Geneva Cointrin – not your usual airport

Genève Cointrin (IATA: GVA) as the airport, situated in the French part of Switzerland, is called in the local language, is quite an odd one. Don’t get me wrong it is actually quite a convenient airport as it is small and therefore rather accessible. But from both, an architectural and a usability point of view, it’s not exactly your standard airport.

Switzerland’s second largest international airport after Zurich is comprised of a mix of buildings from various decades. It looks a bit like an unthoughtfully assembled mosaic. Besides, the airport has a French and a Swiss side – so beware of from what “country” you are departing or arriving from. The good news is that if you are coming from France, you do not have to go through customs if you remain on the French side. The following review, however, is based on the Swiss part of the airport.

My first advice is, not to go through passport control until it is absolutely necessary (but of course allow ample time for security checks). The reason is that there are hardly any shops after passport control other than your usual, boring duty free and watch stores. The suggestions below are therefore based on the “outside”, public area of the airport:

Your best option is to go to the railway centre (also called “centre commerce”). There you can check out various stores and restaurants. You will find it right next to the main terminal building. My top picks there are:

  1. Migros – a grocery store and a Swiss institution. They normally don’t have branded products, but trust me, their quality of produce is excellent. Here you can find anything from chocolates, Swiss specialties like cheese or dried meet to a delicious airline sandwich alternative to take on the plane.
  2. Check out the “Manor” shop with a decent range of contemporary Swiss souvenirs for you to bring home.
  3. And finally, if you sadly experienced bad weather on your skiing holidays, go to the centre’s solarium and freshen up your tan.

In case you are just looking for a quick bite before you board your economy flight, go to an area called “Les jardins de Genève”. You will find it on the 1st floor of the main terminal building. There you will find a Starbucks, Upper Crust, Burger King, a Sushi place (Bento), an Italian eatery (Le Sud) a bar and an outdoor area for when the weather is nice (mind you, smoking is not permitted there).

My final suggestion is a restaurant called “Swiss Chalet” which you will find in the arrivals area. The nicely decorated place offers typical Swiss meals like cheese Fondue, Raclette, Rösti and other delicacies. Oh and by the way, Geneva is only about 8 minutes away by train with trains leaving frequently, so if you have a lot of time, check out Switzerland’s second biggest city.

[Picture from Flickrsome rights reserved]

Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name Geneva International Airport
Design Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Shopping Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Toilets Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Overall Plane Award Plane Award Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop CHF 116.00 (£71.10)
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop CHF 57.90 (£35.50)



  • KMK

    Brilliant write up…had no idea about most of this and I go there at least once a month. Merci Beaucoup