My review of the InterContinental Geneva hotel

This is my review of the InterContinental Geneva hotel.

Back in May I wrote about a fantastic competition organised by the Geneva Tourist Board.  It was giving away 1,000 nights over the Summer in three, four and five star hotels across the city to UK residents, breakfast included.

A lot of Head for Points readers were winners, including myself.  I was very restricted on dates because of our holidays and the school restart this week and the best option available was the InterContinental Geneva which I am reviewing today.

With breakfast included and a Reward Flight Saver Avios flight booked, I felt I could beat off the impact of the astonishingly strong Swiss Franc.

Location, location, location

The InterContinental Geneva hasn’t got it.  Sorry.  Let’s get that out of the way first.

From the railway station (remember to get your free train ticket at the airport from the vending machine in the luggage hall – a very generous offer for visitors) it was only a few seconds walk down to the lake.  Thursday was an astonishingly lovely September day with 29 degree sunshine:

InterContinental Geneva review

Lined up, side by side down the quayside, were some exceptional hotels – the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Hotel de la Paix, Kempinski, President Wilson etc – with direct lake views.  One mile away, up a hill in a commercial area by the United Nations, is the InterContinental!

If you stay here you need to accept that you are unlikely to be popping back to the hotel during the day.  You also need to accept that you are outside the main tourist area.  If you want a romantic weekend with your partner, you are substantially better off in the Four Seasons on the lake.

If you arrive in the afternoon and want to head straight to the hotel, forget the airport train.  The Number 5 bus runs from the airport and stops directly outside the hotel.  The stop is even called ‘InterContinental’ and will be shown on the digital displays inside the bus.

You can get a bus from outside the hotel to the railway station or back to the airport – reception will give you a free travel ticket.

The hotel

The InterContinental Geneva is not a pretty hotel although I have seen far worse buildings from that period – it looks late 60s / early 70s.

A few years the hotel had a massive renovation to bring it into the 21st century.  This has only been partially successful.

InterContinental Geneva review exterior

Before I go on, though, I want to show you the one reason why you may want to stay here – the amazing outdoor swimming pool:

InterContinental Geneva review

It is, I think, the biggest swimming pool I have ever seen at a European city hotel.  I was lucky to be there on a swelteringly hot September day.  As well as the pool, which slopes away sharply but is kiddy-friendly shallow at one side, there is a pool bar (£10 for a bottle of beer!).  On a grassed area behind the pool – but blocked from it by some bushes – are another 50 or so sun loungers.  There are probably 75 sun loungers in total which is generous.

My room

Remi, who checked me in, was fully on the ball.  The hotel respected my Ambassador benefits, including late check-out, which was good of them because I obviously hadn’t booked direct.  My details were not in the booking but, when they saw my card, my allocated room was changed to a larger one with a view of the lake.

In practical terms, there was nothing to complain about.  Lots of space, a coffee machine (and I was brought a jug of fresh milk on request), a small dressing area, a desk and a sofa.  The problem is that it was all a bit, well, beige:

InterContinental Geneva review room


InterContinental Geneva review

….. except for the bathroom, where the loo and bath were fuscia.  It reminded me of what my parents had during the 1970s and was a little scary to see:

InterContinental Geneva review bathroom

Weirdly, I could not – for the life of me – work out how to turn the shower on.  It was an attachment to the bath taps, not stand alone.  Despite having stayed in probably 300 hotels in my life, I could not figure this out, so I was forced to have a bath instead!  Toiletries were the standard InterContinental Agraria brand.

This is the view from my window, which lets you see where the lake is:

InterContinental Geneva review view

Wi-fi was free and very good.  The signal never dropped at any point.

There was nothing to complain about in my room but no ‘wow’ factor either, nothing to convince you that it is a good idea to be here instead of by the lake.

Gym and spa

I am not a gym person but this one looked pretty big and was flooded with light:

InterContinental Geneva review gym

There is also a Clarins-branded spa with a sauna.

The lobby

The public areas of InterContinental Geneva are very impressive.  There are vast amounts of space to sit around and watch the world go by.

InterContinental Geneva review lobby


InterContinental Geneva review lobby

As well as this clubby bar, complete with Chesterfield armchairs.  The club sandwich I had in the bar for dinner set me back £25 at the current exchange rate.

InterContinental Geneva review bar


….. is served in Woods, the restaurant.

