Geneva is not only Switzerland’s capital but also its major hub. It serves the southern area of Switzerland as well as France and a variety of major ski areas in the Alps including popular destinations such as Chamonix and Portes du Soleil.
Most visitors here see little of the surrounding area apart from the airport and if they do stop for a day or two it is to tick Geneva off the bucket list and visit popular sites such as the UN buildings.
However, within an hour or two from Geneva, there is so much more to explore. Afterall Switzerland is a gorgeous country where mirror-like lakes are flanked by snow-capped mountains and wine tasting, skiing, mountain biking and hiking are all possible, even within the same day.
Here’s our suggestions:
Montreaux – the Swiss Riviera
Take the train out of Geneva to the other side of the lake Geneva and you’ll be greeted with one of the most scenic public transport journeys in the world: Montreaux – where lake meets mountains.
Home to the well-heeled and the old stomping grounds for many famous bands (this is where Queen once had their studios), Montreux has many stories to tell. That is if you can draw yourself away from the view.
Many of these stories are hidden within the walls of the majestic Chillon Castle, a romantic and quirky ancient castle that sits on the lake itself and is possibly one of the most Insta-worthy destinations in all of Switzerland.
But don’t just marvel at the castle from the outside, be taken on a journey back in time and discover the tales of Dukes, armed men, torture chambers, miraculous escapes.
STAY: Hotel Bristol is a fantastic spot offering spacious self-catering apartments and some of the best views of the lake.
Ski at Crans Montana
Nestled about two hours from Geneva, Crans Montana is a lovely ski resort (see our guide to Crans Montana). This small family-friendly resort isn’t as intimidating as some of the country’s larger ski resorts and is perfect for beginners and children. A free cable car takes you to a kiddie’s zone so you can visit for the day and don’t have to worry about forking out for expensive ski passes and the like.
Take dinner at L’Etrier. They serve a delicious dinner of traditional raclette (cheese heated up over an open fire and served with bread and potatoes) and pair this with a chilled class of homegrown dry, fruity Chasselas white wine at
STAY: Le Crans Hotel where you will find a Michelin star restaurant with beautiful views of the Alps. In the Crans Montana town centre you will even find Le XIX, of Michel Roux fame!
Cheesy goodness at Gruyères
Get there at the right time and you may find yourself in a traffic jam made up of hundreds of cows sporting giant bells and colourful flowered headdresses. It’s an annual ceremony where cows get dressed up to come down from the alps to the winter pastures.
It’s a lovely sight but in any case, Gruyères is one of those places you simply have to visit. The scenery is straight out of a postcard with its picture-perfect cobbled streets and old traditional buildings. It is famous around the world for the rich, fondue fantastic cheese they produce. Don’t leave without tasting some. Or better still, visit the cheese factory.
Visit Brig and the Simplon Pass
While the town of Brig may be a little over two hours from Geneva, it is worth the drive. Pass through many scenic towns before ending up in Brig which is the gateway to the Simplon Pass which connects Switzerland to neighbouring Italy.
This scenic pass is flanked by mountain and a sheer cliff and offers fantastic views as you climb up into the snowy mountain tops.
Near the pinnacle, you can stop and enjoy a little-known sport – snowkiting. The Swiss Snowkiting School here offers lessons and after just a few short hours you’ll be up and flying along with the snow with a feeling of pure exhilaration. If you decide that you just can’t get enough of that feeling book in for a few nights.
STAY: Hotel Ambassador is perfectly located to explore more of the area and enjoy some fantastic French cuisine at their in house restaurant.