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  • Janis Nunez

Switzerland: Geneva, Montreux, Gruyeres & Annecy, France

Updated: Jul 8

We have heard so many wonderful things about Switzerland that we were excited to go and explore it for ourselves. We were not prepared for how breathtaking the country is. And while the photos I will post are beautiful, they do not do it justice.


BEFORE YOU GO


ADAPTER: If you are traveling from the US, you will need an adapter. Know the wattage of your electronics before you go, so that you know if you need a converter, adapter or both. I have a universal wattage flat iron. It saves me the hassle of worrying if I need an adapter AND converter. Most hotels and Airbnb rentals provide a hair dryer, so just make sure whatever you bring has Worldwide Voltage, or you will also need a converter.


PHONE:  Contact your cell phone provider to see what is included. T-Mobile gives unlimited data and texting, but charges $0.25 per minute per call. I have read other companies require you to get a SIM card, so contact your provider for details. You can also download WhatsApp to your phone and call using Wi-Fi to call others who also have the app installed.


If you have T-Mobile, they also offer In-Flight Connection that gives customers free connectivity with streaming on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. This includes data, streaming, and text messaging. All you do is connect to the Wi-Fi and add your phone number to the T-Mobile prompt and you are all set.


CONTACT YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARD COMPANIES:  It's important to let the bank know when you will be out of town so that you won't have any problems withdrawing your money when you get to your destination. You also may need to notify your credit card company of the travel dates. We like to withdraw local currency when we arrive at our destination from a bank ATM in one lump sum. This avoids extra fees for multiple transactions. You can get away with using a credit card almost everywhere, but having some local currency is always a good idea. Some credit cards charge fees for use, so ask about fees for both your ATM and credit cards. We did not take out any cash in Switzerland. Everywhere we went took a credit card, including the parking lots and garages.


WHERE TO STAY: Central locations are pricier, so if you are trying to stay on a budget don't be afraid to stay on the outskirts near a train or bus stop. Group the sites you want to see within each city and make a decision from there. Things to consider are parking fees if you have rented a car, easy access to metro if you are not staying close to the city center, and if you are in the city center, a walkable location to your sites.


Crowne Plaza Geneva: We chose to stay near the airport this time as it was not far from the old town in Geneva that we primarily wanted to visit. Since this hotel did not provide accommodation for 4 people, we got 2 adjoining rooms. The hotel is clean, beds are comfortable, and the air conditioning is fantastic on hot days. The water pressure in the shower was good and the room cleanings were done daily. We used points for this hotel for all of our nights. We did not pay extra for the hotel breakfast as there was a bakery/cafe across the street as well as a grocery in the gas station across the street. Both were good options for us throughout the trip. The hotel also provided us with Summer Transport Cards to use the metro in Geneva for free throughout our stay. To park at the hotel, they charge CHF 24 daily.


WHEN YOU ARRIVE


CURRENCY:  You can find a local bank ATM to take cash out. The currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc, but cards were accepted everywhere we went. We didn't take any cash out.


For our day trip to Annecy, France the currency is the euro. As we travel to Europe regularly, we had some on hand to use in case we needed cash. Most places took cards here too, so we didn't need it.  


Download the currency converter app on your phone to help you convert to your local currency to keep spending in check.


TRANSPORTATION: We rented a car for this trip since we would be taking several day trips. We used Sixt for the car rental and rented from the French side. The Geneva airport has an exit to France and an exit to Switzerland. My husband compared prices and got a better deal renting from the French side. If you drive in Switzerland, you do need a Swiss Motorway Vignette, which costs 40 Swiss Francs. Add this on to your rental price for the French side when determining the better deal. Even with this added on, it was cheaper for us to rent there. If you are renting from the Swiss side, it should already include the sticker. If you rent from the French side like we did, be sure to follow the directions they give you for the rental car return. You do not follow the Geneva Airport signs. That will take you to the Swiss car rental side.

