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Moving to Geneva

One of Europe's prettiest capitals, Geneva is sprawled around the southern tip of the impossibly picturesque Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). The Alps and Jura Mountains guard the Geneva's rear, and the city boasts staggering views of famous Mont Blanc.

As one of the European headquarters of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and several multinational corporations, Geneva's identity is diverse and complex. The official language is French, but expats are just as likely to hear its multilingual population speaking English, Spanish or German.

Expats are lured to Geneva by the promise of high salaries – usually in the finance industry – but residents enjoy a good work-life balance and have ample opportunity to find respite from the working week to enjoy the great lifestyle that the city offers.

Public parks cover a quarter of the city and dozens of museums stand as monuments to the past, with striking views of the Alps painting the horizon. The weekends are for hiking (in summer) or skiing (during winter), or just exploring the city's epic restaurant scene.

However, competition for its limited housing supply is high and finding somewhere to live can be challenging. People looking for larger family homes often opt to live across the border in neighbouring France. The standard of accommodation in Geneva is nonetheless excellent and in line with European standards, although space can be limited.

Getting around in Geneva is easy and there is little need to purchase a car. Public transport networks in the city are extensive and consist of buses, trams and boats. The city is also well-equipped for cycling, which is a fast and affordable way to get around. 

Expats can rest assured that they will have access to excellent healthcare. Medical staff are well trained and generally speak English as well as French. However, it is important to remember that it is compulsory to have health insurance in Switzerland. 

Geneva has a well-established network of international schools, but competition for places is fierce because of the large expat community, and parents need to act fast to secure a spot for their children.

Another advantage is the city's location. Other European countries are in easy reach, making it a fantastic destination from which to explore the continent.

While expats may take some time to adapt, the benefits of living in Geneva are difficult to ignore.

Weather in Geneva

With a moderate continental climate, Geneva experiences warm to hot summers with pleasant weather and average temperatures of 67°F (20°C), while the winter months are relatively cold, with the temperatures dropping to a freezing 35°F (2°C). 

During the summer, many people enjoy swimming in Lake Geneva, and the beaches around the lake are frequented by both locals and tourists. The same lake experiences some ice storms in the winter, and while it's wise to button up, the area is popular for downhill skiing, with world-renowned ski resorts a short drive away. It's important to note that the mountains can be dangerous, and caution should be practised when hiking. Expats relocating to Geneva should invest in a good umbrella as rainfall occurs throughout the year.

 

Working in Geneva

More and more expats are attracted to the prospect of earning a salary in Geneva, and these days the picturesque city is filled with foreign workers from every corner of the globe, and a host of foreign languages can be heard on its streets and in its office blocks.


Job market in Geneva

Geneva has a range of industries that expats can expect to work in. The primary employers in Geneva include major corporations such as DHL, Cargill, Ernst and Young and Carrefour. 

The UN and its respective agencies and missions are prominent employers too. NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International also have a strong presence in the city, as do media organisations like the Swiss Press Agency and CSR Newswire.

Geneva is one of the foremost financial centres in the world and those with experience in banking, finance and international trade will find good opportunities here. There are also more than 100 banks based in Geneva and a strong financial services sector.

What's more, the city has a strong service-oriented economy; tourism and the hotel industry are major employers, and they generate a significant share of the region's wealth. 


Finding a job in Geneva

The majority of expats hired to work in Geneva are recruited into high-level positions and, as such, they are either headhunted or transferred from offices of the same company elsewhere in the world. 

Those should consult local publications and various online job portals. 

The best place to start for those who wish to move to Geneva but don't yet have a secure job offer would be online. Many local newspapers also have job listings and some of these publications have online versions available, which enable expats to begin the job search before relocating. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn are also highly useful. Individual companies often post vacancies on their websites, so it's worth surfing sites relevant to one's industry.


Work culture in Geneva

The city's work culture is formal and task-focused – despite its international character. The Swiss are famously punctual, and arriving late to a meeting or being unprepared will be seen as disrespectful. It's always best to arrive early and confirm appointments ahead of time. 

