Winter in Geneva is such a delight – you’ll find comfort in elegant and rustic restaurants, be blown away by Christmas markets, and have a lot of fun on the snowy slopes nearby.
These are just some out of the many interesting things that await you there. The city looks completely different during winter, promising a special experience and lasting memories.
In this article, we will mention all the useful information for your winter in Geneva to make your visit adventurous and unforgettable.
You’ll read about:
- Things to do in Geneva during winter
- The temperature during winter in Geneva
- Getting around Geneva in winter
1. Geneva, Switzerland – top things to do in winter
With the first snow, the city gains elegance that combined with tradition will make you feel like you have just stepped into a fairytale.
Below are the top 10 things recommended by locals that will make your winter in Geneva enjoyable:
- Experience Festivities of l’Escalade
- Take a stroll at Geneva’s Christmas market
- Visit the Ethnography Museum
- Take a walk in the Old Town Geneva and famous parks
- Have a go at the nearby slopes
- Rejuvenate at the Spa with the view
- Have a delicious dinner next to a fireplace
- Go on a chocolate tasting
- Go shopping in Carouge
- Taste local wine
1. Experience Festivities of l’Escalade
Geneva nourishes its long-lasting tradition through the Fête de l’Escalade, a celebration that takes place right before the winter.
It is a historically significant date of 12 December that commemorates the victory of Geneva over an attack by the Duchy of Savoy in 1602.
The celebration includes hot soup and mulled wine and all sorts of parades that will completely colorize your winter in Geneva.
People wear medieval costumes, and children sing the hymn of Geneva, “Cé qu’è lainô”.
The festival is attended by everyone brave enough to chase away the cold and take its spot on the street. There is the Course de l’Escalade that unites everyone who either runs the race or encourages the participants.
Being a part of this celebration will make you feel like a true local, and you will be consumed by a lot of great energy.
2. Take a stroll at Geneva’s Christmas market
The Christmas market in Geneva may be small, but it is inexplicably well-arranged.
Close to the entrance are Christmas trees and a merry-go-round. The whole market goes in a series of wooden huts that sell Christmas food that includes fondue, falafel, international food, and hot chocolate, and mulled wine.
There you can also find a thousand handicrafts, lighted garlands, and a spreading scent of cinnamon. Within some pine markets, you may find your special tree nursery presented by producers that comes from all over the city.
The market is absolutely lovely and very easy to navigate while sightseeing. In the park is a great ice-skating rink and it represents one of the favorite places for kids during winter in Geneva.
3. Visit the Ethnography Museum
The Ethnography Museum was renewed in 2014 and awarded the European Museum of the year in 2017.
It was also praised as the perfect example of a “living museum”. The museum is a residence of more than 80,000 artifacts from across five continents.
About 1,000 of these items are selected for their permanent exhibit.
Visiting this impressive place after a long winter stroll will be so soothing and melting for both body and mind.
4. Take a walk in the Old Town Geneva and famous parks
Most people would agree that the Old Town is the prettiest part of Geneva.
It is positioned on the top of the hill, at the highest part of the city, and its roots go back to medieval times. The Old Town is dotted with churches, museums, small alleys, and piazzas.
Artistic spirits would instantly fall in love on its narrow streets, soaking up the air of cultural and traditional inheritance. Simply, the best way to admire the Old Town of Geneva is to take a walk and enjoy the views of the surroundings.
Winter on these streets is particularly beautiful – with decorated trees and evenings all glittering in lights, giving you the feeling like you have just entered into a fairytale.
The highlights of the Old Town are the stunning Place du Bourg-de-Four, the famous Saint-Pierre Cathedral, and the Old Arsenal with its frescoes that beautifully portray the city’s history.
Winter in Geneva cannot be regarded as a complete experience if you do not visit the core of its tradition – the Old Town. Tradition, culture, and the cool winter breeze caressing your check will mark lasting memories of your holiday.
Plus, you can take a stroll through the magical parks of Geneva situated along the lake with mind-blowing views of the surrounding mountains.
Most of these parks once were grand estates that eventually become dedicated to the city.
The Parc La Grange is regarded as the most beautiful and it represents the largest green space in Geneva.
The neighboring Eaux Vives Park once was an old castle that now serves as a restaurant. It is positioned on a sloping hillside, and the views are fantastic. Having lunch after a long walk will unwind you, warm you up, and treat you to unforgettable scenery.
4. Have a go at the nearby slopes
The great thing about Geneva is that it is positioned close to mountains. Just within an hour, you can find yourself up high on the white carpet enjoying endless winter activities and return to the city in the evening.
For skiing and snowboarding, check the all-inclusive Ski-Bus offer. Slopes are well adjusted to all levels, so everyone will find a piece of white paradise for themselves.
If skiing isn’t your thing, you can take a walk in the scenic alpine town of Chamonix, or head to the Jura Mountains and have a go at snowshoeing or sledging.
5. Rejuvenate at the Spa with the view
After the entire day spent on skis, hitting the spa comes so refreshing.
Bain-Bleu Hammam & Spa Genève-Plage is a special place that provides two types of experiences: the Bath area and the Hammam.
Within the Bath area, you will find two pools with fascinating facilities that offer a steam room, whirlpools, hot tubs, massage beds and jets, and most importantly, the beautiful Bistro Lounge with a scenic terrace.
The Hammam has a large room with hot stones, steam rooms, a central basin, scrub rooms, and on the top of it, the Hammam offers Oriental coffee.
Getting a massage after hitting the slopes will be so soothing and refreshing, and it will complete the whole experience of winter in Geneva.