This is a very classy affair.  I strongly recommend booking a room with breakfast included if booking for cash.  You are likely to save money (It is CHF 46 – £35 – per person if paid on the day), there are few potential alternatives nearby and it is a very pleasant experience.

Orange juice is freshly squeezed and comes in individual glass jugs, as does the milk.  As well as a wide ranging buffet (the photo below only shows a small part of it) you can order additional items.

InterContinental Geneva review restaurant

The breakfast room was calm and fairly empty when I was there.  There is even an outdoor seating area:

InterContinental Geneva review restaurant


I really enjoyed my night here because of the exceptionally good weather.  I visited the pool on both days and it was the first time all summer I had been able to swim by myself without a small child literally on my back.  I also got free breakfast so my food costs were modest and the walk up the hill from the city centre was OK in the sun.

If you are in Geneva on business and need to be in the UN area or are happy to pay for taxis, this is a good place to come.  I would happily stay here again on that basis.

For a tourist, though, it is tricky.  The pool – the real redeeming feature at the InterContinental Geneva – is only open between May and September.  Without the pool, I don’t feel that the quality of the rooms is high enough to switch from a hotel by the lake which gives you the full Geneva experience.  I did enjoy the breakfast and the staff throughout were fantastic.

If you are redeeming IHG Rewards Club points, you will get excellent value for them here because Geneva is so expensive.  For a random date in October the hotel was 45,000 points or £275 (CHF 354) which means you are getting 0.6p per point.  Be aware that breakfast will be a hit in the pocket and I didn’t see any obvious alternatives.

It is also a decent choice if redeeming an InterContinental Ambassador ‘free weekend night’ voucher.  The cash saving will make the bus journey up and down the hill worthwhile.

The InterContinental Geneva website is here if you want to find out more.

Remember that you can earn DOUBLE base points on ALL your IHG stays by booking through the special Head for Points link.  This is a world exclusive offer (spookily!).  Visit this HFP page for more information and the link to book.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Additional savings if you book with BA Holidays this weekend
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  1. Review 100% reflects my own experience in May, when I got the room for 35,000 points. The room was really so so and I slept badly but I was directing a show in town and didn’t spend a lot time there. I would never have considered eating at the hotel, there a so many interesting places in town. As a kettle (IHG Gold) I got no free breakfast on the points stay but there’s a little shopping centre a short walk away where I got an excellent café renversé and croissants for CHF7.50 (which is better than the CHF50 or so the hotel was asking for breakfast.
    The no. 5 bus is amazingly efficient and the location is good for visiting the whole Nations area (Palais des Nations, Musée Arianna, Musée de la Croix Rouge,,Château de Penthes), plenty to do if you concentrate just on that area. I’m a serious walker (was up a mountain in Valais while you were in Geneva) but I would never bother walking from town to the hotel: the way is not that interesting and not pretty.

  2. Nice review Raffles. So are you saying there is currently a free promotion for train tickets into the city? Thanks

    • There is a permanent offer of free travel from the airport to your hotel. Once there, the hotel will provide you a ticket with free transport around Geneva for the duration of your stay (and to get you back to the airport)

      • Hotels in Lausanne similarly provide free passes for the duration of one’s stay.
        May be Swiss-wide?

        • A place I stayed in the Austrian alps (location of the Chalet School!) does the same. I think they just have the view that tourists will go to more places if they can get there easily.

      • Indeed, it’s a promotion that has been going for years and is fantastic – would love it more cities offered this for tourists!

  3. I had won a night in Geneva, too. Living in the UK regions, one night did not seem worth our while, so we booked a few nights, stayed at the Mandarin Oriental and (the night before our flight back home) at the Moevenpick Airport hotel. I have got no status with MO but we got a free upgrade to a higher category with stunning views upon check-in. Staff were very friendly and helpful, breakfast was one of the best we’ve ever had (well, how many eggs, rolls, cereals and other breakfast ingredients could I buy in Tesco’s for £80…?), but I clearly prefer the stunning modern interior of let’s say the Waldorf Astoria in Berlin to the (a bit tired looking) “antique chic” of the Mandarin Orientalin Geneva. As Rob has pointed out, the location among Four Seasons & Co and within walking distance to the lake and most other tourist spots is priceless though! We usually book Blacklane for transport but this turned out to be extortionate in Geneva, so we used Uber Black at very low prices instead and got e.g. an Audi A7.
    The Moevenpick at the Airport at the end of our trip felt like a rip-off and we won’t stay there again. Breakfast was good, but the room small, dark and unimpressive and nobody would offer help with our luggage which I simply expect in a 5 star hotel. All in all a nice summer break (yes, weather was great in August, too) – many thanks again, Rob, for pointing out the competition!