Hierarchy is important and people receive respect based on their rank, education and achievements. Even though executives make the decisions, they look for a broad consensus. Managers are expected to guide their teams, and cooperation is valued.

Business environments in Switzerland tend to be merit-based, but trust is still important to negotiations. The Swiss like dealing with people they know, and often expect long-term commitments from their associates. Negotiations can be prolonged by the trust-building process and the Swiss eye for detail and respect for procedure.

While it is not always necessary, the ability to speak French will certainly be advantageous when it comes to working in Geneva, as this is the predominant language of the city.

Expats working in Geneva must also ensure that they have the correct documentation and visa for Switzerland

Cost of Living in Geneva

As is the case throughout Switzerland, the cost of living in Geneva is inescapably high. The city regularly features in the top 15 most expensive expat cities in Mercer's Cost of Living Survey. The 2020 edition of the survey ranks Geneva 9th out of 209 countries. Luckily, most expats are lured to the city by high salaries, which offset the expenses they're likely to incur.


Cost of accommodation in Geneva

Accommodation is likely to be an expat's biggest expense in this Swiss city. There's a serious shortage of accommodation in Geneva, and landlords can charge a premium. Rentals can be high, even for a one-bedroom apartment on the city's outskirts. Landlords can also request up to three months' rent as a security deposit.

Expats moving to Geneva with a family and looking for a larger home may need to consider investigating housing options across the border in France. Here they will find more options with slightly better-value rental rates.


Cost of public transport in Geneva

While Geneva's public transport infrastructure is extensive and efficient, it's by no means cheap. However, it remains cheaper than owning and maintaining a car in the city. There are various discount passes to combat the expense of public travel.

The cheapest way to get around in Geneva would be by bicycle. The city is well equipped to cater for cyclists and this is a quick, efficient and cost-effective way to get about. 


Cost of education in Geneva

Education is another large expense for expats with families to consider. The city has a large number of international schools, but places are hard to come by and fees are high. International school fees easily add up as parents will often also need to pay for additional costs such as textbooks, uniforms and field trips.


Cost of eating out and entertainment in Geneva

The amount an expat spends on leisure activities will depend on their personal preferences. Geneva has some excellent restaurants, but eating out, bars and clubs aren't cheap. Skiing can be quite pricey too, but there are numerous free trails for those who enjoy hiking and biking.


Cost of living in Geneva chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Geneva for January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CHF 3,400

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CHF 2,800

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CHF 1,890

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CHF 1,450

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

CHF 6.30

Milk (1 litre)

CHF 1.60

Rice (1kg)

CHF 3.13

Loaf of white bread (500g)

CHF 3.05

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CHF 24.25

Pack of cigarettes 

CHF 8.50

Eating Out

Big Mac Meal

CHF 14

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CHF 3.60

Cappuccino 

CHF 4.40

Bottle of beer (domestic)

CHF 8

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

CHF 100

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

CHF 0.25

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

CHF 60

Basic utilities per month for standard household

CHF 230

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

CHF 4.60

Bus/train fare to the city centre

CHF 3

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

CHF 1.70

Accommodation in Geneva

Finding accommodation in Geneva can be among an expat's greatest challenges. There's usually a shortage of available rentals, and both prices and competition are high.

A good alternative to the oversubscribed inner-city suburbs of Geneva is peripheral areas such as Cologny, Chênes-Bougeries, Meyrin, Grand-Saconnex and Lancy, which are easily reached by public transport.


Types of accommodation in Geneva

Apartments are the most common type of accommodation in Geneva. They're usually well maintained, but tend to be small and tenants have to adhere to strict rules around noise.

Expats moving to Geneva with a family may want to consider larger properties further away from the city centre, even across the border in neighbouring France.

Regardless of the type of housing expats choose, the cost of accommodation in Geneva is high and it's worth bearing this in mind when negotiating a contract to work in the city.


