Things to Know Before You Go to Geneva

With its pivotal role in international diplomacy and its stunning lakes, there is much to get ready for in the City of Peace. Prepare for your Swiss adventure with our essential guide on things to know before you go to Geneva

Boat cruising on Geneva Lake.

Did you know that Geneva hosts the headquarters of the Red Cross and the colossal European branch of the United Nations Office? Beyond its prestigious title as the “Peace Capital of the World,” this city also thrives as a crossroads of international diplomacy. 

But before you pack your bags, let’s dive into what makes Geneva a must-visit for the global traveler. Get ready for a journey through this storied city’s streets, where every corner promises a blend of history and innovation. 

Here are the most essential things to know before you go to Geneva:


Geneva, nestled between the Alps and Jura mountains on the shores of Lake Geneva, offers a remarkable blend of cultural richness and stunning scenery. 

Of course, planning your trip effectively ensures an unforgettable experience. 

With that, here are some essential things to know before you go to Geneva:

When to Go and How Much to Bring

  • Best Seasons: Geneva is at its best during spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant and tourist crowds are thinner.
  • Festivals: Then again, summer brings lively festivals like the Fête de la Musique and the Geneva Lake Festival.
  • Budgeting: Geneva is known for its high living costs. Daily expenses can exceed CHF 100 (around $110 or £88). To cut on costs, utilize the Geneva Transport Card for free public transport, included with stays at most accommodations.

Where to Stay

For a refined stay, consider Le Jour et la Nuit, offering stylish rooms and convenient city access. 

Alternatively, Adina Apartment Hotel Geneva provides modern amenities and comfort. 

And for a taste of luxury, Domaine de Chateauvieux offers an exquisite setting amidst vineyards.

How to Get Around

Geneva’s compact city layout is perfect for walking. However, the public transport system comprising trams, buses, and boats is also efficient and punctual if you’re trying to catch an appointment. 

But when exploring at your own pace, consider renting a bicycle or a car. Apps like Mobility are useful for on-the-go car rental.

Geneva river night lights reflection.


Understanding local culture can truly enhance your travel experience and help you connect with the local communities. 

Here’s what you need to grasp as part of the things to know before you go to Geneva:

Local Customs and Etiquette

  • Greetings: A firm handshake and a polite “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” are common. Always remember, discretion and politeness are highly valued in this elegant city.
  • Tipping: Service charges are generally included in your bill, but leaving a small tip at restaurants is, of course, always appreciated.

Language Tips

While French is the official language, English is widely spoken, especially in business and tourist areas. 

Nonetheless, learning basic French phrases like “Merci” (Thank you) and “Où est la salle de bain?” (Where is the bathroom?) can always be helpful. It’s also smart to consider using a translation app for more complex interactions.


Geneva offers a rich tapestry of attractions and experiences that cater to all interests, from history enthusiasts to nature lovers. 

Make the most of your visit with these things to know before you go to Geneva:

Must-Visit Attractions

  • Jet d’Eau: A massive fountain shooting water 140 meters high, visible across Geneva.
  • Old Town: Historical heart with cobblestone streets and Saint-Pierre Cathedral.
  • Palais des Nations: Offers insights into international diplomacy through guided tours.
  • Museum of Natural History: Showcases global and local biodiversity; great for families.
  • Reformation Wall: A monument in Parc des Bastions, commemorating Protestant Reformation leaders.

Food and Drink

Geneva’s culinary scene is a delightful mix of international and local dishes. Essential local dishes include fondue and raclette. With that, Café du Soleil is highly recommended for its fondue.

Local Experiences

  • Activities: Take a boat tour on Lake Geneva or explore nearby vineyards for wine tasting.
  • Cultural Events: Visit during the Escalade Festival in December for a historical reenactment experience. Take note that costs for activities may vary, but many are reasonably priced or free.
Chillon Castle at Geneva lakefront.


When visiting Geneva, safety is rarely a major concern, but like in any city, it’s always wise to stay alert in less frequented areas after dark, especially when traveling solo.

Health-wise, Geneva boasts excellent healthcare facilities, though travelers should have health insurance to cover unexpected medical costs. Tap water in Geneva is safe to drink, and no special vaccinations are required for entry. However, staying up to date with routine vaccinations like influenza is recommended. 

For more specific things to know before you go to Geneva, always check the latest travel health advisories before departure.

Learn All the Things to Know Before You Go to Geneva with ThisCityKnows

Geneva offers a harmonious blend of culture, history, and stunning natural landscapes. As you prepare your itinerary, keep these essential things to know before you go to Geneva at the forefront to ensure a seamless and delightful visit.

Ready to explore Geneva? 

Plan your travels with ThisCityKnows and experience this majestic city through the eyes of those who know it best.

Patty O.
Author: Patty O.

A city girl through and through, Patty has always planned her adventures in and around urban areas. Through her travel writing, she aims to make a compelling case for the global city as a place of endless discovery and satisfaction. Her goal is to detail how urban exploration can fulfill the desires of anyone and everyone, from cultural and culinary adventurers to historical and supernatural enthusiasts.

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