    • My partner won a night at Mövenpick too and we stayed in early August. I didn’t know that it gets so hot in Switzerland in summer! You can swim not only in the pool but in the lake too. Don’t miss this chance!
      The hotel was really 5*, we’ve got an upgrade to a room with a semi-separate lounge where you could watch Olympics on TV with a cup of coffee or a drink. Breakfast was top. And free Geneva-wide and airport-bound transport (plus a free hotel shuttle) helped to offset costs.
      Another important bonus for HFP readers at Mövenpick that you can watch planes landing at GVA from your window. But no free ice cream unfortunately (unless you are a kid).
      Brilliant promo, I wish I had participated myself and we could win 2 nights.

      • not a million miles from our place – that whole chunk of Central Europe heats up like an oven June-July-August – & June-July (esp July) are actually often hotter than August if you can take a holiday outside school hols

        in our 6 weeks July-August this year we were pretty much 25-30C every day, with highs this year of about 35C (just dropping to 20C or so with rain)

        highest I have recorded at our place was a few days of 42C! that really was a bit sweltering – but it’s generally a dry heat, not humid, so much more bearable than (say) the same temperatures in the ME

      • No upgrade for me :( Yes, nice view of the airport with departing planes, but I couldn’t find anything special about the Moevenpick. It is okay for one night before catching a flight.

  4. I stayed at the Intercontinental for business and it’s indeed a crap location.
    The bedding was great but room was dull and the bathroom was straight from the 50’s… As mentionned the breakfast is excellent, great buffet with an awesome selection but it’s priced at 46CHF.

    I also won a free night and decided to stay at the Hôtel d’Angleterre. The location is great as it’s directly on the lake, between the Beau-Rivage and the Kempinski. This is a smashing property, very low key as it has less than 50 rooms but the decor was superb, staff was excellent and not over the top. The room itself was small but beautiful with a very comfy bed and Penhaligon’s toiletries. The free breakfast was great as well and you can eat in front of the lake and see the Jet d’eau. I definitely felt super valued as a guest even if it was on a free night.
    Therefore I can’t recommend the hotel enough! It’s part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection and I’ve only had superb experiences each time (stayed at The Merrion and The Marker in Dublin).

    P.S.: both the Intercontinental and the D’angleterre gave me and my wife a public transport pass valid for the duration of the stay which is great. It can be used on all bus and trams as well as the train to the airport (which takes less than 8mins). As an FYI the train only costs 3CHF one-way which is incredible when you compare that to what you would pay for a Heathrow or Gatwick express ticket…

  5. Had my free night at the Mandarin Oriental on Tuesday and can vouch for its fantastic location. The bed in the room was tiny for such a luxury hotel (around the size of a standard double), but everything else was fantastic. Wouldn’t want to pay the best part of £500 for it though.

    Geneva is one of the most boring places I’ve visited with really bizarre opening times, all the supermarkets seem to shut up shop around 7pm and it’s really hard to find something to eat late afternoon as almost all restaurants seem to close between 3-6.30.

    The Swiss business lounge at Geneva airport is pretty terrible as well, really uncomfortable seating and awful food, very little cutlery. Although with Geneva prices elsewhere, the first time I could have a decent drink!

  6. It’s the Swissie! Next door, all main countries (Austria, France, Germany) are very reasonably priced in comparison. People often think Austria is expensive like Switzerland but it’s most certainly not – meals, beer, hotels, skiing etc compare favourably to UK prices.

  7. I went to the motorshow in March and passed the IC. It is indeed an odd location and the last place you would expect to find a hotel. I stayed just out near the stadium at the ramada perfectly acceptable hotel. Maybe it was just me and because it was a whistle stop tour in a two days one of which was at the motor show but to me Geneva sucked. I’ve never seen as much graffiti since I was in Paris. The prices are beyond a joke. Agree with raffles on the prices it cost an absolute fortune even more than Stockholm etc. I wouldn’t return back even right in the centre where the MO is it was okay nothing special. I just had an uneasy feeling the whole time I was there that I didn’t feel safe. Can’t put my finger on it just a bit odd…..

