Geneva travel guide for tennis fans

After Paris, Lille and Strasbourg, the fourth issue of our Travel Guide for tennis fans series: Geneva. The Swiss city hosts each year the Geneva Open, the week prior to Roland Garros, and will host the third edition of the Laver Cup from 20 to 22 September. If you enjoy combining tennis and city sightseeing this guide for you. If you attend one of those events, please share your tips and stories.

The city

Getting there

Geneva Airport is only 5km from the city, in Cointrin. A machine in the baggage reclaims hall dispenses free transport tickets valid for 90 min on all public transport. The airport has its own station, Genève Aéroport, with frequent trains into central Geneva taking only 6 mins.

Gare de Cornavin is the main station, a 10-minute walk from the centre. Gare Genève Eaux-Vives, south of the lake is the terminal for SNCF trains from Annecy and St Gervais.

All international buses arrive at the Gare Routière, on central Place Dorcière.

If you plan to get to Geneva by car, you have to know you need to buy the compulsory motorway sticker (vignette) in order to drive on Swiss motorways. You can purchase the vignette at petrol stations, post offices or at tourist offices.

Getting around

The city center is compact and can be easily visited on foot. The public transport system (trams and bus) is effective and relatively inexpensive. Little ferries called mouettes carry passengers across the lake on 4 routes.

When you stay in a hotel, a youth hostel or at a campsite, you receive a free Geneva Transport Card. Taking the tram and the bus will cost you nothing. You can also cross the lake with the mouettes for free.

Switzerland at a glance

- Switzerland covers an area of 41,285 square km.
- The population is around 8.2 million, of whom a quarter are not Swiss citizens.
- Switzerland is one of Europe's oldest democraties, born when 3 cantons united in 1291.
- Today, Switzerland is divided in 26 cantons. Each canton has its own constitution, legislation and financial autonomy.
- For centuries the cantons were bound by pacts but grew independtly, rather like the Italian city-states.
- Each of Switzerland's five cities has its role: Bern, site of the federal government, is the political centre; Basel, thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, the industrial ones; Lausanne, home of the Supreme Court, the legal one; Geneva, HQ of the United Nations, the international one and Zurich, the biggest one, the economic.
- There are 4 official languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Two thirds of the population have German as their first language.
- The CH decal on cars stands for Confoederatio Helvetica, the country's official name (using the latin name avoids linguistic controversy).
- Switzerland's white cross on a red background is one of only two recognized flags that are perfect squares (the other being the flag of the Vatican City).
- Switzerland's women were granted right to vote in federal elections only in 1971!

Geneva at a glance

- In a quadrilingual country, there can be some confusion over place names. The city called Geneva in English is known as Genève, Genf, Ginevra and Geneva in respectively French, German, Italian and Romansh.
- French is the official language in Geneva, but English is widely spoken.
- The first mention of Geneva is thought to be more than 2000 years ago, in Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War with the spelling Genava.
- With 200,000 inhabitants Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland (after Zürich). Half of it is not Swiss.
- Geneva is home to some 900 multinational companies, with luxury and finance sectors accounting for some of its largrst industries.
- Geneva shares one distinction with New York and Strasbourg: they are the only cities in the world home to international institutions without being national capitals.
- Geneva maybe expensive, even by Swiss standards, but the city regularly makes the top 10 of the world's most liveable cities.


Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London Big Ben, Milan the Duomo, and Geneva ... the Jet d'eau. A waterjet as a landmark, that says quite a lot about the city I guess. I spent a weekend in Geneva this spring and found the city underwhelming to say the least, and quiet so so quiet. But I've nonetheless listed a few "must see" below.
So, back to the jet d'eau. In 1886, the hydraulic plant which distributed the driving force of the Rhône to the craftsmen and watchmakers of Geneva was obligated to create an open evacuation of the water in overpressure, when the workshops closed at night. It was then amplified and relocated to the centre of the Lake to become the symbol of Geneva that it is today. The lake, shared by Swizerland and France and known to locals as Lac Léman, occupies an area of 580 square km.

