How to Spend a Perfect Day in Geneva
A Swiss cultural hub, tackling Geneva in a day is no small feat. As unabashed fans of the city, we’re here to help you plan out your stay in Switzerland’s peace capital.
Geneva acts as a cultural melting pot thanks in part to its close proximity to the French border and convenient location as a stopover city providing easy access to neighboring mountain ranges. However, the city’s rich history, delightful culinary scene, and colorful art installations make this destination a must-see for anyone looking for an under-the-radar European getaway. From exploring galleries to restaurant highlights and even untouched nature, this Swiss microcosm offers the ideal tasting menu for anyone seeking a picturesque escape.
Without further ado, here are some SmartFlyer-vetted recommendations for how to spend one perfect day in Geneva.
Why visit Geneva?
If you’re a history and culture enthusiast, then spending a day exploring Geneva’s many facets is a dream. As home to the United Nations headquarters, a walk through this city’s cobblestone streets reveals the many different languages and cultures that have permeated the local way of life for centuries. Just spending an hour around Rues Basses reveals the city’s many outdoor cafés and independently-owned shops. Additionally, there are plenty of festivals and cultural celebrations happening all year round, from the glittery GemGenève to the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival.
Don’t miss out on the art here either. This city’s many galleries around town exemplify its melting pot ethos. The blend of Rembrandt, Picasso, and even modern visionaries ensures art lovers a vibrant blend of work to discover. And while your SmartFlyer travel advisor can always help arrange private transport, the city is designed to be walkable.
Geneva also provides thrillseekers with plenty of activities to get the blood pumping. Geneva is nestled right between the lake and the French Alps, meaning that there are plenty of ways to explore Switzerland’s natural wonders. Each season brings a new way to enjoy the great outdoors, from e-bike rides to vineyard tours. Whether it’s an iconic ski excursion or a refreshing dive into the lake, there are many ways to experience the city’s unique connection to nature. And thanks to Switzerland’s commitment to protecting the environment, an adventure in Geneva is always a pristine one.
What to expect in Geneva?
Switzerland’s local language varies due to being nestled between Italy, France, and Germany. Since Geneva is located on the cusp of France, many locals speak the neighboring country’s mother tongue. But thanks to it being a highly international destination, nearly everyone speaks English fluently as well. The city also experiences all seasons, meaning summers are ideal for private fishing excursions and lounging on lakeside beaches. To keep warm in the Swiss winter, locals recommend a dip in the many saunas and hammams found around the city. For the best wellness, check out one of The Woodward’s saunas and Swedish baths (more on that below).
Where to stay in Geneva
Facing the crystal blue of Lake Geneva, The Woodward inhabits a post-Haussmann style building erected in 1901 by architect François Durel and reimagined by Pierre-Yves Rochon. This hotel – just one masterpiece from our friends at Oetker Collection – blends modernity with the original Belle Époque architecture. The property’s lakefront location is no more than twenty minutes from both Geneva International Airport and the Geneva Cornavin railway station, offering panoramic views of the water and the French Alps, including Mont Blanc. This is also Geneva’s first all-suite hotel and home to exquisite dining from L’Atelier Robuchon and Le Jardinier.
An Overview of The Woodward by The Oetker Collection
Opened in 2021, the exclusive suites of The Woodward are well-appointed with marble fireplaces and bookcases, as well as full lake views for twenty-one of the twenty-six accommodations. For your stay, we highly recommend working with your SmartFlyer travel advisor to book a stay in the Woodward Suite. This suite is the only one of its kind in the entire hotel and provides three different balconies that open up to Lake Geneva. If you’re looking for more privacy, then consider the Prestige or Royal Suite. These options are only accessible via private elevator and offer enough space for groups of up to ten.
We also recommend booking into The Woodward for their wellness experiences. This Oetker Collection masterpiece features a collaboration with the famous Guerlain, one of France’s premiere spas. The spa includes a 21-meter indoor swimming pool as well as six wellness suites, including one for couples. The hotel also offers Michelin-starred culinary experiences including L’Atelier Robuchon and Le Jardinier, both hailing from New York. L’Atelier Robuchon features an open kitchen concept, creating a theatrical dining experience for just thirty-six guests seated around a counter, as well as two semi-private dining rooms. On the other hand, Le Jardinier offers guests unobstructed views of the lake.
What to do in Geneva
Our go-to experience that captures the essence of what Geneva is in a day is to explore the city’s Old Town. Even a short stroll through these storied streets and alleys reveals a fascinating mix of ancient and contemporary monuments. This area is home to the famous Saint-Pierre Cathedral, a landmark now known as one of the best places to experience Geneva from above thanks to its impressive towers. You can also stop into some tempting shops nearby along the Rue du Rhône, the city’s equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue. Other highlights include the Parc des Bastions, which houses the city’s first botanical garden, and the fine arts center Place de Neuve which houses The Grand Théâtre, the Rath Museum, and the Conservatory of Music.
