Bus & Tram Tours

If you're new in Geneva and want an easy-to-digest breakdown of the way the city is divided into various neighborhoods and districts, consider a trolley-car tour. Departing from the south bank's Place du Rhône (Mar-Dec only), red-painted, open-sided trolley cars meander through neighborhoods that include the city's medieval center, the glossy shopping districts, and the hotel and museum-studded precincts of the river's north bank. Trams depart at 45-minute intervals every day between 10:45am and 6:45pm, last about 45 minutes, and cost 9.90F for adults and 6.90F for children. For more information, contact STT Trains Tours S.A., 36, bd. St-Georges (tel. 022/781-04-04; www.sttr.ch).

A 2-hour City Tour is operated daily all year by Key Tours S.A., 7, rue des Alpes, square du Mont-Blanc (tel. 022/731-41-40; www.keytours.ch). The tour starts from the Gare Routière, the bus station at place Dorcière, near the Key Tours office. From November to March, the tour is offered only once a day at 1:30pm, but from April to October, two tours leave daily at 10:30am and 1:30pm.

A bus will drive you through the city to see the monuments, landmarks, and lake promenades. In the Old Town, you can take a walk down to the Bastions Park and the Reformation Wall. After a tour through the International Center, where you'll be shown the headquarters of the International Red Cross, the bus returns to its starting place. Adults pay 23F and children 4 to 12 accompanied by an adult are charged 12F, while children 3 and under go free.

Walking Tours of Carouge

Between June and September, every Saturday at 11am, 2-hour guided walking tours of Carouge depart from a point near the front entrance of Carouge's City Hall, 14, place du Marché, for a price of 8.90F per adult, 5.90F for teens aged 12 to 18, and free for children 11 and under. The expert in charge of these tours, Mme. Loredan, speaks five languages, and will tailor her dialogue to correspond to the linguistic needs of participants. For more information, click on www.carouge.ch.

Boat Tours

The cold, clear waters of Lac Léman have attracted visitors for many generations. If you're interested in cruising on these waters (which never freeze, even in winter), at least two companies offer worthwhile tours. Your best bet involves determining how extensive you want your tour to be, and then selecting one whose duration corresponds to your schedule.

Regardless of which you select, you'll enjoy sweeping waterside views of the ringing hills, bucolic calm, and some of the most famous vineyards in Switzerland, many of which seem to roll down to the historic waters. Because of bad weather and low visibility in winter, cruises only run between April and late October, and in some cases, only between May and September.

Two separate companies offer cruises along the lake. The smaller of the two, Mouettes Genevoises Navigation, 8, quai du Mont-Blanc (tel. 022/732-47-47; www.swissboat.com), specializes in small-scale boats carrying only about 100 passengers at a time. Each features some kind of prerecorded commentary, in French and English, throughout. An easy promenade that features the landscapes and bird life along the uppermost regions of the river Rhône draining the lake is the company's 2 3/4-hour Tour du Rhône (Rhône River Tour). The trip originates at quai des Moulins, adjacent to Geneva's Pont de l'Ile, and travels downstream for about 14km (9 miles) to the Barrage de Verbois (Verbois Dam) and back. From April to October, departures are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2:15pm. It costs 25F for adults and 18F for children 4 to 12; it's free for children 3 and under.

Mouettes Genevoises Navigation's largest competitor, CGN (Compagnie Générale de Navigation), quai du Mont-Blanc (tel. 0848/811-848; www.cgn.ch), offers roughly equivalent tours, in this case between May and September, that last an hour, departing six to seven times a day (depending on the season) from the company's piers along quai du Mont-Blanc. Known as Les Belles Rives Genevoises, the tours cost 16F for adults and 9F for children 6 to 16; children 5 and under ride free. Tours include prerecorded commentaries and are, frankly, about as long in duration as many short-term visitors to the city really want.

Although its hour-long cruises are popular, CGN devotes most of its time, energy, and money to hauling boatloads of commuters and sightseers between the ports that line the perimeter of the lake. They're conducted aboard larger craft that resemble seagoing ferryboats, and the experience is usually more workaday than the short cruises described above. None includes guided commentary. Despite that, many visitors appreciate the silence and the fact that CGN's larger boats each contain an attractive brasserie with uniformed waiters, starched linen, fixed-price menus at 37F each, and affordably priced assiettes du jour (plates of the day). You can ask the sales staff at CGN to configure almost any tour along the lake that appeals to you, incorporating half-day stopovers and/or overnights in towns like Nyon, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, Evian, Yvoire, and Thonon. Or you can sign up for either of the prepackaged experiences (grands et petits tours of the lake) as described below. In most cases, CGN vessels depart from the piers beside quai du Mont-Blanc, but whenever the schedule warrants it, the departure moves 180m (590 ft.) away, to the piers in the nearby Jardin Anglais.

The most comprehensive ride requires a full day: the Tour du Grand Lac. It departs every morning at 9am, pulls for very brief interludes into about half a dozen ports en route, and returns to Geneva that night at 8:45pm. A 2-hour stopover in Montreux, plus a leisurely lunch onboard, are included as part of the experience. The round-trip circuit costs 67F for adults and 34F for ages 6 to 25; it's free for children 5 and under. A more recommendable, and more practical, tour is Le Tour du Petit Lac, which incorporates only the lower portion of the lake, including stops at Nyon (in Switzerland) and Yvoire (in France), and lasts for about half a day. It departs from quai du Mont-Blanc every afternoon at 3pm. The round-trip cost is from 27F.

CGN also offers a tour that combines a lake cruise and a visit to the Château de Chillon with a return by train back to Geneva. Between June and September, a boat leaves from the Mont Blanc pier daily at 9:15am, arriving in Chillon at 2:15pm. During July and August, an additional boat departs from the Jardin Anglais pier at 10:30am, arriving in Chillon around 3:50pm. Participants can visit the castle before taking a train or bus from the small station at Chillon to Montreux, and then transfer to one of the hourly trains from Montreux back to Geneva. Some visitors opt to dally in Montreux a while, perhaps remaining for lunch or dinner. The cost for the full round-trip excursion is 54F in second class and 73F in first class. For more information, call tel. 0848/811-848 (www.cgn.ch).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.