Time for a swim

Geneva: Where Life’s a Beach

Daniel Bauchervez
Genève Tourisme
Summer 2023

Living in Geneva goes hand in hand with jumping in the water, whether from a dock, the sand, the stones, or the grass. When it’s cold, many spas await to warm you up, while the summer months encourage soaking in the city (and its many pop up bars) from the lake or the Rhône River.

When packing your suitcase, make sure you don’t forget a swimsuit. Why? For a dip at Pâquis, of course (see full article for details). It’s the perfect introduction to the city and a fantastic way to meet locals of all ages while taking in the outdoor bath’s charmingly retro bay setting, not far from the Jet d’Eau.

Rive Gauche (The Left Bank)
Hop on a mouette (water taxi) and you can visit the other bank, where Genève-Plage proposes an Olympic-sized pool, a kiddie pool and four hectares of grass for picnics and sunbathing. Bask in the easy-going atmosphere amongst the blue and white changing cabins, a water slide, diving board, beach huts (paillottes), and beach volleyball. This is where, at the end of summer, thousands participate in La Traversée de la rade, a 1.8 km untimed swim that ends in Pâquis. The clear water here beckons as soon as the thermostat hits 20° C. Add in the windsurfers and paddleboarders and you could think you were at the seaside!

Too crowded? Check out Le Bain Bleu, which boasts two stacked pools that each have something unique to offer: downstairs, a cubist architecture made of rough concrete that features waterfalls; upstairs, a wide panoramic pool with small alcoves, massage jets and lounge chairs that look out over the lake and the Jura region. Perfect for pool parties! Le Bain Bleu offers unlimited pool time during the week and also features a cavernous and mysterious spa, with a gorgeous, glowing pool.

On the other side of the Port-Noire marina lies the Plage des Eaux-Vives. Modernized in 2020, it unfolds over 1.5 hectares of soft grass and 4 pebble-covered beach coves. Children are right at home here, easily finding their footing on the gentle slope of the small, sand-covered “Baby Beach.” In the summer, bikes, flip-flops, strollers, and scooters abound along the 400 meters of lakeside terrain. And just a stone’s throw away lies a long dock, where food and drinks to-go encourage long days of lounging, all while taking in views of the iconic, liquid sculpture of the Jet d’Eau as it shoots into the Geneva skyline.

Enjoy a pop up “buvette
Running alongside the bay and through the Eaux-Vives marina, the large Gustave-Ador dock welcomes motorboats, sailboats, and children’s mini electric boats alike. And from early June to early September, La Canopée springs into action. This covered structure offers free morning sports and activities, along with a smattering of hammocks, a pop-up bar, and a food truck… the only thing missing is you and your bocce balls!

The entire area comes to life when the seasonal “buvettes” open their awnings. Facing the Jet d’Eau pier, Bronzette touts Happy Hour, gelatos, potted palms, sun umbrellas, and waterfront deckchairs for perfecting your tan. Concerts, stand-up, magic shows; there’s always something to see here. Just next door, get a taste of the Dolce Vita at the Glacier du Jet d’Eau, where the swans eagerly await your breadcrumbs! A few steps away, the white Bateau Genève has been converted into a social integration welcome centre, complete with a summer buvette and occasional concerts. Just past the Jardin Anglais, where the lake becomes the river again, Les Jardins du Rhône is yet another watering hole deserving of a visit.

Continuing along the riverbank, you’ll find tapas and fondue at Bateau-Lavoir (which floats!), or cocktails and deckchairs at La Barje. Alternatively, take in the white sun umbrellas, cocktails, local beer and wine, lunch specials, sunny Happy Hours, and a large pop-up stage at L’Estivale from May-September, at the Quai du Rhône.

Frolic in the Rhône River
While the lake is extremely popular, the river tends to attract a more select crowd. Nothing beats a swim in the icy river on the hottest days of summer! And although jumping from the Sous-Terre bridge is forbidden (albeit still done), floating downstream in the river is perfectly allowed. Swimming against the current can quickly be exhausting but climb aboard a paddleboard or inner tube and it’s a whole different story! Some people float downstream for hours, surrounded by nature, until they reach the Verbois dam. Besides swimming, another popular way to beat the heat is to hang a hammock amongst the tree-lined riverbanks.