Cheap Things To Do In Geneva: How To Do The Swiss City On The Cheap
The Debrief: Just because the chocolate capital of the world sounds expensive, doesn't mean it has to be
Geneva is home to chocolate, cheese, luxury watchmakers, and super swanky restaurants – all of which have insane price tags (yep, even the cheese). But don’t let that put you off. It’s actually possibly to enjoy the cute Swiss city even if you don’t have millions to drop on a diamond-encrusted Rolex.
How to get there
Geneva is located in the French-speaking southwest corner of Switzerland on the stunning Lake Geneva (Lac Léman to the locals). You can technically get the train there, but it costs a bomb and takes forever, so unless another Icelandic volcano erupts and spews hot ash everywhere, it’s best to hop on an EasyJet flight. They fly from Stansted, Gatwick, Manchester, Liverpool and a few others across the UK.
If you’re savvy with booking ahead, and define ‘weekend’ pretty loosely, you could be parting with as little as £50 for the return trip. The flight’s just an hour and a half.
Geneva is a couple of miles from the airport, and takes about 15 minutes on the train. Bag yourself a free ticket in the Arrivals hall – it covers any journey for 80 minutes after you land. The city itself is small and compact, so it’s easy to explore on foot.
Where to stay
Like most places, Airbnb is your friend here – possibly more so in Geneva, where hotel prices are ridic. This cute lil’ studio in the old town costs £33 each per night, while this airy space charges around £25 per person. Closer to the lake, this one-bed and this studio both have balconies and work out at around £33 each.
Places to eat and drink
For a budget brekkie, grab a croissant from one of the city’s many bakeries and eat it while you explore the pretty cobbled streets. Hit up recently opened Birdie for awesome coffee, where a flat white will cost CHF5 (£3).
Many of Geneva’s restaurants offer fairly affordable lunch deals. Check out Café du Bourg-du-Four, a quirky bistro that does great rösti (a must while in Switzerland). Cottage Café is a kitschy little cottage on the waterfront, where you can keep costs down with the tapas menu. Also lake-side is La Buvette des Bains – perfect for people watching in summer, or cosy up in the cabin with decently priced fondue in winter.
For free-ish grub, take the 10-minute bus ride to Ferney, a town just across the French border (the euros make everything a bit more affordable). There’s a big, bustling Saturday food market selling everything from spices and seafood to handmade pasta. Best of all, the rules of free samples (grab quickly and shuffle away guiltily) don’t seem to apply here. Vendors will positively force nibbles upon you so you can taste brie, onion tarts, colourful macaroons and loads more with no obligation to buy.
Swiss chocolate is the shit – don’t leave without trying some. Geneva-based chocolatier Favarger does tastings for CHF15 (£9) and drooling browsing in Martel shops is totally free. Suss out the chocs then nip into a supermarket like Coop and pick them up for a fraction of the price.
In the evening, head to Le Kraken, a cool nautical-themed spot with a good selection of beer.
Places to visit
Explore the lush Botanical Gardens where entry is free, and track down the ornate Russian Orthodox church with its stunning gold roof. You can also see the permanent exhibitions at the impressive Musée d’Art et d’Histoire for free.
Surprisingly, Geneva’s Christmas market is a bit… well, crap. So it’s well worth taking the hour-long train journey (which has killer views across the lake to the Alps) to Montreux, home to one of Switzerland’s best Christmas markets, where fairy-lit market stalls line the waterfront. The Swiss train service even offers market-goers discounted tickets, plus money off mulled wine and pretzels – score!
For more Chrimbo action back in Geneva, have a good nosy at the haute couture shop windows lining the Rue du Rhône, where stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada will be decked out in festive displays.
Parc des Bastions is a picturesque park in the middle of the city where you can play giant chess and draughts. You’ll have to put up with grumpy old men passing judgemental comments on your not-so-mad chess skillz, but hey, it’s free.
The Saturday and Wednesday flea market at Plainpalais is great for a rummage. Sure, you’ll have to sift through broken 90s CDs and creepy plastic dolls, but you might discover a real treasure to take home.
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