When I was planning my five-country seven-day fall break adventure, I did not realize I would be spending the final stretch in the most expensive country in the world. I was crazy broke and was ready for a home-cooked meal, not another expensive meal out. Instead of being bummed that I had to budget and miss out on some cool attractions (swiss-army knife making?!), I decided make it a challenge to see all the beautiful budget-free things the city had to offer. I had an amazing experience just relaxing by the lake and enjoying the sunset and walking through the city admiring the colorful old buildings.
Here is my guide to visiting Geneva on a budget:
Things to Know:
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF) many restaurants accept Euros/ 1 CHF ≈ 0.99 USD
- Language: Switzerland has three official languages: French, German and Italian but French is the most commonly spoken.
- Location: Located 4km from France border, 40 km from Annecy, France
- Fun fact: Geneva has the shortest commuting time of any major city in the world.
I’m not kidding. One thing that Geneva does not lack is efficient and budget-friendly transportation.
- Free airport transfer: Before you exit the baggage claim area, look for the machine that says “free ticket”. Not a scam, I promise. Simply just press the button receive a ticket valid for the next 80 minutes on trains, buses and trams.
- Free public transportation: If you are staying in a hotel, hostel or even camping in Geneva, you are entitled to the very important Geneva Transport Card. This card allows unlimited travel around the city for the entire duration of your stay. Make sure to ask for it at your accommodation. Visit the official site for more information.
- Free Bikes: Geneve Roule provides free bikes during the summer months for up to four hours at a time.
Budget-Friendly Things to Do:
1. Check out the Jet d’eau
Although going to see a jet of water doesn’t sound very exciting, it is a great reason to visit the beautiful Lake Geneva. The Jet d’eau is one of the largest fountains in the world and currently jets out 500 liters of water per second!
2. Snap a picture of the Flower Clock
Another budget-friendly and cool attraction in Geneva is the beautiful flower clock in Jardin Anglais park. The clock actually changes with the seasons, as it is made of various flowers which bloom in different times in the year.
3. Visit the St. Pierre Cathedral
This cathedral is an important piece of religious history, as it is where John Calvin lead the Protestant Reformation. Inside you can still see the wooden chair once used by Calvin during the 16th century! Bonus: the top of the two towers is a great spot to see incredible panoramic views of Geneva.
4. Have a Picnic in the Park
Grab your favorite sandwich supplies and fresh fruit and enjoy the city’s stunning scenery and parks.
Shop my European style:
5. Visit a United Nations Headquarters
The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is the second-largest of the four offices of the United Nations (the largest being in New York, USA). Switzerland prides itself as being politically neutral, so it would only make sense for the European headquarters along with the Red Cross offices be located here.
Located right next to the UN Office is the Broken Chair wooden sculpture. Constructed with over 5.5 tons of wood and built 12 meters high, it is meant to symbolize the opposition to land mines and cluster bombs.
Where to Eat:
I must forewarn you that anywhere you will eat out in Geneva will be around CHF/euros15-20. The best advice I can give you when it comes to eating in Geneva is to buy your own food from the grocery stores and get creative!
Other food options in Geneva on a budget include:
- Carosello; Boulevard Georges-Favon 25; Has a tasty daily special (pizza with salad) that goes for around CHF 15.
- Parfums de Beyrouth, Rue de Berne 18, 1201 Genève; A hole in the wall Mediterranean style restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options that cost around CHF 16 a plate but are more than enough to feed two people.
- Buvette des Bains; quai du Mont-Blanc 30; This lakeside restaurant is also budget-friendly with its daily lunch specials going for around CHF 12.
I love challenging myself to budget because it helps me remember that experiences always triumph spending money on unnecessary things. It was great to be able to enjoy the outdoors and the simple things like watching the sunset with good friends.
What is your favorite thing to do in Geneva on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!
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