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Geneva is a gateway to cultural history, mountain landscapes and much more. Here are some of the great places that you can get to from Geneva on a day trip in Switzerland and in neighboring France.
There are old, medieval streets and architecture abound in Neuchâtel. During the warm summer months, it’s a pleasure to stroll along town’s lakeside promenade that hugs the side of Lake Neuchâtel. The Laténium, Switzerland’s largest archaeological museum, is based here and features local historical artefacts stretching back to 50,000 years ago. At the Place de Halles, there is also a lively market held three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the summer.
The medieval town of Annecy is one of the most beautiful in France and sits on the edge of what is known as the cleanest lake in Europe, and it’s only an hour’s drive away from Geneva. After suffering many years of environmental degradation and pollution, new laws came into place in the 1960s and gradually transformed Lake Annecy into the crystal clear waters of today. You’ll find yourself getting lost in the maze of old streets and canals, which have earned Annecy the nickname of “Venice of the Alps”. Be sure to pass by the Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) for some of the best views.
It’s often said that Lausanne is more lively than Geneva. Whether that’s the shopping scene or the nightlife, once you’ve visited both you may well agree. There is a lot to see and do in Lausanne, from the winding streets of the old town and the picturesque port of Ouchy to the Olympic Museum, where you can discover what it means to be an Olympian. Take a stroll down the Escaliers du Marché, a wooden covered pathway, which links the city’s oldest area, Cité, to two market places. Following the steep steps from Place de la Palud takes you to another historical highlight, the 13th century Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne, considered the finest Gothic building in the entire country.
Lavaux is Switzerland’s largest vineyard area, spanning 830 hectares and stretching along the side of Lake Geneva for 30km. The current vineyard terraces date from the 11th century and the area is a UNESCO world heritage site for its cultural importance. Switzerland isn’t known as a producer of fine wines mainly because they export only a fraction of what they produce, so much of the wine here is unlikely to be found outside of the country. In Lavaux, you’ll find the Swiss wine route and some of the best wine-tasting in the many wine cellars that are open to visitors.
Aficionados of jazz are likely to know of Montreux, which is world famous for its two week long jazz festival. The town comes alive with big names coming from across the globe, as well as many more up and coming artists appearing on the free stages. A walk along the 3.5 km promenade takes you to the Château du Chillon, Geneva’s most visited historical monument, that sits on a small island on the lake. Montreux is also a good base to explore the surrounding countryside, as the annual Narcissus bloom that are a must-see.
A short trip from Geneva takes you into the heart of the Jura mountains in the Vallee de Joux. The valley is one the most beautiful in the Jura mountain range and offers many great trails for hiking. The Lac de Joux sits 1000 metres above sea level and is a popular site for water sports due to the high winds that can be whipped up. During the summer, it’s also a lure for bathers and swimmers. For a more subterranean view, head to the town of Vallorbe where you can venture into a series of limestone caves, called the “Fairy caves” by locals.
No trip to Switzerland would be complete without a visit to Gruyères, the country’s cheese capital. The small medieval town gives its name to Le Gruyère cheese and you can discover how it’s made at the local factory and sample it too of course. Afterwards you can visit the Château de Gruyères, or admire the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
For fans of literature and history, a short trip across the Swiss-French border to Ferney Voltaire is a must. Here, in the years between 1757 and 1778, Voltaire turned the small hamlet of Ferney into a town, shaping its development by building a church, a theatre and a small watchmaking industry, while simultaneously writing his works that would shape the world of human rights. You can visit the Château de Ferney and explore where Voltaire spent many of his last years working. Every Saturday there is also a lively market that stretches through the town centre, with basketfuls of delicious fresh foods from France and beyond.
A 90-minute drive from Geneva takes you to Chamonix, a French ski resort nestled at the foot of the Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest mountain. Chamonix is a popular choice as a ski escape from Geneva but there is a lot more on offer to hold you there, such as the Glacier des Bossons, where you can venture inside of a creaking glacier, or Le 3842 high-attitude café where you ‘Step Into the Void’ in a glass cube.
Overlooking Geneva and offering great views of the city, Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alps, the Mont Salève is a short bus ride away from the city centre. Across the border in France, the top of Salève standing at 1,143 metres can be reached by a short hour hike on a network of trails. From the small town of Veyrier you can take a cable car ride to the summit, it takes around six minutes to reach the top. To get there take bus 8 to its terminus at Veyrier, walk across the border (bring your passport) and follow the signs to the cable car or trails.