Last Updated on 10/12/2022 by secretmoona
Winter in Geneva is a great time to discover the second-largest city in Switzerland. Visiting at the end of the year allows you to enjoy the winter festivities, eat a fair amount of chocolate and cheese, and explore the quaint Old Town. Geneva is not only home to the United Nations and Lake Leman but also a city with plenty of art galleries and luxury shopping, including Swiss watches.
The city was on my bucket list of European cities to visit for a long time and I thought Geneva was the perfect city to celebrate my birthday. I found it to be a lovely city with friendly and welcoming people and scenic and panoramic views of the Alps, including Lake Leman (also known as Lake Geneva).
Preparing your trip
It’s easy to get to Geneva by air or train, depending on your departure.
You have the choice between easyJet (easyjet.com), Swiss (swiss.com), and BA (britishairways.com).
We travelled with British Airways using our Avios. We only paid only £35 and 8000 points each.
Alternatively, you can take the train. If you are in England, after taking the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, you can hop on the RER line D to Gare de Lyon ad then a high-speed TGV to Geneva. This can be a long journey, but it offers scenic views.
Tip: After the baggage claim, you can collect your free ticket to the town at Geneva airport. The machine that dispenses the tickets is easy to spot, with a queue forming in front of it! The cool thing about the city is that transport is free for tourists! Imagine if London or Paris handed out free tickets at Heathrow or Charles de Gaulle airports! Getting into Geneva is extremely easy as the train journey only takes 7 minutes.https://www.pinterest.com/pin/315814992612674262/
When to Visit Geneva?
Geneva is a city that can be visited at any time of the year. The summers are warm, but the winters are freezing and sometimes wet. In Summer, you can enjoy the city’s different attractions, and in winter, you can enjoy the Christmas lights and the sight of snowy Mont-Blanc (on a good day). Also, Geneva is so close to France you can hit the slopes and enjoy a day of snowboarding.
Weather in Geneva during the Winter months
Winter in Geneva starts in December and ends in February. As mentioned above, it can be very cold, so pack your warmest clothes, including gloves and scarves. Geneva has lots of lovely cafes and shops you could hang out to get some warmth. Here’s what Geneva’s temperatures look like in winter.
Geneva in December is a lovely time to visit with the Festival of Lights and Fete de L’Escalade. Temperatures range from zero in the morning to 6°C. December has the shortest days and the least amount of sunshine. If you are lucky, you might have some snow instead of rain.
Geneva in January: This is the coldest month in Geneva, with temperatures varying between -2°C in the morning to 5°C in the afternoon. Days are pretty sunny, with a bit of rain or snow.
Geneva in February: The last month of winter is chilly, with an average temperature between 1°C in the morning and seven °C in the afternoon. February is the month with the least rainfall, and like in January, you can expect some sunshine.
How Long Should You Stay in Geneva?
We spent three days in Geneva, and it should have been enough. However, due to the bad weather on the last day, we didn’t get to see or do much. Therefore I recommend four days to explore the city at your own pace. To help plan your trip, I recommend visiting the Geneva Tourist Information Centre for a detailed travel guide to the city and its attractions.
Living costs are relatively higher in Geneva, or Switzerland, for that matter. The country’s high currency is the Swiss franc. As guidance, a coffee will cost you £4.50 while a simple lunch (salad and coke) will be about £19.
Where to Stay: Hotel Rotary – MGallery by Sofitel
We stayed at Hotel Rotary Geneva MGallery by Sofitel, within walking distance of Geneva train station and the business district. The four-star hotel is styled in a traditional but stylish way. I usually don’t book this hotel, but since I visited Geneva for my birthday, I thought I could treat myself for once. The staff were professional and welcoming. The hotel’s decor was warm, and the room was classy, comfortable and spacious. Built in 1978, the hotel was renovated in 2015 and offered 95 rooms, including ten suites within eight floors.
Tip: At the check-in, we were given a free Geneva Transport Card, which was valid for the duration of our trip and was good on trains, buses, boats and trams. So make sure that you request the ticket!
Address: 18-20 rue du Cendrier – 1201 Geneva
Best Things to Do in Geneva in Winter?
