Weekend in Geneva Itinerary: 2 Days on a Budget


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A weekend in Geneva is a great way to see the highlights of this beautiful Swiss city in a short amount of time. Spending 2 days on the shores of Lake Geneva is a great way to get to know this area of Switzerland.

As the second-most populous city in the country, Geneva makes an excellent place to explore when visiting the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Located not far from the border with France and boasting iconic gastronomic delights, spending 2 days in Geneva and its surrounding area is never a bad idea.

A notoriously expensive destination, it can be hard to visit Geneva on a budget, however, it is certainly possible when you employ a few money-saving tips. Though it can be a pricey destination, this Geneva itinerary will help you to stretch your hard-earned cash to its fullest when visiting.

Getting To & Around Geneva

Geneva airport is served by a couple of budget European airlines so if you’re based on the European continent you can often find affordable flight deals to Switzerland. Once you arrive at Geneva airport, the best way to get into the main city is to take any train from the airport station to Geneva Cornavin Station.

One of the best tips if you’re visiting Geneva on a budget is to claim a free train ticket from the baggage claim area just before you pass through customs. Look out for the ticket booths and ensure that you keep your boarding pass with you as that is the only way the ticket is valid. The journey to the main station will take under 10 minutes.

If you’re visiting Geneva from a nearby city such as Interlaken, Zurich or Bern then there is certainly no shortage of train routes available. Last-minute train tickets can be quite expensive in Switzerland so it’s best to book ahead if visiting on a budget – click here to view train schedules and prices.

If you’re planning on spending your 2 days in Geneva visiting a number of different attractions, then it’s worth looking into purchasing a Geneva Pass. This gives you access to over 40 attractions in the city as well as free public transport and some additional perks such as a variety of city tours that you can choose from.

You can buy the pass for 24, 48 or 72 hours, so if you’re visiting Geneva on a budget it can be the most cost-efficient to buy a one day pass and try to fit in as many attractions as possible in one day. Alternatively, the 48 or even 72-hour pass is more cost-efficient compared to buying a 24-hour pass. Click here to check the latest prices.

A Weekend In Geneva On A Budget
Geneva is a beautiful city!

Weekend in Geneva Itinerary

There are plenty of things to do in Geneva that can easily span a weekend or two to three days. This lovely city is filled with beautiful views, charming streets and great places for day trips should you want.

Day 1 – Central Geneva

Walking tour of historical Geneva

If you’re visiting Geneva on a budget (or really any other European city!) then one of the best activities to do is to go on a free walking tour. The tour we took with Free Walk Geneva was definitely one of the best I’d been on in Western Europe.

What set this tour apart was the fact that not only had our guide lived in Geneva for a significant portion of his life but he was also studying history which meant he was extremely knowledgeable on all the places we visited as well as providing local tips for our 2 days in Geneva.

This is different from a lot of other free walking tours in Europe who sometimes hire actors to lead tours which means they lack depth to their explanations about the places you are visiting in the Old Town of Geneva.

The main Geneva tour starts at 11 am and goes for 2.5 hours and there is an added bonus of this tour was the Swiss chocolates our guide gave us at the end! Make sure to check online to ensure the tour is running on the dates you are visiting.

If for whatever reason you can’t make the morning free walking tour, there are also options for paid walking tours in Geneva that occur at other times during the day.

Jet D'Eau - Geneva's most famous landmark
Jet D’Eau – Geneva’s most famous landmark

Explore St Pierre’s Cathedral

While you do visit St Pierres’ Cathedral as part of the free walking tour, it’s worth returning after the tour to explore more at your own leisure during your weekend in Geneva itinerary.

Originally built over 800 years ago as a Catholic church, the interior of the main cathedral is actually quite plain aside from the organ that is located at the front of the chapel. The smaller Maccabee chapel located to the side is more visually impressive and worth visiting.

For those of you who feel like getting active, it’s worth climbing the adjoining towers for impressive views of Geneva. Entrance to the cathedral is free however you need to pay to climb the towers.

A Weekend In Geneva On A Budget
Saint Pierre’s Cathedral

Stroll around the Old Town of Geneva

Geneva is a beautiful city and of the best things to do during your 2 days in Geneva is to simply take the time to stroll around the compact city and enjoy Lake Geneva and the Old Town.

Whilst the free walking tour will cover many of the important sites, it’s definitely worth taking the time to go for a leisurely stroll yourself and enjoy the atmosphere of the city. There are often festivals and events occurring around the shores of Lake Geneva which don’t cost anything to visit and make a fantastic activity to enjoy Geneva on a budget.

A Weekend In Geneva On A Budget
Geneva’s charming Old Town

Cruise along Lake Geneva

While you might be tempted to give this a miss if visiting Geneva on a budget, taking a short cruise along Lake Geneva gives you the opportunity to admire the beauty of the lake from a different perspective as well as get some incredible views of the Swiss Alps.

