Switzerland’s second most populated city, Geneva, is, in fact, only home to less than 200,000 people, but this doesn’t stop it from being one of the biggest powerhouses where tourism is concerned. More than 100,000 tourists stop by this Swiss city every year – when you compare that to the number of people who call the city home, it’s pretty impressive.
If you are visiting Geneva, you’ll likely be looking for things to keep you entertained while you are there, and the good news is, keeping busy in this city doesn’t need to cost the earth.
There are many interesting free things to do in Geneva, so many that you may find yourself spoilt for choice. One of the most common gripes of tourists visiting the country, is that Switzerland is not the cheapest place in the world, so these free attractions could potentially save you a lot of money.
I have narrowed it down to what I believe to be some of the most superb free activities in Geneva – who said traveling needed to break the bank?
Why Do You Need To Find Free Things To Do In Geneva?
We have touched on the fact that Switzerland does require a decent amount of spending money, but that’s no reason that touring this beautiful country should be put to the end of your travel bucket list.
The reason that the country is a little more pricey where tourism is concerned is thanks to the strength of the currency – the Swiss Franc, and it’s no secret that even going for a quiet lunch can prove to be a lot more than you may have anticipated. However, you can find your saving grace in the fact that, in Switzerland, it is not compulsory to leave a tip. While many people do this, as in countries across Europe, if the meal came to a little more than you would have liked, not leaving a tip will not be frowned upon.
The Best Free Things To Do In Geneva
Finding free things to do on any vacation is a bonus, especially if you are planning to spend a lengthy period of time in any one location. It doesn’t take long before all those entrance fees for tourist attractions mount up and leave your wallet looking a little worse for wear.
If the weather is good, you have even more choice when it comes to free activities since there are many parks and open spaces that give you the opportunity to while away an afternoon in the sun.
The weather in Geneva is relatively decent. Despite its inland location, Switzerland is a land-locked nation; after all, Geneva is known to have a mild oceanic climate thanks to its neighboring lake. This means that the weather is very pleasant during the summer and tends to be wet in the winter – so it might be an idea to visit during the warmer months to make the most of the free activities we will discuss.
The Geneva Natural History Museum
There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of cities around the world that boast a natural history museum – some are more interesting than others, but there is little doubt in my mind that the one in Geneva leaves little to be desired.
Founded in the late 1960s, the Geneva natural history museum now welcomes more than a quarter of a million visitors each year – clearly demonstrating its popularity.
There is a wealth of animals on display in the ground floor exhibition. If you wanted to see something really curious, there is Janus, a turtle with two heads that has undoubtedly given the museum a reputation for weirdness.
If you are traveling with children, many interactive activities within the museum make learning enjoyable and fun for young minds.
The museum is free to enter, although there may be temporary exhibitions from time to time that require a small fee, but omitting these certainly won’t take away from the enjoyment of the main museum.
Parc des Bastions
We have mentioned the beautiful Geneva summers, which offer beautiful sunshine complemented by a fresh lake breeze making outdoor time nothing short of a dream. If you’re keen to spend some time mingling with the locals and enjoying the weather then an afternoon in the Parc Des Bastions is a must.
There is a huge chess set that can be used by the public as well as a lovely little children’s play area for the younger ones.
If you have decided to brave the Geneva winter and visit over the Christmas period, not only will you get the incredible festive vibes of the European holiday season, but you will also have the opportunity to try your hand at a spot of ice-skating on the temporary rink located within the park. It is worth remembering, though, that this option may come with a small fee.
Alternatively, if you want to experience the historic park with zero expense, a picnic on the grass or an afternoon stroll is a splendid idea.
There’d be little point in traveling all the way to Switzerland without experiencing the wonder of the mountains that this country is famed for. If you’re visiting Geneva and want to get into the great outdoors without parting with too much of your hard-earned dollar, then a hike or cycle ride up the magnificent Mont Saleve is an excellent option.