Before travelling for my weekend break in Geneva, I tried to make the visit a little personal by mixing the touristy attractions with “going off the beaten path”. On my list of things to do in Geneva, I had the famous “Jet d’Eau” and the United Nations headquarters. However, I discovered and fell in love with the old town’s streets and medieval architecture. Geneva is best when you wander around the streets, weather permitting!
Visit Geneva’s main attraction.
Every big city has its famous landmarks. For example, London is known for its Big Ben, Paris for the Eiffel Tower and New York for the Statue of Liberty. For Geneva, it’s the Jet d’eau. The impressive water fountain can even be seen as you fly to Geneva. You can have a good view of the fountain from the Pont du Mont-Blanc or by walking along the Promenade du Lac. You can get very close but be prepared to get wet. On the way back, pass through Jardin des Anglais and Horloge Fleurie (flower clock). Since it had snowed the night before, the watch was covered in snow.
Explore Geneva’s Old Town
Geneva is a city of contrast. On one side, you have the luxury brands and their massive buildings; on the other, you have the Old Town. The Old Town, situated around the Cathedral Saint-Pierre and the pedestrian Place du Bourg-de-Four, is very picturesque. The area is beautiful and great for people-watching with its independent boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, cafes and small restaurants.
The place is now decorated with Christmas lights, making it an enchanting location at night. A little walk south takes you to Bastions Park, a calm spot where you can enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate. The outdoor terrace is transformed into an ice rink in the winter.
See a different side of Geneva.
Other locations we were suggested to visit, but we were unable to due to bad weather and lack of time, was Carouge. To reach the neighbourhood, you need to take Tram 12 heading south. Carouge is (we were told) the hidden gem of Geneva with Italian architecture. Architects from Turin built the neighbourhood in the 18th century.
Bains des Pâquis
If you are on the lookout for a relaxing spa day but don’t want to spend a week’s salary on it, then the Bains des Pâquis is for you. The public swimming pool is open all year round, where all the locals hang out. There you can swim, get a massage, use the sauna or have a cheap meal.
Address: Les Bains des Pâquis, Quai du Mont-Blanc 30 – 1200 Geneva
Take part in a winter festival
Fête de l’Escalade
La Fête de l’Escalade is a traditional and trendy festival celebrated each year around mid-December. Honestly, the first time I heard about the festival was during my weekend in Geneva. My sister and I were intrigued by the people (young and old) wearing ancient costumes. This festival is held to celebrate the victory of the Genevois against Savoyard troops controlled by the Duke of Savoy in December 1602 when they tried to climb the city walls at night. Escalade means “climb” in French.
Festival of Lights
As if Lake Geneva isn’t attractive enough, throughout December and early January, the city is illuminated with thousands of lights. Geneva Lux, better known as the Festival of Lights, is spectacular. Artists around the world decorate the streets with light installations, making visiting Geneva in winter one of the best times to explore the city.
Visit an art museum – MAMCO
One thing I like to do when I visit a city is to see at least one of their museum. So it wasn’t any different during my weekend in Geneva. I like modern art, so I was pleased to hear about the modern and contemporary art museum called MAMCO. I was even more delighted to visit it as the weather wasn’t to our advantage; therefore, it was a good refuge. We discovered all the different floors. The snag was that you had to leave your belongings in a locker. In summer r on a sunny day, it wouldn’t be a problem, but when it’s pouring and all your stuff is wet, it’s not ideal to leave it in a confined small space. Nevertheless, we started our tour on the top floor and headed to the industrial building.
I enjoyed it and wanted to visit the Centre d’Art Contemporain (contemporary art) opposite MAMCO. Unfortunately, we didn’t see it as we needed a nice cup of coffee/tea and agreed we would come the next day. Sadly the museum was closed on Mondays. I’ll return on another visit then!
MAMCO is located in the Quartier des Bains, nicknamed Geneva’s little Soho is home to numerous art galleries, exhibition centres and museums. If you like art, you should stop by.
Explore Geneva’s shops
As the capital city of luxury, Geneva has an array of shops. It’s not hard to flex your plastic there with price tags that will give your banker a headache! Rue du Rhône is where most high-end shops, watchmakers, and jewellery shops are located. If your wallet or purse is not as heavy as some people, you can still do some window shopping.