Jet d'eau, Genève

The Rhône River splits the city into two distinct sections, with the international area on the Rive Droite (right bank, to the north) and the Old Town on the Rive Gauche (left bank, to the south).
On Rive droite, the international area, 1.5 km north of the train station and centered on Place des Nations, is home to dozens of international organizations including the European headquarters of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Home of the UN's largest headquarters outside New York, the Palais des Nations looks like a building from George Orwell's 1984. It was first built for the League of Nations, an organisation founded after WWI to prevent future conflicts and completed by a team of five international architects. When it opened in 1938, it was the second-biggest building in Europe. Tours are available, don't forget your passport.
The 12-m tall Broken chair sculpture which looms over the square symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs.

Palais des Nations, Genève

Six bridges including the main Pont du Mont Blanc, link the Rive Droite to the Rive Gauche waterfront.
On Rive Gauche, Geneva's historic centre is overlooked by the Cathédrale St Pierre, a mismash of gothic, Romanesque and classical architecture. Its towers are open to visitors and offer spectacular views of the city.


Geneva sprouted into existence more than 2,000 years ago and the area known today as Vieille Ville or Old Town, was where it all began. There are no buildings dating back two millenia but it's where you'll find the oldest house in town Maison Tavel, as well as galleries, museums, and a maze of quiet cobbled streets. The best place to start off is Place du Bourg-de-Four, which is the oldest place in Geneva. In the Middle Ages this was a busy marketplace and the square probably marks the site of the Roman forum. It is now lined with cafés and shops.

Geneva Old Town
Geneva Old Town

Rue du Rhône marks the heart of the luxury shopping district in the city centre. You'll find watches, jewellry, high fashion, chocolates and cafés.

Also worth visiting are the Carouge neighborhood and - if you plan in advance - the CERN.
Just a 10-minute tram from the centre is Carouge. In the 18th century, Carouge - intended as a trading rival to Geneva - became a refuge for people who felt persecuted else where in Switzerland, including Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Today Carouge has a village-like atmosphere, thanks to its streets filled with cafés, crafstmen and artists studios.

CERN and the birth of the web

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, located 8 km from Geneva, conducts high-energy particle physics research with the help of over 13,000 staff and scientists. It hosts the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. CERN tours are available but need to be booked a long time in advance. To get there, take tram 18.
CERN is where the Web was born in 1989: it began as a project called Enquire, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1980 as a way all the computers at CERN could share information. Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau refined the idea in 1989 and 1990, and the web was made available to the public in 1993.

Eat and drink

If you think Swiss food, you probably think cheese and chocolate.
Cheese has been an institution in Switzerland since the time of the Romans. Each area of the country, each region has its own type of cheese with its own flavour, such as Gruyère, Emmentaler, Vacherin, Appenzeller... Some cheeses are still made the traditional way, by hand on summer mountain pastures.
Fondue (melted cheese with bread cubes) can be found everywhere, but it's really a specialty of French-speaking Switzerland. Myriad varieties are served nationwide: fondue chinoise, fondue bourguignonne, fish fondue and even chocolate fondue.

Geneva is a cosmopolitan city, so don't worry, you'll find every kind of cuisine from French, to Italian, to Mexican. But it is quite expensive.

Wine is one of Switzerland best-kept secrets. Over 200 types of vine are grown in Switzerland and of these no fewer than 40 are ancient, indigenous rarities, which are found barely anywhere else in the world. The annual production tops 200 million bottles but many wines don't leave their local market. Only per cent of Swiss wine is exported.

Chocolate anyone?

At 11 kg per head per year, the Swiss eat more chocolate than anyone except the Germans, who recently snuck in to first place with 11.5 kg each. In comparison Brits only manage to devour 8 kg her head while Belgians nibble on a paltry 4.3 kg.
As iconic as it is, chocolate is really quite a small industry in Switzerland, it employs 4,500 people, and accounts for only 1 per cent of the world's cocoa harvest. (Source: Swiss watching: intside the land of milk and honey)

