Geneva, Switzerland is not typically thought of as a vegan-friendly city, but that’s changing! An increasing number of restaurants are adapting their menus to cater to vegans, and vegan snacks and ready-made meals have started appearing in mainstream grocery stores.
Things are changing so quickly, in fact, that it can be hard to keep up. As of October 2016, here are some of the best places to find vegan food in Geneva!
Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants
These establishments serve exclusively vegetarian or vegan fare.
[UPDATE August 2018: Yogifood has permanently closed.] This raw food eatery serves daily lunch specials and treats that are completely vegan except for the occasional use of honey. They offer a meal of the day along with juices, smoothies, ice cream, etc. Small store attached. Takeaway only. Located very close to Lake Geneva in Pâquis, so it’s perfect for picking up some picnic food.
FairPlay Café (vegetarian) CLOSED
[UPDATE August 2018: FairPlay has permanently closed.]
This juice bar and café has a nice terrace with tables outside during the summer and offers a changing menu that always includes some vegan options. They can also accommodate gluten-free diets on request. In the evenings, you can relax here with a shot of one of their homemade, flavoured rums.
Aux Deux Portes (vegan)
This small café is a great spot for lunch. The food served is all vegan and organic, and there are always gluten-free options available too. It’s located in what used to be a butcher’s shop. The only owners have really turned this place around! Note that not everything sold in the attached shop is vegan.
Be Vegan Make Peace (vegan)
This 100% vegan market stall is a one-woman show, run by the formidable Ursula Klein. She makes all the food herself and sells it at very reasonable prices. Her stall can be found at the Plainpalais market most Sundays, but if you don’t see her, don’t worry. There are plenty of other vegan options at the market, like the fried plantains with peanut sauce from the nearby African food stall. Yum!
Bouffe Pop (vegan)
On Friday evenings in the summer, a group of friends get together in a neighbourhood square, set up some folding tables and benches, and cook up a huge batch of vegan food for whoever stops by. Sound awesome? Yeah, it is.
Bouffe Pop is a very grassroots movement, and anyone is welcome to join. You simply pay what you can afford. If you’d like to help with the cooking, you can do that too; just arrive a couple hours early. It’s a great cultural experience and a way to see a different side of Geneva.
While these restaurants do serve meat, they also make a point of catering to vegans by providing clearly-marked vegan items and/or serving a wide range of vegan dishes.
This health-conscious takeaway shop inside Geneva’s main train station (called Gare Cornavin) is perfect for picking up a quick bite to eat before your next trip. They always have at least one vegan sandwich and one vegan salad, usually more.
This small café in the centre of town offers vegan and gluten-free sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as desserts, smoothies and juices. Seating is limited to a couple of tables, so it’s mostly for takeaway lunches. Service is friendly.
Cozy Italian restaurant with a lovely décor and a very vegan-friendly menu. There are four different vegan pizzas on offer, as well as some pasta dishes and a “pizza salad”, which is a salad that comes in an edible bowl made of pizza dough. Wait, what?! They also do gluten-free pizza.
Qibi (2 locations)
This cheap and cheerful restaurant has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. In fact, most of the menu can be made vegan, as the salads and wraps are all customizable. Just choose the organic tofu as your “protein”. Two locations, one on each side of the Rhône river.
The tagline for this restaurant is “healthy food for all”, and they certainly do aim to please everyone. There are always three daily lunch specials: one with meat, one with fish and one vegan. In addition, the menu also includes gluten-free, raw, and refined sugar-free options. The emphasis is on seasonal, local and organic ingredients.
This stylish, artsy café has a large terrace for outdoor dining in the warmer months, with a variety of vegan options year-round. Gluten-free options are also available, and the focus is on healthy, local and environmentally-sustainable food.
Sunset likes to call itself a vegetarian restaurant, but they do in fact serve fish. I guess no one told them fish aren't vegetables? Nevertheless, there are several vegan items on the menu, such as pasta, salads and pita pockets. Some of the vegan options are also gluten-free, like the tofu and mushrooms served with brown rice and vegetables.
