A visit to Geneva in winter is a real treat: with cozy restaurants, Christmas markets and snowy slopes nearby, these are the many reasons to plan a winter trip to Geneva, Switzerland.
I love visiting Geneva in the winter. A very close friend of mine lives in this interesting, international city and in the last few years I have made a habit of always going to visit her a couple of times a year, usually in spring and right before Christmas.
While both times are special, my winter visit to Geneva is always my favorite.
In winter, this austere city dresses up with understated but beautiful Christmas decorations, the smell of hot chocolate and fondue fills the air and the peaks surrounding the city get more than a dusting of snow, creating a beautiful natural backdrop to the city’s medieval center.
Top things to do in Geneva Switzerland in winter
Visit Geneva’s Christmas market
One of my favorite things to do in Geneva in December is taking a stroll at the city’s Christmas market.
Geneva does not have a strong tradition of Christmas markets however, it does host some and one of them is in the scenic and central location of parc des bastions.
The market is small but well laid out.
Near the entrance you have a merry go round and Christmas trees and the market is organizes as a series of wooden huts selling Christmas food (think fondue, mulled wine, hot chocolate but also falafel and international food) and the occasional Christmas craft.
The market doesn’t compare with big ones in Germany but is lovely and very easy to visit while sightseeing: during my stay in Geneva last winter, I ended up going every day!
The park also hosts a nice ice-skating rink which, when active, is one of our favorite places in Geneva for kids
Take a stroll in old town Geneva
The most beautiful part of Geneva is the old town.
Dating back to medieval times, the old city center develops on the highest part of town, on top of a hill, and is a delight of small alleys, piazzas, churches and museums.
The best way to enjoy Geneva old town is simply to walk around and take in the views.
In winter, this area is particularly pretty as decorations appear on many of its trees and the night lights make its pointy roofs look remarkably like a nativity scene!
Visit Geneva’s St Pierre cathedral
When in the old town, make sure you do not miss the inside of St Pierre, Geneva’s cathedral.
The church is imposing from the outside but the real gem is its interior. As well as a vast main nave, the church has a stunning side chapel, the Maccabean capel, which has stunning frescoes.
As well as beautiful, St Pierre is also historically significant as this is where Jan Calvin, fonder of Calvinism, used to preach.
Explore Geneva’s oldest house, now a museum
Another great place in old town Geneva is the city’s oldest house, now a museum.
The house is easy to visit and it is a great way to learn about the city: here you can see how an old town house used to look like and you also have a reconstruction of Geneva as it used to look, complete with city walls and all!
Go shopping in Carouge
Carouge is a district of Geneva and an absolute delight to visit any time of the year but especially in winter.
This are has small, pretty houses, quiet streets and a plethora of independent boutiques, shops and restaurants that make is exceptionally pleasant for Christmas shopping: if you are looking for one of a kind type of gifts, this is the place to be!
As well as shopping opportunities, Carouge is also generous of cute corners and pretty streets: this is without a doubt one of my favorite places to visit in Geneva in winter!
Indulge in Geneva’s winter foods
How to warm up after sightseeing in Geneva’s cold winter weather? But with warming foods of course, of which the city is generous.
For a traditional Swiss feast, order hot chocolate or dip your bread into cheese fondue but make sure you also taste some of Geneva’s international food (I am partial to their Mexican options).
Also, pay a visit to Chez ma Cousine in the old town: they specialize in roast chicken and their food is not just gorgeous, it is also incredibly cheap, a rarity in this city!
Admire the lights installations of the Geneva’s Lux festival
To brighten up the winter nights, every December Geneva hosts a lights festival, a time when art installations made of light appear all around the city.
The installations are free to enjoy and make the old town look positively magical!
Hit the slopes
Geneva is not just a lovely city for a city break it is also a fantastic base for a day on the slopes.
You have a vast choice of day trips from Geneva. The city is close to many ski resorts and facilitates day trips out of town with a skibus, offering a package of transport + access to two sky resorts.
This means you can sky during the day and enjoy the city in the evening: the perfect combination!
Take in a view of the lake
Geneva lies along on Lac Leman and no trip to it would be complete without at least a short stroll along its shores.
The lake is easier to enjoy in spring and summer, when it becomes a favorite hang out for local families, but it is beautiful in winter too and worth a stop.
Check out the flower clock, on its shores, take a mouette (the free water taxi) or just sit in a winter terrace while admiring the jet d’eau for an afternoon of guaranteed winter relaxation.
What to pack for Geneva Switzerland winter weather
Geneva in winter is cold and warm clothes are paramount.
Depending on the exact month of your visit and the year, you may or may not find snow in Geneva but in winter you are guaranteed to want to wrap up.
Warm, good walking shoes are a must
The style in Geneva reflects the constraints of this mountain city: opt for comfort first and embrace lined boots and warm coats.
Make sure your winter packing list for Geneva includes:
- Warm boots, good for walking and snow-proof (or at least, rain proof).
- Good quality, padded winter coat
- Scarf, hat, gloves
- Good quality sweater
- Thermal underwear (this may or may not be needed, I found a thermal top in particular came in handy)
Tours and experiences in and near Geneva Switzerland in winter
If you are looking for an organized activity or tour during your winter trip to Geneva, here are some to consider (all offered by get Your Guide, with instant booking and easy cancellation options. The following are affiliate links)
One for chocolate lovers: a 3 hour chocolate tasting walking tour
Glacier 3000 and Montreaux: Full day excursion to Glacier 3000, a winter wonderland for outdoor lovers with skiing and tobogganing opportunities, a suspension bridge, great restaurants and a stunning views plus a stop in stylish Montreaux on the way back
Dreaming of visiting Chamonix? easily done from Geneva thanks to the several day tours available such as this one
I hope you enjoyed this selection of things to do in Geneva in winter and it inspired you to book a trip soon. Safe travels!
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