Although few cities can match up to Geneva’s gorgeous setting near Lake Geneva with the Alpine peaks towering behind it, there’s so much more to see outside the major city. Alpine towns and lakeside cities surround Geneva and can easily be reached via trains, ferries, or cars. Fascinating museums and incredible architecture are waiting to be discovered.
If you are an adventurous traveler looking to get more out of your vacation to Geneva, here are 7 day trip ideas for you:
Less than an hour's drive
1. Admire the view from Mont Salève, the Balcony of Geneva
Located on the French border, south of Geneva, Mont Salève is a limestone ridge that is popular with day trippers from Geneva and nearby towns in France. Also called the “Balcony of Geneva”, the mountain ridge offers breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. It’s accessible with a 30-minute drive from Geneva via the A1a motorway, or you can take a 6-minute cable car ride from the Swiss municipality of Veyrier.
The cable car carries visitors to an altitude of 1,100 metres (3,609 feet), just 300 metres (984 feet) lower than the summit of Mont Salève. Hiking and rock climbing are just two of the popular activities at this destination. Other activities include paragliding, mountain biking, and, of course, cross-country skiing in the winter.
Mont Salève Cable Car
Address: Route du Téléphérique, 74100 Monnetier-Mornex, France
Price: Adults 7.60 EUR (8.60 USD) one way, 11.80 EUR (13.30 USD) round trip; children aged 3 to 16 (must be accompanied by an adult) 4.50 EUR (5.10 USD) one way, 6.50 EUR (7.30 USD) round trip. Click here for a full list of rates
Opening Hours: April: Daily except Monday: 9.30 am to 6 pm 1st May to 30th September: Sunday to Wednesday 9.30 am to 7 pm, Thursday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 11 pm 1st October to 13th November: Daily except Monday: 9.30 am to 6 pm
Contact: +33 4 50 39 86 86
Website: Mont Salève Cable Car
2. Stroll down the charming streets of Annecy, France
The lovely French town of Annecy is situated next to a lake, with canals and pedestrian bridges throughout the town. Reachable within a 40-minute drive from Geneva via the A41 motorway, this old town is a popular day-trip location, especially in the summer months.
Take a walk down the narrow streets, lined with houses laid out parallel to the canal, and soak up the medieval architecture that contributes to the beauty of Annecy. Although the town is known for its incredible lake-front beaches, the main landmark you must visit is the Palais de l'Isle, a 12th-century fortress that was once a prison. Today, it stands as a museum with exhibits of the architecture and history of the region and is among the most photographed sights in town.
Palais de l'Isle
Address: 3 Passage de l'Île, 74000 Annecy, France
Price: Free entry
Opening Hours: From Wednesday 1st of June to Sunday 25th September 2016, every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 pm and 6 pm From Wednesday 7th December 2016 to Sunday 5th March 2017, every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 pm and 5 pm
Duration: around 3 hours required
Contact: +33 4 56 49 40 37
Website: Palais de l'Isle
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While usually thought of as a centre of business and commerce, Lausanne is also a beautiful city to spend a day in. The Olympic Capital, home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, is a 50-minute drive from Geneva via the A1 motorway. Take a tour of the Olympic Museum or simply walk around and marvel at the architecture within the city. The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne, also known as Lausanne Cathedral, is an icon to visit, and the unique pipe organ with a staggering 7,000 pipes housed within the cathedral is of worthy mention.
The municipality of Morges is only a 15-minute drive away. Spend an afternoon strolling down its cobbled main street and visit the shops and patisseries that line the street if you’d rather not stay in the city for too long.
