27 Warm & Wonderful Things to Do in Geneva in Winter

If you are wondering if Geneva in the winter is worth it, we’re here to tell you that yes, it certainly is!

Brimming with festive vibes and imbued with that quintessentially French elegance, Geneva in winter is a wonder you won’t soon forget.

Located in southwestern Switzerland near the border with France, this captivating city is dreamy all seasons, but it becomes downright enchanting once winter rolls around.

⌛ Planning your Geneva trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Geneva Tours & Experiences
1. Chocolate Tasting Walking Tour
2. Glacier 3000 Day Trip
3. 50-Minute Lake Geneva Cruise

🛏️ Best Geneva Hotels
1. Hôtel de la Cigogne (historic luxury in the center)
2. ibis budget Petit-Lancy (mid-range private rooms)
3. Geneva Hostel (stylish budget hostel)

🚂 Planning to travel around Switzerland by train? Save big by buying a Swiss Travel Pass for all your train travel, including many scenic and panoramic trains!

🛬 Arriving in Geneva by plane? Book your airport transfer here.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase something after clicking. Thank you for supporting the free content on this independent site! For more information on affiliate links and cookies, see my disclosure page for more details.
View of Geneva old town at winter sunset time from an above vantage point

Picture walking through its quaint French-inspired streets and charming cafes for a winter beverage.

As you traverse Geneva (or “Genève” in French), you’ll be surrounded by the melodic rhythm of the French language: signs, menus, and conversations all adding to the experience

Top Things to Do in Geneva in Winter

Take a chocolate tour of the city.

chocolates in a Swiss chocolate shop piled up for tasting on a chocolate tour in geneva in winter

Switzerland, and Geneva in particular, is beloved around the world for its exquisite chocolates.

One of the best ways to spend a winter day in Geneva is on a chocolate-themed walking tour!

On this tour, you’ll get a chance to visit the city’s most distinguished chocolatiers and sample an array of mouthwatering chocolates.

This 3-hour chocolate tour of Geneva includes tastings of an eclectic mix of chocolates: from delicate pralines to sumptuous drinking chocolate to velvety truffles and more!

In addition to all the chocolate-gorging you’ll be doing, you’ll also get to enjoy a scenic walk through the historic lanes of the Old Town as well as a brief boat ride on Lake Geneva!

Go on a day trip to Glacier 3000.

View of a suspension bridge in winter leading from one mountain peak to another with a Swiss flag visible in the center in the distance

On virtually every Switzerland bucket list is visiting a real-life glacier, and luckily, there’s one very close to Geneva: Glacier 3000!

This tour is the easiest way to visit the closest glacier to Geneva, where you begin your day out on a picturesque bus journey to Col du Pillon.

As you approach, the alpine hamlet of Les Diablerets is a warm welcome, a lovely hodgepodge of traditional chalets amidst a mountain backdrop.

Now the main course: the majestic Glacier 3000, which stands tall at a staggering 3,000 meters (hence the name!).

There are all sorts of fun activities you can do here: the most loved is perhaps the Peak Walk, a suspension bridge that connects two mountain summits.

Woman with her arms up in the air and a hat, black jacket and shoes, smiling and enjoying this day trip from Geneva in winter

With a length of 108 meters, this bridge offers a vantage point like no other, presenting panoramic views of over 24 towering peaks, each exceeding 4,000 meters!

For those seeking some thrill, there are also sleds at the ready for a wild downhill experience!

If a more tranquil experience beckons, the village of Diablerets offers just that. Walk alongside its gentle river and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the winter landscape.

As your day nears its end, you’ll board the bus once more for a brief stopover in the artistic city of Montreux, home to one of the best Christmas markets in Switzerland if you happen to be visiting in December.

Try vin chaud at one of Geneva’s Christmas markets.

sign with pretzels, faux christmas tree needles that reads 'vin chaud' which means mulled wine in French, at a christmas market in Geneva

Winter in Geneva gives everyone the excuse to make their best vin chaud! But what is it?

Vin chaud, translating to “hot wine” in English, is a French spin on mulled wine.

In Geneva, many fantastic Christmas markets open around November and run through the end of December.

Here are my two favorite markets in Geneva:

  • Plainpalais Christmas Market: Set against the central Place de Plainpalais square, you’ll find a veritable maze of wooden chalet stalls selling festive ornaments, Swiss treats and sweets, and artisan-made crafts.
  • Parc des Bastions Christmas Village: This seasonal Christmas village is a delight in Parc des Bastions, with stalls arranged in rows decorated with twinkling fairy lights. Selling a variety of Swiss treats like chocolate and cheese, this is a great place for a snack and a stroll in Geneva in winter. There’s also a seasonal ice-skating rink.