Finding accommodation in Geneva

Most city residents rent their homes, so there's a lot of competition for rental properties in Geneva. Luckily, many employers provide accommodation close to the workplace as part of their expat employees' packages.

For those who don't have this luxury, an estate agent will be essential, but it's also possible to search local newspapers, real estate brochures and online property portals. Those looking for accommodation on a budget can find subletting options and house-shares online. 

If they can, expats should start looking for rental properties a few months before they move to Geneva. The application process can be time-consuming and prospective tenants have to provide a lot of personal, professional and financial information to the landlord or letting agency as part of it. Expats may want to get references from previous landlords to support their applications.


Renting accommodation in Geneva 

The rental market in Geneva is highly competitive, so once expats have found a property that meets their needs, they will have to act quickly to secure the rental contract.

Making an application

Prospective tenants usually need to provide proof of employment, ID and bank statements to secure a lease. In some cases, expats may also need a Swiss guarantor to act on their behalf – this will usually be the employer. 

Accommodation in Geneva isn't secured on a first-come, first-served basis. Landlord and rental agencies carefully review applications before choosing a tenant they think is the best fit.

It's standard for landlords to expect an extract from the debt collection register in Switzerland from prospective tenants, and this can be requested online.

Leases and deposits

Lease agreements in Switzerland usually last 12 months and only allow for early termination at certain times of the year, although tenants have to give three months' notice if they want to do so.

Once a tenancy application is approved and signed by both parties, the next step is to carry out an inspection of the property and do an inventory.

Renters are generally required to put down a security deposit that is equivalent to three months' rent. The first month's rent is also required to be paid upfront. Tenants are usually required to give at least one month's notice if they wish to terminate a lease early. 

Some apartment blocks will implement rules which may seem odd to expats. For example, residents will be asked to only use washing machines at certain hours or told they may not wash their car on Sunday. While the rules may seem somewhat silly, expats will need to adhere to these because they are strictly enforced by the building management. 

Utilities

Properties in Geneva are usually unfurnished, and the rent price can include extra service charges such as garbage disposal. Electricity and water bills may or may not be included in the rent price; expats should be sure to enquire which utilities are for an expat's own account when investigating a place to rent.

Areas and suburbs in Geneva

The best places to live in Geneva

Deciding which area or suburb of Geneva to live in is a major decision for expats, and most will have their choices restricted by the lack of availability and high property prices. With its many parks, beautiful bodies of water and the surrounding mountains, there are plenty of neighbourhoods in Geneva that can provide the perfect living environment.

That said, there are factors to consider before choosing to live in a particular area. More and more people share flats or take on short-term sublets while looking for long-term accommodation.

Public transport in Geneva is good, so even people who don’t live in the city centre don’t waste too much time commuting. It's also cheaper and easier than trying to find parking in the city.

Many expats choose to live in France, which is just six miles (10km) away from Geneva's centre. Towns such as Ferney-Voltaire, Gex, Divonne, Annemasse, Evian and St Julien-en-Genevois are nearby and are usually cheaper. Basically, rental prices get less expensive the further one goes from the centre of Geneva.


City living in Geneva

Geneva cityCentral Geneva

The centre of Geneva is beautiful and historic, but it's one of the city's most expensive neighbourhoods. Residents here have access to a huge range of restaurants, bars and cafes. Properties close to the lake in the Eaux Vives area are particularly popular among young professionals and executives with higher disposable incomes. 

Acacias

This area houses numerous company headquarters and has a somewhat industrial feel. Apartments are small and buildings tend to be a little older. Transport links from Acacias are excellent so expats will find it easy to get around.

Pâquis

Pâquis is one of the city's liveliest and most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods and has a lovely bohemian atmosphere. It's a great neighbourhood for expats as it has an international feel. There is an eclectic mix of restaurants and entertainment facilities as well. Public transport facilities in the area are an additional bonus.


