Free things to do in Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva has a well-deserved reputation for being ultra-expensive. If you want to take a break from all that spending and enjoy some of the city’s sights, there are plenty of free things to do in Geneva.

Check out my favorite free things to do in Geneva.

Stroll around the Jardin Anglais

Free things to do in Geneva - The Flower Clock at the Jardin Anglais, photo Leyla Giray Alyanak

The Flower Clock at the Jardin Anglais, photo/Leyla Giray Alyanak

The Jardin Anglais (English Garden) is a glorious lake walkway that takes you through greenery, fountains and perky sailboats waiting to be freed from their moorings. By far the most famous landmark in this patch of park is the Flower Clock, created in 1995 in honor of Geneva’s watchmakers. If there’s one spot for selfies in this city, this is it, and everyone partakes. The clock is a magnificent horticultural work of art; with over 12,000 thousand flowers and shrubs that are changed five times a year (once per season and twice in spring).  You’ll never see the same arrangement twice. 

The Jet d’Eau 

Free things to do in Geneva - The Jet d’Eau in Lake Geneva photo Leyla Giray Alyanak

The Jet d’Eau in Lake Geneva photo Leyla Giray Alyanak

Walking along the lake from the Jardin Anglais is Geneva’s other iconic landmark: the Jet d’Eau (the giant water spout). It certainly didn’t start life as a tourist attraction, however. In the 19th century, a rapidly industrializing Geneva needed water; a hydro-power plant was built near the lake. The excess pressure required an outlet and the first Jet d’Eau was born, some distance from its present-day location and a third of its 90-meter size. The Jet d’Eau was inaugurated in 1891 to celebrate Switzerland’s 600th anniversary; at night it glows with white light. If you’ve ever landed in Geneva on a clear day you’ve probably seen its characteristic flume high above the lake.

Wander over to Carouge 

free things to do in Geneva - Sidewalk spillover of one of the many quaint antique shops in Carouge photo Leyla Giray Alyanak

Sidewalk spillover of one of the many quaint antique shops in Carouge photo/Leyla Giray Alyanak

This may sound odd but one of the best parts of Geneva, in my opinion, isn’t in Geneva at all but a tram ride away, in the nearby town of Carouge. Along its old-fashioned and narrow streets you’ll find all manner of artisans, cafés and antique shops, a village feel just steps from the big city. Carouge’s history has guaranteed its diversity – it has in turn come under the rule of Sardinia, Savoy, Geneva and France and today is the open-minded and cheerful cousin to Geneva’s more serious Calvinist vibe.

Visit the Reformation Wall

 free things to do in Geneva

The Reformation Wall in in the Parc des Bastions photo,/Leyla Giray Alyanak

The Reformation Wall, in the Parc des Bastions behind the University of Geneva, has an unusual series of sculptures of ten men, all Protestant religious reformers. Their names – Calvin, Cromwell, Luther, Knox and others – read like a who’s who of Protestant history. The statues were created in 1909 to celebrate Calvin’s 400th birthday and the university’s 350th anniversary. Once you’ve admired the statues’ reflection in the pool of water that flows at their feet, you can return to the park’s entrance for a free game of giant chess.

Borrow a bike 

free things to do in Geneva - Borrow a bike and peddle along the lake photo Leyla Giray Alyanak

Borrow a bike and peddle along the lake photo
Leyla Giray Alyanak

Throughout the summer, you can borrow a city bike for four hours and it’s free. You’ll need a valid ID and a cash deposit. Geneva has some fantastic bike routes and picturesque country roads that criss-cross not only the city but its neighboring countryside. Because Geneva is relatively compact, you can see quite a bit in four hours. If you want to see more, you can always rent a bicycle for several days, or all week.

These five are my favorites but there are plenty of other free things to do in Geneva. Do discover them on your own!

Leyla Giray Alyanak publishes Women on the Road, for women who travel smart, safe and solo. She recently celebrated ten years online. Join her on Facebook and Pinterest.

What are your favorite things to do in Geneva?

Read more of posts in our free things to do series:

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Top 9 Free Things to do in Auckland, New Zealand 
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2 Responses to “Free things to do in Geneva, Switzerland”

  1. Jordan Adkins
    July 13, 2017 at 10:48 am #

    What a great list – and really helpful as we are going here in a few days and really worried about the price! It is Switzerland after all….If I find anything else to add I will come back and let you know 🙂 Wish me luck!

    • Billie Frank
      July 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

      Glad this was posted in time for your trip. Enjpy and good luck. Would love additions.

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