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Summer in Geneva: ten top tips

Boats and rubber rings on the River Rhône
Messing about in rubber rings and boats on the River Rhône Keystone

What do expats and international workers like to get up to in summer in Geneva? We’ve put together a list of ten ideas based on some of your suggestions. 

Tens of thousands of people work for the city’s international organisations and multinationals, many of them expats here for a few years. They’ve visited the main local tourist attractions like the Jet d’Eau fountain, but after a while they discover the city has a whole lot more to offer. 

If you’re on your way to Geneva, for work or play, here are a few tips that’ll take you off the beaten track.

Nir Ofek of the Glocals External linkexpat site is a fan of La Terrasse for a cool beer

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La TerrasseExternal link is a relaxed summer lakeside bar on Quai Wilson next to the Bains des PâquisExternal link. Here a mixed crowd – from bankers to interns – sip reasonably priced cocktails and beers by the port, and spill out onto the nearby grass to relax, catch up with friends and colleagues and enjoy the spectacular views across the lake towards Mont Salève, the Mont Blanc and the Jet d’Eau fountain. Open every day 7.30am to midnight.

“Peaky” suggested taking a bicycle tour to Yvoire in France

Aerial view of the French village Yvoire on Lake Geneva
Aerial view of the French village Yvoire on Lake Geneva © Office de Tourisme Destination Léman

Hire bicycles from one of Genève RouleExternal link’s eight outlets, cycle on quieter roads via Cologny and Hermance (two hours) to the pretty lakeside village of YvoireExternal link in France for lunch (filets de perche [perche filets], for example), then take a historic paddle steamerExternal link back to Geneva with your bike on board. Rental prices start at CHF12 ($12) for a normal bike up to CHF25 for an electric bike for the day. A single boat ticket from Yvoire to Geneva costs CHF29 (2nd class) or CHF41 (1st class, with access to the sunny upper deck) and an additional CHF8 for your bicycle.

Several readers suggested waking up with the sun at the Bains des Pâquis

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The Bains des PâquisExternal link are Geneva’s much-loved public baths on Lake Geneva, which have been open since 1890. They are located on a jetty in the middle of the port with a stony beach on one side, and on the other low buildings incorporating sunbathing platforms, changing rooms, a sauna, hammam and Turkish baths, spaces for women only and a restaurant. People come here to sunbathe, swim, relax or enjoy cultural activities, such as art exhibitions, or musical events. In August, they organise Aubes MusicalesExternal link, a month of concerts and performances – from jazz to Alphorns – given at sunrise every day (check out the Youtube playlistExternal link of past performances). The baths open from 9.30am to 8pm all year round.

Qafé Guidoline is a popular new venue for beers and bikes


Qafé GuidolineExternal link is Geneva’s first cycle café, located on a square in the Paquis district. The modern, New York-style industrial space is decorated by bicycles, plants and colourful graphic designs. Riders can browse, get advice and repairs in the Hot Point bicycle storeExternal link next door. But the founders, who include the owner of the busy Petite ReineExternal link bar, insist that Qafé Guidoline should be known as a local bistro. It is open from 8am to midnight Monday to Saturday, and features local Geneva wines, craft beers, coffee, salads, and cold meats.

Floating down the Rhône River

Inflatable boats down the Rhone River in Geneva
The fast-flowing Rhône River and the path leading to the Pointe de la Jonction have become a popular alternative hang-out to Lake Geneva and its beaches Keystone

In summer, the Bains des PaquisExternal link, Genève PlageExternal link and ReposoirExternal link beach on the lake can get busy. Like Bern, Zurich and Basel, in recent years Geneva locals have rediscovered the joys – and dangers – of swimming in the Rhône River. From the Pont de Sous-Terre bridge, teenagers fearlessly leap into the fast-flowing river. It is only recommended for good swimmers from this point up to the Pointe de la JonctionExternal link due to dangerous strong currents. A safer option is to use an inflatable boat or to hire a kayakExternal link for a trip further down the river past the point where the Rhône meets the Avre River as far as the village of Peney – a 2.5-hour journey along the peaceful Rhône past its wild banks.

According to “Rachelle P”, Les Voiles is one of the best outdoor summer lounges

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Les VoilesExternal link is a chic Ibiza-style lakeside open-air lounge bar/club next to Geneve PlageExternal link. White sofas, sunsets, high-heels, house music and expensive cocktails – this is where people go to relax after work, people-watch or dress up to get down on a Friday or Saturday night. It opens from 6pm to 1am (until 2am from Thursday to Saturday, closed on Monday).

How about a picnic and a free concert at the La Grange park?

The Ella Fitzgerald stage at the La Grange Park in Geneva 
Picnickers in front of the Ella Fitzgerald stage at the La Grange Park in Geneva

Geneva is spoilt for beautiful parks. On warm summer evenings, the La Grange park not far from the Jet d’Eau fountain is the place to be for families, picnickers and music lovers. Like every year, from July 6 to August 22, the local authorities have put on a series of free concerts as part of the “Music in Summer” festivalExternal link. Set against a backdrop of ancient cedar trees, the Ella Fitzgerald stage welcomes international artists for a programme of mostly world, folk and pop music.

“Swiss” says there’s nothing better on a warm, sunny day than an ice cream at Gelato Mania

Gelato Mania ice cream outlet in Geneva s Pâquis district
The queue stretches out the door at the Gelato Mania artisanal ice cream shop in Geneva’s Pâquis district

Geneva can get hot in summer. After a dip in the lake, what better way of cooling off than an ice cream. Artisanal ice cream shops have been popping up all over the city in recent years. A favourite is Gelato ManiaExternal link, which always has long queues outside its four outlets. It is well known for its refreshing pineapple basil flavour. But there is tough competition from Manu GelatoExternal link, which has a wide selection, such as “Double Gruyère cream with pieces of meringue and fruits of the forest sauce”.

Get the best view of Geneva from the top of Mont Salève

View of Geneva, the lake and the Jura Mountains from the top of Mont Salève
View of Geneva, the lake and the Jura Mountains from the top of Mont Salève ©Jean-Marc Favre-WOOlooMOOloo

On a clear day in Geneva there are amazing views of the Mont Blanc, the French Alps and the Jura Mountains. But to get the best panorama of the city, lake and surrounding countryside you need to visit the Mont Salève. Take the number 8 bus for 20 minutes from the centre to the Veyrier Douane bus stop, hop across the French border, walk for ten minutes and then take a cable car to the top of the SalèveExternal link. It is popular with locals and tourists just for the views, but also with paragliders, mountain bikers and walkers. A 2.5-hour trek loops back down the mountain following the original historic electric rack-and-pinion railway line that transported people up and down the mountain between 1893-1935.

Watch a free classic movie in the Perle du Lac Park

View of the Cine Transat festival in 2016
Movie fans watch the spaghetti western “For a Few Dollars More” by Sergio Leone at the Cine Transat festival in 2016 Keystone

Cine TransatExternal link – a free open-air cinema festival by the lake – is this year celebrating its tenth birthday. Located in the Perle du Lac Park, the festival under the stars runs from July 12-August 19 and features a varied programme for all the family, including cult movies, thematic sing-a-long evenings, and short films. Hire a deckchair for CHF5 or bring a rug, and don’t forget your picnic.

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