The best free things to do in geneva

Finding fun things to do in Geneva without blowing the budget can seem impossible, particularly if you’ve got a big family, but it’s not as hard as you think. 

During the summer, the city offers many free concerts in its beautiful parks, free firework displays, free festivals and the city’s pools and beaches are either free or very affordable.

In winter, there are several ice skating rinks, which are free, with just a small fee for skate hire. Throughout the year there is a rich variety of either free or accessible cultural and musical events. 
THINGS TO DO IN GENEVA share some ideas for free or nearly free things to do in the city.

For free weekly events check out the our 10 things to do page 

Natural history museum
BATS, ANTS, TIGERS & THE DODO

National History Museum

Featuring animals from around the world, including 8 different species of tiger, a bat expo and a replica of the extinct dodo – this museum is a great way to spend a few hours. Lots of interactive displays to amuse little hands. Read our review of the amazing current Ant Exhibition – which really is much more exciting than you think and free for children up to 18 years old.

Opening times: Daily 10am – 5pm, except Mondays, 25.12 and 1.1
Location: 1 route de Malagnou, Genève.
Price: Free, but entrance fee for some of the exhibitions.

TOP TIP: Most of the city’s museums offer free entrance on the first Sunday of every month.

inside cern activities
CERN – SPECTACULAR SCIENCE

• Universe of particles is the exhibition installed in the Globe of Science and Innovation. This expo focuses on the origin of the universe and you don’t need to be a scientist to be impressed!
Microcosm is next to CERN's reception. 
Microcosm's exhibitions take visitors on a journey through CERN’s key installations. Follow the path of the particles from a bottle of Hydrogen, through the network of accelerators and on to collisions inside vast experiments.

Location: 
CERN is easily accessible from Geneva by tram 18.  During Summer 2018 the tram is replaced by a shuttle service due to road works. 

Opening times: 
Exhibition opening hours:
Monday - Friday 8.30 - 17.30
Saturday 9.00 - 17.00
Free entrance

NATURAL HIGH – MONT SALÈVE

Fresh mountain air, stunning views.
Mont Salève just across the Franco-Swiss border offers numerous hiking and mountain biking paths, as well as paragliding and cross-country ski trails. But don’t worry, if you’re not that energetic, the cable car will drop you at the observation deck.
A number of restaurants offer meals for various budgets or take a baguette, cheese and wine.
Enjoy watching paragliders jump off the mountain and airplanes taking off and landing at Genève Aéroport.

TOP TIP: For hikers: free rendezvous every Sunday morning at 10am – for a guided walk up the mountain.

More info here.  
Practical info: 
Free parking.
Bus route: Take the No. 8 bus from Geneva to the border at Veyrier. You can then walk, bike or take the cable car to the top.
One-way rides on the cable car cost 7.30 Euros per adult, while round-trip tickets are 11.30 euros each. Reduced rates are available for children and seniors.
Buy your passes from the Telepherique du Salève website.
Weather permitting, the cable car is generally open between April and October from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday, Friday and Saturdays – until 11pm.

saleve telepherique
bastion park autumn people playing giant chess
PARC DES BASTIONS

A great historical park in the heart of the city – challenge yourself to a giant chess game, take a picnic or enjoy a few minutes of peace while the children skate around the free winter-time ice rink or play in the little playground.

For more information, read our article.
Other parks that are well worth a visit include the Parc Eaux-Vives, which also offers free open-air music concerts during the summer and Parc de la Batie – which has a little free petting zoo for children. 

Bain de Paquis women
BAINS DE PÂQUIS

OK, so we may be a little obsessed with these historical baths in Geneva, but there really is no better place to lounge in the sun sipping a coffee and enjoy a croissant or a piece of cake from the Buvette des Bains, go for a dip (or even skinny dip) any time of the year or just observe some fascinating locals. During the summer, check out their concerts for early risers from 6-7am and watch the sun rise over the lake. 
Stunning views of the Jet d’eau and the Old Town.