Family-friendly areas in Geneva

ChampelGrottes/Saint-Gervais

Despite being located close to the centre of Geneva, these areas have somewhat of a village feel. With the great sense of community found here, they are brilliant options for expats looking to raise a family in Geneva. Access to good schools is also a drawcard for expats moving to Geneva with kids.

Champel/Malagnou/Florissant

These areas offer residents a peaceful retreat from the pace of daily life in the city. The properties are larger and suitable for families, who make up the majority of the residents. These suburbs are located close to a number of good schools which make them good options for expats moving to Geneva with children.

Cologny

Despite being located quite a distance from Geneva, residents here are treated to stunning panoramic views of the city. Properties are large and the prices reflect this. It's a good option for expats with families who want their children to have access to open spaces and nature.

Chênes-Bougeries

Chênes-Bougeries is a leafy middle-class area with relatively affordable property. It is another good option for expats with children thanks to its location and proximity to a handful of good international schools.

Healthcare in Geneva

Expats are typically satisfied with the standard of healthcare in Geneva, but they should prepare to pay for medical insurance. Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland, but it isn't state sponsored, so residents have to take out a policy themselves.

Insurance premiums are based on geographic area rather than salary. So even expats without an exceptional wage may still have to foot a hefty health insurance bill. The canton, fortunately, does have subsidies for those who need it, and insurance costs for children are usually discounted.

Expats should compare plans from different service providers to find something that suits their budget and needs.

Geneva’s hospitals and health professionals are generally excellent. Most medical staff are well qualified and speak English as well as French. Pharmacies are usually open from 8.30am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and some are open 24 hours a day. Most prescription drugs are readily available. There is a large pool of private doctor's practices in Geneva, and a list can be found through the canton's Association des Medecins.

In the event of a medical emergency, expats can dial 144.


Hospitals in Geneva

Geneva University Hospitals (HUG)

Website: www.hug-ge.ch
Address: Rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil 4, 1205 Geneva

Clinique Générale Beaulieu

Website:www.beaulieu.ch
Address: Chemin Beau-Soleil 20, 1206 Geneva

Hopital de la Tour

Website: www.la-tour.ch
Address: Avenue JD Maillard 3, 1217 Meyrin

Clinique la Colline

Website: https://www.hirslanden.ch
Address: Avenue Beau-Séjour 6, 1206 Geneva

Education and Schools in Geneva

Expats will find an assortment of schools in Geneva, which includes free public schools, often pricey private schools and even pricier international schools. Regardless of where expats send their children, they're guaranteed a quality education in Geneva.

Space at schools can be limited and new arrivals will need to register their children as early as possible.

Many of the private schools in Geneva have waiting lists and only accept students close to the start of term, so it’s best to register at several. Deadlines differ between schools, so expats should check with each individually.


Public schools in Geneva

Swiss public schools are free, and compulsory education in Geneva is from four years old until the age of 15. The language of instruction is French, while students start learning German at eight years old and English at the age of 10. Some schools also offer extra French classes to bring foreign children up to speed with the rest of the class.

School days in Geneva differ. All children attend school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8am until 11.30am, and then from 1.30pm until 4pm. But there's no school on Wednesdays until children start cycle d’orientation (a version of secondary school) at age 12. For parents who can't look after their children on Wednesdays or during lunch times, some schools offer canteen lunches and after-school care, but it's best to check directly.

Local schools are usually easily accessible to the communities they serve, and often offer a pédibus service where volunteer parents take children to school on foot. Public schools are most popular with expats who plan on living in Switzerland long term, have children who speak French or German, or have very young children.


Private schools in Geneva

Private schools in Geneva teach in French, English or both, and offer various curricula including the American Advanced Placement, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate Diploma, Swiss Maturité, Brevet des Collèges and French Baccalauréat Général.

Most private schools are well equipped and have high teaching standards, but costs are usually high – expats should keep this in mind when negotiating their salary.

Many of the most prestigious private schools are religious, so it’s important for parents to check whether a school's philosophy is compatible with their own.

