The main shopping areas in the city are in Bel-Air and the area in front of Gare Cornavin. Manor is a large department store where you can find pretty much anything, including clothing, shoes, bags, electronics, kitchenware, groceries, toiletries, make-up, school supplies etc. Be aware that buying groceries here is usually more expensive than going to an actual grocery store. There is a tourist shop on the main level of the Manor that sells every type of Swiss chocolates and tourist trinkets.
There is also Balexert, the second-largest mall in Switzerland (bus 10 or 9 from the Cornavin and tram 14 direction Meyrin-Gravier – takes about 15 min). Aside from Manor and Balexert, here are some store suggestions for items you may need when you arrive, or during the semester.
Coop and Migros are located throughout the city and offer student-friendly brands (check out the Coop Prix Garantie or the Migros Budget brands). There is a Coop a block away from the Graduate Institute Library, where you will find lots of IHEID students during lunch hour. Remember that even getting a sandwich and drink from the take-away section will still cost you around 8-10 CHF. Some students (who have freezers and/or adequate fridge space) take weekly trips to the markets in France* for better prices. Both Migros and Coop have points cards that you can get for free online. That way you can end up with some free groceries, but remember to keep the card in your wallet (or get their phone apps) so you have it when you shop.
For cheaper grocery prices try LIDL. There is one located on Rue de Lausanne near the tram stop Butini. It is cheaper than Migros and Coop but you may not always find everything you are looking for. There is also Denner which is cheaper than Coop and Migros for most items and definitely has the best wine selection at the cheapest prices. If you want to try some Swiss wine go here, as they always have sales.
There are also various vegetable/fruit markets throughout Geneva, such as in Plainpalais which runs Tues, Fri, and Sun. It runs from 8am-1pm (longer on Sundays). There is also a market in Champel on Thursdays from 8am-1pm and one in Carouge on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The cheapest vegetable market is l’Union Maraichère in Carouge which sells second category veggies for cheaper prices. So if you don’t mind not having a perfectly regular tomato, you will love them.
With a sizeable international population, Geneva also has its fair share of supermarkets for Asian, Indian and Latin American cuisine, most of which can be found in the Paquis area. There are two Indian stores on Rue de Fribourg, a Japanese supermarket on Rue Ferrier close to IHEID, and a large Chinese supermarket on Rue de la Navigation.
*To go to Carrefour in Ferney, take the F bus at the train station or at Nations. Get off at the 2nd stop after you cross the border called Brunette. You will get off the bus and at the roundabout take a right. The Carrefour is in that shopping plaza. Make sure to bring a passport as there could be a check when you cross the border. The trip from Nations takes about 20 min. You can also go to Ferney city center (F bus stop Avenue du Jura) and there you will find a smaller Carrefour, a bio shop called Satoriz, a bakery, and a great cheese shop.
There is also a large outdoor market every Saturday in Ferney which offers a variety of vegetables, cheeses, meats, and breads at relatively affordable prices. Many students do their weekly shopping at this market. Don’t forget to carry your passport when you are crossing the border!
Try Fust near Gare Cornavin, especially if you are looking for a printer under 100 CHF. Interdiscount in Bel-Air and other locations throughout the city covers pretty much everything from DVDs to coffee makers and is competitively priced as well. It has branches all over town. There is also FNAC in the River area, and note that there are 4-5 electronics shops in Balexert.
The top floor of Coop City in the city centre offers a variety of household products, but they can be pricey. The City Center is located on Rue du Rhône. There is an IKEA in Meyrin, about a 15 min. tram ride from the train station. You can take various buses and a tram (#14) to get there. There is also the Plainpalais Flea Market which runs every Wednesday and Saturday and sells everything from kitchen tables and beer glasses to old book and turntables. In the Emmaus second hand shop in Carouge, you can find some useful treasures.
There are a number of stores ranging in price from H&M to Chanel. There is an H&M across from the main train station. Most stores can be found in the Bel-Air region of the city, between Cornavin and Old Town. If you go to the Rive tram stop and start there, you will find all types of stores at all kinds of prices. If you’re looking for something fancy, check out Globus on Rue du Rhône. They sell everything from clothing to housewares, and even have a grocery store on the lowest level, but it is mostly brand names and exclusive items. If you ever need that one special ingredient that you can’t find to make that certain exotic dish, Globus will have it. The same goes for a designer watches.
Remember that most stores in Geneva close at 19:00 every night except for Thursdays when almost everything is open till 21:00. Some stores close earlier on Saturdays and just about everything is closed on Sundays! If you need something desperately the only big stores open on Sundays are in the main train station and airport, where you will pay higher prices. There also are small convenience stores, called “Tabacs,” open throughout the city, particularly in the Paquis area.
The French town of Annemasse (50 min from IHEID) has a lot of clothes shops in its centre and a big shopping mall in the periphery. There are also two sporting equipment shops such as Decathlon in the center and GoSport in the shopping mall. Prices in France are usually lower than in Geneva by 30% at least.