FREE OR NEARLY FREE THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA
by Chené Koscielny
Geneva is said to be the second most expensive Swiss city and one of the world’s 10 most expensive. So, finding fun things to do in Geneva without blowing the budget can be tricky, but certainly not impossible.
During the summer months, free concerts take place in the city’s parks, free language lessons are offered, several firework displays and free festivals take place and you have a choice of very reasonably priced entrances to the city’s pools and beaches. In winter, the city’s ice skating rinks are free, with just a small fee for skate hire, free festivals take place and of course the Escalade parade is also free.
We share some ideas for free or nearly free things to do in the city – feel free to share your favourites by commenting, sending us a mail or on Facebook.
BATS, ANTS, TIGERS & THE DODO
National History Museum
Featuring animals from around the world, including 8 different species of tiger, a bat expo and a replica of the extinct dodo – this museum is a great way to spend a few hours. Lots of interactive displays to amuse little hands.
Read our review of the amazing current Ant Exhibition – which really is much more exciting than you think and free for children up to 18 years old.
Opening times: Daily 10am – 5pm, except Mondays, 25.12 and 1.1
Location: 1 route de Malagnou, Genève.
Price: Free, but entrance free for some of the exhibitions.
TOP TIP: Pop into Elsalad around the corner for the best salads and salad wraps in town at reasonable prices. Read our review.
BIZARRE & BEAUTIFUL
Geneva’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art features international and Swiss works from the twentieth century up to today. Bizarre, interesting, thought-provoking conceptual art – from the ‘cave room’ to Cecile Bart’s ‘flying paintings’.
Opening times: Tues to Fri 12pm – 6pm, Sat & Sun 11am – 6pm; first Wednesday of the month – late opening and free admission from 6-9pm, free guided tour at 7pm
Location: 10 rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, Genève.
Price: CHF 8
More info on their site.
TOP TIP: Most museums offer free entrance on the first Sunday of every month.
IMPRESS YOUR GUESTS
Read our pocket-sized guides to free historical sights – complete with anecdotes to impress the socks off your guests, including the Brunswick Museum, the Reformation Wall and the oldest tree in Geneva.
Learn more about Carouge – the city’s Italianate and Mediterranean-style neighbourhood by doing a very reasonable themed walk.
CHF10 (adults) CHF5 (children)
Read our article.
NATURAL HIGH – MONT SALÈVE
Fresh mountain air, stunning views, exercise…
Mont Salève just across the Franco-Swiss border offers numerous hiking and mountain biking paths, as well as paragliding and cross-country ski trails. But if you’re not that energetic, the cable car will drop you at the observation deck.
A number of restaurants offer meals for various budgets or take a baguette, cheese and wine.
Enjoy watching paragliders jump off the mountain and airplanes taking off and landing at Genève Aéroport.
TOP TIP: For hikers: free rendezvous every Sunday morning at 10am – for a guided walk up the mountain. More info here.
Bus route: Take the No. 8 bus from Geneva to the border at Veyrier. You can then walk, bike or take the cable car to the top.
One-way rides on the cable car cost 7.30 Euros per adult, while round-trip tickets are 11.30 euros each. Reduced rates are available for children and seniors.
Buy your passes from the Telepherique du Salève website.
Weather permitting, the cable car is generally open between April and October from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday, Friday and Saturdays – until 11pm.
Restaurant prices in Geneva are enough to put most people off their food – as we know.
We have a few ideas for eating out in the city en famille without breaking the bank. Eating the menu du jour at lunch time is always a good option too! La Fourchette and Buyclub regularly offer discounts for eating out in local restaurants.
PARC DES BASTIONS
A great historical park in the heart of the city – challenge yourself to a giant chess game, take a picnic or enjoy a few minutes of peace while the children skate around the free winter-time ice rink or play in the little playground.
For more information, read our article.
BAINS DE PÂQUIS
OK, so we may be a little obsessed with these historical baths in Geneva, but there really is no better place to lounge in the sun sipping a coffee and enjoy a croissant or a piece of cake from the Buvette des Bains, go for a dip (or even skinny dip) any time of the year or just observe some fascinating locals.
Stunning views of the Jet d’eau, the Rade and the Old Town.
Address: 30 quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Genève
Free events are organised throughout the year.
More information on their website.
YELLOW SUBMARINE – NO TAXI!
Les mouettes are yellow shuttle boats, which form part of Geneva’s public transport system. They offer short journeys between four spots at the edge of Lake Geneva.
This is a very cheap way to experience Lake Geneva from the water. Children love it and mine were even more excited when they spotted some naked bathers at the Bains de Pâquis during one of our crossings.
The yellow boats are included free in the Geneva transport card provided by all hotels and hostels in Geneva.
Price: CHF3.50 or free with a Geneva transport card
More info on their website.
THE CITY THROUGH THE EYES OF LOCALS
Free walking tours are a great way to explore the city and learn about its rich history and beautiful architecture.
Free Walk Geneva offers two daily free walking tours. The ‘Heart of Geneva’ walking tour from the foot of the Clock Tower, Pont de l’île at Place Bel-Air and explores Geneva’s old town and city centre through the ages.
The second ‘International Geneva’ tour departs from the Broken Chair Monument and visits the many international organisations that are based in Geneva.
Price: free tours are tip-based.
For more info visit the website.
WASTE TIME AT A FLEA MARKET
Rummage through the never-ending selection of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, records, books, toys and anything under the sun hunting for bargains, people-watching or soul-searching.
Every Sunday until 4pm on the Plaine de Plainpalais
TOP TIP: Grab a delicious homemade falafel or galette from the Croc-Orient stall – read our review and story here.
The monthly Nyon Flea Market overlooking the beautiful lake is also well-worth a visit – read our review.
GENEVA ON TWO WHEELS
Genéve Roule offers free bike rental for four hours. After four hours, the rental is CHF2 per hour. The bicycles are in good condition and come with a lock and small basket.
Electric bikes are available for free at nations, Carouge and Versoix for a cash deposit of CHF100.
Price: free up to 4 hours, then CHF2 per hour.
More information and the map of lending stations on their website.
If you’re not into cycling, other options such as jogging, scootering, rollerblading or simply strolling around the lake are also glorious on a sunny day.
EAT ON THE STREET
For some of the best and cheapest food options in town – visit the fantastic selection of food trucks on the Ville de Geneve’s official food truck circuit.
Lobster rolls, Pad Thai, Salads, Pizza, Hamburgers – many yummy options to choose from.
Find out more about some of our favourites.