Where to stay: There aren’t very many options for budget hostels in Geneva, and the ones that the city does seem to have are overpriced. Your better option will likely be renting a room on Airbnb, and hopefully sharing it with a friend to cut down on costs. There are several great Airbnb options in this city, and many are priced $60 or less, which isn’t bad if your sharing. Geneva is a fairly small city, so it doesn’t matter a whole lot where you’re staying. I did not stay in the old part of town, and didn’t have any problems getting around. There are trams and buses throughout the city, so even if you’re on the other side of the river you’ll have easy access to everything that you’ll want to do!
Where to eat: Geneva, like many Swiss cities, is a fairly expensive place to eat. Many of my suggestions for this one are dessert-related, and I’m not even ashamed. Swiss chocolate is just unbeatable (tested theory), so make sure to stop in at least one chocolate shop to grab some homemade chocolates. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on them, even the cheap pieces will be good! I also wanted to be sure to try some Swiss fondue while in Geneva, but found that it’s actually quite expensive to have a fondue meal. My solution? Chocolate fondue for dinner! I went to a restaurant called Restaurant Edelweiss, where I ordered a pot of chocolate fondue (not terribly expensive if it’s also going to be your dinner…), and it was so worth it! There are yodelers in the restaurant, and the staff are dressed in costumes, but the touristy nature of the experience didn’t ruin the fondue.
What to do: The first striking thing about Geneva is how beautiful the scenery is. This is a unique city because it’s surrounded by beautiful landscapes, mountains, and is right on a gorgeous lake, so you’ll be able to get the best of both worlds here! I would recommend starting your time in Geneva by headed to the cathedral. You can enter for free, but the really great experience is to climb to the top of the bell towers. It’s not very expensive to do, and it’s so worth the views at the top! You also have the option of purchasing a combined ticket that will give you access to the archeological dig under the cathedral, the climb up the towers, and the theological museum next door. The area where the cathedral is located is really beautiful with small cobblestone streets, and is worth exploring! You’ll also want to be sure to take a walk down to the lake and enjoy the views and the spectacle of the Jet d’Eau (a massive water feature in the lake). There are several museums to visit in Geneva, but I particularly enjoyed the Red Cross Museum. I found it to be a very interesting museum that gives much insight into the history of the Red Cross, and the role that both the Red Cross and Switzerland have played in major historical events. The United Nations offers tours of The Palais des Nations, which gives an interesting look into modern international politics. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is also located in Geneva, and they offer individual and group tours. Group tours are very hard to book, and there is a very long waitlist, but you can book an individual tour 15 days in advance of your visit. I definitely recommend booking as early as possible, as the tours fill up quickly.
Overall Opinion: Geneva is a really spectacular city, as it has an incredibly unique combination of beautiful Swiss landscapes and small city atmosphere. This is the type of city that you should visit with the expectation of having a relaxing weekend. There are many students in the city, but I found the nightlife to be much more quiet than many other European cities. I would absolutely recommend spending a few days in Geneva, it’s a great taste of Switzerland!