17 Days in Switzerland and Italy (2) - Geneva, Switzerland

Our plane arrived at Geneva, Switzerland around 11 a.m. after a layover at Madrid, Spain for about 2 hours. To not confuse you, I should point out the picture below is the Madrid airport, not Geneva airport.

A bit exhausted but also excited to finally arrive our destination. Switzerland is a country that has a great public transportation system. That's why most people don't rent cars and just take the trains to go everywhere. The train station is located in the airport, so is the bank ATMs. (You don't have to change any euros or Swiss Franks before you go to Europe. You can just do so in the local ATMs, which is more convenient.) After we exchanged some Swiss Franks (SWF) using our American debit card, we took the train to go to the Gornavin station, the "central station" of Geneva.

(This what the outside of the train station looks like, but you won't actually need to come out from here.)

One thing that is really convenient in Europe is that there are lockers at almost all the train stations, either machines or services. So, if you are visiting a place with luggage you can always store them at the train station. After storing our luggage at the train station (about 7 SWF per big locker), we headed our way to the downtown area. From the train station to lake Geneva is just in walking distance. Following the main street (Rue du Mont-Blanc), you will see a lot of restaurants (though expensive in American standard - we had a pizza and a spaghetti at a restaurant and that cost us 50 SWF) and within a few blocks you will arrive your destination Lake Geneva.

From lake Geneva, if you have Swiss Pass you can take the boat to tour around the lake or even go to other towns that are also adjacent to the lake. (I will talk about the Swiss Pass a bit later.) For us, since we decided to wait till the next day to begin using our Swiss Pass we don't have the luxury to do so that day. Still, you can just walk around the lake area.

The famous fountain on Lake Geneva can be spotted no matter where you stand.

The also famous English Garden and the flower clock is at the other side of the lake, just passing the bridge (Pont du Mont-Blanc). So, again, everything is within the walking distance.

Wandering around the lake area, you can see swans swimming in the lake, with snow mountains on the background. Geneva, or I should say Switzerland is simply a peaceful and beautiful place.


1. What should I go visit in Geneva, Switzerland

My pick would be Jet d'Eau, the fountain of Lake Geneva. Well, as I mentioned earlier, you can see it anywhere around the lake. If you are already in the lake area, you should also visit the English Garden (Jordin Anglais) and of course the famous flower clock. The garden is free. Old town is also really close by so you can pay a visit there, too. A lot of people also visit the United Union (Palais des Nations) when they visit Geneva. We didn't go so I can't give you my opinion about it.

2. Should I buy Swiss Pass? 

Definitely! It's not cheap for sure. A 4-day Swiss pass (second class) costed us $249 per person but if you buy train tickets separately in Switzerland that will cost you way much more. Another advantage of Swiss Pass is it covers all kinds of transportation (with a few exceptions) including boats, buses, and trains and a lot of museums. You will find that you can actually save a lot by having a Swiss Pass. If you travel as a group (2 or more people), you can also receive some discounts when booking your Swiss Pass.

3. I noticed that if I want to travel by train for 5 days there's no option for me to buy a 5-day Swiss Pass. What should I do? 

Unfortunately, the consecutive pass is only available for 4, 8, 15, 22 days or 1 month of consecutive travel. You can buy a Flexpass, which costs a bit more but is available for 3, 4, 5, or 6 days or consecutive or non-consecutive travel within a month period. Or, you can do what we did. For our first day, we only need to take the train once, so we just saved our Swiss Pass and purchased the train ticket separately for that day. Do some math and you will figure out which way saves you more money.


Ok. Now some tips I'd like to share with you.

1. If you don't have a Swiss Pass and need to go to downtown Geneva from Geneva airport, you can actually get a one-time free ticket in Geneva airport. There's a machine on your way to the airport train station. (Sorry. Didn't take the pic but I think it's a red machine)

2. The first time you use your Swiss Pass you need to stamp it. Asking the people working at the train station to do it. They will stamp on your Swiss Pass and write down the dates on the pass. This is VERY important.

3. Rail Europe and SBB are two different companies. Their train ticket prices sometimes also vary. You might want to compare several sites before purchasing your Swiss Pass if you plan to buy your pass before you leave for Switzerland.

4. :b Dining in Switzerland is really expensive and food doesn't taste that good, either (in my opinion). Save your money to eat in Italy. lol.