Set around glittering Lake Geneva, this gateway to the Alps is also the European headquarters for the United Nations.


Sidestep the flashy billboards and you’ll discover a slick, quietly cool city with a burgeoning food scene, a rich history of religious turmoil and a clutch of fascinating monuments and museums.

Arriving at Geneva Airport

GVA has only one runway, tucked up against the craggy Jura mountains. But whichever approach you make – over the mountains themselves, the foothills of the Alps, or sweeping across Lake Geneva – it’s a picturesque one.

Getting away from the airport is very simple. There is a CFF train station attached to the main terminal and all trains go to Gare Cornavin, Geneva's main station (the journey takes about seven minutes). From there, you can easily connect onto Geneva's bus and tram network.

You can also take the number 5 or 10 TPG (Transport Public Genevois) bus from the airport – go up to the ground-floor check-in level, exit the airport and turn left towards the train station entrance.

Avoid taking an expensive taxi from the airport into town (a run between the airport and the city centre can cost CHF35—45, without luggage). Trains and buses are free if you pick up a ticket in the baggage reclaim hall. It’s best to pre-book car-hire if you need your own wheels (although traffic within Geneva itself is heavy and parking is expensive).

Essential sights

Jet d’Eau

Yes, it’s a fountain. But Geneva’s Jet d’Eau isn’t your average trickling water feature. Shooting 459ft (140m) into the air, the gargantuan plume is visible from the air as you fly into Geneva Airport and contains an average of seven tons of water at any one time (prepare to get a little wet: some of it splashes spectators below).

Old Town

With cobbled streets, steep lanes and picturesque medieval squares, Geneva’s characterful Vieille Ville is one of the largest in Europe. There’s plenty to do, including a cluster of galleries and museums, a towering 12th-century cathedral to explore, and plenty of homely cafés.

CERN: the European Organisation for Nuclear Research

Under its glitzy surface, Geneva is home to a remarkable 27-mile (43km) ring of superconducting magnets, sitting somewhere beneath its soil (aka the Large Hadron Collider). A tram ride out of town to the district of Meyrin brings you to CERN, the world-renowned physics laboratory that has taken it upon itself to solve the secrets of the universe, with exhibitions and guided tours.

Palais des Nations

Along with the headquarters of the Red Cross, Geneva is also home to the United Nations, which began life in the city as the League of Nations 1919. The vast palace built to house it is as large as Versailles near Paris. A guided tour provides a fascinating insight into how the world’s biggest issues are currently being tackled. 

Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève

This fascinating interactive museum is free to explore. Its permanent exhibition deftly examines the similarities and differences of our planet's myriad cultures. Highlights of around 1,000 artefacts include a mask and a rattle from the Native American Iroquois False Face Society.