Geneva from Above: Cable Car to the Top of Mont Salève, France

Flashback to 2008 before I became a true traveler. I had been out of the country several times with my family and had spent a month studying in Granada two years before. The travel bug was buzzing around my ears, threatening to bite, but I was still a year or two away from being impossibly afflicted by wanderlust. My mom, aunt, sister, and I headed to Switzerland for a week-long cycling and wine tasting tour through Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux, Gstaad, Gruyéres, Interlaken, and Grindelwald.

Paragliding Bernese Alps, Switzerland

Paragliding in the Bernese Alps during our 2008 Switzerland trip (2008 was obviously a really cool time for sunglass fashion)

Flash forward five years later, and my sister was spending her summer in Geneva as a researcher for the Global Detention Project. I was living in Madrid at the time and had adored Switzerland previously (despite being a travel neophyte!), so, naturally, a Swiss family Robinson reunion with a newly crowned local was in order.

Arriving late at night in Geneva after a day of work, my friend and I met my sister at her apartment – free public transportation from the airport, heck yes! We had a brief tour of Lake Geneva, the city center, and the surrounding area, my perspective now significantly shifted with years of European travel under my belt since my last visit.

Less than twelve hours in Switzerland, and we were already off to yet another country, boarding a city bus to the French border to hike Mont Salève. Salève is a mountain in the French Prealps (who knew “Prealps” were a thing?) that’s often referred to as the “balcony of Geneva”…and with good reason: the mountain offers an absolutely breathtaking panoramic view of the city and Lake Geneva.

Mont Salève, France, Geneva

Sisters on Salève

A cable car just across the Swiss border in Étrembières, France carries passengers to an altitude of 1100 meters/3600 feet, so up we went to explore. High above Geneva, we hiked through forests and emerald fields, watched paragliders descend to the foothills, and took about six million photos of ourselves and the surroundings.

Mont Saleve, France, Geneva


We unexpectedly stumbled upon a Tibetan Buddhist temple and stepped inside, enjoying its colorful architecture and the immense tranquility found high above the world. We then found ourselves fully amused by a Rube Goldberg ball drop machine next door.

Tibetan Buddhist Temple, Mount Saleve

Inside the temple

Rube Goldberg Machine, Mont Saleve, France, Geneva

Hours of fun with this thing!

Three million more photos later, we returned to the base and back across the border for more leisurely strolls around Geneva and a home cooked dinner – let’s not talk about how expensive dining out in Switzerland can be for backpackers! Ahead on the Geneva itinerary were a tour of the United Nations and a Switzerland versus Cyprus World Cup Qualifying match, and we were off to a great start.

Mont Salève, France, Geneva

The group atop Mont Salève

Practical information: The Téléphérique du Salève can be reached from Geneva’s city center by taking the 8 bus to Verrier Douane. From there, it’s a short walk to the cable car in Étrembières. Round-trip tickets cost €11.30 or only €8.30 for passengers aged 17-25/65+ or €6.30 for ages 3-16. Because France and Switzerland are both in the Schengen Area, you may not be asked to show a passport, but be cautious and bring one anyway since you’ll be crossing an international border! Don’t forget your camera!

5 Responses

  1. Cari says:

    Another practical tip: even though you’ve barely left the outskirts of Geneva, you’ve entered France — and the Eurozone! Feel free to bring your extra euros (though the cable car and snack/hot coco shack at the top of Saleve will accept both euros and Swiss francs)!

  2. Alexandra Leonardo says:

    Hi! I’m a Filipino and I would like to ride the cable car from Geneva. Do I need a French visa or just my passport and ID?

    • Hi Alexandra,

      Because Switzerland and France are both in the Schengen Area, I don’t believe they’ll do any passport checks, but I’d check some official sources to be 100% sure before you go! Wouldn’t want you getting stuck on the French side!

  1. December 10, 2015

    […] when I learned my sister would be spending her summer living in Geneva, Switzerland. I shared our first day’s adventure last week, in which we took a cable car to the top of nearby Mont Saleve, France for magnificent […]

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