Geneva Travel Guide

Geneva may not be the most obvious destination to go on a city break to, but if you do, you will hardly regret it. The city is very pretty and venerable, with beautiful architecture and many monuments. The nightlife is exciting, the shopping opportunities are good, and most of it oozes class and style.


Old Celtic village

It is believed that Geneva was originally a Celtic village, which is mentioned in texts written by Julius Caesar. He died 44 years before our era, and based on the texts, it is reasonable to assume that Geneva is more than 2000 years old. The name probably comes from “genu”, the Celtic word for knee or bend, which fits in with the city’s location on the river Rhone, where it flows into Lake Lac LĂ©man.

Historically, Geneva has been a toss-up between Romans, various kings, army commanders, popes and other religious groups, before the city was incorporated into Switzerland in 1814. Since then, the city has grown to become one of the richest and most important cities in Europe .

Geneva – Center for Diplomacy

Geneva - Center for Diplomacy

Today, Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland, after the capital Zurich. The population is just over 200,000, but if we count everyone who lives in the canton (the state – that is, the city and the surrounding areas), the number is about 495,000. In what is called Greater Geneva, an area located in both Switzerland and France, and where most of the inhabitants are connected to the city, live almost 1 million people.

The city is considered a global financial center, and the center of diplomatic relations. Geneva is the city in the world that hosts the most international organizations. Many of the UN administrations are located here, as is the Red Cross headquarters.

Where should the hotel be located in Geneva?

The city center is not very big, and it is relatively easy to get around by tram, bus and taxi. Most people prefer to stay fairly centrally, but in Geneva it is no scandal to find a hotel a little on the outskirts of the city center. Below you have a description of the districts that are most relevant.

  • Vieille Ville– The old town of Geneva is the city’s best area to live in if you are romantically inclined, and will be surrounded by old houses, narrow cobbled streets, small and intimate cafes, and nice restaurants located around beautiful squares. The small town is located on a hill, about 25 meters above the lake, and you can thus get a nice view from several of the hotels in Vieille Ville.
  • Plainpalais– Plainpalais is the area located between the old town and the river Arve, and where, among other things, the university is located. Here are many affordable accommodations, restaurants and cafes, as well as several interesting museums.
  • Carouge– The area is south of the Plainpalais, with the river Arve in between. Previously, Carouge was a city of its own, with mostly Italian inhabitants. That is why the district is often called Little Italy. If you live close to good shopping streets, many cool cafes and nightclubs, galleries and museums, this is very popular area.
  • Quartier Eaux-Vives– Eaux-Vives is located just east of the Plainpalais, and is a somewhat quieter and quiet area that is well suited for families on a city break. The city’s largest park is located here (Parc de la Grange), in addition to cinemas, many restaurants, the city’s own swimming beach for toddlers (Baby-Plage), and just beyond it is the beach for everyone else who wants to swim in the lake (Geneva Plage).
  • Palais des Nations– This is the area where, among other things, the UN headquarters and the offices of the World Health Organization are located. The Palais des Nations is located on the outskirts of the city center on the north-west side of the city. The district has hotels in all price ranges, and many are surrounded by green areas, or located down by the sea. Here in the district you get peace and quiet at night, without living far from the center. The tram into the old town takes no more than a few minutes.
  • Paquis– The district Paquis is located between the old town and the Palais des Nations, and is known for a lot of noise in the evenings, partly because the city’s “red light district” is located here. As a general rule, you should avoid choosing hotels in Paquis, except those located by the sea. Some of the seafront hotels are among the finest in Geneva.

Travel to Geneva

Travel to Geneva

As of today (summer 2019), both SAS and Norwegian fly directly to Geneva three times a week. This is done by the different days, so you can avoid a stopover on almost all days of the week. The cheapest tickets are around NOK 700 per flight, while the normal price is up to NOK 2,000. The direct flight time is about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

With a stopover, you have a high number of options. Many of the flights are very affordable, with prices down to 800 kroner each way. At best, the journey will take about 4 hours from Oslo with a stopover.

Money and costs in Geneva

In Switzerland, Swiss francs are used, and the rate as of June 2019 is approximately 9 Norwegian kroner for each franc (Chf). Most hotels, nightclubs and restaurants accept Euros, but you should expect to get a somewhat poor exchange rate. It is best to withdraw cash at an ATM, or pay by card.

In terms of costs, Geneva is admittedly ranked as the fifth most expensive city in the world, but here it is actually relatively affordable to stay in a hotel. You will find many four-star accommodations that maintain a good standard, where prices can be down to 1000 kroner a night for a double room. At the same time, it is no problem to spend many times more per night, if you stay at one of the luxury hotels.

Eating out, however, is not reasonable, and prices may be somewhat higher than even in Oslo. Expect that a three-course dinner for two people, at a decent restaurant, costs about 1000 kroner and up. Beverages in nightclubs cost about the same as in Norway.