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2 Days in Geneva Itinerary For First Time Visitors

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If stunning lake views, unique natural phenomena and history interest you, then might I suggest spending a whirlwind 2 days in Geneva, Switzerland?

When we visited Geneva earlier this year, we were pleasantly surprised with this unassuming European city. Now, with the help of our 48-hour Geneva itinerary, you can enjoy all the same things we did. But first…

Is 2 Days in Geneva Enough Time?

2 days in Geneva is enough time to see the main sights in the Old Town and by the side of Lake Geneva.

However, if you want to explore more of the city, or take advantage of tours and day trips while you’re there, then you’ll likely want to stay for an extra day or two.

That said, if you only have 2 days to spare, read on to find out how you can make the most of them.

Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva’s Old Town is full of pretty architecture like this church

2 Days in Geneva Itinerary For First Time Visitors

This 48-hour Geneva itinerary assumes you have a full two days to explore.

Ideally, you’d arrive in the morning on the first day and leave in the evening (or later) on the second day.

If you have less time to spend than that, then you might find our one day Geneva itinerary helpful.

Day 1: Botanical Garden & Lake Geneva Sights

To help you get your bearings in Geneva when you first arrive, you might enjoy wandering by the side of Lake Geneva.

While the views across the lake (and towards Mont Blanc) are well worth taking the time to admire in their own right, there are also lots of other beautiful attractions in this area.

Botanical Garden

Geneva Botanical Garden & Conservatory
The Conservatory in Geneva’s Botanical Garden

Up first is the Botanical Garden in Pregny-Chambésy, which is home to more than 12,000 species of plants ranging from local species to more exotic types.

You can even wander through a tranquil zen garden here, which has its very own Torii gate and Bamboo walkway.

The Torii gate inside Geneva's Botanical Gardens
The Torii gate and wisteria in Geneva’s Botanical Garden

And don’t forget to take a look inside the Conservatory where you can climb upstairs and admire exotic palm trees from above!

The Botanical Garden is free to visit and you can easily spend two or three hours here.

Top Tip: Depending on which entrance you use to enter the Botanical Garden, you might actually wander past the infamous ‘Broken Chair’ monument. It sits close to the edge of the southern side of the gardens. We happened to catch a quick glimpse of it as the bus meandered past, which was a nice bonus when we had limited time to explore.

Lake Geneva

Once you’ve seen all there is to see in the Botanical Garden, follow the signs for Parc de La Perle du Lac and you’ll soon find Lake Geneva, which is just calling for you to spend an hour or two walking alongside it.

You can even see Mont Blanc across the lake on a clear day!

Views of Mont Blanc across Lake Geneva
Views of Lake Geneva with Mont Blanc as a backdrop

Brunswick Monument

During your walk, you should also take some time to photograph the Brunswick Monument, which is a mausoleum dating back to 1879.

Brunswick Monument in Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva’s Brunswick Monument looking all kinds of gothic

It was built to commemorate Charles II, Duke of Brunswick and is said to resemble the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy.

You’ll find the monument along Quai du Mont-Blanc within about a 20-minute walk of Parc de La Perle du Lac.

Geneva Flower Clock

Also overlooking Lake Geneva is the “Flower Clock” in Jardin Anglais.

Made from flowers, this clock really tells the time and changes throughout the year based on which flowers are in season at which time.

Sadly when we visited, some council workers were changing the flowers, so we weren’t able to get a clear shot of it. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck!

Jet d’Eau

And of course, I can’t possibly write a Geneva itinerary without mentioning Jet d’Eau, which is probably one of Geneva’s most well-known attractions.

This iconic fountain propels water over 140 metres (460 ft) in the air! Because of this, the fountain doesn’t operate on windy days. (Another unlucky blow for us!)

Lake Geneva Cruise

Finally, if you have time, you might enjoy a cruise along Lake Geneva.

It’s included in the Geneva City Pass or you can book your ticket separately via Get Your Guide.

It’s a very popular experience with families and boat enthusiasts because you can see the spinning motor inside the boat.

That said, if this doesn’t excite you, then you might want to skip it as we personally think you can enjoy the same lake views from the shore… for free.

Views of Lake Geneva from Parc de la Perle du Lac
Pretty views of Lake Geneva from the shore…

Day 2: Geneva’s Old Town & Parc des Bastions

On your second day, let’s head into Geneva’s Old Town.

There’s plenty to see here to warrant a full day of exploring – especially if you love history and architecture.

Saint Peter’s Cathedral & Reformation Museum

Perhaps one of the most well-known landmarks in this area of Geneva is Saint Peter’s Cathedral aka the symbol of the Protestant Reformation.

While the Cathedral was built in the 12th century, it’s undergone many changes over the years. Thanks in large part to its connection with the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

Today, you can venture inside the Cathedral for free. Also, for as little as 5 Swiss Francs (CHF), you can climb the 157 steps to the top of the Cathedral’s towers and admire the panoramic city views.

If you’re particularly interested in the history of the Reformation, then you’ll also find the International Museum of the Reformation just around the corner from the Cathedral.

Top Tip: If you have the Geneva City Pass, then you can enjoy free entry to both the Cathedral Towers and the Reformation Museum.

Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné

While you’re in this area of Geneva, you’ll also find the Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné just behind the Cathedral, which also boasts pretty rooftop views.

Rooftop views from Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubigné in Geneva, Switzerland
Pretty rooftop views from Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné during golden hour

Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné is also home to some interesting mosaics hidden in a corner of the terrace. Most people miss seeing them as they’re very well hidden!

