Yes, Geneva is expensive. But your loyal friends at EuroCheapo have put our budget prowess to the test, and come up with some simple tips for stretching your budget here.
Geneva Budget Tips
Tourist Office Information
We always recommend heading straight on over to the tourist office. They’re always loaded with information on discounted and cost-free events, free maps, coupons and guides to the city.
Geneva’s main tourism office is the Mont Blanc Welcome Desk, located at Rue du Mont-Blanc 18, near the Cornavin Train Station. It’s open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Mondays, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays.
There is also an office in the Arrivals area of the airport, open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. During peak season (July and August) you’ll also find “Geneva Tourist Angels” stationed around the lakeshore, Old Town and international organizations. These knowledgeable representatives speak multiple languages and take to the streets daily from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Look for their green-and-blue ensembles.
Museum Prices and Passes
Museum prices in Geneva are surprisingly low (and many free!) for such an expensive city. Here’s what you’ll pay at some of the major ones.
Popular museum prices:
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire: This stately 19th-century building houses an impressive collection of European art and artifacts.
Prices: Entrance to the permanent collection is free; for the temporary collection, it costs CHF 5 (adults); CHF 3 (reduced); free (age 18 and under)
MAMCO:The Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) houses cutting-edge art in an industrial 1960s factory.
Prices: CHF 8 (adults); CHF 6 (reduced); free (age 18 and under); free to all on the first Wednesday of every month
Site Archéologique:The archaeological site dates back to the fourth century. Among its treasures are mosaics, early churches and the tomb of an Allobrogian chieftain.
Prices: CHF 8; CHF 4 (reduced)
Musée International de la Réforme (International Museum of the Reformation):The thoroughly modern, interactive exploration of the Protestant Reformation connects via underground passage to Site Archéologique.
Prices:CHF 13/CHF 16 (adults/combined museum and site); CHF 8/CHF 10 (reduced/combined); CHF 6/CHF 8 (ages 7-16/combined); free (age 7 and under); CHF 25 (family, two adults and two children)
Patek Philippe Museum: So you can’t afford a Rolex. Ogle this treasure trove of exquisite Swiss timepieces, pocket knives and more instead.
Prices:CHF 10 (adults); CHF 7 (reduced); free (age 18 and under)
Musée Rath: Switzerland’s original fine arts museum, which now hosts two exhibitions each year.
Prices: CHF 10 (adults); CHF 5 (reduced); free (age 18 and under)
Maison Tavel: The structure itself (the oldest house in Geneva) is fascinating, and its exhibits chronicling Geneva life from 1334 to the 1800s are equally so.
Prices: Admission is free, prices are for the temporary exhbits, CHF 3 (adults); CHF 2 (reduced); free (age 18 and under)
The Geneva Pass
The "Geneva Pass," a discount card, offers admission to various museums and attractions, including a boat tour on the lake and a walking tour. It also entitles you to select discounts at restaurants and activities like the Carouge Theatre.The pass costs CHF 25 for a one-day pass, CHF 35 for a two-day pass and CHF 45 for a three-day pass.
As city passes go, the Geneva pass is quite inexpensive, but since many of Geneva’s main attractions are cheap or even free (and many of the higher priced museums are not included), the pass may not be worth the money unless you’re a museum and tour fanatic. (We suggest a careful examination of the perks on offer.) For more information, visit the Geneva Pass site.
Many of Geneva’s major museums, including Maison Tavel and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire allow free entrance and charge only for temporary exhibits. Others offer free admission on a certain day of the month (check museum sites when planning your visit). Still others, like the Musée de Carouge and the Natural History Museum are free at all times.
Many of the city’s best-known attractions, like the iconic Jet d’ eau and the Catheédrale Saint-Pierre can be visited gratis. Also free are the city’s many gardens and public spaces, including the lush Jardin Anglais (home to the fragrant and famous floral clock) and the waterfront Quai du Mont-Blanc.
Members of the AARP can obtain discounts on hotels, museums, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached in the United States at 1-888-687-2277 or visited online. Be sure to ask about a discount if you do not see one listed, as some discounts are not advertised.
The International Student Identity Card, ISIC, the most widely accepted form of student ID, provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Some places offer admission discounts of 20%-50% to ISIC members. All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the US call 1-800-223-7986 or visit the ISIC online. Applicants must be degree seekers of a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs US$22 and is valid until the end of the year issued.
For non-students 25 years or younger, the International Youth Card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$22 and is valid for one year from the date issue.
Travelers with student cards, such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, though peak season deals might be on less reliable chartered aircraft.
For more tips on keeping your trip to Geneva affordable, check out the sites listed on our helpful links page (including the city's official tourism website). You can also find more tips for planning your Geneva vacation on TripAdvisor and on Rick Steves' Graffiti Wall.
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Updated and edited: August 2011
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