Geneva vs. Zurich: The 8 Reasons Why Geneva Comes Out Top

| Anokhi De Silva / Unsplash
Sean Mowbray

If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland but don’t know where to begin, Culture Trip starts you off by listing the main reasons why you should head to Geneva first and Zurich second.

1. Geneva is a truly international city

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Flags leading to the United Nations building, Geneva, Switzerland
Mathias Reding / Unsplash

Walk down almost any street in Geneva, and you’ll hear languages from every corner of the world, all in the space of about five minutes. People from around 190 countries live and work in Geneva. It’s a truly international city, thanks to the presence of the UN, banking headquarters, and a whole host of other international companies and organizations. Zurich is a little more Swiss, and while it still attracts plenty of foreign nationals, it doesn’t compare to the diversity of Geneva. The best time to visit these vibrant cities largely depends on your preferences. Summer, from June to August, is popular for its pleasant weather, while winter, from December to February, offers the charm of holiday festivities and skiing in the nearby Alps. However, for a balance of good weather and fewer crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) or autumn (September to October).

2. Food, food and more food

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Yakumanka, Mandarin Oriental, a Peruvian ceviche restaurant devised by Gastón Acurio
© Yakumanka, Mandarin Oriental

All those different nationalities have to be catered for, and it means you really are spoilt for culinary choice in Geneva. You can find food from almost every corner of the world all without having to look very hard for it. On top of that, you can always dig into traditional Swiss dishes like cheese fondue or raclette.

To give an example, when standing on Rue de Lausanne, a stone’s throw away from Geneva’s Gare Cornavin, you can choose from any number of Indian restaurants, Chinese or African spots, or even sample some Peruvian empanadas.

3. It's cheaper

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

This is like comparing a Bugatti Veyron to a Porsche. However, between two of the most expensive cities in the world, Geneva is cheaper. Hotels, restaurants, bars – you name it, you can shave a little off your budget by spending some time in Geneva. If you’re staying for a while, you can always save even more by hopping across the border into France and picking up your groceries there.

4. It's a gateway to the Alps and more

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Red and white train on rail road in front of the Swiss alps
Piotr Guzik / Unsplash

Geneva is well placed to take you to France or Italy, where you can even travel on a day trip if you get up early enough. Zurich is smack in the middle of Switzerland, and while this may not be a bad thing if you want to explore the inner parts of the country, if you are planning to have Switzerland as a stop-over on a Euro tour, Geneva may be the best option.

5. You can learn about the workings of the world and beyond

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Metal structure in front of the Cern building, Geneva, Switzerland
Nadia Guarracino / Unsplash

If you want to find out what makes the world tick, there is probably no better place than Geneva. You can delve into mysteries of the universe in the morning at CERN, then learn the history of the United Nations in the afternoon. Zurich is home to plenty of museums and has a vibrant culture of its own, but if you want a global perspective, choose Geneva.

6. Geneva is quieter

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

A city street at night with a clock tower in the background, Geneva, Switzerland
Mick Haupt / Unsplash

Zurich’s population is larger and the city has a busier feel to it, whereas Geneva feels more like a large town. The peace and quiet can be good if you are looking for a relaxing trip, but if you’re up for a night out it can be a bit of a challenge.

7. Lake Geneva is bigger then lake Zurich

Natural Feature

Lake Geneva from the Chexbres, Switzerland
Xavier von Erlach / Unsplash
Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman, is far bigger than Lake Zurich. In fact, Lake Geneva is one of the biggest in Europe. All along the shores of Lake Geneva, you’ll be able to gaze in awe at the Alps in the distance and indulge in some water sports during the summer months.

8. The Jet d'eau


A water fountain in a lake, Jet d´eau, Geneva
Toni Pomar / Unsplash

Literally meaning the “water jet”, Geneva’s Jet d’eau is difficult to miss, as it rises 140m (460ft) from the surface of Lake Geneva up into the air. While its purpose is mystifying, it makes for a great photo, particularly at night when it’s fully lit up. Zurich can’t match this.

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