Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to Geneva! If Geneva accomplished nothing else in its long history, it would still be renowned for its contributions to diplomacy. There’s a reason the rules concerning how we can treat POWs are the Geneva Conventions. Now, the place most people associate with Geneva and diplomacy is the Palais des Nations. But you know this better as the United Nations Office at Geneva. And on this one day in Geneva itinerary, you get to see it!
But the history of Geneva and diplomacy goes back further than the United Nations. Come with me for a day exploring the international wonders of Geneva. We will see broken chairs, we will learn about US Presidents, and we’ll listen to something that the Swiss think is jazz.
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
Where to Stay?
After Zurich, Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. So I had to budget very carefully when I researched my one day in Geneva itinerary, and that meant staying in a hostel. Fortunately I found a quality room at Geneva Hostel. I chose a shared room with other ladies, but there were private rooms as well.
All of my roommates were polite and friendly, even that one girl who never wore clothes. (In fairness to her, if I’d had her body, I’d never wear clothes anywhere.) But I can’t guarantee that girl will be staying at the hostel when you are there.
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
What to Pack
The weather in Geneva is unpredictable. I experienced both gorgeous sunshine and horrible rain during my 24 hours in Geneva. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong Swiss winds.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them about a chic city like Geneva without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
Morning: United Nations Tour
As a New Yorker, I do have to point out that the United Nations headquarters isn’t in Geneva. But that doesn’t mean the Palais des Nations isn’t important and fascinating! No trip to Geneva is complete without a tour here. The building was originally used as the headquarters of the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations.
Tours of the United Nations are given regularly every day except Sunday and you can’t reserve ahead unless there are at least 15 people in your group. Are there 15 people in your group, Internet Stranger? That seems doubtful.
All you need is a valid ID and 12 Swiss francs and you’ll be all set to learn…
Three fun facts about the united nations at geneva
1) who’s in the united nations? UNO WHO
There is one question I can guarantee your tour guide will ask you. That is “How many member states are in the United Nations.” I’m going to help you cheat because I like you and I have no scruples. As of right now, there are 193 member states.
But don’t forget the trick to this question! The United Nations also has two observer states. I correctly guessed that one was The Vatican, but I couldn’t figure out the second. (It’s Palestine. If you think I’m getting into Palestine’s international status on this blog, you are insane.)
2) what’s up with the logo?
So one half of the United Nations’ logo is pretty obvious. The olive branch symbolizes peace. I thought it might symbolize Greece because they like olives there, but the tour guide shot me down. But what is going on with that weird map? Our guide said that it’s meant to show the perspective of the world from the North Pole. This is so none of the United Nations member states feel left out.
It’s a hard job making sure all the member states feel included. One of the sticking points can be language. The United Nations has six official languages. Our group guessed all of them fairly quickly: English, Russian, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. I asked if this meant a diplomat from a country that doesn’t speak one of those languages, like Japan or Brazil, would have to speak one. The guide said ideally yes.
I already speak two of the official member languages, and I also know some Japanese. Now I have a new master plan. First I become fluent in Japanese. Then I move to Japan and become a Japanese diplomat. Next I become the Japanese representative to the United Nations. And last, I rule the world!
3) ack! what is this?
You wouldn’t think a ceiling could be this controversial. But you also wouldn’t think the United Nations would have a ceiling that looks like it’s covered in Martian mold, and you would be wrong there. This ceiling was created by a Spanish abstract artist for one of the United Nations’ meeting rooms. Also it cost 23 million dollars. Our guide says it was paid for by the United Arab Emirates. That seems like a recipe for corruption for me, but what do I know about international diplomacy?
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
Afternoon: International Geneva Tour
The Palais des Nations is the most famous diplomatic building in Geneva, but it’s certainly not the only one. The whole neighborhood surrounding UNOG is full of buildings of diplomatic interest. Fortunately, there is a pay what you wish tour of the International Geneva. It’s done by the same tour company I used for the Heart of Geneva tour. I give you my same disclaimer: Free tours are NOT free. If you don’t want your guide to lose money, tip them well.
And with that caveat, I present to you…
Approximately top 5: international geneva edition
1) Lunch at Eric Emery
There will be plenty of time in between the tour and the United Nations visit to get lunch. In general, I think I’m pretty good at finding non-touristic places to eat. Every once in a while I blow it, but by and large my instincts are solid. I feel especially braggy about this discovery of Eric Emery because there really aren’t a lot of places to get lunch near UNOG. Unlike the UN workers, I can’t eat lunch at their cafeteria. Just be warned that I have no idea if the staff speaks English. I only spoke to them in French.
Eric Emery is noted for their baked goods and salads. As the French say, it was a scorchingly hot day, so I opted for the Two Sauce Salad with chicken and shrimp. The chicken salad was served with a vinaigrette and the shrimp with cocktail sauce. Clever idea! It’s like the dieter’s version of surf and turf.
Because it was so hot, I felt house-made ice cream would be a better option than a pastry. The nut ice cream tasted exactly like someone froze a batch of creamy nut butter. You could tell there were no additives at all.
Also I apologize for the quality of this photo of my ice cream. What was I going for here? Ice cream looks nice in front of a fence? I’m a writer, not a photographer.
2) Broken Chair
Now it’s the time on our One Day in Geneva Itinerary for the tour to start! Our guide was an American, so I’ll call her Betsy. She had moved to Switzerland because of her husband’s job and was looking to work part time as a tour guide. Betsy started us off in front of this bit of propaganda known as the Broken Chair.