We also love sailing out onto Lake Geneva for lunch aboard a private boat. Your SmartFlyer travel advisor can help you book a private boat with a skipper included to enjoy a gastronomic picnic sailing this natural wonder. This is an excellent opportunity to gain front-row seats to Jet d’Eau, one of the world’s tallest geysers. Originally a source of power for the city’s hydraulics, this 19th-century marvel now serves as the city’s centerpiece for water-and-light shows. After docking for lunch, feel free to wander through the small local shops that pepper the shoreline.
As the world’s capital for watchmaking, we’d be remiss not to mention the chance to attend a luxury watch-crafting workshop. Geneva has a rich history of horologists dating all the way back to the mid-16th century. Closer to the turn of the 19th century, the world was introduced to the famous Poinçon de Genève insignia that adorns many of the finest watches worldwide, from Cartier to Ateliers deMonaco. Through your SmartFlyer travel advisor, you too can take a piece of history home through an exclusive workshop. Here, you can handpick your design components to create the watch meant for you.
Where to dine in Geneva
Being the melting pot it is, there’s no shortage of fascinating dining when you’re staying in Geneva. From local favorites to internationally-renowned Michelin-starred restaurants, this city is a gastronomic wonderland. While The Woodward is home to some fine dining delights, there are plenty of options for those who wish to dine off-property.
Check out our vetted restaurant reccos across Geneva:
Fondue: If you’re looking for an iconic Swiss experience, then look no further than Geneva’s fondue scene. The Swiss dairy industry as a whole produces some of the finest milk-based products thanks to its support for animal welfare. The care local farmers show for their livestock not only protects their ecosystem, but also provides consumers a particularly rich tasting experience. Local mainstays include Le Gruyérien and the newly-renovated Cave Valaisanne-Chalet Suisse. For an elevated take on fondue, we recommend checking out Le Casanova.
French: Thanks to Geneva’s prime location on the border, the best of French cuisine is just steps away from your stay at The Woodward. La Chaumière and La Cantine des Commerçants provide Michelin-starred gastronomic dining experiences. Le Floris is also worth experiencing for its stunning gardens and views over Lake Geneva. For a cozier local experience, we recommend heading over to the colorful L’Agape. But for an iconic bistro experience, work with your SmartFlyer travel advisor to secure a table at Le Flacon. This renowned restaurant in the heart of old Carouge is just a short private ground transfer from the hotel. This dining establishment is known for its warm and relaxed “bistronomic” atmosphere, showcasing contemporary takes on bistro classics.
Italian: From the coasts of Sicily to Rome, Italy’s finest chefs have also made their mark on Geneva’s culinary scene. Spinella Restaurant & Bar is a family operation run by three brothers with a classic take on Southern Italian dishes. If you’re craving pizza, then check out Pizzeria Ristorante Molino, Molard. For a hearty, no-frills Italian dining experience, locals recommend Le Radar de Poche. The menu here provides a wide variety of classic pasta and salads that never miss.
Our Under-the-Radar Recommendations for a Geneva day trip
You can find Geneva’s magic in the hidden gems scattered in and on the outskirts of the city. From adrenaline-pumping adventure to cultural immersion, there’s a seemingly endless amount of discovery to be had. One of our favorite destinations here is the Charlie Chaplin museum, Chaplin’s World. What was originally the American film icon’s lakeside estate is now a time capsule that explores Chaplin’s time in Switzerland. In addition to invaluable memorabilia, your SmartFlyer travel advisor can also book you a private tour led by Chaplin’s son, Eugène Chaplin.
In a similar vein, the art scene in Geneva is definitely worth making a day out of. Musée Alexis Forel presents both contemporary and classical art by Swiss artists within a restored 16th-century manor. If you’re a MoMA fan, then MAMCO will provide you a similarly stimulating experience. This museum’s collection rotates multiple times a year, meaning every visit guarantees you a new piece to discover. Our personal favorite though is L’Abri. This innovative art experience is spread across two spaces: a former air raid shelter and locksmith’s garden-lined workshop. Their associate artists often transform these spaces into immersive installations, from dance concerts to stunning architectural projects.
How about day trips outside of Geneva?
La Côte’s vineyards – just a half-hour private ground transfer from Geneva – are also particularly lush. With roots that date back to Roman occupation over two-thousand years ago, the wineries here pride themselves on their indigenous grapes only rivaled by their Italian neighbors. Tasting Swiss wine is also a rare experience, as only two percent of the million hectoliters produced annually are exported. The chateaus here are all connected by footpaths that trace along the many winding streams and creeks. This makes private guided walking tours a breeze, bouncing between the many family-owned wineries.
While it’s no secret that Swiss chocolate is a highly-coveted delicacy, it takes a keen eye to find the crème de la crème. We personally recommend spending a day out in Gruyères, the heartland of Swiss’s cheese and chocolate. Just a two-hour scenic drive from Geneva via private car, this medieval town is famous for the dairy it produces. We particularly love touring the nearby Callier chocolate factory. This private experience teaches guests about this prestigious art form from factory floor tours to private workshops and tastings. Couple this with a private tour of the Maison du Gruyère cheese factory for an epic day of indulgence.
Craving more? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor to get a headstart on planning your Geneva getaway.