Embedded between nearby Alpine peaks and the hilly terrain of the Jura, the French-speaking city of Geneva lies in the bay where the Rhone leaves Lake Geneva. With its humanitarian tradition and cosmopolitan flair, the European seat of the UNO and headquarters of the Red Cross is known as the «capital of peace».
The symbol of the «world’s smallest metropolis» is the “Jet d’eau” – a fountain with a 140-metre-high water jet at the periphery of Lake Geneva. Most of the large hotels and many restaurants are situated on the right-hand shore of the lake. The old town, the heart of Geneva with the shopping and business quarter, holds sway over the left-hand shore. Quays, lakeside promenades, countless parks, lively side streets in the old town and elegant shops invite guests to stroll. The «mouettes», a type of water taxi, enable crossings to be made from one lakeshore to the other, while larger vessels invite visitors to enjoy cruises on Lake Geneva.
Geneva is Switzerland’s most international city, as it is where the European seat of the UNO is based. Even the International Red Cross directs its humanitarian campaigns from here. Besides being a congress city, Geneva is also a centre for culture and history, for trade fairs and exhibitions. The «Horloge Fleurie», the large flower clock in the “Jardin Anglais” (English Garden), is a world-renowned symbol of the Geneva watch industry.
Culturally, this city has much to offer. International artists perform in the Geneva Opera House, and an extremely diverse range of museums such as the Mamco, the internationally renowned and largest museum of contemporary art in Switzerland, and the CERN, the birthplace of the World Wide Web and home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), invite city guests to visit them.
The top 10: A stroll through those must-visit places
Follow the guide to the great landmarks of Geneva.
- The Jet d’Eau – which was not intended to be one
Reaching 140 metres in height, the Jet d’Eau has become a real emblem of Geneva. The beautiful tale of the famous Jet d’Eau of Geneva is almost the result of coincidence. In 1886, the hydraulic plant which distributed the driving force of the Rhône to the craftsmen and watchmakers of Geneva was obligated to create an open evacuation of the water in overpressure, when the workshops closed at night. The place sparked such enthusiasm and excitement that the Jet d’Eau was born.
- Geneva, birthplace of watchmaking
It was in the 16th century that the first names of Swiss watchmakers emerged and Geneva became the birthplace of watchmaking. At the time, following John Calvin’s reform, Genevans had to follow a dress code and dress as simply as possible. But refusing to take off all adornments, the people of Geneva decided to buy watches and, to meet the demand, jewellers retrained as watchmakers. So this is how the Genevan artisan watchmaker was born. A mix of tradition and precision, Geneva is today the symbol of fine watchmaking.
- The Reformation Wall: historic site
A compulsory stop at the heart of history! In the middle of the Parc des Bastions can be found the great actors of the Reformation, Jean Calvin, Guillaume Farel, Théodore de Bèze and John Knox, who await you in the form of giant statues and bas-reliefs. Post Tenebras Lux, the motto of Geneva, is engraved in this wall. Erected between 1909 and 1917, the monument recalls the memory of the main events and people who in the 16th and 17th centuries fostered the spread of the Calvinist Reformation in Geneva and in the world. At the time, Geneva was the meeting point of all the followers of the Reformation.
- The old town: little secrets and medieval atmosphere
A small historical jewel with medieval charm! St. Peter’s Cathedral, the centre of the Reformation, dominates the largest historic city in Switzerland, the old town. Climb the 157 steps to the top of the tower for a unique panorama of the city. Believe us, the panoramic view is well worth the effort! Then lose yourself in the surrounding narrow streets full of charm. Each of them is home to one of the many treasures of Geneva’s history. Here is a little secret: many secret passageways link up the streets of the old city, do not hesitate to find them and follow them!
- Museums: the joy of learning
A cultural Mecca, Geneva boasts a multitude of unique discoveries. The International Museum of the Reformation takes you through the history of religions and life in Geneva, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum transports you to the heart of international Geneva, while the Patek Philippe Museum gives you the time with precision to the rhythm of watchmaking expertise. That is not all, many museums and exhibitions await your visit.
- Carouge : la bohème, la bohème
La bohème, la bohème, it means we are happy. Narrow village-like streets, charming boutiques and a welcoming atmosphere, it’s good to live in Carouge. This district a stone’s throw from Geneva is distinguished by its vibrant local life and its many events taking place throughout the year. The architecture, worthy of a small Italian village, charms visitors, while small cafés and restaurants offer sweet moments of reunion with a drink or good meal!
- CERN: the World Wide Web
In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, the European Nuclear Research Organization in Geneva, made a proposal to his boss. He proposed a revolutionary idea: to develop a radical method for linking and sharing information via the Internet. At the time, Mr Berners-Lee needed time to implement the idea, and yet, you know what? This is how the World Wide Web was born and the development of websites began, allowing you to post your most stunning photos of Geneva on Instagram today!
- Palais des Nations – International Geneva
A feeling of peace and freedom can be sensed in Geneva, every year this landmark of the international scene hosts a large number of meetings at the summit. Built between 1929 and 1936, the Palais des Nations is home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and is, after New York, the largest centre of the United Nations. More than 25,000 delegates are welcomed here each year and many works of art are on display. Furthermore, the Palais des Nations opens its doors daily for exciting guided tours!
- The Quartier des Bains
The Quartier des Bains, it’s an art of living! This vibrant and multicultural district of Geneva is home to a number of art galleries and exhibitions. From MAMCO to the Centre d’Art Contemporain, through the numerous galleries and their quality exhibitions, the Quartier des Bains has become the European platform for modern art. The bistros and trendy bars contribute to the night-time buzz! Not to be missed: the event “Vernissages Communs”, an art exhibition organised three times a year that allows you to discover works from all over the world.
- Salève getaway, go high up!
A haven of peace opens up to you, a few minutes from Geneva.
No, you are not dreaming! A few bus stops away from the centre and five minutes by cable car will take you to the top of the mountain in no time! A magical view of Geneva and its surroundings awaits you. Hiking, paragliding, mountain biking or cross-country skiing in winter will meet the needs of sports lovers without a doubt on this getaway!
For more information about Geneva, visit the official Geneva Tourism website: https://www.geneve.com/