6. Have a delicious dinner next to a fireplace
After spending the entire chilly day on foot, what you need the most is a relaxing and warm dinner by the fire.
Without any doubt, it is the best way to end your fully scheduled day and sleep like a baby afterward.
Luckily, during your winter in Geneva, you will find plenty of dining options, ranging from gourmet and fancy restaurants to retro and rustic eateries.
Here are two recommendations for perfect dinners by the fire:
- La Houchette
- Domaine de Châteauvieux
7. Go on a chocolate tasting tour
There is no better way to warm up than to taste some of the best hot chocolates the city has to offer.
Yes, there is a chocolate tasting tour in Geneva that will immediately chase away the cold from your bones!
Within the tour, your senses will be blown away by delicious buds, truffles, ganaches, chocolate pastry, and some award-winning chocolate pralines.
Moreover, on the tour, you will find out many interesting facts regarding Swiss chocolate history.
Have in mind that the chocolate tours are very attractive and that all tickets may be sold out. To avoid that, book in advance at Local Flavors Tours and ensure the most delicious experience for your winter in Geneva.
8. Go shopping in Carouge
Carouge is a district in Geneva that should be visited at any time of the year, but its charms will take you under a complete spell during winter.
On its quiet streets lie scattered small houses and a plethora of different boutiques, shops, and restaurants.
Christmas shopping in this area is such a delight! If you are searching for extraordinary presents, this is the place where you will find an abundance of interesting things that will make a perfect gift for your loved ones.
Besides shopping, the beauty of this district under the snow will totally captivate your attention. Narrow streets and cute corners will become your favorite places during your winter in Geneva!
9. Taste local wine
After you have finished exploring the city and its remarkable museums, it is the perfect time to warm up with a glass of local wine!
We recommend you to pay a visit to the wine bar called Le Rouge & Le Blanc located on the shores of Lake Leman. It is one of the city’s most popular attractions, but it still preserves an intimate atmosphere.
Whatever wine you choose, one thing is for sure – with the Swiss cheese on a plate, you will enjoy it deeply. For a professional recommendation, ask the well-informed staff, and find the best option for you.
Watching the falling snow from the bar and with a glass of wine in your hand will be one of the best moments of your winter in Geneva!
3. The temperature during winter in Geneva
Geneva is located at 400 meters above sea level, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The city’s high altitude brings warm summers and mild winters – with temperatures rarely going below freezing.
We will try to give all the important information about Geneva winter temperature. Here are the most frequent questions related to the weather in the city:
- How cold does it get in Geneva?
- How often does it snow in Geneva?
- Does Lake Geneva freeze in winter?
How cold does it get in Geneva?
The coldest month is January that usually has a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius (35°Fahrenheit).
The entire winter – from December to February is quite cold with variable temperatures. There are plenty of grey days and the wind is very frequent.
The city can be quite wet, too, with a lot of rainy days. When it rains, the maximum temperature can reach or exceed 10/12 °C (50/54 °F).
The average humidity varies from 40% up to 95%. In some rare circumstances, the humidity in the city can even reach a total of 100%!
How often does it snow in Geneva?
It snows quite often in Geneva – as a matter of fact around 20 to 25% of days are with snow. If we consider the geographical position of the city, this isn’t so surprising.
The amount of snow reaches 32 cm (12.5 inches) per year. The snow occurs during cold air outbreaks, but also with the blowing of the westerlies. In the second case, the snow starts to melt when the mild air mass replaces the cold one.
Nonetheless, a winter in Geneva can be caught up with cold air masses of Siberian origin, caused by a cold wind from the northeast – the Bise.
The Bise makes the lake stormy, spraying the water that can freeze. The result is a lot of ice, on the lakefront, docks, and boats. With the wind, the temperature may stay below freezing the entire day, but it will enhance the feeling of cold – it may even seem polar.
Does Lake Geneva freeze in winter?
Unfortunately, the year of the first full freeze wasn’t recorded, but it happened every year from 1862 until 1997. Since 1997, the lake skipped the full freeze in 2001, 2012, and 2017.
The researches have shown that the duration of the ice layer gradually decreased throughout the years. From 1862 to 1871, the ice cover sustained for 105 days, while its duration from 2012 and 2019 decreased to 64 days.
The decrease of a full freeze on the lake comes as a result of a warming climate that brings warmer winters in Geneva in recent years.
4. Getting around Geneva in winter
The good thing about Geneva is that it is a small city of 6 square miles, and it is super-easy to get around.
If you have booked your flight to Geneva Airport (GVA), you can take a free train ticket from a vending machine at the airport. It will take to downtown Geneva’s train station in about 10 minutes.
The most common choices for reaching the city are to walk or to travel by tram. Try to get the city’s free Geneva Transport Card for tourists which can also be used on trains, buses, and water taxis. Still, don’t forget that these options are much slower than going on foot or taking the tram.
If you would prefer to hire a taxi, bear in mind that driving in the city center may not be a necessity. Actually, it can be much of a bore because of the rush hour traffic and limited parking.
If you want to skip all the inconveniences that can come along the way, and make your winter in Geneva a magical experience – hire our limousine service in Geneva and let our chauffeurs take care of you. You won’t have to worry about parking, crowds, and getting late to your destination. With us, everything goes smoothly, safely, and with style.
Winter in Geneva – conclusion:
Whatever your choice for spicing up winter in Geneva is, visiting the Christmas market, hitting the slopes, attending the l’Escalade one thing is for sure – you will have a blast.
To keep everything classy, hire our SwissLimo service and experience Geneva and its winter delights most comfortably and luxuriously.