Tucked away in the corner of Switzerland bordering France, the city of Geneva will always hold a special place in my heart. I ran my first marathon here, one that started in the picturesque Swiss countryside and ended on the lakefront. It was not a cheap trip by any means, but with thorough research, I was able to find different tricks and hacks in order to save money in the city so that we didn’t go completely bankrupt during our 3-days in Geneva.
City Hostel Geneva
We knew we’d need a private room in order to get adequate rest the night before our marathon, so we had to pay a bit more, but it was entirely worth it. For dorms, the rooms were about €50/night and splitting a private room we each paid about €45 a night. Expensive for a hostel, but the beds were very comfortable, there was a sink in each room, a full equipped kitchen (with storage lockers IN the fridge) so we could cook. And it included towels AND a transportation pass for the duration of our time in Geneva.
Another key aspect of this hostel that made it possible to survive in this expensive city was its proximity to LIDL! My favorite discount grocery store. There is one literally just down the block, which is where we went to stock up on snacks and pre-marathon fuel. Only eating 1 meal/day out was a huge help for saving money.
Free Transport Ticket
When you arrive at the airport, follow the crowd to the beautiful machine that dispenses free transportation tickets. It is free to use on the subway or buses for your first hour and a half in Geneva. It was perfect for us to pop on the train and get to our hostel, without having to pay for anything.
Did somebody say free bike rental? This place was absolutely awesome! There was a location right near our hostel where we went and picked up bikes for a free 4-hour rental to explore the city. Bring an official ID and cash for the deposit. The city is pretty biker friendly, just be careful with the tram cars. We had no problem returning them and getting our deposit back, and everyone who worked there was really nice and helpful.
United Nations & Broken Chair
One of the United Nation’s headquarters is located in Geneva, not far from the city center. In the plaza in front of the building is the Broken Chair sculpture, which symbolizes Switzerland’s opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. It is placed there specifically as a reminder to international diplomats who travel to conduct business at the United Nations.
Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
After walking to see the United Nations building and seeing the broken chair, we followed the road that runs along the side of the building to eventually a big park of gardens. The botanical gardens are completely free to walk through, and they were really gorgeous, more special than your average city park. Parts of it seemed like an enchanted fairy forest, and we made our way through them until we ended up back at the lake.
Bains des Paquis – FONDUE ❤
This place was awesome for fondue. You order at the window and then take a seat in a very rustic, indoor chalet-type building. We ordered a fondue for two and a plate of ham/pickles. This was the perfect post-marathon indulgence, but lactose-intolerant folk be warned – it’s a LOT of cheese. In fact, it’s all cheese. It’s cash only!
Jet d’Eau & Lake Geneva
The center focal point of Geneva is this giant fountain that is spouting off the water all day. The spray follows the wind – so if it’s a blustery day beware when you get close – you could get completely soaked! It shoots 460 feet above the waters surface. It is in a beautiful harbor in the lake, and it is completely free to walk on the dock and take pictures.
Another free thing you can do in Geneva (depending on the time of year that you visit) is going for a swim in the lake! The water was so sparkling clear, and ducks were bobbing up and down everywhere searching for food. It was too cold in early May to fully submerge, but we did take off our shoes and socks and soak our post-marathon feet in the cold waters.
Healthy Restaurant – El Salad
We ate here the day after our marathon and this was the perfect way to balance eating the ridiculous amount of fondue the night before. This place was reasonably priced considering the massive portions of salad they served. Each recipe looked amazing, I want to try to recreate these salads at home!
There are ways to do Geneva on a budget, but just be prepared to spend more money than you would in a different European city. It is really beautiful and the perfect place to spend 2 or 3 days.