 

Summer Transportation Card: As I mentioned, our hotel gave us a free transport card for Geneva at check-in. It was good throughout our stay. Here's how it works. You can take any of the local transportation options. There is no scanning or tapping in like you may have done in other countries. They go by the honor system. They expect you to have the card on you at all times along with an ID (passport). You can be asked at any time for your card and identification to verify you should be on the bus. If you do not have them, you will be fined. We were not asked the entire time but used the public transportation for only one day.


SIGHTSEEING


Day 1: Geneva (arrival day). Our flight got in around 11am. Security took about an hour at the airport and then we headed to the rental car area to collect our car. Once we arrived at the hotel, they gave our room keys right away and we could clean up and head out to explore Geneva's old town area.


The Floral Clock is located in Jardin Anglais Park. It's a great area to walk the promenade, grab a bite to eat, or gaze at the Geneva Water Fountain.



The Old Town area is filled with cobblestone streets, fountains, cafes, restaurants and shops. We loved exploring the area and stopped for drinks and snacks at La Clemence. We thoroughly enjoyed it.



We stopped at L'Ancien Arsenal. They used it as an armory where weapons were stored during times of war. We also stopped at the Fountaine du Perron.



St Pierre Cathedral is a famed cathedral in Geneva dating back to the 12th century.



Definitely go to the top to see beautiful views of Geneva.



We stopped at the Parc des Bastions to see Reformation Wall. This stone wall monument honors the Protestant Reformation and its founders.



We walked all around Old Town and ended up back over by the fountain on the promenade.



Day 2: Chillon Castle is an island medieval castle located on Lake Geneva, in the canton of Vaud. It's a beautiful castle and worth visiting. If you drive, there is free parking. You just have to display your parking permit. If you don't have one, ask at the ticket office.



Tickets for the castle are CHF 15 for adults and CHF 12.50 for students. The castle is quite large. Give yourself plenty of time to explore. The views from the inside are beautiful.



We drove up to Montreux and took a picnic to enjoy on the promenade. The view is stunning. We grabbed food and a bottle of wine from Coop grocery and took it to the lake. There are also restaurants along the promenade if you prefer that.



We got gelato and headed over to see the Freddie Mercury statue. We also stopped by the casino that had a Queen tribute. Then we headed back to Geneva.



Day 3: Gruyeres

We were most excited about visiting the town of Gruyeres. If you are driving, the closest parking lot is P1. We had no problem finding a parking spot at around 10am and were able to use a credit card to pay at the machine. When we left the lot was filled with cars and buses. There are two other lots nearby if this lot is full when you arrive.



We explored Gruyeres Castle first. If you plan to go to the cheese factory as well, you can get a combo ticket here. If you have students, they get a discount here and at the factory so don't get the combo, as it's cheaper to buy individual student tickets.



The town has a lot to see, but you can easily cover it all and have lunch in half a day.



Before we left, we had fondue at Gruyere Traditions. We went a bit overboard and ordered all of the different kinds of fondue that they have. You can definitely order one or two and have plenty. Our favorite was the truffle fondue. Whatever restaurant you choose, be sure to ask if they have a patio out back. You can't beat the view!



We did stop at La Maison du Gruyere (House of Gruyere), but quite frankly it was underwhelming. The cheese tour was listening to a talking cow tell you about the photos on the wall. I would skip it. There is free parking if you park less than an hour. They also have a gift shop, but we didn't purchase anything.



From here we headed over to Moleson-sur Gruyers. Make this your priority destination in Gruyeres. Parking is free at the base.


Here you can take the funicular to Plan-Francey where there are lots of trails and a restaurant. Continue up to the summit via cable car where there is another restaurant and more trails.



It is chilly at the summit. We wished we had brought up our jackets from the car. Luckily it was a sunny day. The sights are beautiful. My son wanted to climb the large hill next to the summit, so we did. It was the highlight of the day.



After a cup of hot tea, we took the cable car back down to Plan-Francey. From there we hiked down to the parking lot. It took about 1.5 hours. On the way down we could hear the bells around the necks of the cows eating grass nearby. It was pretty amazing.