Planes, trains, automobiles..and transfers!
Mountain Drop-offs offers VIP and private transfers to and from Geneva’s main downtown train station (Genève-Cornavin) directly to and from the main French and Swiss Alp resorts.
Alternatively, you can hop on a train to the airport station Genève-Cointrin (they run every 10-15 minutes and take just 8 minutes) and get your usual MDO shared transfer from Geneva Airport. And of course, our transfer service runs all year round.
Travelling by train to Geneva by train from London takes around 6hrs 15mins. It’s Eurostar from St Pancras, then a change at Lille on to a TGV Lyria service, which will bring you straight to the heart of Geneva city centre. When you count how long before your flight you have to be at the airport etc, for many, the train could actually be quicker than flying.
And a word of advice on driving a car in Geneva – there’s no cheap parking in Geneva City Centre and traffic jams at commuting times are legendary. Take the very efficient tram/bus/rail connections and use Mountain Drop-offs to whisk you away to the alpine ski resorts.Guide section
Where is Geneva?
Many of us arrive at and depart from Geneva International Airport without even giving the city of Geneva itself a second thought. Often mistaken for being the capital of Switzerland (it’s actually Berne!), Geneva is located on the very western end of Lac Léman, often known as Lake Geneva.
Geneva’s city centre, which is actually only 4km away from Geneva airport, is easily accessible. If you thought Switzerland was all about cuckoo clocks, chocolate and secret bank accounts, then think again – Geneva is a multi-cultural and vibrant city that is bursting with culture and history as well!
Geneva is a truly global city, with a number of international organisations present including the World Health Organisation, the Red Cross and the United Nation’s ‘Palais des Nations’, which you can actually visit. No wonder the city is dubbed ‘Peace Capital’.
Even the science geeks get a mention, with the CERN physics laboratory and research centre near Geneva, where English scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented a little old thing they called the World Wide Web.
Flying into Geneva over Lac Léman
The lake is one of the largest in western Europe and the city centre has grown around the point where the River Rhone exits the lake. When you fly in to and out of Geneva Airport, the flight path either takes you over the picturesque Jura mountains, or over the lake. Passing France’s lovely medieval Yvoire, whilst flying along the middle of the lake, is a stunning approach to landing.
If your flight path into the airport does take you over Yvoire, look out for the luxury lake-side villas with private swimming pools and enjoy a sneaky aerial peak of Geneva’s famous landmark the ‘Jet d’Eau’ water fountain that propels water up to 140m in the air over the lake.
Geneva City – a hidden Swiss diamond!
Geneva is quite a hidden gem, with lots of things to see and do if you look hard enough (it’s that Swiss discretion!). The old town (Vieille Ville) high up on the hill is very pretty, with the impressive St Pierre Cathedral and the Place du Bourg de Four with cafes, galleries, restaurants and boutiques.
The area around Bel-Air (behind the busy main bridge called the Pont du Mont Blanc) is very bohemian and cool, with lovely little riverside bars with deck chairs on the river’s edge and music venues like Usine. Similarly, the Planpalais area has a fab multi-cultural market with street food stalls galore, skatepark and playgrounds.
Botanical gardens & museums galore
On the other side of the famous Pont du Mont Blanc bridge, take a lakeside walk past all the posh hotels and you’ll arrive at the lovely Botanical Gardens. Filled with stunning flower and plant displays as you’d expect, it’s also a great place for kids to play and have something to eat in the restaurant. And for costly Geneva it’s great value, as access is free!
Culture vultures will love the likes of the Patek Philippe Museum in the ornate headquarters of this luxury Geneva-based master watchmakers. Modern art is superbly represented with the Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in a very funky industrial-style building. And a great ‘rainy day’ option is a visit to the Musee d’Histoire Naturelle that the kids will absolutely love.
Geneva city is full of arts, culture and museums with fetes and festivals all year round, so it’s no surprising it has been voted one of the best short break locations in Europe. There’s always lots going on.
Yes, it’s an expensive city, but many of the events are free and entry to most of the museums is free too. Even those that have paid entry open their doors for free on the first Sunday in every month.