  8. I ran a corporate conference there back in 2008. Nice meeting rooms and public area, but rooms were rather dated. Hopefully they’ve made progress on refurbishing them in that time.

  9. Good review Rob,

    Me and the Mrs stayed there for two nights in August and had a great time. Your comment on the price of breakfast is a little off the mark… they didn’t have us down as having breakfast included on the breakfast list and there was 92CHF charged to the room (waived even before we checked out!)

    The location is a little bit of a stumbling block, but we had a nice walk through the botanical gardens to the shore of the lake and covered about 7 miles in one day!

    • Thanks, updated the breakfast price.

    • c£36 per person for breakfast

      what more motivation do you need to go out and find a local cafe etc which doesn’t restrict you on timing either. Wonder what hotels think when setting prices like these

      • What you forget is that the cafe will be extortionate as well. It cost me £25 for a chicken dish in a street cafe downtown for lunch on Thursday, plus another £9 for a glass of house wine and whatever the coffee cost on top.

      • ‘Wonder what hotels think when setting prices like these’ Seriously?

        Well, they don’t set prices in pounds, that’s for sure. They use their own currency, and if the market accepts the prices, they’re quids in, er, francs in.

        For longer than I care to remember, the value of the Swiss franc has gone in one direction and the value of the pound in the other. Only 10 years ago, 1 GBP was worth about 2.50 CHF, almost double today’s rate. (Sadly, I can remember much higher rates. :( ) If the hotel priced its services at 10-year-old rates, they would be more comfortable (to you). But of course, the hotel incurs costs in today’s real world and would make an almighty loss.

        Whenever I’ve been at the IC Geneva, much of the clientele has come from the Middle East, Russia and other exotic places. Presumably they are happy to pay the prices.

        • I made a good decision to buy a bucketload of CHF when it was 1.8 per £.

          Most prices in Switzerland seem reasonable to me. It was the UK that was expensive when I moved to London permanently as it took 2 USD to get 1 quid.

        • Can’t comment on the local economics but stronger CHF = cheaper imports which in turn should = fall in prices, doesn’t seem the case here

  10. I’ve been staying 1-2 nights at the IC Geneva every year for the past 5 years, always on points.
    When it was 35,000 it was amazing value, now at 45,000 it depends a lot on the rate at the time, but they tend to be a minimum of £350 and more depending on how close to my stay I book.

    I’ve never tried the pool as I’ve always stayed out of season, but always enjoyed the cosy lobby (nice fireplace in the winter), great drinks at the bar (one of the best rusty nails I’ve had…), good service, and I’ve always been upgraded to a nice room (in advance of my stay) as an Ambassador.
    In fact on my last stay I was upgraded to a nice suite (rate was well over £1000 for it) despite staying on points.

    As for the breakfast, well I think it has to be one of the nicest presented breakfasts I have seen in any hotel to be honest, and more than enough verity to choose from (anything not on the buffet, like freshly made eggs Benedict etc can be ordered at no extra charge).

  11. James Foreman says:

    I stayed here with my wife for our wedding anaversary on points and free night from my credit card.

    Its a nice hotel and we got a free room upgrade and a small bottle for champagne but I could not justify the prices, other than one cocktail we did not spend anything there, I would stay again though and the pool did look fantastic as did the public areas.

    If you want a cheep meal turn right out of the main doors and just past the garage on the left side of the road is a restaurant serving chicken and a few other things, if your not looking for fine dinning its an enjoyable meal. For breakfast the garage has a small cafe with nice coffee and pastries.

    At the airport get the free ticket for travel to your hotel, the hotel will extend this for your stay and all the busses, train, trams and water taxies are included.

  12. That location definitely isn’t the best, but the pool looks awesome! I recently stayed at Le Richemond, which is right on the lake and part of the Dorchester Collection, and that place really is amazing. I was in the Ambassador Suite and my entire experience there was just out of this world. The service was incredible, the breakfast was on point, and the view of the lake was so beautiful. Sadly though it isn’t the best choice for collecting points! Highly recommend it though, especially to business travellers as it did feel very ‘business’ like and the location was brilliant for the city.