Discovering Geneva
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Updated 2 weeks ago

Geneva is often thought of as a boring and sleepy town since most bars close by 11 pm, it is expensive, and most shops are shut on Sunday. But there is more to the city than meets the eye. Here is what you need to know about this beautiful Swiss city as an expat.

The cost of living in Geneva

It is true that Geneva is one of the most expensive cities to live in: everything from leisure activities to property can cost eye-watering amounts of money.

There are a few things to remember: children go to Kindergarten at 5 - 6 years old - and public school is paid for by the State, whereas private childcare is expensive. Healthcare is paid for by individuals, not the State, but this can be adjusted based on your personal needs - and the price changes accordingly.

A two-bedroom apartment in Geneva costs between CHF 2,300 - 3,500 per month, but this is location-dependent. If you live further out, prices lower. Transportation is relatively cheap in Geneva at CHF 70 per month for the whole city.

A single person should expect to budget around CHF3,500 per month for rent (around CHF1,200 - 2,000 per month), healthcare insurance costs (an average of CHF 300 per person), miscellaneous bills including phone and transport (CHF 1,200 per month), food and leisure activities (CHF 900).
However, salaries can comfortably absorb these costs for the most part.

The climate in Geneva

Geneva has clearly defined seasons: spring starts in late March, summer in early June, autumn in September and winter starts in earnest in mid-October.

Even though Switzerland is thought of as a cold country, summers can get very warm - up to 34-degrees Celsius in some years. The average temperature in summer is 28-degrees Celsius, so many people will head to the lake or rivers to cool off after work and over the weekend. Similarly, winters can be very extreme but tend to stick at 1-degree Celsius. In early winter, a big fog settles over the city as the temperature outside starts to cool the lake, evaporating the heat from the summer.

La Bise is a unique weather phenomenon caused by Geneva’s geographic location. It is a cold, dry and strong wind that occurs throughout the year when air-currents get trapped between the Alps and Jura mountains, and whips along Lake Geneva; in summer, it causes dry and sunny weather, whereas in winter, it can spray water from the lake onto the shore which freezes into beautiful ice sculptures.

Social life in Geneva

The city’s social life is also seasonal. Geneva comes alive in summer; thanks to the long and gloriously warm weather, people make the most of being close to the lake.

Even though BBQs are banned in the parks by the lake, you will find families and friends sitting on the long stretches of grass having picnics. The bars around the lakes are also full throughout the summer - the two most popular being La Terrasse and La Barje, which sits on the river Rhone.

Many people will also head to Bains du Paquis to swim in the lake (entrance fee: 2chf) or go to Genève-Plage (entrance fee: 7chf for adults, 3.50chf for children), a big outdoor swimming pool complex on the other side of the lake in the Cologny neighbourhood.

There are also a lot of summer social events throughout the city, including outdoor music concerts in the park, beer and food truck festivals, a night of the museums and a chocolate festival.

In mid-May, Geneva’s vineyards open their doors for a weekend of wine tasting at the Caves Ouvertes.

CineTransat, the open-air cinema at Genève Perle du Lac, runs annually from mid-July to mid-August, showing a wide variety of movies for all tastes.

The Fêtes de Geneve in mid-August is the biggest event on the lake, with carnival rides, games and food trucks line the lake, culminating in a big firework display can be seen from around the city on August 1st to celebrate Swiss National Day.

In winter, the city becomes quiet because many people go skiing in the nearby mountains in France. The main social event of the season is the Fête de l'Escalade, a celebration of Geneva’s medieval history, complete with a bowl of famous vegetable soup! There is a handful of Christmas market stalls in the city, so most people travel to northern Switzerland to experience this Swiss tradition.

Nature in Geneva

There are lots of amazing hikes in the surrounding areas of Geneva. The Saleve is just a short bus or car ride from the city, and it takes only two hours to hike to the top where you will be treated with stunning views of the Mont Blanc.

Geneva also has a lot of parks dotted throughout the city for you to relax and enjoy with friends and family.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.