Duration: 10 hours
An hour's drive or more
4. Treat yourself in Vevey, the birthplace of milk chocolate
Apart from being the birthplace of milk chocolate, Vevey is a pretty town that sits along the edge of the lake. Vevey can be reached from Geneva by an hour’s train ride, or an hour’s drive via the A1 and A9 motorway. In the centre, you’ll find one of Europe’s largest market squares, where you can find local produce and crafts. If you’re feeling guilty after gorging on too much Swiss chocolate, drop by the Alimentarium, a museum dedicated to nutrition. In the museum, you can learn more about the scientific, cultural, and artistic aspects of food and nourishment. In summer, the town is big on water sports and is also a walkers’ and cyclists’ paradise.
Explore the town easily on foot or wheels. In winter, families are welcomed to its gentle slopes for skiing and snow-shoe walks. During the chilly season, the Les Avants-Sonloup funicular railway leads to a 2.3-kilometre-long (1.4-mile-long) toboggan run, a favourite with young and old alike.
Läderach Chocolate Tour
Address: Rue du Théâtre 8, 1800 Vevey, Switzerland
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6.30 pm. Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm
Duration: around 2 hours required
Contact: + 41 21 921 37 37
Neatly tucked between the beautiful shore of Lake Geneva and the foot of the Alps is the magnificent Château de Chillon. Standing since the 9th century, Château de Chillon has withstood the test of time and is one of Switzerland’s most-visited castles. Tours are held in the castle and visitors have access to great halls, courtyards, and a series of bedrooms. Murals and furnishings over a century old can be gazed upon, and dungeons of old legends can be explored. Step beneath this ancient structure and you can see its original foundation and underground caverns carved out of solid bedrock. Daily guided and self-guided tours are offered all year round. Château de Chillon is a 1-hour drive from Geneva along the A1 and A9 motorway, and it is just 20 minutes from Vevey.
Winter Tour to Montreux and Tour of Château de Chillon
Price: from 157 USD
Duration: around 9 hours required
Duration: 10 hours
After an hour’s drive on the A40 motorway, you’ll find yourself at the Arve Valley in the small mountain resort of Chamonix. The French commune sits near the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy, and resides at the foot of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s tallest peak at 4,800 metres (15,748 feet). Although most visitors go to Chamonix for its access to the Alps, Chamonix itself is a beautiful town. The streets are lined with chalets, shops, and cafes for you to enjoy a warm drink while admiring the scenery. The township is a nice treat from the busy life in Geneva and, being the first site to host the winter Olympics in 1924, it’s no surprise that skiing is a popular sport here. Take a trip up Mont Blanc and ski down the highest peak of the Alps if you’re up for a challenge.
Chamonix Sightseeing Tour from Geneva
Price: from 178 USD
Duration: around 10 hours required
Duration: 10 hours
The treats offered in Gruyères are alone worth the 80-minute drive from Geneva. The medieval town can be reached via the A1 motorway. Start your trip in Gruyères with a tour around Maison Cailler, a Swiss chocolate factory. Let your senses run wild in this chocolate lover’s paradise and learn a thing or two from their chocolatiers.
Looking for something savoury to pair with the sweet chocolate? Visit this hilltop village and watch the cheese that was named after this town being made before delighting in a sample. When you’re done tasting the local delicacies, take a walk to the edge of the town to Château de Gruyères. The imposing Gruyères Castle can be found at the end of an old cobblestone road that winds through the middle of the small town. Lastly, take in the views as you ride on one of Switzerland’s most scenic trains, the GoldenPass Panoramic, and feast your eyes on the gorgeous Alpine landscapes.
Day Trip to Gruyères including Golden Panoramic Express Train
Price: from 231 USD
Duration: around 10 hours required
Duration: 9 hours
Enjoy the fresh Alpine air!
Now that you know what lies a short drive away, start planning your day trips from Geneva! Although Geneva is a beautiful city, the small towns around have many interesting attractions as well. Explore the rest that the Swiss mountains have to offer! Rent a scooter to get around like the locals do, and you’ll also get a better taste of the fresh Swiss air. Alternatively, if you would enjoy the luxury of being guided to some fantastic destinations with little planning required on your part, book an organised tour to help maximise your time.
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