Relocating to Geneva: A beginner's guide to getting started

Relocating to Geneva: A beginner's guide to getting started

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Situated on the Swiss-French border, Geneva is a luxurious and well-looked-after city, which is why many expats relocate there. Whether you are moving for work, education or just starting a new adventure, if Geneva is where you are headed, Crown Relocations has a beginners' guide to help new arrivals navigate the largest city in French-speaking Switzerland.

Geneva is a highly sought-after destination for expats and internationals from around the world, as it is situated in the heart of Europe with easy access to France, Italy and Germany. Are you unsure as to how to get immersed in the city? Or want some top places to visit before or when you relocate? Check out this guide:

Getting around in Geneva: Public transport

Switzerland is famous for how efficient and comprehensive their public transport is, with the majority of expats finding it very simple and straightforward to navigate from place to place. Geneva is no exception, providing fast, regular and efficient services through TPG - the local public transport provider.

The network in and around the city is made up of buses, trams, boats and trains. Locals and visitors can purchase tickets at ticket machines at most bus, train and tram stops. Each section of the city is divided into ticket zones, meaning that if you have a valid pass, riders are able to take whatever mode of public transport they want within each zone.

Buses and trams are the most common modes of transport in the centre of Geneva. Route maps are clearly displayed at every stop, and a thorough description of routes can be picked up at public transport outlets, especially in the hubs at Gare de Genève, and Geneva Airport. Buses, trams and trains are in full service until around midnight during the week and later on the weekends.

Cycling and walking in Geneva

If you aren't in a hurry, walking and cycling are also very popular in Geneva, with it being possible to cross the heart of the city centre on foot in less than 30 minutes. The scenic surroundings, lake and pleasant streets make it an enjoyable and pleasant way to get around.

Cycling is one of the most popular and affordable ways to travel around Geneva. Locals looking for a cheap way to get around can rent a bike for free through GeneveRoule. While it may take a while to get used to how the traffic works, once you build up your confidence it can be quite pleasant.

Geneva cycling

Boats in Geneva

While typically used as a fun and relaxing excursion, passenger ferries run regular routes across Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) during the summer months from April to October. Regular public transport tickets can be used on boats, and long-distance boat services can take you to other large cities on the lake like Nyon and Lausanne, albeit quite slowly.

Kids and family in Geneva: Planning for your children

Education in Geneva is taken very seriously. Parents should always plan ahead, as there can be long waiting lists for private and international schools. Picking the right type of school is important for expat children, especially those with a limited understanding of French or families with a shorter stay in the city.

Geneva education

Primary schools

The compulsory ages for primary school in Geneva start from around four and five years old. Children can also start at kindergarten aged three, and then enter primary school at the age of six.

Secondary schools

Secondary schools are divided between lower and upper schools. The lower level is from ages 11 to 15 and the upper level is from 16 to 18. Much like primary schools, international students have the option of attending either a private or international school, although it must be said that getting into a private or international school requires pre-planning and parents should be prepared to enter a waiting list.

Eating as a local in Geneva

Hankering for some good food? Geneva’s best food spots range from luxurious restaurants to quick bites to grab for lunchtime. Here are some top choices:

eating in Geneva

Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge

As it is considered one of the best French restaurants in Geneva, a reservation is almost always required for the Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge. If you’re a meat eater, you can’t go wrong with any of their premium steaks or their wide range of specialty meats, all of which are cooked to perfection. With cosy vintage decor, you'd be forgiven for thinking you've stepped into a bistro in the heart of Paris.

Cafe du Soleil

If you're in the market for traditional Genevan food, look no further than the Cafe du Soleil. Although a little further from the city centre, the cafe is the epitome of what Geneva, and the Romande region more widely, has to offer soon-to-be locals. Dating back 400 years, the cafe specialises in Swiss and European delicacies.


Located steps away from Parc Le Grange and Lake, Chou is Geneva’s one and only Patisserie specialising in choux pastry. The coffee shop is the perfect place to go for a treat from breakfast to late afternoon, with their iconic pastry puffs coming in multiple flavours including chocolate, coconut and salted caramel.

Things to do in Geneva

Geneva is a great city for sightseeing as an expat, so we’ve put together a few things you may like to get up to on the weekends.

St. Pierre Cathedral

One of the best ways to see the city is to head across to St.Pierre Cathedral and climb the two tall towers which offer amazing views across the city and lake of Geneva. The southern tower is best to climb on a sunny day due to its open-air balcony. If you visit on a more chilled day, make sure to climb the northern tower.

Top tip: have a look at the seating in the Cathedral! Each seat has been carved specifically for each person.

St. Pierre catherdral

Palais de Nations

The former headquarters of the League of Nations, and now one of the main hubs for the United Nations, the Palais de Nations dominates the so-called "international quarter" of the city. Tours of the whole UN complex can be booked on their official website, and the location offers a great insight into one of the world's top institutions.

CERN Large Hadron Collider

Underneath the city lies one of the most advanced pieces of technology in the world. CERN's large hadron collider is at the forefront of scientific discovery, most famously having discovered the Higgs-Boson - more colloquially known as the "God particle". Tours of the facility can be booked on the Visit CERN website.

Jet d’Eau and Bronzette

Dominating the landscape of the city is the famous Jet d’Eau - a large fountain on the banks of Lake Geneva. After walking out to see it, perhaps stop for a drink at Bronzette, particularly during the summer as its shaded tables and well-priced drinks make it one of the best spots to relax during the summer period.

Jet d'Eau Geneva

If you need a hand moving to or settling in Geneva, or any other city in Switzerland, check out Crown Relocations. With handy guides to hundreds of nations around the world, their experienced and well-rounded team can offer you a personalised moving experience that will help you on every step during your relocation.

Daniela  Stoyanova


Daniela Stoyanova

Daniela Stoyanova is a Moving Consultant for Crown Relocations.

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