Geneva Open

The Geneva Open was held annually from 1980 to 1991 on clay courts. It crowned 3 world number 1s: Bjorn Borg (1981), Mats Wilander (1982 and 1983), and Thomas Muster (1991), as well as 2 Swiss players, Claudio Mezzadri in 1987 and Marc Rosset in 1989. In 2015, after a 24-year hiatus, Thomaz Bellucci captured the title, followed by home crowd favorite Stan Wawrinka in 2016 and 2017.
In 2018, 38 years after the success of Balazs Taroczy during the first edition of tournament, a Hungarian player has once again lift the trophy. Marton Fucsovics, winner of Wawrinka in the semifinals, claimed his first ATP title with a 6-2 6-2 win over Peter Gojowczyk. The German beat Karlovic, Ferrer, Fognini and Seppi en route to his second final of the year (loss to Tiafoe in Delray Beach). The doubles final went to number one seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic who defeated number 2 seeds Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram.
Alexander Zverev claimed this year's edition after having saved 2 match points in the final, prevailing over Nicolas Jarry 6-3 3-6 7-6. He also survived three-set battles against Bolivian Hugo Dellien and Argentine Federico Delbonis to reach the final. Jarry did not drop a set en route to his second career final (he lost to Fabio Fognini in Sao Paulo in 2018). Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic became the first team to win back-to-back Geneva Open doubles titles, defeating Matthew Ebden and Robert Lindstedt 6-4 6-4.

The Geneva Open is staged at the Tennis Club de Genève, the oldest and largest club in Switzerland, founded in 1896. Matches are played on 3 outdoor clay courts.

The official retailers are Fnac and Ticketcorner. Single tickets as well as multi-day passes are available.
Tickets are really expensive if you compare with the Lyon tournament, a 250 ATP tournament held the same week as Geneva's. Prices for Geneva's Open final: category 1 CHF 140 (€122), category 2 CHF 105 (€92), category 3 CHF 85 (€74). Prices for Lyon's final: category 1 €55, category 2 €42.

The Parc des Eaux-Vives, where the tournament is held, is accessible by bus and mouettes (boats). Bus 2, 6 stop Parcs; bus 1, 9, 33, A stop Cuisine; bus E, G stop: marché d'Aubigné. By mouettes M3, M4 stop Genève Plage.

Borg's last title

Two weeks after his loss to John McEnroe in the final of the 1981 US Open, in what turned out to be his last Grand Slam match ever, Bjorn Borg won his last tournament defeating Tomas Smid in the final of the Geneva Open. A few weeks after his win in Geneva, Borg announced he was taking a break from tennis until April. He played only one tournament in 1982, losing to Yannick Noah in the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo. He stated he would play only exhibitions for the remainder of the year but return to the circuit in 1983. In January 1983, the announcement of his retirement at only 26 shocked the tennis world. He did however play in Monte Carlo in 1983 and Stuttgart in 1984. From 1991 to 1993, Borg attempted a comeback on the circuit, but failed to win a set in 9 matches.

The Laver Cup

The competition pits 6 European players against 6 players from the rest of the world. Tennis legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe serve as captain, Thomas Enqvist and Patrick McEnroe as vice captains. The event is played over 3 days: each day 4 matches are played, 3 singles and a doubles. Each win is worth one point on Friday, 2 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. Matches are played in the best of 3 sets, with a 10-point match tiebreaker in the third. The winning team must reach 13 points. In case of a tie, a doubles match is played as a regular set to determine the winner.

Created by Roger Federer‘s management company TEAM8, former Brazilian player Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia, the Laver Cup is intended to be the Ryder Cup of tennis. But keep in mind, it is just a star-studded exhibition, with no sporting interest; a way to make easy money for the players, the opportunity to watch the biggest stars of the game for the spectators. Read the Laver Cup 2018 recap.

After Prague in 2017 and Chicago in 2018, the Laver Cup will be held in Geneva in 2019 from September 20 to 22. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini will defend Europe's chances. Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Milos Raonic, Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapovalov, Jack Sock and Taylor Fritz will be part of Team World.

The Laver Cup 2019 will take place at the Palexpo, just a 10-minute walk from Geneva Airport and a 15-minute bus ride from the city centre.

The price start at CHF 250 (€220) for a multi-session ticket and CHF 25 (€22) for a single ticket. Hospitality and travel packages are also available. For more info, check out our article: How to buy Laver Cup tickets.

The Palexpo is really easy to access by bus: lines 5, 28 and Y serve the venue. The train is also an easy and hassle-free way of getting to Palexpo: Geneva Airport Station is just a three-minute walk from Palexpo Exhibition Hall 7.

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