Switzerland’s second largest city is often overlooked by families visiting Europe, despite its sensational lakeside setting.
However, with easy access into the Alps, a proud chocolate-making history, and a range of relaxing unique experiences, Geneva has many seasonal activities that make it ideal for a winter break with children of all ages.
Get inspired to visit with these top five winter holiday experience in Geneva.
Head into the Alps
Geneva, Switzerland’s second largest city, enjoys a spectacular setting. The city has grown up around the southernmost tip of Lac Léman and is backed by the awe-inspiring Alps.
Geneva is known as the Gateway to the Alps because it provides easy access to key mountain destinations in both Switzerland and France. This means that the city – or at least its airport – is typically the first or last stop of anyone visiting the area.
The Alps mountains, beautiful at any time of year, offer exceptional travel experiences in winter. There are several ski resorts no more than 90 minutes from Geneva with snow-covered slopes suited to beginners and experts alike. This includes the popular French ski destinations Morzine and Chamonix.
These winter sports destinations also offer a variety of other exhilarating outdoor activities. Popular options include tobogganing, snow hiking and biking, and ice skating. A selection of resorts also have special snow parks for snowboarders.
Relax at the baths
If you prefer a slower pace of life when on holiday, Geneva’s excellent spas might be more your speed.
The baths in Geneva range from luxury modern facilities at the top-tier hotels to authentic Turkish baths where a stint in a hot sauna is followed by a breathtaking cold lake plunge. Most baths also offer a range of additional wellness treatments including massages and facials.
You can slow things down even more by making this a full-day excursion. In between your circuits of the baths, treat your body to a stimulating steam room or sip a drink in an open-air hot tub with a view of the mountains. You’ll be delighted to know that the lakeside Bains des Pâquis has one of the best fondues in town.
Whichever spa experience you choose to indulge in during your visit to Geneva, you will come out feeling rested, refreshed, and reinvigorated.
Indulge in chocolate
Swiss chocolate is world-famous, but what makes this chocolate so special? Its silky-smooth texture, quality ingredients, and innovative flavours have delighted consumers since the 19th century – and continue to delight today.
During your winter break in Geneva, take time to just chill out over a cup of cocoa in a café. Made with local chocolate, this will make your tastebuds dance will warming you through from head to toe.
Real chocoholics will jump at the chance to do a workshop and chocolate tasting experience with one of the Swiss master chocolatiers. These experiences give tourists insight into the craftsmanship that goes into creating these artisan chocolates – and the opportunity to sample these mouthwatering morsels!
Chocolate not your thing? Explore one of Switzerland’s other exceptional specialities: watchmaking.
Swiss watchmakers are renowned as some of the best in the world. The major brands are instantly recognisable on an international scale, from ultra luxury Rolex to the affordable quality of Longines. This skill has been honed since the 16th-century, and these watchmakers continue to be pioneers in watch design today.
Tourists visiting Geneva can visit the Patak Philippe Museum to journey through five centuries of watchmaking. Here you can view some of the most prestigious models as well as a selection of unique heritage timepieces.
If this is a real passion of yours, why not put yourself into the shoes of a master watchmaker? Hands-on sessions covering the theory and practice of this art are available so that you can unpick and re-piece the mechanical movement of timekeeping.
Explore the Old Town
As well as investing in the unique seasonal activities during your winter holiday in Geneva, make sure your itinerary also includes a tour of the Old Town.
The crowning jewel of this medieval masterpiece is the 12th-century St Peter’s Cathedral which dominates the centre of the Old Town. The interiors are enormous with gothic arches stretching up towards the elevated stained-glass windows. Visitors can climb the 157 steps to the top of the bell tower for glorious views of Geneva.
Follow the labyrinth of secret passages through the town – which were created with both evacuation and espionage in mind – until you reach the Place Bourg-de-Four. This is the oldest square in Geneva and is surrounded by unusual narrow houses and traditional cafés.
Top tips for your trip
When to visit
The best dates for your holiday depend on what you want to do.
January and February are the best months to visit for skiing and other winter sports activities in the Alps. These two months are optimal in terms of weather and snow conditions for your trip.
Avoid school holidays if you are not travelling with children for the best prices without the crowds.
If the city is your main destination, December is a magical time to visit. Geneva has an enchanting festive atmosphere in the run up to Christmas, with a host of sparkling traditional markets lined up along the lake.
Additionally, tourists have the chance to witness the annual L’Escalade festival procession which celebrates a failed attempt to conquer the city in 1602. This festival also includes a delicious chocolate pot tradition.
Geneva’s international airport is just 15 minutes from the centre of the city, so your journey to your accommodation will be short and sweet. There are plenty of shuttle buses and taxis available to transport you and your luggage each way.
If you are hitting the slopes before the city streets, look into pre-arranging Geneva airport transfers to ensure a smooth and speedy journey to the resort of your choice.
In terms of getting around the city itself, Geneva is easy to explore on foot. Its relatively compact size, wide paths and pretty squares make it incredibly friendly for pedestrians. You could even hire bikes for the duration of your visit should you so choose.
On days when you feel yourself flagging, public transport options are available. The slightly surprising sight of an electric tuk tuk is a frequent occurrence in Geneva. Alternatively, you can travel via the city’s boat shuttles which have been crossing between the shores of the lake for centuries.