If you are not visiting Geneva while the Christmas markets are up and running, don’t worry.

You can still try vin chaud at cafes, restaurants, and vendors all over Geneva!

Try some delicious Swiss fondue.

cheesy fondue in geneva Switzerland

Like Swiss chocolate, Swiss fondue cannot be skipped when visiting Geneva in winter!

Cheese fondue is terrific at any time of year, but this warm and cozy dish will warm you up so much more in the winter.

And honestly, there isn’t anything that will warm you up more perfectly than an excellent fondue and a hot drink.

Luckily, like all of Switzerland, Geneva is rife with great fondue!

There’s been a lot of discussion of what fondue restaurant is the best in Geneva, but most lists place Les Armures at #1.

For a unique spin on a fondue crawl, you can take this fondue tour via a tuktuk!

This is definitely one of those “only in Geneva” things!

Spend the day at Bains des Pâquis.

Turkish style steam room in a famous bathhouse in Geneva, Switzerland

On the shore of Lake Geneva with a great view of the Jet d’Eau, the Bains des Pâquis is a wonderful way to escape the cold of Geneva in winter.

Offering a hammam, a Turkish bath, and two state-of-the-art saunas, this iconic bathhouse is a must-visit!

While the facility open year round, it makes a few changes for the winter season.

Namely, the summer swimming area is transformed into two Finnish-style dry saunas, with temperatures of 75°C and 85°C respectively.

While you might think the the distinction between the Turkish bath and the hammam is meaningless, that the two are synonymous, that’s not quite correct!

The Turkish bath is a gorgeously sunlit steam room, offering views of the lake and a space for meditation.

On the other hand, the hammam is a darkened space dedicated to exfoliation with the traditional black soap used in places like Morocco (using this soap is only permitted in the hammam area).

Note that many guests choose to embrace the tradition of going without clothing, though wearing swimsuits or towels is not uncommon, especially among women.

They have a women’s-only access day on Tuesdays in case you are more comfortable with that.

It’s also one of the more affordable winter activities in Geneva! A winter day pass is just 20 CHF plus 5 CHF if you need to rent a towel (about $22 and $5 USD, respectively).

Be awed by the Pâquis lighthouse.

Frozen waters around the lighthouse in Lake Geneva

Right next to the baths, you’ll find the stunning Phare des Pâquis, a decorative lighthouse right on the banks of Lake Geneva.

When the surrounding waters are covered in ice, the lighthouse almost looks like a giant icicle rising from the ground!

It’s a great viewpoint to look at the Jet d’Eau from as well — more on that below!

Admire the majestic Jet d’Eau.

A huge tall nearly 500 foot jet of water jumping up from the lake water, towering over the buildings along the shore of Lake Geneva, with sunset colors in the sky and mountains in the distance.

Geneva’s most iconic landmark, the Jet d’Eau juts above the city’s skyline with its impressive water plume that soars up to 140 meters (that’s 460 feet!) into the air.

Even during the colder months, the fountain (known as La Rade by locals) operates on most days, so long as the temperature isn’t too low or the winds aren’t too strong.

If you want to see the Jet d’Eau, note that the famous fountain operates mainly during daylight hours, with its operation usually ceasing around 4 PM.

The majestic Jet d’Eau can be admired from various vantage points in Geneva.

Some of the best places to view it include the Quai du Général-Guisan, a lakeside promenade that provides a panoramic view of the jet against the backdrop of the city.

Another excellent viewpoint is the Parc de La Perle du Lac, offering a serene environment to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

And as mentioned above, the Bains des Pâquis also enjoy a beautiful view of the jet!

Take a Lake Geneva cruise.

The old town of Geneva with boats in the winter with snow on the mountains in the background as seen from the water while on a cruise

While the edges of Lake Geneva often get icy, the lake itself rarely freezes over, meaning that you can typically book a Lake Geneva cruise throughout the year.

As you cruise around the Geneva waterfront onto the lake, you can admire the soaring heights of the Jet d’Eau, which looks massive until it is instantly dwarfed by the surrounding Alps and Jura mountains.

From here, you may even see the peak of Mont Blanc in neighboring France, its characteristic peak distinct in the mountain skyline.

