The Top Reasons Why You Should Visit Geneva Over Zurich

Geneva is a great first stop on a trip to Switzerland
Geneva is a great first stop on a trip to Switzerland | © Stefano Politi Markovina / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sean Mowbray
26 April 2021

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.

Geneva is a truly international city

The presence of the United Nations contributes to making Geneva a diverse, international city | © GFC Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

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 organisations. Zurich is a little more Swiss, and while it still attracts plenty of foreign nationals, it doesn’t compare to the diversity of Geneva.

Food, food and more food

The Peruvian cuisine at Yakumanka is just one of Geneva’s many international culinary offerings | © 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.

It’s cheaper

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.

It’s a gateway to the Alps and more

Combine a visit to the Swiss Alps with a weekend in France or Italy | © Paul Williams / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

You can learn about the workings of the world and beyond

Learn about cutting-edge physics with a trip to CERN | © Julia Gavin / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Geneva is quieter

Calm evenings are more the norm in Geneva | © Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Lake Geneva is bigger than Lake Zurich

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.

The Jet d’eau

Geneva’s ‘Jet d’eau’ is one of the city’s more unique features | © olrat / Alamy Stock Photo

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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