24 Hours in Geneva

After a long travel day that started in San Francisco and included a layover in Paris, we got that familiar burst of energy as travel-day amnesia* kicked in as the plane started the descent into Geneva! It was a clear afternoon and we got a mini preview of the beautiful scenery we would enjoy throughout our entire trip. Seriously, the approach into the airport is beautiful, fight for that window seat!


*Travel-day Amnesia: A completely unscientific condition in which you forget all about how long the flight felt, how dirty and tired you are, and how good your bed at home sounds upon arriving in a new city.


We travel with backpacks and are always relieved to bypass baggage claim and head straight out to explore. The Geneva airport made this especially easy by offering the UNIRESO city center ticket for a free ride from the airport to the Gare Cornavin rail station. Don’t even consider bothering with a cab or driver reservation if you’re staying close to the Gare Cornavin station!

We stayed right across the street from Gare Cornavin station at the Hotel Bernina. It was the perfect location for a quick overnight stop in Geneva!

After checking into our hotel we walked straight to the waterfront and hopped onto one of the mouettes. These little yellow boats criss-cross Lake Geneva, run every few minutes, and are a fun way to get across the lake!

The little yellow mourettes shuttle passengers all over Lake Geneva–dodging swans along the way!
You can spot the Jet d’Eau from different locations all throughout Geneva!

From the lakefront we walked toward the Reformation Wall and the Parc des Bastions. As you walk into the park, check out the competition on the six giant chess boards. After spending some time admiring the Reformation Wall we made our way toward St. Pierre Cathedral.

Swiss flags line the buildings along Rue Corraterie.


A quiet corner in Geneva, showing of its fall colors!

At this point it was early evening and the Cathedral was preparing to close so we missed out on the chance to climb the tower but the views of the city are still beautiful from the church yard and areas around the Cathedral.

St. Pierre Cathedral, where John Calvin delivered sermons as the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe.


You can see the Jet d’Eau in the distance of this image, taken from the courtyard of St. Pierre Cathedral.

From the St. Pierre Cathedral we started to walk back toward the waterfront and ultimately arrived at the L’horloge Fleurie or “Flower Clock.” The Flower Clock is a beautiful way to celebrate Geneva’s natural beauty and its history as a dream destination for watch-lovers the world over. From here we crossed the Pont du Mont-Blanc and walked back toward our hotel for an early night’s sleep after our long travel day.


The next morning we woke up early, had a very nice breakfast at our hotel and walked across the street to the Gare Cornavin station to purchase our Swiss Travel Passes. It took less than five minutes and we are so glad we invested in the convenience of these Passes! You can read more about our experience with the Swiss Travel Pass here.


Swiss Travel Passes carefully tucked away in my purse, we walked back to the front of the Gare Cornavin station and took the 15 tram to the United Nations for the 10:30 morning English tour. There are four tours per day that last about an hour each. We had plenty of time before our tour was scheduled to begin so we took the tram to visit the Place des Nations and see Daniel Berset’s Broken Chair. From here we walked up Avenue de la Paix to the United Nations Office and visitor entrance. If you’re low on time, you may want to consider taking the bus instead and arrive closer to the visitor entrance. Make sure your bring valid identification as the security process for visitors is extensive.

Flags from nations around the world welcome visitors to the Place des Nations!

Once we had our security passes and tickets, we headed over to the building where the tours would depart from. There is a small gift shop to wander through as you wait for your tour to begin but my favorite part was listening to all of the tour guides switch from language to language as they prepared everything for the various tours that were about to depart. The tour cost CHF 12- per person, lasted about an hour, and was the perfect option for a rainy morning! For the two of us–myself a former history teacher and my husband a political science major–the tour was particularly interesting but anyone interested in learning more about the United Nations in general and the unique importance of Geneva in particular would enjoy this tour!

After the tour we made our way back to our hotel, grabbed our backpacks, and hopped on the train for the quick ride to our next destination: Lausanne!

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