You can book a one-hour lake cruise here if you prefer to avoid spending time waiting in line during your 2 days in Geneva, or alternatively, you can head to Lake Geneva and buy tickets directly there.

Day 2 – International Geneva or Day Trip

For your second day in Geneva, I’ve outlined a number of options which you can choose from depending on your interests. If more than one of these sound appealing to you, then why not try and make it a long weekend in Geneva so you get a full 3 days to explore the city!

Explore International Geneva

Geneva is home to a number of major international organisations such as the Red Cross and the World Trade Organisation so if you want to learn more about this, you can spend your second day in Geneva exploring these sites.

Start off with a walking tour of that part of the city. Free Walk Geneva runs an international Geneva tour, starting at 11AM several days of the week that covers the history and interesting stories about this part of town.

You can then spend your afternoon visiting the inside of some of the buildings. Some places you can visit include the Palais des Nations which is the current headquarters of the UN in Geneva and originally housed the League of Nations prior to WWII.

Another option is the Red Cross Museum which contains exhibitions about some of the global challenges that the organisation deals with as well as rotating temporary exhibits.

Palais des Nations building in Geneva
Palais des Nations building in Geneva

Take a day trip to Montreux

Whilst a day trip to Montreux will likely break the budget a bit more than the other activities listed in this article, my visit to Montreux was one of the highlights of my 2 days in Geneva and it’s still possible to not spend a fortune and visit Montreux.

The main expense for the day will be a return train ticket from Geneva however if you book in advance you can get significantly discounted fares compared to buying on the day of travel.

When in Montreux, make sure to visit Château de Chillon, a medieval castle built on a small island on Lake Geneva. The whole castle was interesting to explore however the most fascinating was the prison chambers in the basement which even has drawings carved into the stones from prisoners.

From Montreux train station, take bus 201 to Chillon Castle for about 10 minutes. You can buy tickets from the machines outside the bus stop. Entrance to the castle costs 12 CHF for adults.

In Montreux, it’s also worth spending time strolling along the promenade and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the town. Keep an eye out for a statue dedicated to Freddie Mercury who spent a significant amount of his life in Montreux and recorded a number of Queen’s famous albums here.

If you prefer not to visit Montreux independently and have fewer budget constraints, then it is possible to take an organised day trip to the region from Geneva. Most options include both a visit to Montreux as well as nearby towns such as this guided tour.

A Weekend In Geneva On A Budget
Amazing view from the top of the castle

Day trip to Chamonix & Mont Blanc

Geneva is located only a few kilometres from the border of France, meaning it’s quite straightforward to visit some lovely French towns nearby during your 2 days in Geneva.

One of the most popular and iconic places to visit is the beautiful town of Chamonix. Located at the base of the iconic Mont Blanc, it is easy to reach from Geneva in about an hour.

You can spend your time here taking in the incredible panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the Alps, exploring the town itself and even do a bit of hiking should that suit your fancy.

There is no doubt that, if you’re spending some time in Geneva, a day trip to this beautiful town is definitely one of the top things to do.

If budget isn’t a consideration, then you can book a full-day tour here or alternatively go by bus.

Where to eat in Geneva on a budget

Geneva isn’t awash with a lot of budget eateries however there are still some places to eat in Geneva that allow you to save money.

Chez Ma Cousine – a local favourite for penny-pinching students as you can buy half a grilled chicken with potatoes and side salads for a great price – a bargain in the expensive city of Geneva! They have three locations in Geneva, however, be warned they literally only serve chicken so don’t bring your vegetarian friends with you!

Auberge de Savièse – If you want to try Switzerland’s most famous dish of cheese fondue, then make sure to visit Auberge de Saviese in the Old Town. They serve a range of fondue dishes (I recommend the half-and-half cheese fondue), however, you could easily order one serving to share between two if you’re visiting Geneva on a budget. They also have daily lunch specials during the week.

A Weekend In Geneva On A Budget
Cheese fondue from Auberge de Savièse

Where to stay in Geneva

There are a number of options for where to stay in Geneva, regardless of whether you are travelling on a budget or a looking for a slightly more upmarket stay. Booking well in advance is the best way to save money on accommodation in Geneva.

Hotel Astoria – A good mid-range hotel option located close to the train station, they offer a range of private rooms suitable for couples or single travellers. Breakfast is included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Hotel D Geneva – If you’re looking for a more up-market stay, this luxury hotel is located in the centre of the city with comfortable modern rooms containing all the amenities one might expect. There is an option to include breakfast in your nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices

City Hostel Geneva – This hostel is a great option if travelling solo in Geneva on a budget. They offer a range of dorms and private rooms, kitchen facilities and is only a short walk to the train station. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Geneva. 

While Geneva was never top on my travel priority list, I really enjoyed my weekend in Geneva and found that there were plenty of interesting attractions to visit. My time in Geneva has certainly given me additional motivation to explore more of Switzerland in the future!  

Are you planning a weekend in Geneva? Or have you been previously and have some budget tips? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.

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