The picturesque Lake Geneva, locally known as Lac Léman, is the biggest lake in Switzerland, as well as one of the biggest across Europe. The crescent-shaped body of water is actually shared by two countries: Switzerland and France. Travelers visit the areas around the lake for their natural beauty, particularly the eastern section, which resembles the Alpine scenery featured in postcards. Its beauty is not the only attraction of the region: it also features a host of activities, which may differ depending on the time of the year. Here is a guide to Lake Geneva, Switzerland, that you can use to find your way across this region.
Things to do / highlights
Activities in or by the lake
Of course, there are also activities in or around Lake Geneva that you can check out. You can stroll along one of the lakeside parks. If you want to see the lake from a different angle, you can join one of the short cruises, which run for about an hour or two, where you can spot some landmarks of both France and Switzerland. If you want to get some exercise while enjoying great views, there are hiking trails around the lake that you can explore.
Here are also some landmarks right beside the lake worth a visit.
Cathedral of St. Pierre
You will need to climb over 150 steps to get to the Cathedral of St. Pierre, but the effort is worth it, if only for the great views that you can enjoy at the top. If you’re a fan of history and religion, you may appreciate the fact that John Calvin once preached here. There’s also a Roman ruins museum under the cathedral.
If you’re a fan of film legend Charlie Chaplin, there’s a museum that’s dedicated to his life and his body of work in Vevey.
If you love picturesque destinations, be sure to head to Chillon Castle, which is located right on the shores of Lake Geneva. The building, which was built in the 13th-century, has served as a summer home of royalty and prison in its lifetime.
Originally built to help regulate the hydroelectric plant, the Jet d’Eau, which literally means water jet, is one of the most easily identifiable landmarks of Geneva.
One of the most popular products in Switzerland is its wine. Check out where these are made by visiting the vineyards of Lavaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which runs for 30 km (18.6 mi). If you’re in town at the beginning of spring, you can even check out the caves ouvertes (open cellars), wherein local wine producers offer their products at cheaper rates.
Maison Tavel is Geneva’s oldest private residence, built during the medieval era. If you have time, you can take a tour of the house.
If you want to indulge yourself, spend some time in the resort town of Montreaux, which is located on the eastern banks of Lake Geneva. If you’re a fan of music and literature, you may also want to spend some time here, as its history is closely tied to poets and musicians. In fact, Queen recorded many of its albums here, and there’s even a statue of Freddie Mercury in town.
If you want to learn more about the history of Geneva, head over to the Old Town, where you can catch glimpses of its colorful past. While you’re at it, you may also want to check out the local museums to get your history fix.
United Nations and Red Cross
Did you know that the European Headquarters of the United Nations is located in Geneva, Switzerland? Drop by and visit the institution that has come to be associated with human rights across the globe. You may also want to check out the first Red Cross building, which also comes with a museum that showcases the rich history of the humanitarian organization.
What to eat
Auberge de l’Onde
Jérôme Aké Béda, the wine director and general manager, has been recognized as Switzerland’s best sommelier, so you know for sure that their wines are on point. He and the staff can make recommendations to guarantee the perfect wine pairings on their menu.
If you prefer wining over dining, be sure to head over Lavaux Vinorama, a wine bar that offers nearly 300 labels of red and white wines. The menu changes regularly to offer new products from local growers.
Les Frères Dubois
This wine bar is known for offering older vintages in its wine menu.
Restaurant La Pêcherie
This restaurant is located right by the lake, affording guests with fantastic views of the water. The scenery, however, is not the only thing that this establishment offers. It also has a great seafood menu, which includes perch that comes from the lake.
Things to buy
You can’t talk about Switzerland without discussing its world-famous chocolates. Get limited edition chocolates from Du Rhone Chocolatier. Be sure to try out Pavé de Geneva, which is the specialty of Geneva.
Cheese fanatics may want to leave enough space in their luggage for authentic Swiss cheeses. Must-buys are raclette and gruyère cheese. Visit Cheese Box at Wells Street, Lake Geneva.
Clocks and watches
Swiss timepieces are known the world over for their high quality, and Geneva itself is famous for being the home of popular watch brands. If you want to get a piece to immortalize your trip to the region, get a timepiece from Bucherer during your visit.
Swiss army knife
Here’s another item that’s come to be associated with Switzerland. At Victorinox, you can even assemble your own.
At the baggage claim area in the airport, be sure to grab a free public transport ticket for a hassle-free trip to your accommodation.
Free or cheap public transport
Ask your hotel if you can get a Geneva Transport Card, which allows you to take public transport for free (make sure to bring your passport with you if you plan on using this card). Alternatively, you can purchase a one-week pass, which you can use on buses, trams, and mouettes, making this a great option for those who’ll be using public transport during their stay in Lake Geneva.
Free or discounted passes
Be sure to drop by the tourism office, as they sometimes offer free or discounted passes to the attractions around the area. You may also want to get a Swiss Museum Pass, which allows you cheaper access to the museums, castles, and galleries in Switzerland.
Make sure to bring your water bottle with you on your trip, as there are water fountains around the area where you can get refills for free.
How to get there
Geneva has its own airport, so you can easily fly in and out of the area from here.
Many of the towns by Lake Geneva can be accessed by train.
You can actually take a ferry boat to some of the towns along Lake Geneva if you want to try a leisurely way of traveling.
You can rent a car to get to this area, however, this is not advisable given the heavy traffic. What’s more, there’s plenty of public transport options once you get here.
Lake Geneva information
Address: Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Official website: Lake Geneva
Department of tourism: Visit Switzerland
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