Practical Info: 
Address: 30 quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Genève
Free events are organised throughout the year.
More information on their website.
NOTE: In summer months there is a CHF2 entry fee. 

mouette boat trip in leman lake
YELLOW SUBMARINE – NO TAXI!

Les mouettes are yellow shuttle boats, which form part of Geneva’s public transport system. They offer short journeys between four spots at the edge of Lake Geneva.
This is a very cheap way to experience Lake Geneva from the water. Children love it and mine were even more thrilled when they spotted some naked bathers at the Bains de Pâquis during one of our crossings.
The yellow boats are included free in the Geneva transport card provided by all hotels and hostels in Geneva.

Price:  CHF3.50 or free with a Geneva transport card
More info on their website.

geneva from sky
SEE THE CITY THROUGH THE EYES OF LOCALS

Free walking tours are a great way to explore the city and learn about its rich history and beautiful architecture.
Free Walk Geneva offers two daily free walking tours. The ‘Heart of Geneva’ walking tour from the foot of the Clock Tower, Pont de l’île at Place Bel-Air and explores Geneva’s old town and city centre through the ages.
The second ‘International Geneva’ tour departs from the Broken Chair Monument and visits the many international organisations that are based in Geneva.

Price: free tours are tip-based.
For more info visit the website.

flea market geneva
WASTE TIME AT A FLEA MARKET

Rummage through the never-ending selection of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, records, books, toys and anything under the sun hunting for bargains, people-watching or soul-searching.
Every Sunday until 4pm on the Plaine de Plainpalais

TOP TIP: Grab a delicious homemade falafel or galette from the Croc-Orient stall – read our review and story here.
The monthly Nyon Flea Market (about 40 minutes from Geneva) overlooking the beautiful lake has a spectacular setting and is worth a visit – read our review.

bike couple
GENEVA ON TWO WHEELS

Genève Roule offers free bike rental for four hours. After four hours, the rental is CHF2 per hour. The bicycles are in good condition and come with a lock and small basket.
Electric bikes are available for free at Nations, Carouge and Versoix for a cash deposit of CHF100.
Price: free up to 4 hours, then CHF2 per hour.

More information and the map of lending stations on their website.
If you’re not into cycling, other options such as jogging, scootering, rollerblading or simply strolling around the lake are also glorious on a sunny day.

PEACEFUL: GENEVA BOTANICAL GARDENS

This oasis offers peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city. The Botanical garden, between the Palais des Nations and Lake Geneva, has several greenhouses, a small Japanese garden and is very beautifully laid out. It is the ideal spot for a family day out or a romantic walk and is well worth a visit. It also offers great attractions for children, including an enchanted forest garden and a beautiful fairy tale carousel. 

The garden is home to over 16,000 different species of plants, trees and shrubs. he Botanical Gardens Herbarium contains one of the world's largest collections of plants and fungi with around 6,000,000 specimens.
Admission is free.

Facilities:

An enchanted forest playground for children, a carousel of fairy tales, the botanical shop, cafe and restaurant.
Free toilets.
Location: 
There are different ways to access the Botanical Gardens. 
The main entrance is Place Albert Thomas, on the Rue de Lausanne. Buses number 1, 11, 25 and 28 will take you there as well as tram 15, get off at Jardin Botanique. 

Main Entrance: 

Place Albert Thomas, at the intersection of Rue de Lausanne and Avenue de la Paix.

Opening times:
For the current programme of events and opening hours consult the Botanical Gardens website.
 
geneva botanical garden

WRITTEN BY

logo things to do
Article by Thingstodoingeneva

Things to do in Geneva  - the grapevine guide to the city.

We celebrate Geneva and inform English speakers about all the exciting cultural, sports, gastronomical, educational and other things to do around the city.
We also publish an unsponsored list of the Top 10 Things To Do every week featuring a variety of the latest, most interesting local events.
We send out a free weekly newsletter with news, event and competitions. 

Visit website: www.thingstodoingeneva.ch