Expats should also consider the distance between school, work and home since rush hour traffic in Geneva can make it difficult to be on time. Some private schools have a bus service, but this can be expensive.


International schools in Geneva

Expats will also find private schools that have specific languages and national curricula. These are typically referred to as international schools, but in Geneva, any school that teaches in English and follows an international curriculum could be called an international school. 

Many expats prefer these schools because they allow students to continue with the teaching language and curriculum of their home country, which is a good option for those living in Geneva for the short term.


Special needs education in Geneva

Pupils with special educational needs will, as best as possible and within the regular classroom, have their needs met in Geneva. Mainstream schools in Switzerland recognise that all children are different, whether it is their abilities, learning style, rate of development, preferences or beliefs. Swiss schools aim to support those children with special educational needs so that all children are able to integrate into and participate in society.

Special needs education, which is set down in law, applies to affected children from birth to their 20th birthday. It gives them the right to special schooling and support from specialists. Children with disabilities often attend regular schools in Switzerland, on a full-time or part-time basis.


Tutoring in Geneva

Tutoring is a valuable tool to assist students in their education, particularly expat children adapting to a new environment, language and curriculum. Even for children in international schools, tutoring is useful for gaining confidence, or for assistance in particular subjects such as maths, science or French. Good companies in Geneva include Tutorsplus and Tutor24.

International Schools in Geneva

As a major global city, Geneva is host to a number of excellent international schools, many of which have decades of history. Geneva is also the birthplace of the International Baccalaureate, which is naturally a popular choice among schools in this area. The English National Curriculum, including the Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels, is also offered by several schools.

A range of teaching languages is used at the various international schools in Geneva, most commonly English or French. Some schools combine the two languages, offering a fully bilingual education. Children with a lower level of English proficiency are also well catered for as many schools have English as a Second Language (ESL) programmes.

Spaces at the best international schools are limited, so it's always a good idea to start making applications as early as possible. Most schools allow applications throughout the year, but this may entail waiting for a spot to open up.

Below is a list of reputable international schools in Geneva.


International schools in Geneva

British School of Geneva

Offering the English National Curriculum from Early Years through to A-levels, the British School of Geneva is a prime choice for those seeking a truly British education. The school's academics are supplemented by a wide range of extra-curricular activities including sports, arts and crafts, music and astronomy. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 4 to 18

Collège du Léman

Collège du Léman is a well-respected Nord Anglia school of approximately 2,000 students of more than 120 nationalities. Expat families have a vast range of options at this school, from teaching language (bilingual English/French or monolingual English) to curriculum. There are four qualifications available to choose from, with the IGCSE also available from ages 14 to 16. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American, Swiss, French, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18

Geneva English School

Founded in 1961, Geneva English School is a small British-curriculum school. With a student body of around 300 students, class sizes are typically small so that each child can be given individual attention. In addition to the school's strong academics, there is also an exciting roster of extra-curricular activities available. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of Geneva

With a student population of 4,000 hailing from 140 countries around the world, the International School of Geneva is a truly global school. Founded in 1924, it also has the unique distinction of being the world's oldest (and largest) international school. Emphasis is placed on language proficiency, with bilingual instruction in French and English as well as a robust mother tongue programme catering to more than a dozen languages. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, IGCSE and Swiss
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of Lausanne

This non-profit IB-curriculum school is set in a lush campus in Le Mont-sur-Lausanne with abundant facilities. The school has students of over 60 different nationalities and offers a comprehensive English as a Second Language (ESL) programme. Dozens of varied extra-curricular activities are available. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Swedish International School of Geneva

With around 90 pupils, the Swedish International School of Geneva offers a highly personalised bilingual education. Teaching is done in a combination of either French and English or Swedish and French. Highlights include the enthusiastic teaching staff, the beautiful natural surrounds and the homely, close-knit feel of the school. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Swedish
Ages: 1 to 10

Lifestyle in Geneva

Geneva is a picturesque city that brims with attractions and activities for expats of all ages who are looking to enjoy some of the finer things in life.

