Geneva - The smallest of the big capitals
Geneva has always been an important site of international events. It was the birthplace of the International Red Cross, home of the League of Nations and host of the famous International Motor Show. Today some 200 international organizations, the most famous one being the United Nations, are based in the city. Given the city's historically international outlook, Geneva has developed a strong cultural life counting over 30 museums, many art galleries, theaters and a huge amount of other attractions.
Thanks to its location at the banks of Lake Geneva between the Alps and the Jura mountains in the Southwest corner of Switzerland, Geneva offers a breathtaking scenery and a mild climate. This is favorable for the 700 acres of parks in the canton inviting to diverse outdoor recreation. Golfers in particular will not want to miss the opportunity to visit one of the 26 golf clubs in the Lake Geneva Region.
In the Middle Ages, the town was a city of the Empire, ruled by a bishop-prince and later became part of the territory of the princes of Savoy. In 1536 the Reformation and the Republic were proclaimed and Calvin was called to Geneva to build a "Protestant Rome".
During the 18th century, the town turned to a banking center, an industrial city developing precious arts and watchmaking and a capital of the sciences and printing. At the same time, Rousseau's efforts in favor of tolerance and the cult of nature were a moving force. Geneva became a Swiss canton in 1815.
Places to visit
Jet d’Eau Fountain (Water fountain)
The 140 m/460 ft high water fountain in the center of the harbor has become the emblem of Geneva. Originally the Jet d’eau fountain used to be situated downstream on the Rhone and was nothing more than an insignificant physical phenomena caused each evening when the craftsmen switched off the hydraulic pressure taps.
The Floral Clock
This symbol of Geneva as the cradle of the watchmaking industry must be one of the most photographed sites in Geneva. Over 6,500 plants are required to decorate this 5 meter diameter "monument" whose floral harmonies are changed with the seasons.
Thanks to the generous donations made by wealthy families at the end of the last century, Geneva has the largest surface area of parkland in Switzerland. throughout the summer, citizens and tourists alike can admire the splendor of the 40,000 roses that bloom in the parks and along the promenades. Many of these magnificent settings offer free concerts in July and August.
The Wall of the Reformation
This imposing wall, erected in 1917, runs along one side of the Bastions, the University Park. It is dedicated to the leading figures of the international Reformation movement: Jean Calvin, Théodore de Bèze, John Knox and Guillaume Farel and retraces the major episodes of the time. Geneva’s motto is "POST TENEBRAS LUX", (after the darkness, the light), in other words, after ignorance, understanding of the Bible (thanks to the Reformation).
The Town Hall
This is the administrative headquarters of the local government. The unusual square ramp of the staircase made it easier for messengers to arrive on horseback in days gone by. The "Alabama" plaque is a reminder that the Anglo-American conflict was the first international dispute to be resolved in Geneva. Don’t miss the summer concerts, given in the interior courtyard.
The Botanical Gardens is located a few hundred meters below the United Nations building. The activities of its conservatory have won international recognition in the scientific world. The park contains several tropical greenhouses, one of which is in the shape of a dome; a park with deer, flamingoes, aviaries and ponds and an open air coffee shop as well as an interesting little shop with ecological articles. The more energetic visitors can walk the 10 km/ 6 miles along the lakeshore to Port-Noir while the less energetic can take a "Mouette", one of the small taxi-boats that provide a ferry service across the lake.
The United Nations Building
This enormous complex, which covers a surface area equal to that of Versailles, was completed in 1936. Since 1946 it has housed the Office of the United Nations, successor to the League of Nations founded by the U.S. President Wilson in Geneva in 1920. Guided tours permit visitors to admire the splendid rooms they have only previously seen on television. You may also sign the Golden Book for Peace and thus register your personal commitment to furthering this planetary cause.
The Calvin Auditory
The Auditory was the place to hear the sermons of Calvin and de Beze and the lodge of John Knox in 1555. Knox, along with Bodley (future founder of the library of Oxford) and Coverdale, collaborated on the first English Bible for household use, the so-called "Geneva Bible". The Auditory is also the birthplace of the "Academie", Geneva's first university.
Saint Peter’s Cathedral and its archaeological site
Originally built between 1160 and 1232 and transformed several times, the St. Peter's Cathedral is an architectural hybrid of Romanesque, Gothic and Greco-Roman styles. Inside you will find "Calvin’s chair", over 300 capitals and the mausoleum of the Duke of Rohan, the leader of the French Protestants.
Under the cathedral, there is one of Europe’s largest subterranean archeological sites. Explore the foundations of former religious buildings to see how the cathedral grew from a simple chapel to its present size and discover amazing vestiges such as a 4th century baptistery and mosaics from the 5th century.