Summer in Geneva: 10 Things to Do

One of my biggest regrets in life is not keeping up with blogging while I was abroad. I’m working on backing up photos to clean up my laptop, and I wanted to dust off some photos from the archives. I realize this is a little late for those of you who asked me for post-grad Euro trip recommendations, but at least it’ll be here for future reference! These are some of my fondest memories from spending early summer in Geneva, Switzerland (late May through June).

1. Mont Salève

summer in geneva

On our first weekend in Geneva, the program leaders took us on an outing to Mt. Salève. We took the cable car up and hiked around the top with our awesome guide Philippe, who could play music from a piece of grass. We packed lunches with us instead of eating at the expensive restaurant up there for lunch with a view. It was a beautiful day for paragliding – we saw people running off the mountain and it looked incredible, but unfortunately I never went back to do it.

There were sweeping views of Geneva and Mt. Blanc throughout our hike, with the added bonus of farm animals appearing at random because people do live and farm on the mountain! Seeing the iconic Swiss cowbells on actual free-roaming cows in the French Prealps was a big moment for me… Maybe I’m just easily impressed.

2. Caves Ouvertes

A highlight of summer in Geneva, Caves Ouvertes (“open cellars”) is the canton’s celebration of its rich history and culture of winemaking (and drinking, of course)! There are free buses that shuttle you between different vineyards and wineries, many of which also sell food to go with your wine tasting. 5 CHF (at the time we went) gets you a souvenir wine glass to use for tastings at all the participating cellars. The event is typically at the end of May and is organized by Geneve Terroir – keep an eye on their Facebook page for the event details (Google translate is your friend)!

summer in geneva

This was the summer before I turned 21, and thus before I knew anything about wine. In Europe, you’re not only allowed, but expected to have a taste for wine. That definitely expedited my appreciation for good wine… and also ruined me for the cheap stuff. (Cheap quality – great wine was ridiculously inexpensive in Switzerland, despite just about everything else being $$$$$). The Swiss are among the world’s top wine consumers per capita, but they keep their wine all to themselves. I was told that less than 2% of it is exported! Hence why it’s so hard to find my beloved chasselas here in the States 🙁

3. Bains des Pâquis

It was a little cold to be swimming in the lake in late May/early June, but there’s a pathway out to this lighthouse and Turkish baths/sunbathing areas all around the strip. Access is on the Quai du Mont-Blanc side of the lake – sunbathe, swim, grab a bite to eat, or jump off the (really high) diving board if you dare! Admission was 1 CHF/person when I was there.

4. Lac Léman

Everyone in Geneva seems to have a boat on the lake, but just because you don’t doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun! Walk along the Quai Gustave Ador towards the Jet D’eau and you’ll see Les Corsaire – the boat rental place you can get a pedal boat by the half-hour or hour. It’s pretty affordable split between four people. We celebrated a birthday pedaling on the lake with a bottle of wine (surprise) and a fruit tart.

I took this photo from a water taxi crossing the lake (mouettes, part of Geneva’s public transport system), not the pedal boat – but if you catch the Jet D’eau at just the right angle you’ll see a rainbow 🙂

5. Palais de Nation Unis (United Nations)

A trip to Geneva isn’t complete without seeing the European headquarters of the UN with your own eyes. The whole reason I was in Geneva was for my International Conflict Resolution program, so naturally this was on the itinerary. Our tour was arranged through our program, but you can visit the UNOG website for more information on scheduling your visit.

The ceiling of the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, painted by Miquel Barceló, was commissioned by the Spanish King and Queen as a (very controversially expensive) gift in 2008. It’s truly incredible in person, and has been called “the Sistine Chapel of the 21st century.” The grounds of the Palais de Nations, in Ariana Park,  are also beautiful and worth exploring.

6. Annecy, France

Annecy, the “Venice of the Alps”, is a little fairytale town just across the French border. The bus ride from Geneva is pretty cheap, and takes about 1.5 hours. On Sundays there’s a market in the Old Town that gets super crowded, but we were able to grab some fresh bread, cheese, and strawberries for a lakeside picnic. Then we rented a pedal boat (again) and spent the afternoon cruising around – we could see paragliders on Mt. Salève from the lake!


Free concerts, dance performances, interactive shows, food and art stalls – truly a pastiche of the arts in the streets. There were people of all ages and cultures here, enjoying the beautiful weather as afternoon turned to evening. I remember watching some super fun Latin dance performances and getting free drinks from a slightly tipsy bartender. Check out the festival’s website for more information about the annual celebration!

8. Carouge

Take advantage of Geneva’s multicultural history and explore the “Little Italy” of Geneva. The architecture and vibe of the neighborhood is very different from the rest of Geneva. Stroll through the shops and the market on Saturdays for fresh flowers and fruit. We had our first taste of gelato in Carouge – some of the best in Geneva!

 9. La Jonction

summer in geneva

For geography nerds, the confluence of the Rhone and Arve rivers is awe-inspiring. On the left of the photo is the clear blue glacier water of the Rhone, descending from the Alps and into Lac Leman. The Southern Arve, on the right, is fast-moving snowmelt that swirls up sediment, causing the drastic color and temperature difference. This is the view from a bridge that passes over the convergence point. I remember getting a little lost when we tried to find it, as we had to pass through some trails. I’ll refer you to this website for better directions!

10. Baby-Plage

Last but not least – the only actual sand beach in Geneva, and it’s free! Contrary to what the name suggests, people of all ages come here and there are fun tire swings/obstacle course rope things hanging from big shady trees. The actual sand area is really small, but it’s open year-round. It was never too crowded when we were there in June!

Yes, the details are all a little hazy as it’s already been two summers. Yes, some of the photos are less than spectacular. Regardless, I figured this post would be a good starting point for anyone making a stop in my favorite country. There’s still so much more of Switzerland to explore, I can’t wait to be back!

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