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).
Festivals and events
More than 50,000 people flock to Geneva each May for Le Fête de l’Espoir (The Hope Festival), which combines music with philanthropy and is completely free. The eclectic bill includes a mixture of big names and up-and-coming acts.
In June, the Bol d'Or Mirabaud Regatta – a Geneva institution since 1939 – sees a flotilla of more than 500 boats tearing off down the lake in a high-stakes race. Once the winner is announced, the shores come alive with boisterous celebrations.
Perhaps the largest annual event Switzerland has to offer is the Fêtes de Genève (July and August). Taking place along the quays and lakefront, the food-focused celebrations include more than 120 free concerts and hundreds of stalls serving up some of the best produce the surrounding countryside has to harvest. It all culminates in a fireworks display over the inky waters of the vast lake.
As the year draws to a close, the Fête de L’Escalade in mid-December celebrates the defeat of a surprise attack on Switzerland by Charles Emmanuel I and his troops in 1602. The city comes alive with processions, street parties, food fights and even a large cauldron made of chocolate.