Geneva is stunning in Winter, even though it is more popular in summer.
A winter trip to Geneva might be an entirely different experience and offers a very unique experience, especially if there is snow on the ground.
Forget about the beaches and boat rides on Lake Geneva. Consider this instead: Christmas Markets, winter decorations, hot chocolate, mulled wine, cheese fondue, and ice skating.
Those are just some of the top things to do in Geneva in winter. Below, I’ll tell you all the other ways to stay busy in the lakeside city during the year’s colder months.
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Winter Weather in Geneva
Geneva gets cold in the winter but nowhere near as cold as Switzerland’s mountain villages. The climate is much milder, although you can expect lots of snow and temperatures below zero degrees Celsius.
The temperatures usually stay in the single digits from December to March. There’s an average of 10 days of precipitation during December, January, and February, so you’ll want to bring an umbrella and waterproof clothes. It can also get quite windy in the winter, so you’ll do yourself a favor if you make sure your jacket is windproof.
January is the coldest month in Geneva, so you might want to bring some extra warm clothes if you’re traveling at the beginning of the year.
Best Things to Do in Geneva in Winter
Here’s a quick overview of some of the best things you can do in Geneva during a winter break in the city.
Experience The Geneva Christmas Markets
Mid-November to mid-December is a great time to be in Geneva because you can visit the city’s Christmas Markets. The main event is Noël au Jardin, with a few other Christmas markets scattered around the city.
Jardin Anglais hosts the main Geneva Christmas Market every year. It’s the city’s most popular park, and it’s transformed into a proper winter wonderland come November. Rue du Mont-Blanc, Place de la Fusterie, and Quai Général-Guisan are also worth visiting if you like shopping for souvenirs while sipping mulled wine.
Geneva’s Christmas Markets are known for delicious local treats, trinkets, and Christmas tree shopping. While you might not be able to bring a Christmas tree back home in your carry-on luggage, this is an excellent opportunity to support the local artists and designers in Geneva.
You’ll be able to shop for clothes, souvenirs, jewelry, and much more at the various stalls throughout the town, as well as mulled wine, hot chocolate, and local Christmas treats.
Indulge In A Chocolate Tasting Tour
Any time is a great time to taste chocolate, but the unique ambiance of winter in Geneva makes a chocolate tour even more special. Book the Chocolate Flavors Tour, for a three-hour exploration of all the best chocolate shops in the heart of Geneva. It’s the best way to discover the city and the perfect tour for travelers who don’t have enough time for proper day trips.
On the other hand, if you’re staying in Geneva for a while, consider going on a tour of one of the nearby factories. It’s a fabulous experience that includes a lot of chocolate tasting and learning about the chocolate-making process, and it’s warmer in the factories than outside. The Favarger Chocolate Factory and the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory are both close enough to Geneva for half-day excursion tours.
Get Lost In Geneva Old Town
Narrow alleys with cobblestone, ancient buildings, and countless landmarks await you in the old town of Geneva. Generally embracing the winter magic (lights, snow) in the old town, it’s absolutely worth it to stay cold for a few hours so you can experience the historic city center of Geneva when it’s decked out with Christmas decorations.
Enter the old town near the University of Geneva, and slowly make your way to the shore of Lake Geneva and Jardin Anglais. Along the way, you’ll see the Reformation Wall, St Pierre Cathedral, Place du Bourg-de-Four, Tavel House, and a couple of quaint parks. Touring the old town of Geneva also offers plenty of shopping opportunities, especially if you’re looking for jewelry, watches, clothes, or chocolates.
Visit Any Of The Museums
Touring museums in a new city is my favorite way of staying warm. On a cold and rainy day, there’s no better way of staying busy while still getting to learn a lot more about Geneva and its traditions. The Patek Philippe Museum is one of the city’s best, outlining the centuries-old history of this iconic luxury watchmaker. The museum boasts three floors of exhibits related to watchmaking, so there’s plenty to do and see.
The International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and the Musee Ariana are also two great museums to visit in Geneva. You can tour both in one day because they’re situated in the same complex (Parc de l’Ariana) north of Geneva’s old town. The former boasts an exhibit on the humanitarian work the Red Cross and the Red Crescent are engaged in, while the latter is known for a vast collection of glass and ceramic artifacts.
Devour Some Cheese On A Fondue Tour
Nothing screams winter in Switzerland more than a melted cheese fondue. A bucket of hot cheese is bound to keep you warm for a while, at the very least around your heart. You have loads of options for a delicious fondue in Geneva, but consider going to Bains des Pâquis for the best atmosphere and view.
The famous public bath turns into an entertainment venue come cold weather, and in the winter they serve fondue every day after 6 PM. Enjoy the Swiss delicacy near Lake Geneva, with Jet d’Eau in the background for a special experience.