Seasonal activities are vastly different and range from a warm day at the lake during summer to an alpine ski trip in winter. Thanks to its central geographic location, it is also an ideal base to explore the rest of Western Europe. 


Shopping in Geneva

When it comes to shopping, Geneva is a paradise for luxury brand names, and expats will have no trouble spending their hard-earned francs. Despite its size, it rivals shopping meccas such as Paris with its wide variety of luxury goods. The parallel Rue du Marche and Rue du Rhone are the main shopping streets and are lined with watchmakers, retailers and cafés.

There are also options for those who don’t want to spend a fortune. The Place de la Madeleine is great for finding clothing and book bargains, while the Plaine de Plainpalais is home to Geneva’s largest flea market and stocks everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to leather goods.

In general, shops in Geneva don't stay open until late in the evening, and most places close between 12am and 2pm for lunch during the week. On Saturdays, grocery shops only stay open until 6pm, and most places in Geneva are closed on a Sunday. Many choose to do their weekly grocery shopping across the border in French towns such as Annemasse or Ferney-Voltaire, where shops are open until 12pm on a Sunday.   


Nightlife in Geneva

Geneva isn't necessarily known for its lively party scene, but there are still plenty of opportunities to grab a drink, meet new people and enjoy a night out. Revellers should be prepared to pay, though, as Geneva's prices can be exorbitant.

Plaine de Plainpalais is popular with younger crowds, with Rue de l'Ecole-de-Médecine often crowded by students from the nearby medical college. Place de l'Ile, on the Rhône River, has some expensive bars and some excellent views of the city. Place du Marché and Rue Vautier in the Carouge area are also popular hangouts with many bars and clubs.


Eating out in Geneva

Foodies will be spoilt for choice in Geneva. The city boasts more than 1,000 restaurants and it's undoubtedly Switzerland's cuisine capital. Some areas that expats can explore for restaurants and cafés are around the lake, the Paquis, Eaux-Vives and Carouge.

Expats should endeavour to try local specialities such as fondue, raclette, lake fish dishes and smoked sausage. However, those looking for familiar tastes from home shouldn't struggle to find what they're looking for. As a cosmopolitan city with many different cultures, expats will be able to sample food from around the world.


Sports and outdoor activities in Geneva

There is much for expats with a sense of adventure and love of the great outdoors to experience. Geneva is perfectly placed for winter sports and mountain adventures in the Swiss Alps, with more than 200 ski resorts within 60 miles (100km) of the city limits. 

Other activities on offer include wakeboarding and sailing on Lake Geneva, mountain biking, rock climbing and rafting on the two rivers that run through the city. For those who don't wish to travel far, the parks of Geneva offer open space and greenery on their doorstep. 

Kids and Family in Geneva

There is an abundance of activities and attractions on offer for kids in Geneva. The public transport system has special discounts for families, and the city's playgrounds, history, culture and museums provide myriad options for expats with families. 


Education and schools for kids in Geneva

Education in Geneva is taken seriously. Parents should plan ahead, since there can be long waiting lists, especially for private and international schools. For expats looking for a longer stay in Switzerland and with younger kids, the public school system is a good option. It is free and the quality of education is excellent.

Some schools offer a special programme for the children of expats to learn the language and settle into the school culture easily. Private and international schools can come with a hefty price tag, but parents can be assured that their children will be able to study in their own language and in the familiar curriculum of home. 


Activities for kids in Geneva

Located on the edge of Lake Geneva, the city is perfect for some water sports during the summer months. The beaches are popular during the warmer parts of the year, and the mountains surrounding the city offer some spectacular hikes. Aquaparc is a family favourite, and children can have fun and cool down on its watery rides and slides. Forestland in Divonne-les-Bains is another good place for active kids to let off some steam.

