10 BEST WEEKEND TRIPS FROM GENEVA!
By Björn Hansen, founder of private tour company CYou in Switzerland
Geneva is a great place to live! This is not just my personal opinion but rather a fact that has been verified several times by multiple sources like CNBC or the German educational magazine GEO. But why is that so? It could be the city’s diversity due to the many expats from all around the globe who work for the UN or one of the many NGOs. Or is it Geneva’s cosmopolitan lifestyle that still keeps its small-city charm and artsy, liberal scene?
For me, it is all that and more, especially its great location in the very center of Europe and with the world’s closest airport to the city center (7 minutes by train). But what if you want to escape the city life and without jumping on a plane? Here are my top 10 personal suggestions for your next getaway.
TRIPS UNDER 30 MINUTES FROM GENEVA
1. First place goes to Geneva’s home mountain – the Salève. Standing at 1,379 m in height and offering a phenomenal view of Geneva, Lac Léman and the French Alps, it deserves the top spot on this list. Easily accessible with public transportation (TPG) and with hundreds of hikes up, down, or along the ridge you can spend hours or days exploring the paths, caves, and rock formations. Did you know that the TPG offers a combined ticket for public transport + cable car? It’s a great deal!
2. Float down the Rhône.Yes, why escape Geneva by traditional means of transport like a train or any other motor vehicle? Grab some kind of flotation device (SUP, Kayak, inflatable boat, etc.), jump into the river in Jonction, and just let yourself go with the flow. With a maximum paddle time of around 2-2.5 hours, you can get out anywhere from Geneva to Peney at the latest (NB: a flood gate is just behind the village of Peney).
3. Discover Nyon. Only 20 minutes away by train awaits the small city of Nyon with its beautiful old town and castle. Perched above the lake, the Château de Nyon stands out with its white turrets against the sky. Right next to it you will still find some Roman columns from back when Nyon was still Noviodunum. A boat ride back to Geneva rounds up the day.
UNDER AN HOUR FROM GENEVA
4. The canton of Geneva is huge and extends well beyond the city. The countryside with its vineyards and cute little towns is worth a stroll and/or a bicycle tour. Don’t miss “Caves ouverts”, a local tradition every (non-COVID) year in spring when the local winemakers invite you to taste their wines from last year’s harvest.
5. At the very tip of Switzerland, already on the French side, you find the Fort l’Ecluse and its Via Ferrata. What is a Via Ferrata? Directly translated as “Iron Way”, it’s a climb along a steel rope with mostly fixed ladders and steps. This Via Ferrata is quite an easy one and could be done by almost anyone sporty enough, with steady feet, no fear of heights, and of course the right equipment and knowledge. Disclaimer: Never done one before? Get a guide who can introduce you to this sport and the gear.
6. Barilette Restaurant – right next to the peak of la Dole is the Barilette Restaurant. In addition to their delicious food (which has to be mentioned!), their terrace and the panoramic view of Lac Leman and Mont Blanc makes it absolutely worth a visit. Sure, we’ve all seen on maps that Lac Léman is shaped like a half-moon, but from up here at 1,450 m of altitude you’ll see the croissant shape in real life.
7. Annecy – It’s just a 50-minute drive to the beautiful town of Annecy and its lake of the same name. Its medieval touch, lots of shops, restaurants, and pubs make it a great getaway for a day or two. Looking for something more adventurous? Annecy is known worldwide for its great paragliding conditions.
UNDER 2 HOURS FROM GENEVA
8. Ever heard about the Vallorbe Caves (Grottes de Vallorbe)? Although it’s the biggest show cave in Switzerland, it remains a hidden gem. Maybe because of its location deep in the Jura mountains, but it is an attraction that is not comparable to any other cave in the nearby area. The illuminated cathedral will take your breath away. Don’t miss the nearby Lac de Joux, either!
9. Postcard-perfect Gruyères
- Delicious Gruyères – Are you a foodie? Do you love chocolate and cheese? Why haven’t you been to Gruyères yet?! With 30% of the entire Swiss cheese production, the Gruyère AOP is most likely to be found on your breakfast table. Discover the big show dairy of Gruyères itself or one of the alpine dairies like this one on the foot of the Moléson. Still hungry? The Maison Callier is directly around the corner. Go on an insightful and delicious tour and discover more about Swiss chocolate.
- Medieval Gruyères – Foodie and medieval lover? Better plan 2 or more days in this area. Gruyères Castle, set in a beautiful environment, takes you on a journey through eight centuries of history and stories. The fairytale town is also a must, with its charm and plenty of restaurants to try out all kinds of different fondues. And even if it doesn’t quite fit into this setting: Are you a fan of the Alien movies? Have a drink in the HR Giger Bar & Museum!Best way to get to Gruyère? The Golden Pass by MOB – check out the timetables to get a seat on the belle époque
10. Discover the Rochers de Naye – This is probably the best view you can get of Lac Léman, Lavaux, and the Montreux Riviera. Rising from the shores of Lac Léman, the Rochers de Naye is a mountain chain with a restaurant at over 2,000 m. How to get there? Many roads lead to Rome…ah no, Rochers de Naye. Easiest way: A train departs from Montreux. The more athletic version: Leave your car at Haut de Caux and hike up. Super athletic version: Another Via Ferrata. But beware, it’s one of the most challenging ones in Switzerland. According to the Swiss Alpine Club the ratings for strength, experience, psychology, and stamina are all at a maximum.
We could go on and on with this list with places like the Lavaux, Montreux Riviera, Tour d’Ai, Gstaad, or the beautiful mountains in the French Alps. But for now, you might have already found enough inspiration for your next getaways from Geneva.
WHO IS BJÖRN?
Björn is the founder of CYou in Switzerland.
As an absolute outdoors lover and passionate guide, he founded the company in 2020 and organizes customized tours in Switzerland where every trip is tailored to the client’s needs. During the pandemic, CYou started organizing weekend getaways to the hidden gems and must-dos around Geneva. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I had a great time with Björn and went on a hike that I would not have found and been able to go on on my own. He tailored the hike to my level of fitness. We had great conversations along the way. I would encourage anyone who wants to get outside the city and have a world class hike to sign up for the tour. ” – Don, from Canada
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