The Terrasse Agrippa-d'Aubigné mosaics
The Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné mosaics are well hidden, yet interesting to see!

So well hidden – in fact – that I’ve actually struggled to find detailed information about them.

That said, according to this local outdoor escape game company, the mosaics were built in 1952 and “represent the two rivers that meet in Geneva, the Rhône and the Arve, as well as Neptune, the Greek god of the rivers.”

Speaking of the meeting of two rivers, if you have time, then you’ll love visiting Pointe de la Jonction. I talk more about this in the bonus things to do section at the end of this blog post.

Reformation Wall & Parc des Bastions

The Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva’s Reformation Wall is another interesting landmark

Just going back to the Reformation for one more moment, you’ll also find the iconic 5-metre-high Reformation Wall in Parc des Bastions.

It’s roughly a 10-minute walk from Saint Peter’s Cathedral and is well worth checking out!

While you’re here, you can also enjoy a wander around the park or simply sit on one of the many benches and reflect on your time in Geneva (while resting your feet!)

Place Bourg-de-Four

The pretty square of Place Bourg-de-Four is less than a 10-minute walk from the Reformation Wall and is also well worth seeing.

Dating back to the 9th century (at least), Place Bourg-de-Four is the oldest square in Geneva.

It’s home to stunning architecture, a pretty fountain and many a cafe to sit and watch the world go by with a coffee in hand.

Where To Stay For Your 2 Days in Geneva

Given how easy it is to get around Geneva (more on this in a moment), there are lots of great areas to stay in for your city break.

If you’re travelling to Geneva by train, then you might want to stay near Gare de Genève (the main train station) on Place de Cornavin.

Or maybe you’re flying into Geneva and would prefer to stay near the airport?

We stayed at this ibis Budget hotel, which was cheap and very conveniently located for a short stay.

We were given a free public transport pass to use for the duration of our stay, which I believe is a common thing in Geneva.

There’s a bus stop within a 2-minute walk of the hotel, as well as a large shopping mall and grocery stores just across the road. Very handy!

Alternatively, other top-rated mid-range hotels in Geneva (as recommended by other travellers) include:

Find more top places to stay in Geneva via Booking.com >>

Cathedral door in Geneva, Switzerland
Old doors like this invite me to take photos of them!

Getting Around Geneva

Speaking of free public transport, this is definitely the easiest way to get around Geneva.

The Geneva Public Transport Network (UNIRESO) is an interconnected system of buses, trams, trains and even shuttle boats (aka mouettes) in and around the city.

And the best bit?

The entire system uses the same ticket, so your transport pass allows you to access any of these routes as many times a day as you need to get from A to B.

While Geneva has a tap-on/tap-off system, you don’t need to use this as a visitor. Your free transport pass will be sent to you via email and you simply show that if you’re asked to along with some ID.

During our trip, we used lots and lots of buses and trams and we weren’t ever asked to show our tickets. Geneva is such a refreshingly trusting city!

Top Tip: If you have the Geneva City Pass, then that also includes free use of public transport within the city. This is especially handy if you’re not staying within Geneva itself, or if you’re using private accommodation. Because in these cases, you won’t receive a free transport pass as standard from your hotel.

Getting to Geneva

Given Geneva’s significant importance within the United Nations (the city is home to one of the four major UN offices), you can expect that it’s a well-connected city.

With 8 platforms and over 700 daily train departures, Geneva’s main train station (Gare de Genève) is the third largest in all of Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Geneva’s airport serves many European destinations (including our hometown of Bristol), as well as plenty of long-haul flights to the US, Canada, the Middle East and beyond.

BONUS: Popular Day Trips From Geneva & Other Things To Do

If you’ll be spending longer in Geneva, or you’re looking for other things to do during your trip, then here are three places you’ll love seeing!

1. Pointe de la Jonction in Geneva

Pointe de la Jonction is where the two rivers that run through different parts of Geneva meet. These are the Rhône and the Arve.

It’s so cool to see their “meeting place” because the rivers are different colours!

Views of Pointe de la Jonction from the overlooking viaduct
Views of Pointe de la Jonction as seen from the overlooking viaduct

The best place to see this phenomenon is on top of the viaduct: Viaduc de la Jonction, which overlooks Pointe de la Jonction.

You’ll need to climb some steep steps and hills to get to the top of the viaduct, but there’s a clear walking trail you can follow to do so. And it’s well worth it if you have the time!

2. Mont Salève in France

Even though Mont Salève is in France, it’s often touted as one of the top things to do in Geneva because the cable car to the top of the mountain is located very close to the Swiss-France border.

That also means it’s usually described as one of the easiest day trips from Geneva.

Sadly, the cable car was closed when we visited. And while you can hike to the top and back down again, we didn’t have time for this within our own Geneva itinerary. Perhaps you’ll have better luck?

3. Annecy in France

Annecy in France
Annecy in France is a fabulous day trip from Geneva if you have time

Speaking of easy day trips from Geneva, you can also visit the stunning alpine town of Annecy in France.

It takes roughly 45 minutes to drive to Annecy from Geneva, or you can use public transport and be there in around 90 minutes or so.

We joined this coach tour, which meant we spent a full morning exploring Annecy, which was an absolute pleasure. We highly recommend it if you have time.

I hope you’ve found our 2 days in Geneva itinerary chock-full of information ahead of your trip. But if you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below…

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2 Days in Geneva Itinerary For First Time Visitors
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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