I've just returned from a lovely weekend break in the city and wanted to share my tips for travelling to Geneva, as it really is an incredibly beautiful place to visit. From the UK, it's less than an hour and a half away by plane and the airport is ten minutes by train from the city centre - making it an ideal getaway for the weekend. So, if you're thinking about getting away for the weekend and have this city in mind, here's some tips for travelling to Geneva.
If you take one thing away from all the posts on tips for travelling to Geneva, take this. If you're staying in the city centre, don't pay a taxi to take you in - get the train, it takes ten minutes, it's a regular service and, most importantly, it's free! All visitors arriving at the airport are entitled to a free ticket which lasts (I believe) for 80 minutes before it expires. If you're staying in a hotel, ask the reception for your free travel passes - it entitles you to free travel on all public transport within the city. This was also valid for the train back to the airport. Be warned, though; we tried to do a day trip to Lausanne, a relatively close city to Geneva (around 55KM away) and it would have cost us around 90CHF ($95)for two.
I was told by most that it's an expensive city to visit but I didn't realise until I got there quite how expensive. To give you an idea: we got a ten minute taxi which came to around £20 ($32), we found the average price of an evening meal to be at least £40 ($65) a head ( that's average, without service or alcohol and probably with only one course) and the cheapest bottle of wine we came across (whilst out, not at a supermarket) was around £25 ($40). It's not a place to go if you're looking for a budget trip.
This was my favourite place in the whole trip - it's a little strip of land jutting out into the lake, with a small beach and a bar serving drinks and food. This was actually comparatively very reasonable; they do a fondue in the evenings in the winter months, the salads were glorious and they do a plat du jour for around £12 ($20), which I had and thoroughly enjoyed. It's a beautiful view, buzzing with locals and the waters of the lake are crystal clear.
If you're into your designer labels, then this is the place for you. There's an area with every designer shop you can think of - from Chanel and Dior, to Celine and Elie Saab. Obviously, you'll also find the best watches in the world there. It's not for everyone but if this is the kind of shopping you want to do, you'll love it. Also, if you spend over a certain amount (I believe it's 200CHF) ($200) you can claim the tax back at the airport, making it a bit cheaper than at home.
One thing I discovered that I hadn't expected to was a selection of secondhand designer shops in the Geneva old town. If you like designer clothes but struggle to afford the price tag, these shops are brilliant. Everything I saw was in an excellent condition. And much cheaper than if you bought it new - I found a classic pair of Louboutin heels, never worn, for around £150 ($240). There's also some really cool quirky shops in the old town - lots of antique shops and cult skincare/fragrance places.
I would say Geneva is great for two or three days, but if you have more time, definitely spend a couple more nights further into the mountains. There's lots of places on the edges of the lake and they look idyllic, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and fairytale châteaus.
If you do what we did and run out of time to explore further out, take a day trip to Mont Saleve, Geneva's 'local mountain.' Get the number 8 bus from the train station (make sure it's going in the right direction), ride it until the end (about 15 minutes) and it's a short walk that will take you to a cable car straight to the top. Once you make it up there, you'll have an amazing view of Geneva and the surrounding countryside. It's also a great place to hike and cycle.
I hope those tips will prove helpful if you're visiting - it's expensive, yes, but it's the calmest, most picturesque city I've ever visited and I can't wait to go back. I'm thinking of booking a holiday to explore other parts of Switzerland - is there anywhere you recommend?
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