Zurich versus Geneva
The sad truth about the comparison between Zurich and Geneva? None of these cities is in the lead Switzerland destinations themselves — most people are still in one or the other or both on their way to another location.
On the other hand, there are important differences between Zurich and Geneva. Considering the two’s relative closeness to more exciting surroundings, it’s worth taking them into account, if only to choose a more enjoyable base for your wider travels across the country.
No matter where you are now, I imagine you will feel a lot more clarity when you finish reading this article. Switzerland, no matter where you end up seeing it from, is more closed than ever.
How I got to know Geneva and Zurich
For me, the Geneva vs Zurich debate started years before I visited the first one. I remember Bianca and I walking the probably stoned Zurich Haubtbahnhof when a train bound for Geneva (“Genf”, as the advertisement in German) was about to arrive in the department. “Can you imagine if you were on this train?” ” She laughed. “It would be so horrible.”
To be honest, considering that Bianca lives outside of Zurich, I hadn’t really gotten to know Zurich well by then; it took me until about 2016 which was my 9th or 10th trip to Switzerland. On the other hand, I only visited Geneva in 2021 (the year I am writing this article for the first time), when I had traveled enough to judge the city not only in the context of Switzerland, but in fact most of the rest of the world.
How to compare Geneva and Zurich
Things to do
Neither Geneva nor Zurich are tourist havens. The rivers and lakes that cross each figure strongly in their allure. that of Zurich Grossmunster and Fraumünster churches are seated on either seat Limmat river, which flows into Lake Zurich, a favorite spot for swimmers and cannabis smokers. In Geneva, meanwhile, you can marvel at The junction between the Rhône and Rivers of the Arve, or admire the Water jet of Lake Geneva.
Another way to compare Zurich vs Geneva is in terms of places to stay. Both are home to their fair share of high-quality, centrally located, but relatively expensive Airbnb apartments and hotels. This is the case in Zurich, where Hotel Arlette Beim is within walking distance of most central attractions, as well as Geneva La Cigogne hotel, a stone’s throw from its little one Old City.
The bad news? The best Swiss cuisine is almost always found in the mountains, whether it is world-famous classics like raclette and fondue, Where rostis, a dish that most people seem to discover only after arriving in Switzerland. The good news? Zurich and Geneva offer a wide variety of dining options from all over the world, though, again, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for your experience.
Language and culture
The most obvious difference between Zurich and Geneva is that the people of Zurich speak German, while those Geneva speak French. Of course, these linguistic differences are also manifested in the culture at large. On the other hand, both towns have a distinctively Swiss architecture which, combined with the distinctively Swiss landscapes that rise above the two, makes them appear much more similar than different in this regard.
Switzerland’s two largest cities are better starting points than proven destinations. From Zurich, the most obvious stops at Rheinfall waterfall north of the city, the castle city of Baden to the north-west and Lucerne Where Interlaken South. In Geneva, meanwhile, you can easily take day trips to cities like Lausanne and Montreux on the east shore of Lake Geneva, or at Annecy, France on its western flank.
What is the most beautiful city in Switzerland?
It is neither Geneva nor Zurich. I mean, listen, these two towns are beautiful in themselves. They are crossed by crystal-clear and clean rivers, which flow into massive glacial lakes with horizons jutting out against mountains. Small enough to be explored on foot but linked by safe and easy-to-use tram lines, they have more than earned their high ranking on the “Quality of Life” lists, even though the cost is high.
Indeed, we must move away from the Geneva vs Zurich debate if we really want to identify the most beautiful city in Switzerland. In terms of real big cities, I would probably say that Montreux, Lucerne or Interlaken easily take the title of “most beautiful” of Geneva or Zurich. When will we extend this to small towns in Switzerland? Well that’s a rabbit hole that I don’t have time for right now.
Other FAQs on Zurich and Geneva
What is the difference between Geneva and Zurich?
The main difference between Geneva and Zurich is that the inhabitants of the former speak French, while those of the latter speak German. Both cities are very international, although Zurich is more of a banking center, while diplomacy is Geneva’s main industry and currency.
Is Geneva worth the detour?
Geneva is worth a visit, but only if you do it with proper expectations. Rather than an autonomous European city at the Paris Where Venice, which acts as a self-contained destination, Geneva is more of a starting point before exploring more exciting parts of Switzerland.
Is Zurich more expensive than Geneva?
Zurich and Geneva are about as expensive as each other, at least for travelers. You can expect to spend as much as CHF 200 per person per day on your accommodation, meals and local transportation (excluding international flights / trains to and from Switzerland), whether you are visiting Geneva or Zurich.
The bottom line
I hope I have helped, at least partially, to settle the Zurich debate against Geneva for you. The good news, whichever city you choose, is that both are essentially bases for exploring more exciting destinations in Switzerland, namely the Swiss Alps. The best news? As not many people going to Switzerland for the first time end up being the last, you can always stay in Zurich next time if you choose Geneva this time around, or vice versa.