Lake Geneva / Lac Léman / Genfersee

Lake Geneva is surrounded by mountains (Alps & Jura) to add to the appeal and beauty of the largest body of fresh water in Switzerland and France.

NASA Satellite View of Lake Geneva, Switzerland & France
NASA Satellite View of Lake Geneva, Switzerland & France

Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French, Genfersee in German) is the largest lake in Switzerland and one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe. It is located in far Western Switzerland and is shared with the French département Haute Savoie.

Lake Geneva Measurements

Lake Geneva is crescent-shaped with the longer northern shore measuring 95 km while the southern shore 72 km long. Most urban settlements are on the northern Swiss shore while the southern shore is mostly part of France with few towns.

Lake Geneva was formed by a withdrawing glacier and has a phenomenal depth. The average depth is 154.4 m while its deepest point between Lausanne and Évian is an impressive 310 m. Here, Lake Geneva is also at its widest at 14 km – far enough that the curvature of the earth makes it impossible for someone on the lakeside promenade in Lausanne to see someone on the lakeside promenade in Evian. The longest straight-line measure is 73 km. The average water surface level is 372 m above sea level.

Lake Geneva in Figures

  • Max. length 73 km (45 mi)
  • Max. width 14 km (8.7 mi)
  • Surface area 580.03 km² (223.95 mi²)
  • Average depth 154.4 m
  • Max. depth 310 m
  • Water volume 89 km³
  • Surface elevation 372 m

Lake Geneva Landscape in Switzerland and France

Lavaux on Lake Geneva in Autumn

The main source of Lake Geneva is the Rhone River (Rhône) that enters Lac Léman near Villeneuve and drains the lake in Geneva city. Theoretically, it takes just over ten years for the water of the Rhone to flow through Lake Geneva. Other rivers flowing into the lake are relatively small.

Lake Geneva’s most spectacular vistas are from the northern side towards the south and far west of the lake where Alpine mountains are close to its shores. On the French side, above Évian-des-Bains the Chablais Alps towers around 2,000 m high over the lake while even higher peaks, including Mt Blanc, can be seen from various points along the lake.

In the far west, above Villeneuve and Montreux, the outliers of the Bernese Alps can be seen. These mountains are also locally referred to as Alpes Vaudoise. A cogwheel train goes from Montreux to the top of Rocher de Naye for easy views of Lake Geneva from an altitude of around 2,000 m.

The Jura Mountains can be seen along most of the northern shores of Lake Geneva. However, the Jura is several kilometers inland from the lake allowing for urban settlements and agriculture along much of the Swiss shores of Lake Geneva.

The UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed vineyards of Lavaux easily form the most spectacular agricultural landscape at Lake Geneva.