Geneva is located along the banks of Lake Geneva, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe, and at the foot of the Alps. Often mistaken for Swiss capital it is Switzerland's second largest city (after Zürich). This French-speaking city is known as the 'Capital of peace' due to the presence of numerous international organisations, such as the European seat of the United Nations and the headquarters of the Red Cross. It is the city that hosts the highest number of organisations in the world. Geneva in an international city with as much as forty percent of the population of Geneva is non-nationals. It has been ranked as the fourth and the fifth most expensive city in the world. To arrive at Geneva is sometimes not so simple, mainly as the Geneva airport is divided into 2 parts - french and swiss, which may cause some confusion for a traveller whilst booking and traveling. A general rule is that a car hire at Geneva Airport (French side) is cheaper then on the Swiss side. However, since the new EU regulation, if you are a Swiss resident you may not hire a car at Geneva Airport (French side) and take the car to Switzerland.
Geneva was occupied by the Romans in 121 BC because of its strategic position. Under the Late Roman empire, it has become Christian. Geneva in the middle ages was marked with Protestantism. In the 16th century, John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, become the spiritual leader of the city. A handful of museums offer a glimpse into Geneva's rich and fascinating history.
Basic info and car hire in Geneva
- Location: South west of Switzerland, near the border with France
- Population: 198,072 (as of December 2015)
- Official language: French, German, Italian, Romansh
- Weather: The climate in Geneva is generally temperate. Summers are usually warm and humid. Winters in Geneva are cold with less humidity.
- Public holidays in Geneva: For public holidays in Switzerland check this site.
- Internet coverage: The internet in Switzerland has one of the highest coverage rates in Europe. There are many places in Geneva that offer free Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Road conditions: Roads in Geneva are well maintained. Driving in Geneva won't be a problem because of the roads, but be careful to avoid the road at rush hours as there are a lot of traffic jams. To be on the safe side you can check the current traffic conditions in Geneva.
- Car hire in Geneva: The majority of rentals occur at Geneva Airport, formerly and still unofficially known as Cointrin Airport. Many car hire agencies have their offices at the terminal, but some are located outside the airport and offer a shuttle from the airport to their location. Pick the one that suits you best and hire a car that will truly serve your travelling needs.
Driving in Geneva
Driving in Switzerland is not much different from driving in other European countries. Traffic jams are a frequent occurrence in Switzerland and this is especially true for big cities such as Geneva. Traffic jams are the worst during rush hours so it is wise to try and avoid roads at those hours. Since driving in Geneva can get pretty frustrating because of the traffic, you can use the so-called P&R (Park and Ride) to avoid driving in the city. P&R are parking spots with access to public transportation.
Overall, road conditions are excellent, and Switzerland is one of the countries with the least accidents.
- Age limits: You have to be 18 years old to be able to drive in Switzerland. Be aware that many car hire companies only allow you to hire a car if you are over 23 or even 25 years of age.
- International driving permit: If your driving licence is not in one of the four official languages (French, German, Italian – or English) you need an international driver's licence along with your regular one.
- Additional requirements: If you decide to take your hired car to the motorway you must purchase a 'Autobahnvignette' (motorway tax sticker).
- Children in the car: There are no minimum age or height requirements for a child to ride in the front seat. However, it is mandatory for children under the age of 12 or under 59 inches (150 cm) to be secured on all seats by a children's retaining device.
- Driving side of the road: Right
- Lights: Lights are mandatory to use at all times.
- General speed limits: In Switzerland, speed controls are a regular occurrence and you have to pay fines for speeding or other traffic offenses on the spot. To avoid paying fines strictly stick to speed limits, which are as follows: Residential zones: 20 mph (30 km/h) and 12 mph (20 km/h), Residential streets: 31 mph (50 km/h), Highways and rural roads: 50 mph (80 km/h), and Motorway: 75 mph (120 km/h).
- Parking suggestions: It is hard to find a parking spot in Geneva. We highly recommend you to use Park and Ride parking lots or parking garages and travel to city centre by public transportation. Parking on sideways is prohibited.
What to see in Geneva
Our favourite spots
Take a stroll along the promenades or just enjoy and relax at one of the lakeside cafes or parks. You can go for a swim at Bains des Pâquis. For a change of pace, take a boat cruise on the lake and enjoy the scenery of castles and a beautiful mountain view.
Plainpalais Flea Market
Geneva’s largest outdoor flea market is open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 08:00 to 17:00. Mix with the locals while you bargain for antiques, vintage clothing, records and other.
St. Pierre Cathedral
Located in Geneva's Old Town, this three-naved basilica was the home church of John Calvin, the founder of Calvisem. Take the 157 steps up the cathedral's north tower for a breath-taking view of the city and the lake.
The Old Town
The Old Town is the heart of Geneva. The centre of Old Town is Place du Bourg-de-Four, the oldest square in Geneva. If you want to stroll the promenades and visit numerous parks, wander down along the lively side streets or window shop the elegant shops, visit to the Old Town is a must.
Hotels in Geneva
Situated 200 metres from St. Pierre Cathedral this two-star hotel is a great value. Rooms are cared for and it offers a beautiful flower-filled rooftop terrace.
Hotel Admiral Geneva
Located in the heart of Geneva, 3 minutes’ walk form Cornavin Central Station it has all its rooms non-smoking and equipped with air condition.
Just a 3-minute walk from the Old Town and form Lake Geneva this hotel offers beautiful rooms equipped with period furniture and free Wi-Fi.
Just 300 metres from Lake Geneva, the Warwick Geneva is a great choice for all who want to be situated in the city centre. It offers free Wi-Fi and air-conditioned rooms.
Drive your rental car around Geneva
Geneva is a perfect home base for exploring the surrounding countryside. Hire a car to escape the clutches of the city and disappear into the hills. If you enjoy hiking, boating, biking, wine tasting or skiing, Geneva offers easy access to the sites. Day trips to the nearby towns of Montreux, Chamonix, Château de Chillon and Lausanne are also popular. To soak up charming Swiss towns and traditions, consider taking a tour to the scenefull village of Broc for a chocolate tasting, or travel to the mountaintop town of Gruyèrs to try out their famous cheese at the local dairy.
Major events and festivals in Geneva
Located at the Promenade Saint-Antoine this weekend long festival offers food trucks, restaurants, caterers, grocers and farmers.
Fêtes de GenèveAugust
Geneva Lake Festival takes place on the lake shores and lasts for over an eleven day. Enjoy worldwide cuisine as well as attractions.
Europe's largest lake sailing race with long tradition. It first took place in 1939.
Geneva's biggest open air festival offers all types of music: classical, contemporary, rock, dance. It is located on the left and right bank and in the Old Town.