Now, of course, there are plenty of attractions at the mountain which will require some funding – restaurants, guided tours, cable cars, etc., but these are all optional. Enjoying the mountain comes completely free of charge. However, there is a free guided tour on a Sunday morning if you arrive by 10 am.
The views from the top are breathtaking and really have to be seen to be believed, and if you are looking to kill a day, climbing to the top will certainly help you to achieve that.
Concert At The Bain De Paquis
When you are in Geneva, the Bain De Paquis is one of the things that you must add to your list – not only is it an excellent option for cooling off but in the summer, there are a multitude of different concerts in the mornings.
This is a great place to simply hang out and watch the world go by. If you want to take a dip, it’s free for most of the year but if you’re there in the summer, you will need to pay a 2CHF charge.
The concerts that we mentioned, however, are completely free to attend and take place every morning throughout the summer from around 7 am. If you’re an early riser looking for something to do until the rest of the world wakes up – this is for you.
You’ll get a beautiful view across the Geneva Old Town which features some stunning architecture as well as a choice of eateries if you decide that a spot of lunch is in order.
Whilst Geneva may be a little on the expensive side, exploring the city doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.
There are two walking tours offered free every day by a company called Free Walk Geneva and these provide a great opportunity for people on a budget to discover everything that the city has to offer.
There are, as we mentioned, two tours, the first being one which focuses on the international organizations in the city and the second which takes you through the old town and talks about the history of Geneva.
Whilst these tours do not come with a fee, it is customary to tip your guide, so this is worth keeping in mind – is there really such a thing as a free lunch? Probably not.
You didn’t think that I would write about all the wonderful free things to do in Geneva without including the city’s glistening lake, did you?
If you’re traveling on a budget, you are free to explore the beauty and wonder that the natural world has to offer and Lake Geneva is as good a place to start than any and if it was good enough for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, it’s good enough for me.
The lake is huge – 224 square miles to be exact so taking a walk around it would certainly take a bit of time. But there are two choices – you can stay in the city and hit the Bains Des Paquis or head out a little and relax away from the hustle and bustle.
The lake is home to a variety of vineyards, restaurants, and bars, but if you’re looking for a totally free day out – the scenery is truly priceless.
In 1886, the Jet d’Eau was built as a way of relieving pressure from a nearby water plant but today it can lay claim to being one of the most iconic attractions in Geneva and a visit to the Swiss city would not be complete without it.
No matter where you are around the lake, you will likely get a good view of the Jet d’Eau, since it shoots the water more than 450 feet up in the air. It’s a sight that has to be seen to be believed, that’s for sure.
There is a pier that gives you closer access to the fountain but it is worth keeping in mind that this is not always open, so it pays to check beforehand. For the most part, it is open between 9 am and 11 pm but during the autumn months, it does shut down for repairs and maintenance.
Conservatory And Botanical Gardens Geneva
For anyone who adores and appreciates the things that mother nature has to offer us, a trip to the botanical gardens in any city is essential and you won’t be disappointed by what you find in Geneva.
There are many gardens here, each displaying a stunning array of flowers, herbs, and other plants including some of the most stunning rose bushes you have ever seen.
All of this aside, there are many other things to do whilst you are here, and spending an afternoon at the botanical gardens is more than doable. There is a carousel, a library, and an animal park here. This is a versatile location that can cater to the tastes of all the family. What’s more, there is a resident peacock who loves to mingle with the tourists and put on a display.
Whilst there is a restaurant here, many people opt to make the most of the free attraction and take a picnic, and with so many beautiful al fresco dining spots areas to choose from, who could blame them?
Geneva is a small city but it certainly packs a punch where tourist attractions are concerned, and you’d be hard-pushed to find anywhere as internationally recognized as this incredible little location.
However, one of the major drawbacks for tourists is that Geneva is expensive to visit – and that is true of anywhere in Switzerland. But this doesn’t mean to say that if you are traveling on a budget, you cannot enjoy much of what the city has to offer.
With an impressive selection of free things to do in Geneva, you won’t be short of activities. From enjoying the great outdoors to exploring museums, a trip to Geneva won’t necessarily be super expensive.