Ethnic Cuisine Restaurants
While traditional Swiss cuisine is not very vegan-friendly, there are dozens more cuisines to choose from in this über-cosmopolitan city. Some of these cuisines are naturally plant-based, or at the very least include several dishes that are naturally vegan. Here’s just a sampling:
Al Amir (Lebanese)
This Lebanese joint may not have the classiest atmosphere (it’s located just a block or so away from Geneva’s red light district), but it does have some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city, and at quite reasonable prices. There are a number of vegan dishes that can be ordered à la carte, but the best deal is probably the vegetarian plate (assiette végétarienne). Just ask to substitute the labneh (strained yoghurt) with extra hummus.
Red Sea (Eritrean/Ethiopian)
Due to the large number of refugees and asylum-seekers from Eritrea, Geneva has a plethora of Eritrean restaurants to choose from. In my opinion, this family-run place is the best, hands down. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Elsa and her crew offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for just CHF 21, and more than half the dishes in the buffet are vegan.
If you’ve never had Eritrean food, it’s essentially the same as Ethiopian food (but don’t say that to an Eritrean!). If you’ve never had either, you’re in for a real treat.
Gandhi Café (Indian)
You’ll find authentic Indian flavours here, along with accommodating staff who are willing to adapt many of their vegetarian dishes to make them vegan. For example, you can order the dal makhni without butter or cream. And the naan bread is vegan, which is a pretty rare find (most places add yoghurt to their naan). The staff have even said that if you bring in your own soy yoghurt or cream, they can use that to make one of the creamy dishes like sabzi korma!
Mike Wong (Chinese/Thai) (3 locations)
Inspired by the street food of Thailand, Mike Wong aims to provide “good food fast”, at very affordable prices. In addition to the dishes found in the vegetarian section of the menu, most other dishes can also be veganized by replacing the meat with tofu (either fried or plain). Just be sure to ask them to leave out the fish sauce too.
Sergent Garcia (Mexican) - CLOSED
[UPDATE August 2018: Sergent Garcia is permanently closed.] This is a small place that primarily does takeaway at lunch time, though there are a few barstools available if you want to dine in. Burritos are what’s on offer here. They are made right in front you and so can be customized, and tofu is one of the available fillings.
This local coffee shop first opened in 2010 and now has four locations in Geneva. They offer soy milk for their coffee drinks, and they also serve a vegan lemon cake. Some locations carry more substantial dishes, and at those outlets you may find a quinoa salad or other savoury vegan option.
Accidentally Vegan Food in Geneva
While these establishments might not be making a conscious effort to accommodate vegans, it just so happens that their products are accidentally vegan anyway. Snap!
This Swiss chain has locations throughout the country and can often be found in Swiss train stations. They bake fresh brezels, which are big, doughy pretzels like the ones sold in American shopping malls. While some are filled with non-vegan ingredients, all the unfilled ones are vegan, including the ones covered in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, etc.
Gelatomania (4 locations)
Gelatomania makes authentic Italian gelato from scratch. As is the case with most Italian gelato, the fruit flavours here are all vegan. As an added bonus, so is the dark chocolate! On hot summer days, the queue often snakes out the door, especially at their very popular Pâquis location. There are benches in the square across the street where you can sit and enjoy your ice cream. Alternatively, Lake Geneva is just a short walk away.
Manu (4 locations)
Gelatomania used to be the undisputed king of ice cream in Geneva, until Manu came along. The company grew quickly and now boasts four different locations in the city, one of which is just down the street from Gelatomania in Pâquis (and often has shorter queues). In 2015, they won the Tigel Ice Cup and were crowned as the makers of the best homemade ice cream in Switzerland. While they’re fruit flavours are vegan, their dark chocolate flavour unfortunately contains egg yolks.
Not Quite Vegan-Friendly, But Not an Accident Either
Holy Cow (2 locations)
I had the hardest time figuring out how to classify this place, so I decided to give it a category all its own. Clearly, a hamburger joint that exploits the image of a cow to sell cow flesh cannot be called “vegan-friendly”. At the same time, they do sell a delicious veggie burger made from chick peas, lentils, oat flakes and secret seasonings, herbs and spices.
