This summer I found out surprisingly that you can see Geneva for a lot less than most Swiss cities. For budget conscience people, Geneva has the HUGE advantage of being very close to the French border.
Money Saving Tip #1: Stay in a hotel in France
(For a family of 4, it saves about 100+ CHF/night.) The closest hotels to Geneva in France are in the towns of Ferney-Voltaire (10-15 minutes car drive closer to Zurich than the 2nd choice) or Ambilly/Annemasse (generally cheaper by 50 Euros/night). Both Ferney-Voltaire or Ambilly/Annemasse are 5-15 minutes to Geneva by car (depending on where you are in those cities).
We stayed at the Ibis Style Annemasse Geneve in Ambilly, France, in a small quadruple room for 96 Euros/night (including great breakfasts with fresh croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli, ham, cheese, yogurts, bread, coffee, yummy hot cocoa, etc.). Bus #61 (with a bus stop within a half block of the hotel) ran every 15 minutes & took 20-30 minutes (depending on traffic) to reach Geneva Cornavin Train Station (Geneva’s Main Rail Station). This bus served many of the hotels in Ambilly & connected them conveniently to Geneva. The local area of Ambilly looks a bit shabby, but we still felt safe walking around there when we went out or came back from dinner. (Our hotel was old, but newly renovated, so it was well maintained.)
Money Saving Tip #2, after spending a full day in Geneva, come back to France to eat your dinner.
In Ambilly, we found 2 great inexpensive restaurants: Le Viand D’Arte and La Barca. Le Viand D’Arte (as the name suggests) specializes in meat (specifically grilled meats that you grill yourself on a mini grill which they set up on your table), but the restaurant also serves Raclette & Fondue for non-meat eaters. Their Grill Meat Platter (26 Euros) comes with enough meat for 2 adults — as well as some cooked vegetables, bread, French Fries, & a dessert. The tiny pizza shop, La Barca, makes delicious wood oven baked pizza just like in Italy in about 10 minutes & for 10 Euros. And the next time I’m in Ambilly, I want to try Monkeys Place, a Vietnamese place that was unfortunately closed the night we went there.
Money Saving Tip #3: the Geneva Pass.
If you plan on visiting a lot of places in Geneva, it is a travel pass which you can purchase either on-line or at the Geneva Tourist Information Center in Geneva or the Geneva Airport (as well as a couple of Geneva hotels). Cost is 25 CHF/person for 24 hour, 35 CHF for 48 hours, & 45 CHF for 72 hours. This pass allows you free entry to many Geneva attractions including the Old Town Mini-Train Tour (a great way to see the main out door sites of Geneva with children), Mermaid Boat Tour (what Geneva Tourist Trip would be complete without a ride on Lake Geneva?), 30 minute Paddle Boat & 1 hour Canoe Rental, Geneve Plage (the main Geneva swim center), Red Cross Museum, Patek Phillipe Watch Museum, Chateau Prangins (a Swiss National Museum like Zurich’s Landesmuseum), and lots, lots more. For further information, see this link: http://www.geneva-pass.com/eng/
(Note: If your children are young & won’t be doing much because they nap, I would only get the Geneva Pass for the adults in your party. Many museums are free for children & on a lot of other things, kids are half-price.)
Last tip: start your tour of Geneva with a visit to Geneva’s very friendly Tourist Information Center.
(Address: Rue du Mont-Blanc 18, CH – 1211 Geneva. Open on Mondays 10 AM – 6 PM, Tuesday to Saturday 9 AM – 6 PM, Sundays & Holidays 10 AM – 4 PM.) Besides being a plethora of information, they also give out free Geneva maps. (I gave a Geneva pictorial map to my daughter so she could X off all the places she visited as she saw them. She loved it.) In summer, Geneva employs “Tourist Angels” wearing bright orange T-shirts & milling around main Geneva Tourist Attractions. They are very friendly, give out free pamphlets & will take your group photo for free.
So, if you have ever wanted to see Geneva, do it. It won’t break your pocketbook!