As you look back onto Geneva, the shoreline is just as gorgeous as its natural surroundings, with historic châteaux, elegant storefronts, and historic mansions all along the water.

Don’t worry — while it may be cold outside, inside you’ll find a warm interior with panoramic windows so you don’t have to give up the views!

Many cruises also offer hot beverages to help you stay warm on your boat ride.

Admire city views from St. Pierre.

View of the St Pierre cathedral in geneva from below

Constructed in the 12th century, Geneva’s St Pierre Cathedral is always charming, but it’s especially enchanting in winter.

Visiting the interior of the cathedral is free, but for many, the main draw of coming to St. Pierre is to climb up its tower, for which there is a 7 CHF ($8 USD) fee.

Promising a bird’s eye view of Geneva’s snow-kissed rooftops and the icy glimmer of the lake, a climb up the 157 steps of the tower is a must-do — it’s worth the cardio!

For those planning a winter visit, the Cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday between 10 AM to 5:30 PM and on Sundays from 12 PM to 5:30 PM.

Note that the towers close earlier than the Cathedral, at 5 PM daily.

Go ice skating.

Red gloved hands tying an ice skate, white jacket and white skates

Nothing is more perfect than ice skating on a winter day, with a view of the beautiful Geneva in the background while you skate.

Multiple ice skating rinks in Geneva open up in the winter season, but what’s even more exciting is that many of them are free!

In the heart of Geneva, there is a pleasant ice rink in Parc Les Bastions, perfect for those staying in the center of Geneva!

In addition, just fifteen minutes by train or taxi outside of Geneva, you will reach a little town called Carouge.

This town offers a fantastic large ice arena called the Patinoire, perfect for your winter adventure.

Explore the bohemian charm of Carouge.

The old town of Carouge near Geneva, a charming little bohemian part of town

Besides its ice rink, Carouge is a wonderful place to spend a winter day in Geneva.

The charming bohemian enclave of Geneva, Carouge is often nicknamed the “Greenwich Village of Geneva” for its old-world charm, a lovely intimate counterpoint to Geneva’s cosmopolitan hustle and bustle.

In the winter, Carouge’s cobbled streets are lovely to stroll, especially if there’s been recent snow. Walk down the streets to discover boutique shops, artisan goods, and all sorts of one-of-a-kind gifts.

Carouge also has tons of cozy cafés or bistros perfect to while away some time and warm up from the cold.

Plus, Carouge’s central squares is a lively place in Christmas, with a central tree and a small Christmas market selling mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and other seasonal treats.

Local artisans showcase their crafts in pop-up chalets, perfect for those seeking unique holiday gifts.

Celebrate the Fête de l’Escalade.

Photo Credit: hewy via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

If you happen to be in Geneva on the weekend closest to December 11th, you’ll see the festival of the Escalade.

This celebration honors the city’s resistance to an attempted Catholic conquest in the 1600s.

The invading troops were repelled when a local cook poured hot soup over the would-be conquerors!

In the festival, this is honored with a large cauldron filled with marzipan candies (to be smashed piñata-style), plus revelry with vin chaud and Escalade songs.

The weekend of the Escalade typically has a Friday memorial parade and a Sunday historical procession.

The latter features local families in historical garb, toting relics of the attempted conquest in a parade.

Relax at a thermal bath.

people in a hot thermal bath in the winter with snow outside
Photo Credit: Lyalka via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

You can find thermal baths all over Switzerland, and they’re one of the most fun ways to spend a winter day outdoors!

Switzerland’s thermal baths contain naturally heated water that comes from hot springs.

Thermal baths are great at any time of year; however, there is no doubt that the contrast between the cold winter air and the warm thermal waters is a match made in heaven!

Geneva offers many thermal bath options around the lake and surrounding towns and cities!

One favorite is the Bains de Lavey, 50 miles away in the town of Lavey-les-Bains, known by many as a popular day trip from Geneva.

This spa boasts the warmest thermal waters in Switzerland, with both outdoor and indoor pools offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can venture two hours from Geneva by train to Leukerbad, where you will find the largest spa and thermal bath in all of the Alps!

Take a walking tour of the city.

Genevas flags in the city center's palace of nations

One of the best ways to spend a winter’s day in Geneva is taking a historical walking tour of the Geneva city center.

This tour covers the International Quarter — home to the United Nations headquarters, Palais des Nations.

It also features Geneva’s Old Town sites, like St Pierre Cathedral, Maison Tavel, and more.

It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours in Geneva.