The patty is vegan, but their bun isn’t, so for the longest time I would order the “Veggie Zest, no bun, served on a bed of lettuce, hold the mayo”. And then just recently, something called the “Funky Veggie Salad” appeared on the menu.
It’s exactly what I had been custom ordering, but now it’s vegan by default! No confusing customizations required. I like to think I had something to do with making that happen. Moral of the story: always ask for what you want! Anyway, the salad is delicious, and the fries are killer.
Supermarkets and Health Food Stores
Whether you want to grab a quick bite on the go or cook up a full meal for yourself, you can find plenty of vegan ingredients and ready-made meals in Geneva’s mainstream grocery stores. For specialty items like tempeh, seitan, vegan cheeses, etc., health food stores are your best bet.
The number of vegan products sold at Coop supermarkets has exploded just in the past year or two, and new ones continue to be added. Coop has their own vegetarian line of products, called Karma, that includes microwavable dinners, seasoned tofu, kale chips, and takeaway sandwiches and wraps, among other things.
In addition, Coop has recently announced that they will be adding to their shelves a number of vegan products made by the Veganz supermarket chain. Expect to see vegan cookies, ice cream, white chocolate and more! [UPDATE August 2018: The Veganz products have arrived!]
Migros is the other main supermarket chain in Switzerland, and together with Coop they form a duopoly. While they do not yet offer as many vegan products as Coop, they do carry some vegan ready-made meals, such as frozen spring rolls or Chinese dim sum, in addition to plenty of accidentally vegan products. Just recently they began stocking the Coco Ice Land coconut milk ice cream!
[UPDATE August 2018: The vegan options in Migros have definitely expanded since this article was first written. And their online store, called LeShop.ch, has a search function that allows you to see all Migros' vegan products at a glance. These include a wide range of Alnatura products (an organic and fair trade brand with many vegan items) that are not found in their brick and mortar stores. Although maybe that's coming too!
Alna is a local institution; it’s the oldest health food store in Geneva and has been around for more than 80 years! The staff is helpful and eager to stock more vegan products. If you're looking for something and don't see it, ask. They just might order it for you! Carries tempeh, setain, vegan meats and cheeses, nut butters, etc.
Marché de Vie
This health food store in Eaux-Vives is a bit larger than Alna and so is able to stock a wider variety of products. In addition to food, they also carry home cleaning and personal hygiene products with the vegan label. In the chilled section, look out for the delicious homemade cashew cheeses from the Crèmerie Végane!
This relatively new arrival in Geneva follows an innovative concept: a packaging-free grocery store. They sell everything in bulk, from nuts to spices to olive oil to shampoo. Bring your own reusable containers, or you can purchase some here if you don’t have any. A great eco-friendly concept and a beautifully-decorated store.
Names to Watch Out For:
What’s more awesome than a café on wheels, run out of a double-decker London bus? One that’s 100% vegan! Known as either Vegan Routes or Baobab Kitchen, this food truck on steroids has made several appearances at local street food festivals in Geneva. The rumour was that they were looking for a permanent location in Geneva. Here’s hoping! Keep checking in on their Facebook page for further updates.
Formerly located inside a gay cultural centre in Pâquis, MU Food was a fully vegan café that offered healthy and delicious lunches. Sadly, they were forced to close in 2016 due to some bureaucratic difficulties with permits. However, the word is that they will soon be reopening at a new location, so stay tuned! Their Facebook page is probably the best place to look for updates.
I Feel Bio used to have a small restaurant space in Bel-Air, but that location is now closed. However, they have plans to open a new space together with BonJu – a green smoothie/juice company that offers home deliveries on a subscription basis.
In the meantime, the two companies sell ready-made meals and juices inside the Manor department store, just next to the salad bar. Apart from a couple of baked goods that contain eggs, almost everything is vegan.