Ten reasons why Geneva is a great place to live

Noisy, over-crowded and dull? Not so! One blogger tells The Local about the brighter side of Geneva.

Ten reasons why Geneva is a great place to live
Photo: Olivier Miche/Geneva Tourism

Google ‘Geneva is…’ and one of the first suggestions is ‘…so boring’. Poor Geneva. Not only is the city at the western end of Lac Léman frequently accused of being dull, but a recent federal study found it had more burglaries, noise pollution, crowded apartments and road accidents than any other Swiss city.

But it’s not all bad. According to Diana Orduna Casalis, a Mexican expat living in Geneva, the city of Calvin has plenty going for it – you just have to know where to look. 

Blogging about her Swiss life at, she writes: “When others see the bad side of this city, I will find an opportunity to show you the bright side of it!”
So here are Diana’s ten reasons why Geneva isn’t so bad after all.
1. It’s extremely well located 
“My absolute favourite thing is definitely the geographic location of the city,” says Diana. “The lake, the mountains and the fact that it is in the middle of western Europe all make it a place where activities and getaways are endless.”
2. It’s a small big city
Eaux-Vives park. Photo: Olivier Miche/Geneva Tourism
“Geneva has parks, the lake, museums, great opera, international airport, bars, restaurants… without the constraints of a huge metropolis. You can get from one side to the other in 30 minutes, get to the airport in 20 minutes and be on the slopes in 45 minutes.”  
3. The standard of living is high
“It is easy to walk, bike, take public transport to any place. And salaries are good, which means you make a good living with your earnings.” 
4. It’s cosmopolitan
The United Nations building. Photo: Geneva Tourism
“I have visited all the main cities in Switzerland, and Geneva is the most cosmopolitan of all. With all the NGOs and international organizations you feel like everyone speaks five languages and comes from a different part of the world.” 
5. It’s friendly
“I have made very good friends in Geneva. I have local friends that are Swiss-proud and love sharing special tips about their beautiful country. I have expat friends that are here for a short time and are willing to make the most of being in Geneva. 
“I also meet also a lot of people through the blog, people passionate about what they do, bloggers, PR people, marketing specialists, business owners and they have all been super welcoming, open-minded and also they all want to make Geneva a cool place to live.” 
6. It has great restaurants
Photo: Geneva Tourism
“I love the gastronomical choices we have in Geneva, there are many, many restaurants with exceptional quality in the city. I love discovering them on an ongoing basis. I particularly love Mexican restaurant El Catrín, Restaurant de L’Hôtel de Ville for fondue, and Le Chat-Botté for a Michelin-starred treat”.
7. It’s brilliant in summer
“Summer is fantastic! With extra-long days, terraces popping everywhere, the lake on its glorious days and dips at [bathing area] Bains des Pâquis. There are many activities to do such as stand-up paddleboarding, water-skiing and wind-surfing. And I love hanging out at the 5 Lounge bar on the rooftop of the Hotel Metropole to admire the view of Geneva.” 
8. It’s cultured
Geneva's Museum of Contemporary Art in the Quartier des Bains. Photo: Geneva Tourism
“We have great museum choices, most of them for free. My favourite is Geneva history museum Maison Tavel in the Old Town. There are many art galleries in Geneva’s very own ‘Soho’, the Quartier des Bains. I also love the library of the Cité, which has tons of books, DVDs, travel guides and more, and it is free too!” 
9. Each neighbourhood has its own character
“I enjoy Eaux-Vives and the Quartier des Bains. Both have their own feeling and ambiance. I like Eaux-Vives because of the bars, restaurants and closeness to the lake, while Quartier des Bains is more alternative with cafes and galleries, plus it has the Rhône river close by too. I also love strolling through the Old Town admiring the old buildings.” 
10. It’s easy to get away
Passenger ferries from Geneva make day trips easy. Photo: Olivier Miche/Geneva Tourism
“The right shore of the lake, on the French side, is very nice, with Yvoire, Nernier, Evian all easy day trips. Also Annecy in France is gorgeous! On the Swiss side it’s easy to get to the Jura mountains, Montreux, Gruyères or even Gstaad.
“During winter skiing is very simple, there are tons of ski stations not far away, including La Clusaz, Grand Bornand, Flaine, Chamonix, Megeve and many more.” 

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Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

Switzerland’s cities usually nab top rankings in international quality of living studies. But in a new survey, only one Swiss town made it to the top 10. Here’s why.

Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash
Basel is Switzerland’s best city for international workers. Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

Basel is ranked in the 9th place out of 57 cities surveyed in the new Expat City Ranking 2021.

Carried out by InterNations, the annual survey rates cities around the world in terms of advantages they offer to foreign nationals who move there for professional reasons.

READ MORE: The best commuter towns if you work in Basel

The survey, which polled 12,420 people for its 2021 edition, ranks cities based on criteria such as Quality of Urban Living, Getting Settled, Urban Work Life, Finance & Housing, and Local Cost of Living, along with their sub-categories.

Of the four Swiss cities analysed in the study — Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne — only Basel was highly rated, and is one of only three European cities ranked in the top 10 (the others are Prague, in 7th place, and Madrid in 10th).

This is why

A popular destination for international employees because of its pharmaceutical industry, including giants like Roche and Novartis, Basel ranked well across all categories.

For instance, it is in the 1st place for its public transportation network, in a 2nd position in terms of Quality of Urban Living, and in 3rd for Safety & Politics.

All expats in Basel (100 percent) are satisfied with public transportation, versus 69 percent globally. The public transportation system is excellent”, one respondent said.

Nearly all participants (97 percent) feel safe there, against 84 percent globally. The city also performs well in the Urban Work Life Index (6th), particularly for the state of the local economy, which is in the 1st place and the working hours (8th); additionally,  75 percent are happy with their working hours, compared to 66 percent globally.

More than four in five expats (84 percent) find their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77 percent globally), and 77 percent are satisfied with their financial situation (against 64 globally).

Where Basel is doing less well is in the  Finance & Housing Index (34th place), though it still ranks ahead of other Swiss cities: Zurich (37th), Lausanne (39th), and Geneva (53rd).

But the city ranks 48th in the Local Cost of Living Index: 69 percent of foreigners living there are dissatisfied with the cost of living, more than double the global average (34 percent).

The Getting Settled Index (39th) is another of Basel’s weak points. Internationals struggle with getting used to the local culture: more than one in four respondents (26 percent) state that they find this difficult — this figure is 18 percent 1globally.

It is worth mentioning that in the 2020 InterNations survey, Basel ranked in the 24th place, so it progressed impressively this year.

What about Geneva?

Switzerland’s most “international” city due to the presence of a number of United Nations agencies and multinational companies, places near the bottom of the ranking, in the 47th place.

“It has the worst results among the Swiss cities included in the report and is the only one that does not rank in the global top 10 of the Quality of Urban Living Index”, InterNations said.

Similar to the other Swiss cities, Geneva ranks among the top 10 for political stability (1st) and in the bottom 10 for the affordability of healthcare (56th). However, it lags behind for all other factors, with expats particularly dissatisfied with the local leisure options (23 percent versus 14 percent globally).

“Interestingly, the comparably low quality of life does not make Geneva any easier to afford: on the contrary, it is the worst-ranking city worldwide in the Local Cost of Living Index (57th) and by far the worst-rated Swiss city in the Finance & Housing Index (53rd)”, the report noted.

It added that “while Geneva comes 26th in the Finance Subcategory, it ranks 55th in the Housing Subcategory, only ahead of Dublin (56th) and Munich (57th). Expats find housing in Geneva unaffordable (87 percent  vs. 39 percent globally) and hard to find (63 percent vs. 23 percent globally).”

READ MORE: Why is Geneva’s rent the highest in Switzerland?

Geneva has a fairly average performance in the Urban Work Life Index (28th) but receives worse results in the Getting Settled Index (43rd). It ends up in the bottom 10 of the Feeling Welcome (52nd), Local Friendliness (50th), and Friends & Socializing (48th) subcategories.

“It is certainly not easy to integrate into the local culture and community,” said one respondent. In fact, 35 percent find the locals generally unfriendly, against 16 percent globally).

The difficulty is making friends in Switzerland is a well-known phenomenon among the international community.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

Maybe this is also why they find it hard to get used to the local culture (32 percent versus  18 percent globally) and do not feel at home — 33 percent compared to 19 percent  globally).

Zurich and Lausanne

The two other Swiss cities with a high proportion of international residents fall between the “best” and the “worst”, with Lausanne in the 21st place and Zurich in the 34th.

“All of them rank among the bottom 10 worldwide for the local cost living but among the top 10 for the local quality of life— except for Geneva, which lands in 21st place.”, the survey noted.

This InterNations chart shows how the four the cities are doing in each category. Please click here for a larger version of the chart. 

Image: Internations

You can find out more about each of the four cities from these links. 

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’