Here’s our pick of annual events in Geneva:
Festival Antigel – Jan/Feb
From mid Jan to mid Feb it might be winter, but the whole idea of this multi-channel festival will melt your frozen heart (hence the name!). There is a total of 21 different communes taking part, hosting everything from live music and dance, to unusual spectacles, sport and chill out events. Browse the full programme at www.antigel.ch
Geneva Street Food Festival – June
Head to the Promenade Saint-Antoine to sit down and eat street food in conviviality! Big long benches and tables set up on this lovely pedestrianised avenue between the old town and the Museum of Art and History, mean everyone eats together at this fab foodie festival in mid June every year. Well worth a visit.
Fête de la Musique – June
Towards the end of June every year, a full weekend is dedicated to all things music in Geneva. At venues across both the Rive Droite and Rive Gauche of the lake, there are concerts (all styles of music), spectacles and workshops for all ages to enjoy. It’s all free, so well worth checking out.
Musiques en Été – July
Organised by the City of Geneva, this is a summer-long programme of live music at some lovely venues around Geneva. From the beginning of July to August, the emphasis is very much on classical and jazz music, so it’s all nice and relaxed and chilled. Concerts take place at places like Parc de la Grange, the Town Hall courtyard and Victoria Hall. Ticket prices vary.
Fête Nationale – August
The 1st August is Fete Nationale and the whole of Switzerland parties hard. None more so than the city of Geneva, where Parc des Bastions hosts the celebrations. The programme changes every year, but it inevitably involves lots of food, drinks and some big, big fireworks by the lake. Oh and it’ll be a very late night for all involved too!
Fêtes de Genève – August
More partying on the lakeside in Geneva! Spread across the first two weeks of August, there’s a packed programme of events including shows, workshops, events, games, spectacles, live music and plenty of parties on the Geneva beach late into the night. Once again, Geneva shows it can party, but this time with its feet in the water!
Geneva International Film Festival on All Screens – November
The idea of this film festival held in early November, is that it combines cinema, television and new media to celebrate the role of the image maker and film maker. There are lots of events to watch and take part in, many of which are at the hub of the festival, that’s to say the Theatre Pitoeff in the bohemian Carouge area just outside Geneva centre.
Geneva Supercross International – December
On the first weekend of December every year, International Supercross comes to the Geneva Arena near the airport. A special motocross circuit is built inside the huge arena and the sound of two stroke mx bikes fills the air. Be wowed by the incredible freestyle skills of the riders over the big jumps. A great spectacle.
Fête d’Escalade – December
This weekend in early December commemorates the day the Ducs de Savoie soldiers clashed with the Genevans. Expect canon fire, battle re-enactments, marches, fires and all sorts of traditional stuff going down in the heart of the old town.
Live music in Geneva City & beyond
If you’re a fan of live music here’s a selection of gigs and concerts in the Geneva area that’ll get you dancing in the aisles:
Tribute to Sinatra – 15/3/20 – Théâtre du Léman – Grand Casino
Christophe Maé – 31/3/20 – Geneva Arena
Dub FX – 03/4/20 – PTR Usine
Alain Souchon – 09/4/20 – Geneva Arena
Jon Butler Trio – 01/5/20 – L’Alhambra
Tindersticks – 05/5/20 – L’Alhambra
Kraftwerk – 19/5/20 – Geneva Airport – part of the airport’s 100th anniversary celebrations
Patrick Bruel – 04/6/20 – Geneva Arena
Caribana Festival feat. Jax Jones et al – 17/6-21/6/20 – Various venues
Yannick Noah – 19/11/20 – Théâtre du Léman – Grand Casino
Queen Extravaganza – 21/3/21 – Geneva Arena
So there you have it. On the face of it, Geneva might not be the most exciting city break destination, but dig a little deeper and this discreet lakeside city will open up its world of music, food and culture for you.
If you’re booking a winter ski or summer mountain holiday to one of the nearby alpine resorts, why not bolt on a couple of days in Geneva City at the start or end of your stay and let Mountain Drop-offs take you there?