For rainy days and colder months, the city is home to the Natural History Museum, where children can roam and explore in an educational setting. There are several productions performed by the Geneva Amateur Operatic Society throughout the year, which provide entertainment for young and old. Those with a sweet tooth can tour the Cailler Chocolate factory and learn how chocolate is made from the bean to the bar. 


Parks in Geneva

For a lazy day with the family, pack a picnic and head to one of the city's famed parks. Geneva is home to several green spaces, such as Le Bois-de-la-Bâtie with its mini zoo, Parc des Bastions and the giant chess sets, the Botanical Gardens and the rose garden. The English Garden's flower clock is particularly popular with young ones.

See and Do in Geneva

A fascinating place filled with historic, religious and natural attractions, Geneva boasts plenty of exciting things to see and do. Lake Geneva is one of Europe's largest lakes and the Jet d'Eau fountain is an iconic sight. There are also few things as tranquil as strolling through Le Jardin Anglais on a summer's day.

Attractions such as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Barbier-Mueller Museum will appeal to culture lovers, while history buffs should visit the UN's Palais des Nations and the Patek Philippe Museum.


Sightseeing in Geneva

Barbier-Mueller Museum

Home to thousands of artworks and artefacts from around the world, the Barbier-Mueller Museum boasts a marvellous collection, including megalithic Indonesian monuments, pre-Columbian American art and religious relics from Oceania.

Jet d’Eau

The fountain is one of the most recognisable sights in Geneva, shooting water 460 feet (140m) into the air at a speed of 124 miles per hour (200 km/h). It's lit up at night, giving it an ethereal quality that forms a lovely backdrop for romantic evening strolls.

Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)

Lake Geneva attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its shores each year, and its many lakeside villages are perfect for taking a break from the city bustle.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO)

Visitors can easily spend hours marvelling at MAMCO's range of contemporary work. The museum constantly reinvents itself with changing exhibitions, making it a great place to visit more than once.

Palais des Nations (United Nations)

Completed in 1938 to host the League of Nations, the Palais des Nations now houses the UN's Geneva office – the organisation's largest apart from its New York headquarters. Visitors can take a tour of the building and enjoy the sight of peacocks roaming freely through its vast gardens.

Place de Neuve

One of Geneva's largest and most attractive squares, Place de Neuve hosts the Grand Theatre opera house, the Conservatory of Music and the Rath Museum.

Public parks

More than a quarter of Geneva is made up of public parks, which is great for getting out after a long day at the office. Expats can visit Bastion Park to see the 328-foot (100m) Reformation Wall, the English Garden to see the famous flower clock or Park Moynier for striking views of Mont Blanc.

St Pierre Cathedral

First built in 1160, the history of St Pierre Cathedral can be seen in its eclectic mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Neoclassical architecture. The panoramic view from its north tower is one of the city's best.

What's On in Geneva

As a centre of art and culture, Geneva offers up several celebrations throughout the year. From sports to arts and everything in between, there is plenty to expats occupied during the year.

Below are some of the city's most popular events.


Annual events in Geneva

Geneva Marathon (May)

A prestigious running event held every May, the Geneva Marathon sees elite runners from all over the world run alongside amateur enthusiasts. There are races of different distances so anyone can take part, but just being a spectator and cheering the runners on is also a whole lot of fun.

Geneva Music Festival (June)

The city's streets transform into a stage when the Geneva Music Festival comes to town. The festival features performances by renowned local and international artists, with everything from classical to contemporary music.

Bol d'Or Mirabaud (June)

Fleets of sailboats gather on Lake Geneva to take part in the world's most important inland regatta. Some of the world's best compete for the fastest time and consequent bragging rights, while a nautical festival accompanies the legendary race.

Geneva Festival (August)

Attracting thousands of people to the lake's shores, the annual Geneva Festival is a celebration of food and music with parades and fairs rounded off with a grand fireworks finale.

L'escalade (December)

This is a festival that commemorates the successful defence of the city against invasion in 1602 when the citizens of Geneva came together to repel the Duke of Savoy. The festivities kick off with a five-mile race through the Old Town and culminate with a torchlight procession through the city. 

