-changing and will never look the same from one visit to the next.

Smell The Roses At Parc de la Grange

From the Flower Clock, stroll along the shores of Lake Geneva to your next stop during your one day in Geneva, Parc de la Grange. The walk is around 20-minutes and the views are stunning.

Parc de la Grange is quite a huge park along the lake and is home to beautiful trees and lovely lawns. You will find stages for outdoor concerts and theaters but the thing to see is in the northeastern part of the park where you will find a stunning rose garden.

On the way, be sure to look out for Villa La Grange and its lovely architecture. Once you arrive at the rose garden in this section of the park, you’ll notice that it is quite astounding and very beautiful. Spend some time walking around the huge variety of roses and smell their beautiful scents as you go.

Enjoy nature, sit on the lawn, and take in the views across the lake.

Admire The St. Pierre Cathedral

Now it is time to stroll back down the lake for 25 minutes to the St. Pierre Cathedral in the Old Town, the next stop for your one day in Geneva.

St. Pierre Cathedral sits in the Old Town and is one of the most famous landmarks in Geneva. It was built way back in the 1100s under the guidance of the then Prince-Bishop of Geneva and features stunning architecture so take a moment to appreciate it.

Construction didn’t end back in the 12th Century either as additions were made which included the stunning facade and the square towers.

What made St. Pierre Cathedral famous is that it was the home church of the famous leader of reformation, John Calvin. It is also the site of some archaeological discoveries as it was built on an older building dating back to the 4th century.

See Some History At The Reformation Wall

The Reformation Wall

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

From the cathedral, enjoy a walk through the Old Town to the Reformation Wall which is a short 7-minute walk away.

The Reformation Wall, once called the International Monument To The Reformation, dates back to 1909 and honors the Protestant Reformation which was led by John Calvin.

It was built to mark the 400th birthday of John Calvin and features four huge sculptures of William Farel, Théodore de Bèze, John Knox, and, of course, John Calvin who all played a huge role in the reformation.

Take some time to enjoy the wall and then green lawns of the lovely Bastions Park in the Old Town.

Have A Picnic At Bastions Park

Right next to the Reformation Wall is Bastions Park, as I mentioned above. At this point, you might be quite hungry so grab some food and enjoy a little picnic in the park.

The park is delightful and a great place to throw a blanket down, sit in the shade, relax, and have a bite to eat. Once you are ready you can stroll around the park and play chess on one of the many giant chess sets, and if you are there in winter, go ice skating on the ice rink.

Have A Taste Explosion At Chocolate Shops

Something you can not leave Geneva or Switzerland without doing is sampling some amazing Swiss chocolate. There are lots of great chocolate shops in Geneva and we even have a whole article dedicated to the best chocolate-tasting spots if you want to hit it hard.

I would recommend heading to a few different chocolate shops if you have the time so you can sample the more famous brands and some of the purist chocolatiers too.

Head to the Lindt & Sprungli chocolate shop to pick a selection of chocolates and delicious macaroons too. Once you are done there, hop over to Du Rhone Chocolatier to experience what some of the best hand-made chocolate in the world tastes like.

Be sure to grab some boxes to take home with you so you can remember these moments at home each time you have a little treat.

Learn About Swiss Watches At The Patek Philippe Museum

A rather short walk from some of the chocolate shops is the Patek Philippe Museum. You can use public transport if you want to, but it does take about the same amount of time.

The Patek Philippe Museum can not be missed when you are in Switzerland as it is all about showcasing the history of Swiss Watches. It spans 500 years of watch-making history and includes all the brands from Rolex to Omega along with the antique watches Patek Philippe made in the 1800s.

This is an excellent museum but it does take up to 2 hours to see properly and depending on timings and your interests you may want to skip it.

From here, it is time to get your tastebuds bouncing off the walls by going to taste some incredible Swiss chocolate.

Take In Lake Geneva & The Jet d’Eau

Lake Geneva & The Jet d'Eau

After enjoying the chocolate, take a short walk to the Jet d’Eau which sits on a pier out in Lake Geneva.

You can admire Jet d’Eau from afar or walk right up to it along the platform that leads to it from the lake shore. The Jet d’Eau is a water jet that fires 500 liters of water every second at 200 km per hour up to 140 meters high in the air.

It is a serious water jet that can be seen from rooftops in the city and also from planes flying above. If you walk right up to Jet d’Eau, then chances are you will get a bit wet but if the sun is shining and you are with kids, it is so worth it.

Jet d’Eau actually used to be an outflow for a hydraulic plant but was moved to the lake due to its popularity to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation.

Have A Great Meal At Osteria Della Bottega

To cap off your awesome day in Geneva, bead back to the Old Town to Osteria Della Bottega, one of the best restaurants in the city.

Osteria Della Bottega is an Italian restaurant that isn’t overpriced, has great service, and has even better food. The atmosphere inside is excellent and the staff is very professional and friendly.

The chefs here serve up Italian classics and make them to perfection but you can also order more off-the-wall dishes from the menu such as the beef tongue. Be adventurous, or stick with what you know, both will be delicious, and the wine pairings will be quite amazing too!

Once you’re ready to move on, grab a latte or espresso to finish and take a stroll along through the old town and along the lake shore to a cocktail bar or back to your hotel.

Where to Stay in Geneva



Booking.com

The best place to stay in Geneva is in the city center around the Old Town and along the lake for the views. Now, Switzerland is notoriously expensive and hotels with this kind of location are going to come at a high price.

My advice would be to find the best hotel in your budget that is close to the Old Town so that you are close to everything on the itinerary.

If you can’t do this, you may have to look a bit outside of town and then jump on some public transport to access the city center and get back to your hotel.

I would recommend using Booking.com to find your hotel as they give a great selection and make the search process very easy.

Tips for Visiting Geneva in One Day

  • Use Google Maps to navigate your way from one place to the next as this will save you a load of time
  • Pack a bathing suit and a towel in your day pack as there are countless opportunities to have a dip in the lake throughout the day. There is nothing more refreshing than walking down to a beach and hopping in the crystal clear waters for a few minutes
  • Be sure to get the Geneva Transport Card from your hotel as this gives you free bus, train, tram, and yellow boat rides in the city
  • Always ask police officers for their ID as there are scammers who dress up as police officers to try and take advantage of tourists
  • Don’t hesitate to skip parts of the itinerary if you are finding it stressful to fit everything in. It is your day trip so make it as enjoyable as you would like it to be
  • Don’t spend too much time at one attraction or another as you will be sacrificing time at the next one unless you would like to
  • Carry some Swiss Francs in cash as having some is useful since not everywhere accepts cards as payment

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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