Take a day trip to Chamonix.

winter in the French village of Chamonix in the alps near Mont Blanc

The French ski town of Chamonix in winter is a wonderful destination worthy of its own visit, but it’s also worth visiting as a day trip!

You can get there by train, but it’s even more easy to go by tour. The tour bus will bring you to the picturesque village of Chamonix in a mere 90 minutes!

Once you arrive, there’s a cable car that can take you closer to the majestic Mont-Blanc, one of the most famous mountains in France.

For those who aren’t afraid of heights, you can step into one of the coolest panoramic points you’ll ever see.

This terrace is actually more of a structure made all of glass (walls, ceiling, floor, you name it!) with more than 1,000 meters of open air beneath your feet!

Admire the dramatic Bossons Glacier beneath you from your extreme vantage point.

Besides these thrills, you can also grab a cup of coffee in the nearby cafe before you descend back to the village.

Next, the tour visits the Montenvers Mountain train, which unveils the mesmerizing spectacle of the Ice Sea, France’s largest glacier.

If conditions permit, a descent into the Ice Caves becomes the highlight of the trip!

These shimmering caverns in all sorts of shades of blue are a true spectacle to behold, a photographer’s winter dream.

Watch the Festival of Lights in Lausanne.

Cathedral in Lausanne with christmas decoration and festive lights in the city

Lausanne is a remarkable city northeast of Geneva on the upper end of the lake, an easy 30-minute journey by train.

The train to Lausanne is as scenic as it gets since it hugs the lake, allowing you to enjoy some incredible views along the way.

Every year, from mid-November through the end of December, Lausanne showcases the great Festival of Lights (Lausanne Lumières).

It’s definitely worth spending a late afternoon into the evening in Lausanne so you can enjoy the lights!

Make a visit to Montreux’s Christmas market.

Christmas market in Montreux, Switzerland, at sunset with a beautiful colored sky and Christmas decorations

While you’re exploring the area around Lake Geneva, I’d be remiss not to mention the lovely Christmas market in Montreux (a real winter delight!).

Set amidst the serene backdrop of Lake Geneva, Montreux’s Christmas Market is a winter haven.

Picture the twinkling lights of over 160 charming chalets, all selling a variety of crafts, Swiss winter delights, and holiday trinkets.

To make matters even more stunning, a majestic Ferris wheel towers above, inviting visitors to get a bird’s-eye view of the festive scene and the shimmering lake beyond, with the Alps in the distance.

If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the Elves’ Village, part of the market experience.

Go Christmas shopping on the Grand Rue.

The street of the Grand Rue in Geneva with its shopping areas

If you are lucky enough to be in Geneva around Christmas, you will be able to witness all of the fantastic decorations that come to life around the city!

The Grand Rue is a large street in Geneva’s city center with numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes.

The street is full of lights, decorations, and gift options perfect for spoiling your loved ones.

Book lovers shouldn’t miss Librairie Jullien, one of the oldest bookstores in Geneva selling rare editions and antique books in a time-travel-esque atmosphere.

Admire the ambiance of Place du Molard.

There are several pedestrian pathways in Geneva that are especially lovely in winter — one of the nicest is Place du Molard.

For coffee, there’s the lively Café du Centre. For an affordable bite to eat, check out the charming Crêperie du Molard.

There are also a handful of boutiques here that make nice places to buy gifts if you’re traveling before the Christmas holidays and want to pick out presents here.

Spend some time at the Ethnography Museum.

the interesting architecture of the Geneva museum of ethnography
Photo Credit: Nicolas Nova via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The excellent Ethnography Museum was once awarded the European Museum of the Year!

Located in the Jonction district, this museum is perfect for those who love the idea of learning about different parts of the world through significant artifacts from their cultures.

The modern architectural style of the building is quite impressive, but its interior with thousands of displays and themes is even more so!

If you plan to see a lot of museums, we suggest getting a Geneva Pass — it’ll save you a bundle on transportation, tours, and museum entrance costs.

See a concert at Victoria Hall.

concert hall in geneva with ornate detailing on the walls and ceiling including gold detail
Photo Credit: Yves Merckx via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Watching a live performance at Victoria Hall is is the perfect winter activity in Geneva!

Victoria Hall is a dazzlingly beautiful 3-story concert hall that showcases primarily classical music and jazz concerts.

The hall’s interior is coated in stunning gold trim and refined Renaissance-style detailing, making it an exquisite setting to listen to impeccable music.

