FREE AND NEARLY FREE THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA
Feeling a bit skint after the summer holidays? We remind you of some of the great things that can be done on a budget or for free.
We have been guiding you to all the free concerts and events in our Summer guide.
Here are some additional ideas for enjoying Geneva on a budget.
VISIT A LOCAL MUSEUM
Geneva has a fantastic selection of museums to choose from – from contemporary art to natural history to photography. luxury watches and porcelain.
We mention a few favourites – also read our article with a ranking of some of the local museums.
FAIRYTALES AT THE MEG
Geneva’s MEG (Museum of Ethnography) currently has an exhibition focusing on fairytales – The life and times of fairy tales: La Fabrique des Contes. The exhibition will run until January 2020.
The exhibition explores the magical universe of the fairy tales we know so well and which forms part of our cultural heritage, regardless of where we are from. The expo is designed as a sensory experience that takes you to the heart of 8 stories, reimagined through mirrors, dioramas and optical illusions.
The MEG café offers a great lunch, cake and snacks.
Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG)
Boulevard Carl-Vogt 65 – 1205Genève
On this site.
PREDATORS AT THE 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.
The current Predators exhibition features predators and their strategies for catching their prey.
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.
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.
BAINS DE PÂQUIS AND THE NEW CITY BEACH IN EAUX-VIVES
Until recently Bains de Pâquis was Geneva’s only public city beach in Geneva. It is great for fondue, reasonable healthy daily meals and a dip (or even skinny dip) any time of the year or just to observe some fascinating locals.The Hammam and spa are also great – we love the Thursday night ladies only nights, followed by a fondue and vino.
Address: 30 quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Genève
Free events are organised throughout the year, including the AUBES sunrise concerts in August and September. Read our review here.
The new public beach in Eaux-Vives was opened in June this year – but will close again for further works in September.
Read more about it in our article her.e
WALKING TOURS TO DISCOVER THE CITY
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.
Learn more about Carouge – the city’s Italianate and Mediterranean-style neighbourhood by doing a very reasonable themed walk.
CHF10 (adults) CHF5 (children)
On this website.
STROLL THROUGH THE OLD TOWN
Discover the Old Town – read our article describing a step-by-step guided walk through the Old Town.
YOUR OWN CHOCOLATE TOUR
In stead of forking out a fortune for a chocolate tour, why not follow our guide for some of the best chocolate tasting spots in town. You only pay for the chocolates you buy!
HIKING ON THE SALÉVE
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.
READ our article with a step-by-step guide for hiking the Saléve.
TOP TIP: For hikers: free rendezvous every Sunday morning at 10am – for a guided walk up the mountain. READ our article about hiking on the Saléve 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.
CHEAP EATS AND FOOD TRUCKS
Restaurant prices in Geneva are exorbitant by any standards– 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! One of our favourites is Le Flacon in Carouge – a Michelin-starred restaurant which offers a very reasonable menu du jou during the daytime in the week. La Fourchette regularly offer discounts for eating out in local restaurants.
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. We love The Hamburger Foundation and Debi’s Kitchen.
Find more info here.
BAG A BARGAIN AT A FLEA MARKET
Rummage through the never-ending selection of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, records, books and toys at Geneva’s flea markets.
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.
During the summer Carouge also has a night market every Thursday night from February till the 3rd of October from 14h till 21h and don’t miss the brocante on the first Sunday of every month on the Place du Marché from 9h-17h.
ENJOY THE LOCAL PARKS AND BOTANICAL GARDEN
In the Parc des Bastion – you can 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.
Opposite the entrance, the La Duchessa deli offers fanastic cake slices, sandwiches and salads for a picnic lunch.
For more information about Parc des Bastions read our article.
Other parks to visit – include the beautiful Parc des Eaux-Vives, Parc Bertrand in Champel and Perle du Lac and the Bois de la Batie. More info in our picnic article here.
THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
This oasis offers peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city. The Botanical garden, between the Palais des Nations and Lake Geneva, has several greenhouses, a small Japanese garden and is very beautifully laid out. It is well worth a visit.
The garden is home to over 16,000 different species of plants, trees and shrubs. he Botanical Gardens Herbarium contains one of the world’s largest collections of plants and fungi with around 6,000,000 specimens.
Admission is free.
An enchanted forest playground for children, a carousel of fairy tales, the botanical shop, cafe and restaurant.
There are different ways to access the Botanical Gardens.
The main entrance is Place Albert Thomas, on the Rue de Lausanne. Buses number 1, 11, 25 and 28 will take you there as well as tram 15, get off at Jardin Botanique.
Place Albert Thomas, at the intersection of Rue de Lausanne and Avenue de la Paix.
BOAT TAXIS – LES MOUETTES
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.
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
CYCLING IN GENEVA
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.
AN EASY CYCLING ROUTE
If you’re not a road warrior and not sure where to cycle without running into too much traffic or too many hills – read our article for a guide to an easy ride from Geneva to the pretty town of Hermance and back here.