Christmas Festival (December)

Every December, festive cheer warms the city with various events and activities. Arts, crafts and food stalls fill the International Christmas Market at Fusterie Square, open-air skating at Place du Rhone is a family favourite, and the Christmas Tree Festival displays the work of international artists in the spirit of the season.

Getting Around in Geneva

Public transport in Switzerland is famous for being efficient and comprehensive, and expats will find that getting around Geneva is simple, if rather expensive. Tickets are pricier than in most European cities, but for many residents, the high standards of service and facilities are worth it.

Walking and cycling are also popular and inexpensive, and it's possible to cross the city centre on foot in less than 30 minutes. The scenic surroundings make these pleasant ways to get around.

Expats who'd like to own a car should note that rush hour traffic gets congested, local drivers can be aggressive and parking is expensive.


Public transport in Geneva

Public transport in Geneva goes everywhere and is made up of buses, trams and boats, but there's no subway. Vehicles are almost always clean and on time, but the slight downside to this punctuality is that drivers wait for no one. Even if a passenger is buying a ticket, they'll be left behind if they aren't on board when their ride is ready to leave.

Expats can buy tickets at station ticket machines and vendors, and they're valid on all modes of transport. Available options include single tickets, off-peak day tickets as well as weekly and monthly passes for regular commuters.

Buses and trams

Buses and trams are the most popular modes of transport in Geneva. Route maps are generally clear and displayed at every stop. Otherwise, a comprehensive description of routes can be picked up at TPG (Transports Publics Genevois) outlets.

Buses and trams run until about midnight during the week and later on the weekends, thanks to Noctambus night buses.

Trams make frequent stops and if they don't go to a specific area, buses usually will. Trams are generally thought to be faster than buses, but are also more crowded.

Mouettes

Small taxi boats called mouettes are also part of the public system. They offer a scenic and relaxing option for commuting and are a faster way to cross the lake than buses. 

Taxis in Geneva

Taxis in Geneva are expensive and generally can't be hailed on the street, so expats planning to use one will often have to call in advance. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in Geneva.


Driving in Geneva

Driving in Geneva remains popular, despite high parking costs and intense peak-hour traffic, but alternatives like ride sharing are increasingly popular.

Expats who live further away from the city centre sometimes find that driving is a fast and convenient way of getting around. However, new arrivals will have to take into account the parking costs associated with owning a car.

Available public parking bays can be expensive and difficult to find. Prices vary according to the parking spot's colour code and how long the car is parked for. There are time limits in some places and the police are always on patrol to ensure drivers don't exceed them – ignoring the regulations will result in a hefty fine.

A more economical option would be to get a Park and Ride subscription with TPG, which allows drivers to park their cars at designated areas outside the city centre and take public transport for the rest of the trip. This saves on petrol costs but also saves drivers from the stress of finding parking in the city centre.

Geneva's roads can be tricky to navigate, as one-way streets are common, roads are often narrow and road signs are in French.

Bus and taxi lanes are out of bounds for regular cars. Drivers can be quite aggressive and won’t hesitate to honk if someone takes too long to pull off at traffic lights.

Speed cameras are widely used, so it's important to stick to the speed limit. Regular users of the motorway have to purchase an annual vignette from service stations, post offices or cantonal vehicle registration offices. 


Cycling in Geneva

Cycling is one of the most popular, most affordable and fastest ways to travel around Geneva. It’s possible to rent a bike for free through GeneveRoule to get a feeling for how traffic works, but expats planning to cycle on a regular basis should consider getting one of their own.

Tips for cycling in Geneva

  • Always park bicycles at a bike rack, or the police will remove them without warning

  • Lock bicycles onto something solid and make sure the front wheel and the frame are secure, as thefts are common

  • It's compulsory for bikes to have lights and a bell. Cyclists caught without these will be fined

  • Always wear a helmet