And since Victoria Hall is in the center of Geneva, its convenient location means you can have a delicious dinner or glass of wine beforehand at one of the many excellent restaurants nearby.

Explore the Patek Philippe Museum.

The doorway that leads to the Patek Philippe watch and clock museum which is located in Geneva in Switzerland

You may know Switzerland for its well-renowned watchmaking.

However, many don’t know its history, or why or how Swiss watchmaking has progressed into such a large industry over the decades.

But you can find all of this out at the Patek Philippe Museum!

Patek Philippe is a world-famous luxury watch brand — at its lower end, prices hover around $12,000 to its most expensive, at around $2 million.

While you probably can’t afford to take home a Patek Philippe watch as a souvenir of your time in Geneva, luckily, at 10 CHF (about $10 USD), a trip to the museum is rather affordable.

Visit Geneva’s Art and History Museum.

Interior of an art gallery in Switzerland with no one inside and some beautiful paintings on the wall
Photo Credit: Erik Starck via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you love sculptures and artwork from all different artistic periods, you will love strolling around one of Geneva’s largest and most famous museums, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire.

This art and history museum takes you back in time to explore the history and progression of art in Switzerland.

Even the exterior and interior architecture of the building is art in itself, lined with tall pillars and fine details.

The museum is easily accessible in the center of Geneva’s old town, making it a perfect central location to continue sightseeing after.

It is a very extensive museum, so plan to go on a day where you have plenty of time to enjoy all of its wonders!

Spend the day at the International Museum of the Red Cross.

the building that houses the Red Cross museum in geneva Switzerland
Photo Credit: todd.vision via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The International Swiss Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in the world.

They work to protect victims of war and fight to form laws for victims worldwide.

Learning about the critical issues the Red Cross is working on is a very valuable way to spend da winter day in Geneva.

Visiting Geneva’s Red Cross Museum will widen your knowledge on a variety of human rights topics.

The exhibits are fascinating, with modern architecture and intriguing layouts.

Visit Geneva’s oldest house.

Photo Credit: clare_and_ben via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Do you wonder what it was like in Geneva all the way back in medieval times? Well, you can witness it firsthand at Maison Tavel!

The Maison Tavel Museum is the oldest building in Geneva, dating back to medieval times.

How old? The house was built by the Maison family in the 12th century and still stands today!

A trip to the Maison Tavel Museum gives you an authentic look at how Geneva was thousands of years ago.

Explore the MAMCO Museum.

Photo Credit: Edward Sanderson via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Don’t worry if the weather is too dreary to enjoy some time outdoors in Geneva in winter.

This city is so full of museums you’ll rarely need to do more than walk a few blocks!

If you love contemporary and modern art, venture to MAMCO (which stands for the mouthful that is Musée D’art Moderne et Contemporain).

There is more than enough to keep you entertained here, since MAMCO is the largest contemporary art museum in all of Switzerland!

You’ll find more than 3,000 square meters of exhibit space, sprawling with exciting concepts and innovative pieces.

Visit Ariana Museum (Musée Ariana).

The ariana museum all lit up at night in the winter in switzerland's city of geneva
Photo Credit: Yves Merckx via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

At the Ariana Museum, you will find beautiful ceramics and glass on display in a gorgeous building.

The museum’s architecture alone is a reason to visit, with high ceilings and carefully carved stone throughout all exhibit rooms.

This exquisite museum presents collectibles and beautiful handmade pieces from all over Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

In fact, this is the best-renowned decorative art museum in Switzerland!

Where to Stay in Geneva in Winter

Budget: Geneva Hostel

The best-reviewed hostel is Geneva Hostel, which is a stylish option in the heart of town at a great price.

It has spacious lockers, friendly staff, breakfast included.

Best of all? It comes with a free travel card for public transport — a definitely plus for budget-watchers!

Check availability and prices here!

Mid-range: ibis budget Petit-Lancy

I’m a big fan of ibis hotels because they’re always clean, reliable, private, and inexpensive. 

They don’t have the most personality, but sometimes you just want a clean, private room to rest your head in!

There are several branches of ibis in Geneva, but ibis budget Petit-Lancy is the most affordable.

Check availability and prices here!

Luxury: Hôtel de la Cigogne

The exquisite 5-star Hôtel de la Cigogne is a period-piece dream, with era-appropriate period furniture in its historic rooms.

Right on Longemalle Square, this delightful hotel is close to the Old Town, the English Garden and Lake Geneva.

 Check availability and prices here!

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