I must also point out that you don’t necessarily have to order a cheese fondue. A hot chocolate fondue is also an option if you want to dip pieces of fruit into a pot full of delicious chocolate.
Dance To Live Music
It’s great to be indoors when the weather gets cold and Geneva has a huge range of live music options all winter. It’s no secret that Geneva is an international city, and the same can be said of its nightlife. Your options range from clubs with DJs to dim-lit bars with live jazz, plus there’s a myriad of options in between.
Many locales also offer food in addition to drinks and live music for the absolute best experience. In total, there are more than 80 such establishments in Geneva, with the most options in the heart of the city. Café de la Place, Zoe Bar, and Le Garage are some of the most popular locales for live music.
Warm Up In Thermal Baths
Nothing beats keeping warm in winter than a day in the thermal baths. You get to relax, swim, and reap all sorts of therapeutic benefits, and you don’t even have to go that far from Geneva. The best thermal baths near the city are in Cologny, just a 15-minute bus ride from the center of Geneva.
Bain-Bleu Hammam & Spa boasts indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, and massages, so you can spend a day indulging in some much-needed self-care. The sophisticated spa center is situated on the shore of Lake Geneva, so you’ll enjoy some scenic views while you’re there.
Les Bains de Cressy is another wellness center close to the city, approximately a 25-minute bus ride from Geneva. The warm indoor pool is lined with tropical plants so you can feel like you’re swimming around in the jungle. The center also offers a variety of health and beauty services, including massages, facial treatments, water aerobics, and more.
Partake In Traditional Winter Activities
Just because you’re staying in a city doesn’t mean you can’t engage in some relaxed winter sports during your stay in Geneva. Ice skating is the top winter activity for visitors in Geneva who want to have fun but don’t want to leave the city. Multiple indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks in Geneva are open to the public, and the top ones are at Vernets Sports Center and Les Bastions.
If you prefer snow to ice, you can go tobogganing or explore the nearby skiing opportunities. The Tobogganing Park in Leysin is approximately two hours from Geneva and offers some of the best fun on sleds in southern Switzerland. As for piste and cross-country skiing, thousands of kilometers of ski pistes are less than 90 minutes from Geneva. La Cusaz, Flaine, Megeve, Avoriaz, Samoens, Morzine, and Les Gets are some of the most famous ski resorts 60-90 minutes from the heart of Geneva.
Experience Geneva’s Winter Festivals
Visiting Geneva in the winter gives you the opportunity to partake in the city’s winter festivals. If you can’t visit in December during the Christmas Market season, definitely plan a January visit so you can experience the Geneva Lux Festival.
It takes place in late January and early February, and it truly transforms the city. Countless light installations are arranged throughout Geneva’s parks and streets; they’re all wonderful to observe. The open-air festival is accessible by anyone free of charge, and it’s fabulous.
Fête de l’Escalade is another traditional festival that takes place in December in Geneva. It includes chocolates, music, costumes, and running. The festival commemorates the Battle of Escalade’s anniversary, which took place on the night of December 11/12 in 1602. Numerous people walk the streets dressed as soldiers, so don’t be surprised if you see many locals in costumes on the weekend closest to this date.
Then, there’s everything related to Christmas and New Year’s in the town. Geneva hosts all sorts of events on the 31st of December, so if you’re welcoming the New Year in the Swiss city, expect open-air concerts and fireworks shows in the city’s heart.
What to Pack for Geneva in Winter
Geneva in the winter is cold, wet, and windy, so pack clothes that will help you make the most of your day despite such weather conditions. A warm and waterproof jacket is a must; you don’t need anything extremely warm because the temperatures will most likely stay above 0 degrees Celsius. An average winter jacket will suffice as long as it’s waterproof.
Warm and waterproof shoes are also a must, especially if you plan to do a lot of walking around and exploring. Bring comfortable shoes, but also allow you to walk through puddles and snow without getting your feet wet.
Layer up underneath the winter jacket. Long-sleeve tops, T-shirts, hoodies, and thin sweaters should get you through the winter in Geneva.
Additionally, pack some ski gear if you have plans to go skiing while you’re in Geneva. A ski suit should be enough if you’re trying to travel light since you can rent all the other gear in the ski resorts. And yes, there are plenty of excellent ski resorts close to the city, with more than a thousand kilometers of ski pistes of varying difficulties.
Map of Geneva Winter Activities
Frequently Asked Questions
Does it snow in Geneva during the winter months?
Yes, it can snow sometimes in Geneva during the winter. However, unlike in the mountains, the snow only comes occasionally and only stays for a few hours or a few days at most.
Is Geneva cold in winter?
Geneva is quite cold in the winter. It’s not as cold as the cities and towns in northern Switzerland, but the temperatures often drop below zero degrees Celsius.
Is Geneva good to visit in winter?
Yes, it’s good to visit Geneva in the winter because you can experience the city completely differently than you would in the summer.