Destination Guides

Hidden Gems of Geneva, Switzerland

Before, during, and after my recent trip, as I listed the stops I had planned, people always stopped me at Geneva and asked why it was on the list. Well, as a proud Model United Nations nerd who spent four years of undergrad traveling the US and pretending to be a diplomat at conferences, I could not pass up the chance to visit the UN in Geneva. In addition, the flight to Geneva from Amsterdam cost under $20 so Geneva made its way onto the list of stops.

While only there for 2 full days and one night, Geneva was hands down my favorite stop on the trip, which is surprising because I expected that prize to go to Barcelona, but more on that later. Knowing that we only had a short time there, my friend and I made sure to hit the ground running as soon as we arrived. We ditched our bags at our hostel, and began our adventure through the city, lucky enough to have perfect weather! We did not have a set plan for what we wanted to accomplish so most of what we saw were random places we stumbled upon and honestly that may have been the best part! So if you are heading to Geneva consider wandering over to these amazing spots.

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1. The United Nations

Okay, well the United Nations doesn’t exactly qualify as a “Hidden Gem”, but I feel like the average person would probably overlook it in terms of places worth visiting on a vacation, but as a UN nerd who spent her undergraduate years competing in Model UN competitions throughout the US and Canada, this was the part I was most excited about. Now, I was unable to actually go on the tour of the Palace of Nations, because I was only there on a weekend and they don’t give tours on Saturdays until the summer months, but I would 100% have gone if I could have. Just being outside this building and seeing the flags of the member states was powerful and emotional. So embrace your inner nerd and visit the UN!

2. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

Visiting this museum was one of the most moving experiences since a great deal of it focuses on the testimonies of individuals who have survived tragedies of some kind thanks to help from the Red Cross/Red Crescent. From refugees to POWs and child soldiers, the exhibits are well thought out and designed to evoke emotion from all who visit. The museum also does an amazing job of using the testimonies of these individuals to also tell the story of the Red Cross from its creation to the present. This museum may be at the top of a hill far from the center of Geneva(seriously, wear good walking shoes), but it will be a humbling experience worth having.

3. The Botanical Gardens

I got really lucky on my visit to Geneva and the weather was absolutely amazing. We had 60 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and sun for the majority of both days making it perfect for wandering the Gardens. While it was still only early Spring when I visited, the gardens were beautiful and I would have loved nothing more than to curl up on a bench and enjoy the sunshine and a good book. If you have the time, and the weather cooperates, I would highly recommend grabbing a towel/blanket/yoga mat and spending a few hours just relaxing and exploring the different areas of the Gardens.

4. Perle du Lac Park and the shore of Lake Geneva

After leaving the Botanical Gardens, rather than taking a bus back towards the center of town, my friend and I decided to walk back along the shoreline of the lake, and in doing so discovered Perle du Lac and its beautiful green spaces and views of Lake Geneva, the Jet d’Eau and Mont-Saleve. Not only were the views and the park itself beautiful, there were also a handful of little restaurants and coffee shops throughout the park for those interested in grabbing a bite to eat. Perle du Lac is also where I discovered hidden gem #5 and my favorite part of the city of Geneva.

5. The History of Science Museum

As a current History of Science graduate student and complete nerd, I quite literally jumped for joy upon discovering this museum. My friend and I stumbled upon it during our stroll through Perle du Lac and decided to wander inside since there was no admission fee! From the 17th to the 19th century, Geneva was a major crossroad for European science and this museum captures some of the many important discoveries by scientists affiliated with Geneva. Even if science or history aren’t your cup of tea, the Museum is worth stopping into for the view of Lake Geneva from the second floor.

6. The Flower Clock and English Gardens

If you haven’t noticed, a recurring theme of my time in Geneva was visits to parks. Maybe it was the perfect weather or my desire to be outside after a full week spent inside museums, but alas the parks in Geneva are amazing and this one is no different. Basically its a pretty typical English Garden, with a cool brunch restaurant in the middle of it. The crowning glory is the giant clock made entirely of flowers. First of all, its beautiful and and second of all, its really convenient if your phone just died and you want to know the time. This park is also right on the edge of the Lake so it also boasts some of the most wonderful views in the city.
View of the Jet d’Eau from the English Gardens

Other points of interest

In addition to main points I mentioned above, there were a handful of other places we either barely saw or didn’t get a chance to see because of time, but they all came highly recommended as places to visit.

Places I Saw

The Natural History Museum
The Old Town and the Reformation Wall
Smurfs Building

Places I Missed that you should still go!

The Opera House

Insider Tips

  • Dress in layers. This is always good advice but particularly when I was in Geneva the temperature difference from midday to evening was rather drastic and I was thankful for my many layers. My giant Blanket Scarf was definitely the most useful layer because it also functioned as a blanket to sit on in the many parks.
  • WEAR GOOD WALKING SHOES. I made the mistake of wearing my boots the first day when we did more walking and my feet paid the price. My favorite walking shoes are my Five Fingers Sneakers. 10/10 recommend them.
  • If you can, do some of the nature stuff outside the city center, like hiking Mont-Saleve. I didn’t have time this trip but I am already planning my next trip to go hiking in the area because it was so beautiful.
The best part about our trip to Geneva was the unexpectedness of it! We booked it on a whim and it turned out to be one of our favorite stops. So on your next trip, take a risk with a less popular destination with a cheap flight or follow my lead and head over to Geneva!
From one Misguided Millennial to the world, these were my favorite parts of Geneva and I hope they can help you plan your next trip.

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