When to Fly
July and August have the best weather and the biggest crowds. The beginning of August marks Swiss National day with two weeks of festivities. Cheap flights to Geneva are not likely to be found during the summer as the city is packed with events, especially music festivals.
Every year in June, the Societe Nautique de Geneve welcomes Bol d’Or participants’ friends, families, supporters and fans from all over the world to come and enjoy the popular and exciting event. With over 500 boats racing across Lake Geneva, the annual Bol d’Or Mirabaud Regatta is home to Europe’s largest regatta in enclosed waters. Spectacular scenes see participants travel the length of the lake to a turning point at the half way mark, Le Bouveret, before making the return sprint back to Geneva. Following the thrill of the event is a huge celebrations at several different after parties.
Tourism peaks again during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The celebration of l'Escalade in December with its costumed and torch-lit processions brings throngs of visitors to the city.
The shoulder months of June and September are pleasant times to visit and slightly lower hotel rates and cheaper Geneva flights can be found.
October, November, April, and May have fewer crowds, and possibly the cheapest flights to Geneva available, although some hotels are closed during the low season.
Take a flight to Geneva and see Switzerland's second-largest city, located at the southwestern end of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French) where the Rhone river flows out of the lake. It is almost completely encircled by France and therefore French-speaking, although English is spoken widely.
It is known as the "capital of peace" due to its tradition of humanitarianism. Several international organisations are based in Geneva including the European headquarters of the UN, the Red Cross (with a museum beneath the offices) and the World Trade Organisation. It is also one of Switzerland's business cities.
Geneva's defining symbol is the Jet d'eau, the 459ft-high fountain at the edge of Lake Geneva. On the right side of the lake are many of the city's hotels and restaurants; on the left is the Old Town. Lively promenades with cafes, markets and shops line the lake.
There are two monuments that pay tribute to Switzerland's watch-making industry. The enormous Flower Clock is in the English Garden on the left bank; the "monumental solar and laser clock" is on the right.
Summer is warm with temperatures in the mid-20s and July can be in the upper 20s and hot. Autumn is mild as temperatures drop to the low 20s and into the low teens in October. Winters are cold with daytime temperatures ranging from the very low single digits, and when the bise (north wind) blows, it can be bitterly cold. Spring (March to May) is mild with temperatures reaching the teens. Rain falls year-round, and September usually gets the most rain.
Getting around Geneva
The best way to see Geneva requires you to slow down a little. You can walk through the city or pick up one of the free bicycles that are available outside Genève Roule, the main train station, from May to October. The public transport system is very reliable and fast, but you’ll miss some of the lovely city if you’re speeding by on a tram, bus or trolley. You can travel on a bus or tram from early morning to midnight. After that a night bus runs until the next morning.
Purchase your tickets ahead of time and don’t forget to validate them when you board. Buy a week-long pass if you’re staying long enough and save a bit of money. To get across the lake and back, hop aboard the seagull shuttle boats (les mouettes), which are part of the public transport system. Bus tickets and les mouettes tickets are interchangeable. You can also lounge around the lake on one of the many cruises offered. Float around for the whole day, half a day or just an hour, whatever your heart and travel schedule desires. Taxis are easy to find, but fairly expensive. Parking is so difficult that it’s not worth the hassle of renting a car. Instead, try hiring a car and driver for the day.
Getting Downtown From the Airport
Flights to Geneva, one of Switzerland’s main business centres, are served by the Geneva International Airport (GVA) which offers fast and reliable public transport options directly to various areas of the city. Using public transport between the city and airport is free for all visitors of Geneva – simply pick up a ticket from the machine in the baggage collection hall. Each ticket is valid for 80 minutes, but allows unlimited free travel within that time. For use of public transport during the rest of your Geneva visit, tickets can be purchased from the machines located at bus stops or railway station. Trains run every 12 minutes during rush hours, shuttling quickly between the airport’s own station and the city’s main station, Geneva-Cornavin. The journey takes only 6 minutes from departure to arrival and takes you right to the centre of the city. Alternatively, buses are available, running every 8-15 minutes to various areas of the city; the number 10 takes passengers to the city centre. Or, if you want to relax in more private surroundings, taxis are readily available – either catch one from one of the authorised ranks, order in advance via telephone, or hail one in the street. Finally, a number of hotels offer free shuttle buses direct from the airport to their own front doors. Others offer free shuttle transfers on demand; check with your hotel when booking.
Geneva insider information
- Geneva is known for watches and clocks. One more unusual version is the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais. The huge clock is planted with many flowers and keeps perfect time. Its second hand is the largest of any clock in the world (at 8 ft long).
- Walking tours of the city centre are available through the tourist board and are an excellent way of seeing the main tourist spots along with some less well-known attractions.
- The town of Lausanne is situated near to Geneva on the banks of the lake and is an easy day trip to make. The famous town was once known for its restorative qualities because of its position on the lake. Today, it is a vibrant and fascinating city, with some stunning Swiss architecture.
- Shopping is a popular pastime in Geneva. As well as watches, other good buys to take home include the famous Swiss Army Knife (made by only two companies in the world) and chocolate.
- Geneva is the main arrival point for skiers to the French and Swiss Alps. Be aware that the airport is divided into two sections and you can exit by either the French or Swiss side depending on your destination. As you exit the airport in the winter season, you’ll be faced with lots of ski reps collecting passengers for their buses. If you’re not booked on a package, don’t worry. It’s very easy to catch to the snow train to the major resorts. Failing that, try sweet-talking one of the reps headed to your resort to let you on the bus. If they’re not full up, they may take you.