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My review of the InterContinental Geneva hotel

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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.

InterContinental Geneva

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 at InterContinental Geneva

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 at InterContinental Geneva

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

Breakfast at InterContinental Geneva

….. 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.

IHG Rewards Club update – January 2021:

Get bonus points: IHG Rewards Club is offering 2,000 bonus points for every two nights you stay from 20th January to 31st March. The bonus points will count towards status. Our main article is here. You can register here using promo code 42050.

New to IHG Rewards Club?  Read our two-part overview of IHG Rewards Club here and here and our article on expiry rules here.

Buy points: If you need additional IHG Rewards Club points, you can buy them here. You will get a 75% bonus if you buy 10,000+ IHG Rewards Club points by 25th February.

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

Comments (25)

  • Concerto says:

    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.

  • Scott says:

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

    • John says:

      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)

      • zsalya says:

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

        • Fenny says:

          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.

      • Alan says:

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

  • Volker says:

    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!

    • Alex says:

      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.

      • harry says:

        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

      • Volker says:

        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.

  • JohnnyC says:

    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…

  • Lumma says:

    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!

  • harry says:

    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.

  • Nick says:

    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…..

  • GK says:

    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.