Don’t worry because it was propaganda in support of an anti-landmine treaty that had been in front of the United Nations. I hope opposing landmines is something all readers of my blog can get behind. If you get closer to the chair, the connection between it and landmines becomes clearer.
I found this quite moving, although apparently not everyone did because many countries didn’t sign the anti-landmine treaty. I find that very depressing. If the UN can’t get everyone to agree on opposing landmines, what can they get us all to agree on?
3) Musee Ariana
This museum, which obviously you can’t visit during the tour, is dedicated to glass and ceramics. It is called the Musee Ariana because the founder, one Gustave Revilliod, named it after his mother. That is so sweet! If I have a son, he definitely has to name a museum after me.
Gustave Revilliod seems like a pretty cool guy because he donated both the museum and the surrounding park to Geneva after his death. He had three conditions. The first was that the park had to be open to the public. (Reasonable.) Second, he had to be buried in the park. (Creepy.) And last, peacocks always had to be kept in the park. (AMAZING!) I feel like Revilliod and I could have been good friends.
4) Maison de la Paix
Since ideally the International Quarter of Geneva is all about doing good, let me show you one of the greenest buildings in Switzerland. The Maison de la Paix is the headquarters of Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that this building is powered almost entirely by solar energy.
Because of the “petal shape” of the sections of the building and the special shades it is equipped with, it is able to use natural sunshine to light and heat the building. Maybe if my apartment building were shaped like a petal I wouldn’t always have to call 311 on my landlord for turning my heat off for now reason. Let’s all live like the Swiss!
5) UNO WHO
The United Nations is far from the only diplomatic organization that operates in Geneva. You can see the headquarters of the World Health Organization in the distance here. If you thought I included this for any other reason except to make a Clue reference, then UNO know WHO I am, Internet Stranger! I live for my 80s film references!
6) Palais Wilson
The Palais Wilson was the original headquarters of the League of Nations before the United Nations. It was named after President Woodrow Wilson, which makes sense because the League of Nations was his baby. At first, I was upset when I heard the name “Palais Wilson” because presidents aren’t supposed to have palaces or titles. I was really relieved to learn Wilson hadn’t secretly been crowned King of Switzerland. He was kind of a megalomaniac, so you never know.
7) mouettes across lake geneva
Once the tour was over, Betsy helpfully showed me how to take a little pleasure cruise across Lake Geneva. There are yellow water taxis called mouettes that ferry you from one side to the other for only 2 CHF! It is truly a miracle to find something that cheap in Geneva! I assume it’s thanks to Gustave Revilliod and his peacocks somehow.
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
Late Afternoon: Parc de la Grange
As I’ve said an embarrassing number of times on this blog, I believe the time between the hours of 5 and 7 should be reserved for rest and relaxation. And what better way to get some Swiss R and R on our One Day in Geneva Itinerary than in this stunning park! It has amazing flowers.
It has what appears to be a deconstructed gazebo.
The park also has a fountain that seems to be broken. I can’t be sure because I’m not a fountain expert.
For some reason, there’s a cast-iron white balcony and a very heavy-looking vase.
None of that seems practical for a park. They must have very different children in Switzerland than we do in NYC if this is the sort of thing they like to play with.
Best of all, the park is free! And it only cost two CHF to get here! Oh happy day!
One Day in Geneva Itinerary
Evening: Hamburger and a Concert
I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about how expensive things are in Switzerland, so I’m happy to report good news. We’ve got a very budget-friendly evening ahead. First, let’s get dinner.
Inglewood is a local chain that serves delicious and creative hamburgers for a reasonable price (for Switzerland). “Big deal,” you might be thinking. Every city has fancy hamburgers nowadays. How true, Internet Stranger! But Inglewood puts its own special Swiss twists on the burgers.
I started with a local red ale called La Sorciere from La Brasserie des Murailles. This translates to “The Witch”. I don’t know what’s so witchy about it, but I always like to support craft breweries. And I didn’t even know there was craft beer in Geneva. But I guess craft beer and glamburgers are everywhere now.
24 hour treat: raclette burger
The burger was the best part of my meal for one simple reason: it was topped with raclette. Raclette, for those who have not had the pleasure, is a Swiss cheese made to be melted and served with potatoes, meat, and pickles. There is no better cheese to put on top of a hamburger. The Swiss win at cheeseburgers.
24 hour treat: toblerone chocolate mousse
What else can I even say that would add to just hearing the name of this dish. Once you hear “toblerone chocolate mousse” you think, “Why hasn’t humanity been doing this for centuries?” If you’ve ever wondered, “How can I follow up a raclette cheeseburger?” this dessert is certainly the answer.
24 hour treasure: musiques en ete
This part is only applicable if you are in Geneva in July or August. During those months, Parc de la Grange has a free summer concert series most evenings called Musiques en Ete. Put the words “free” and “Switzerland” in the same sentence and I am there. Just be aware, you might be surprised by the concert. The group I went to see was billed as a “jazz” group but they sounded much more like R&B musicians to me. Are R&B and jazz the same thing in Switzerland?
Well, whatever the genre, there’s no better way to peace out of Geneva than with some lovely music in a gorgeous park.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Geneva Itinerary
What would you do on a One Day in Geneva Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Geneva right now? What’s your favorite quote from the movie Clue? (If you haven’t seen Clue, you’re not allowed to read my blog.) And is 23 million dollars too much to pay for a ceiling? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a One Day in Geneva Itinerary. If you want another One Day in Geneva Itinerary, try this itinerary!