After about an hour of window shopping, we were tired and cold, so we decided to warm ourselves in the department store Globus. I’m not sure if it was a special day, but they offered the shoppers prosecco. I thought this marketing idea was brilliant! People browse for clothes, homeware, cosmetics etc. while sipping a glass of bubbly… I can guarantee that most people left the store with a bag even when they intended not to buy anything! If you resist shopping while on holiday, you can still pay Globus a visit to the food hall. We stopped for a sample at the Vietnamese stand. The food was pricey but less than most restaurants in the city centre. The space was packed with tourists and business people. We had to circle the area twice before finding a space to be seated; this is how crowded it was!
While in Plainpalais, we came across the Plainpalais flea market on our way to the museum. It was pouring down, so we had no interest in stopping to explore the biggest and best flea market in Switzerland. A member of the hotel staff recommended it as well. It was unfortunate as my sister and I enjoyed exploring flea markets.
Eat no matter the size of your purse/wallet
Chez ma Cousine
On the evening of our first day, we decided to eat at the restaurant Chez ma Cousine. We decided on the one in the old town, not knowing that there was one just minutes away from our hotel. The place is excellent for people who don’t want to spend too much but want to eat good food. The chicken is cooked on-site and is served with potato wedges and a salad. We found the atmosphere to be very warm and cosy. The staff were welcoming and friendly.
Address: Place du Bourg-de-Four 6 – 1204 Geneva
Wine & Beef Lévrier
As the name suggests, Wine and Beef Lévrier is a wine bar which serves beef, especially rib eye steak, in various sizes. The wine list and the dessert menu are more extensive than the food menu. But you can’t complain as the food is well cooked and tasty. The atmosphere is modern and spacious; you have ample seating space at the front and back of the restaurant.
Address: Rue Ami-Lévrier 3 – 1201 Geneva
My weekend in Geneva was terrific despite the bad weather on the last day. I learned so much in 3 days! And, the best part, I brought home the best souvenirs: a wonderful birthday celebration and great Swiss chocolates.
Have you ever been to Geneva In Winter? Share your tips!
20 thoughts on “Winter in Geneva – A Weekend Getaway”
I have to admit, because of the reputation for being so expensive, Geneva has never really been on my radar as a travel destination. But it looks like there are plenty of fun things to do there, so I may have to reconsider!
It is indeed expensive but with careful planning, you can have a good time without spending too much.
Amazing photos. Geneva is in my bucket list and not yet been able to go there. Will definitely refer your post when planning to visit Geneva.
Lovely weekend trip you had! The prices are indeed exorbitant from your post =X Would love to visit Switzerland again with a proper camera this time, but I’ll have to shelve any plans till I save up enough!
I agree prices are too high in the city centre. I think it’s because restaurants cater for business people who don’t mind the cost since they can expense everything. Anyway it’s still possible to eat cheaply in Carouge or Plainpalais for example.
Great post on what/when/where and why travel to Geneva. This is a city I would love to see, but haven’t yet. I love that they hand out free transport tickets at the airport. That’s amazing.
What a beautiful city!
I visited Geneva on a physics class trip in high school (to CERN) but I’d love to go back on my own 😍 Such beautiful photos!!
Switzerland has been on my bucket list like forever. Have been holding back just cos it’s super expensive. Pinned your post so I can use it to plan my travel 😉
Planning in advance is the key to cheaper holidays. I’m sure you will love Switzerland!
This place looks beautiful
Wow absolutely love this. Thank you for al other information. So inspired to travel!!
Thanks so much for this! Geneva has been on my list of places to visit for a long weekend or something since my friend visited it earlier last year and I always thought it would be too expensive. Perfectly sums up everything I need 🙂
Thank you for reading. It’s true that Geneva is expensive but like any other place, you can get by cheaply by doing things like the locals.
Currently planning a Geneva trip so thanks for this – transport and cheaper eating tips especially. I cannot imagine a city giving out free transport – is there a time limit for the card?
No, you can travel as often as you like within Geneva. You get a free one way trip from the airport and then another for the length of your stay (provided by hotel) Also I would recommend a stop by the Bains des Paquis!
I love that transportation is free for tourists! The hotel is EXACTLY the type of place I’d like to stay. Thanks so much for sharing.
I’ve never been, this looks great!
Wow! The free tickets to the town from the vending machines is such a great idea. I also wish Paris starts doing the same. Hahaha